Tuesday, July 31, 2007

2007 SuperLiga - Must win night

SuperLiga flairs back into action tonight with two high stakes games. Four teams will enter; only two leave alive.

Alright, no one will die, but these two games look to be as fantastic as the previous matches in this tournament because all four teams still have a chance of advancing to the knockout stage. With pride and money on the line, you can beat these games will be good viewing.

LA Galaxy (3pts) vs. FC Dallas (2pts)
Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas
8pm ET/5pm PT
TV: TeleFutura (Spanish)
Internet: MLStv or SuperLiga Web Site (English)

The big news for many is David Beckham missing the match (look at the Craig’s List DFW for more), however if you are in the area, you should still go. FCD has been the most unlucky side in the tournament as they are two horrible calls away from a full six points (uncalled handball for Guadalajara's goal in the first match and an additional goal in the second match wrongly called offside) while LA handled Pachuca but were run like cheap stockings by Guadalajara. Because of this FCD must have a win while LA can sneak by with a tie. This is the setup for an explosive, physical match with each player knowing that failure means no million-dollar bonus for the club.

Pachuca (1pt) vs. Chivas de Guadalajara (4pts)
Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Colorado
10pm ET/7pm PT
TV: TeleFutura (Spanish)
Internet: MLStv or SuperLiga Web Site (English)

Over the last few years Pachuca has moved from good side to top class team in the Mexican league, which has not been fun for Guadalajara (or Club America) to watch. Whenever these two clash, it is a good event but tonight it will be something even bigger as Pachuca must win if they want to go to the second round. Guadalajara looked a bit sluggish against Dallas but turned it on against LA while Pachuca still have not come together just right, however I think they will be able to get it together for this one.

Group A
LA Galaxy32110330
FC Dallas22002220

Group B
DC United4210121+1
Houston Dynamo4210121+1
Monarcas Morelia22002220
Club América0202002-2

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2007 MLS Week 17 Power Ratings

With a large portion of the league off from MLS play, there is not a great deal of moving on the list, but that will change soon. Here is the way I see the league this week.

1. Houston Dynamo (Last week - 1) - No MLS games this week but has played some nice minutes in the Superliga. As long as they are not tired from all the international games, they should have a good return to league play.

2. FC Dallas (2) - Another team taking a Superliga break. They are looking good as a squad but when are they ever going to get a call from the ref to go their way?

3. New England Revolution (3) - The Revs held their own in Salt Lake, but did not dominate that game even when up a man. Still, they did what needed to be done to get the win, so all is fine.

4. DC United (4) - Superliga experience has been good, but with all the hamstrings getting pulled, I've got to wonder what is happening in training?

5. Columbus Crew (6) - The Crew had a week off at the worst time as they are finally coming together. Will their midfield be able to hold up?

6. New York Red Bull (5) - As teams have figured out their offense, the Bulls have become a middle of the road club. If they don't find a new way to setup the attack and get some better work in goal, they are going to sink.

7. Kansas City Wizards (9) - Seems weird that the second best team in the East is so low on the list, but until this past weekend, they didn't really show any offense other then Eddie Johnson. The defense still allows way too much open running at goal, but if they can find multiple targets up top, they should be able to overcome.

8. Chivas USA (8) - I've got to hand it to the goats, they are starting to make something of their chances. The only down side, they are finding fewer chances.

9. Toronto FC (7) - Injuries can kill a team. Mo needs to find a goaltender fast if he wants to stop a big slide.

10. Colorado Rapids (10) - The Rapids used the past week to come up with nine new ways to not score a goal.

11. Chicago Fire (12) - Their win against Toronto showed a team coming together. They are figuring out the midfield issues and finding some attack. It still needs some big work, but the elements of success are there.

12. Los Angeles Galaxy (11) - Superliga keeps LA busy but the real hard work is about to begin as they have six matches in August (including five on the road) that should decide their season.

13. Real Salt Lake (13) - Poor Real, they start looking decent and then they get a red card. Good news, the Beckerman trade looks to be a smart move, but will they see another victory this season?

And now week seventeen is in the dustbin of history.

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'Son of Pelé' signs with Benfica

Freddy Adu has made his way to Europe and it looks like the expectations have followed him across the Atlantic as a local sports daily greeted his arrival with the headline "Son of Pelé."

News headlines aside, as many people have pointed out, this might just be the best move Adu could have made as Benfica has a great history of developing younger players and is in a league that is driven more by technical skills then pure physicality. Also, Adu will not be the big fish in the league or on his team so he will be able to develop outside the spotlight.

Portugal might not be one of the big leagues of Europe, but they are still very good. With Benfica often making it into the Champions' League (or at least the UEFA Cup), Adu should have many opportunities to prove himself against some of the best in the world, which might just lead to more US National Team time. If that happens, he would be in a better position to qualify for the work visa required to play in some of those bigger leagues.

MLS received a $2 million transfer fee for Adu and a percentage of any future transfer. Somewhere I saw a report that put Freddy's salary at $600,000, but I cannot find confirmation of that anywhere.

Update: If you want to keep up with Adu and Benfica, check out this blog.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

MLS Expansion - Milwaukee's last chance effort

When talk of possible MLS expansion cities comes up, seldom does it start with Milwaukee, however, there has been a group trying hard to make the dream happen. Sadly, it looks like their final chance to see this reality is upon them as they are looking to use the Milwaukee Mile race track as a home for a new club.

The idea is simple really, a playing service will be rolled over the infield of the track (the grass part in the middle) much like the soccer field is rolled into place in Phoenix. Since the seats are already there, the cost of creating such a stadium is much less then building from nothing.

This article mentions a "...platform that could be rolled over the Milwaukee Mile track", so I'm not sure if the pitch will be only over the infield or if it will be raised up and cover portions of the track. If it covers portions of the track, it would be much closer to the seats then I showed in my image above. By the by, the image is a close approximation of the size of a soccer pitch to the size Mile track.

Although this is one of the most unique ways of solving the whole stadium issue, I just don't see MLS jumping at the possibility. Perhaps I am wrong, but this just doesn't seem to fit in with the current theme that MLS management is trying to play out (ie - take us seriously).

Maybe the league would give them a team with this as a temporary home, however with the Milwaukee group already hurting from three failed attempts to bring a full stadium to the city, it seems like the Mile would be more of a long term option.

Update: If you want to read a different view regarding this, take a look here.

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Beckham out for FC Dallas Superliga match

Scratch Big-D off the list of places David Beckham will see during his inaugural year in LA as he will not make the trip for their Superliga meeting. This is LA's last scheduled meeting with FC Dallas in Dallas this year.

Instead, Beckham will stay in California to work out the soreness from the scar tissue in his left ankle.

Head coach Frank Yallop hopes he will be available for this Sunday's match on the road against Toronto FC, however he made no promises. If this week is not to be, perhaps Beckham's first MLS outing will be next Thursday night in DC when LA rolls into town to play United live on ESPN2. United just announced that there are only 400 tickets left for this match, so if you are in the DC area and want to see it, you better act fast.

Even if he does play against TFC, DC will still be able to say that Beckham played his first meaningful match in America against United. Always got to think of a good marketing line.

For fans in Dallas, there is still a chance that the two sides could face off in the MLS playoffs.

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Iraq to play USA - Future headline

Congratulations to Iraq for winning the Asian Cup but I'm going to guess that celebrating seems a little out of place. Still, this win earns Iraq a trip to the 2009 Confederations Cup along with Italy, South Africa, Brazil and the USA plus the champions of Europe, Africa and Oceania.

The tournament's opening round is divided into two groups of four with the top two advancing to the knockout stages. Since the two European teams and two African teams cannot be in the same group, that means there is a 1 in 3 chance of the US and Iraq ending up in the same group. Failing some huge change in the current state of life in Iraq, this might just prove to be the most political match since the Argentine-England meeting in the 1986 World Cup (their first meeting since the Falkland Islands war).

Iraq captain Younis Mahmoud let his feelings about the current situation in his country be known right after the match: "I want America to go out," he said. "Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but out. I wish the American people didn't invade Iraq and, hopefully, it will be over soon."

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2007 MLS Week 17 Recap or Chicago roars back to life

This weekend only saw three games but they were fun ones. Chicago took revenge on an injured TFC side, KC found other people to score and Real can say goodbye to their last bit of playoff hopes.

Anyway, here is the league by numbers 111 games into the season:
SeasonWeek 17
Att per game14,92513,974
Goals per game2.6493.25
Inter-conferenceEast 20-16-16East 2-1-0
Ties29 (26.1%)0 (0%)

New England Revolution 2-1 Real Salt Lake
The outcome might be familiar, however Real looked far better on Saturday night then they have looked in a long time. Their passing was connecting, they wee playing smart in the middle and even managed to pressure with just 10 men, however the Revs have enough strength through out their lineup to handle just about any side not playing fantastic soccer. Real is not playing fantastic soccer.
Goals: NE: Pat Noonan (4) 39', Jeff Larentowicz (2) 82'
RSL: Carey Talley (1) pk 72'
Attendance - 13,193

Chicago Fire 3-0 Toronto FC
David Monsalve made history in goal as he became the youngest player to ever start a match in that position, but it was truly a test by fire as Chicago was slamming through TFC and knocking hard shots right at Monsalve. To his credit, he made a few good stops, but in the end, the near full-strength Fire was too much to handle for the limping TFC. By the way, Blanco looked good in his first MLS start.
Goals: CF: Ivan Guerrero (1) 37', Calen Carr (2) 58', Floyd Franks (1) 75'
Attendance - 20,322

Chivas USA 2-3 Kansas City Wizards
The Wizards have got to be delighted with the way this one turned out as Eddie Johnson played next to no role in their offense on the night. That might sound like a horrible thing, and it could turn out to be, however, he was their only bit of offense for most of the season so any help they can give him is much needed. Chivas might have got zero from this one but for the second time in four days they showed some bite on the road.
Goals: CV: Jonathan Bornstein (1) 17', John Cunliffe (1) 55'
KC: Kerry Zavagnin (3) 38', Davy Arnaud (4) 53', Yura Movsisyan (5) 89'
Attendance - 11,649

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Friday, July 27, 2007

2007 MLS Week 17 Predictions

With Superliga play dominating the MLS spotlight, this weekend is one of the lightest scheduled of the year. Still, at least one of these games is a must win for the club. Anyway, here at the predictions:

New England Revolution (7-3-6) vs. Real Salt Lake (1-8-6)
Saturday - 9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel (30-min pre & post), FSE
Real's season is half over and they only have 9-points to show for it, which means this is a must win for the club. They have looked good in their two friendlies over the last week, but can they do it when it counts? The Revs are showing themselves to be one of the best of the league and are pros at controlling the midfield. Real will need to interrupt that flow if they want to win.
Predictions: Me NE 2-1 RSL, Wife NE 3-0 RSL

Chicago Fire (4-8-4) vs. Toronto FC (5-8-4)
Sunday - 3pm ET/ 12pm ET
TV: TeleFutura, CBC
Cuauhtemoc Blanco's time in the MLS officially starts with this match and what a way to get going. It was the last trip to Toronto that started Chicago's collapse while Toronto has been on the rise ever since. The Fire has been good on defense and midfield play, however they have been lacking in the final third. If this happens, Toronto's home pitch advantage will be worth nothing.
Predictions: Me CF 1-1 TFC, Wife CF 0-2 TFC

Chivas USA (8-5-3) vs. Kansas City Wizards (7-5-5)
Sunday - 7pm ET/4pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
Last night, Chivas completely rewrote their script for this season as they didn't need a dozen chances to get a goal. New York ran most of that match, but the goats were able to counter and make it pay. With KC lacking offense from anyone not named Eddie Johnson and suffering from defensive lapses, Chivas can use the same game plan to win this one. If the Wizards want to win, they need to find some additional offensive threats.
Predictions: Me CV 0-1 KC, Wife CV 2-1 KC

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2014 World Cup - Brazil gets ready to make their pitch

As the only nation in the running to get the 2014 World Cup, chances are very good that Brazil will bring it home on Tuesday when they showcase their bid (the final FIFA announcement is not till Oct 30). However, as exciting as this is, they still need to address a number of issues such as the poor state of the stadiums and even poorer transportation facilities.
The poor state of Brazil's major stadiums could still be a major stumbling-block - but that appears to be the least of the country's problems at present.

'Brazilian Football Confederation' (CBF) president Ricardo Teixeira will make the presentation with his nation's air transport system reeling from two major crashes in the last 10 months.

The last two weeks have seen hundreds of delays and cancellations as the recriminations continue following the July 17 crash of a TAM Linhas Aereas flight, which killed around 200 people at Sao Paulo's main domestic airport.

With many major roads in an appalling state and railways suitable only for freight transport, it remains a mystery how players, officials and tens of thousands of fans will be ferried around the vast country.
As if these issues were not big enough, they also have to deal with urban violence in their major cities.

This is a lot to get past however Brazil can take heart in knowing that the ongoing Panamerican Games in Rio de Janeiro have been a very big success. Although Rio is just one city, it is still a starting block from which they can build.

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Donovan wants to play in EPL

At long last, it seems that Landon Donovan is finally open to the possibility of returning to Europe to play the game, however, he is not looking for it to happen anytime soon.

"At the moment I'm happy here, at least for the next few years with Dave (Beckham) here. I want to be a part of this too. Not many people get to be a part of this, so I want to live it."

The reasons he would like to go to England if he returns to Europe are simple enough, the language and culture are similar and the level of play is the best:
"The older I get and the more I play, the more I'm yearning for that highest level I can play at and I think the Premiership would be the best place to play," he told Sky Sports News.

"If I were to go obviously the language isn't an issue. There are a lot of Americans there. It would be the easiest place the settle, Germany was difficult.”

It is good to see Donovan realize that he has only a limited amount of playing time in his life and that if he wants to play with the best, he is going to have to move from MLS. However, if he waits till he is 28 to try and make such a move, he might find it even harder then it is now to get a decent offer from an EPL squad.

That said, as many have pointed out, the Beckham spotlight might just be the best thing to happen to Donovan. With so many people watching LA these days, Landon could easy raise his profile if he puts on his best game after game. A couple years of that combined with a good World Cup qualifying run might just be what he needs to restart serious interest overseas.

On a side note, I wonder if all this talk of sticking with Becks for a few years kills the rumors of a move to the new Earthquakes?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

SuperLiga schedule and why you should watch

The first addition of the SuperLiga begins tonight with FC Dallas facing off against Chivas de Guadalajara followed by LA playing host to Pachuca. Perhaps none of these teams are your team, however if you are a fan of soccer in North America, you should take an interest in this tournament.

The short term goal of the SuperLiga is simple, 8 teams will play 15 matches to decide who gets the $1 million prize, but long term, those in charge are hoping to build this into a competition on par with the Champions League. Okay, such a day is a long way off, but it is good to have a dream.

Why this should matter to all MLS and Mexican league fans as well as other countries in Concacaf is simple, the more of a success this tournament is, the great the chance of increased money flowing into the various leagues (they hope to expand it to include other countries' leagues in the years to come). This money will be used to improve training facilities as well as bring in better players, thus making Concacaf a better stop for international players from all over the world.

The teams are divided into two groups playing a three game round-robin stage with the top two teams from each group advancing to a the knockout stage with the ultimate winner taking home the largest prize purse in North American soccer history.

All games will air in the US on TeleFutura as well as on the internet at MLSnet and the SuperLiga website (no word if there will be English or Spanish calls for the internet broadcasts).

Group A
Chivas de Guadalajara
FC Dallas
LA Galaxy
No.DateTime (ET)Match
0124 July9:00pmChivas de Guadalajara 1-1 FC Dallas
0224 July11:00pmPachuca 1-2 LA Galaxy
0528 July8:00pmPachuca 1-1 FC Dallas
0628 July10:00pmChivas de Guadalajara 2-1 LA Galaxy
0931 July8:00pmLA Galaxy 6-5 FC Dallas
1031 July10:00pmPachca 1-0 Chivas de Guadalajara in Denver

Group B
Club America
DC United
Houston Dynamo
Monarcas Morelia
No.DateTime (ET)Match
0325 July8:00pmMorelia 1-1 DC United
0425 July10:00pmClub America 0-1 Houston Dynamo
0729 July8:00pmClub America 0-1 DC United
0829 July10:00pmMorelia 1-1 Houston Dynamo
1101 Aug8:00pmDC United 0-1 Houston Dynamo
1201 Aug10:00pmClub America 3-2 Morelia in Chicago

14 Aug - Houston Dynamo 2 (3)-(4) 2 Pachuca
15 Aug - LA Galaxy 2-0 DC United

29 Aug - Pachuca vs. LA Galaxy - Location and time to be decided

All four Mexican teams are very solid, however most of them will be missing players due to recent international competitions plus their season ended almost two months ago, which should give the US teams a bit of an advantage (not to mention home pitch advantage). Still, this will be a good test for all those involved and should provide some fun viewing.

Which brings me to one last question, why isn't this airing on any English language stations as this seems perfect for ESPN or Fox Soccer Channel? It is an international competition that takes place over a short period of time with a major payout at the end. Seems like an easy sell to the casual fan. Hopefully next year it will be a little different story.

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Chicago Fire want Costa Rican striker Paulo Wanchope

The Fire are looking to beef up their very thin attack with the signing of Paulo Wanchope. Wanchope is one of the best strikers ever produced by Costa Rica and at the age of 30, still has a number of quality years ahead of him. However, Wanchope does have a history of under performing as seen by his recent release from FC Tokyo.

If this does happen, it will be up to new Fire coach Juan Carlos Osorioto make this happen. The good news, Osorioto has a coaching history with Wanchope as he was conditioning manager at Manchester City for while Paulo was with the club.

As a player, Wanchope would need to force defenders to stay deep, thus opening up the midfield for Cuauhtémoc Blanco and if Blanco has time, Chicago will be in a good place.

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2007 MLS Week 16 Power Ratings

Only four games means there is not a great deal of movement. However, in a first for this season, the Western Conference owns the top two spots. The fact that they also own three of the bottom four ratings tells the full story. In the East, the jumbled mess continues as no one team is anywhere close to pulling away.

1. Houston Dynamo (Last week - 1) - Any team that can go on a two month unbeaten run is doing a lot right. Still, they should have got at least one win from the last two ties. Their regular stars are starting to shine again while the supporting cast is as strong as ever. If they can stay healthy, they will be the team to beat from some time to come.

2. FC Dallas (3) - FCD was off of MLS duty this week, but still must be feeling great. As if this club did not have enough going for it, it looks like even the weather is joining Hoops Nation. August has been a cruel month in past years to Dallas due in part to the 100+ degree temperatures that kick in around June, however, this year has been very cool. This, combined with only three matches in the month, should give them a huge lift heading into the end of the season.

3. New England Revolution (4) - They needed a little luck to get a result against Houston but still look to be returning to full form. Their passing is getting good and they are picking out better positions on attack.

4. DC United (2) - First the collapse against Dallas last week and then the sad song in New York this week. Concerns about their defense are coming back while the offense is misfiring. Nothing to panic about but with the horrible first month of play still fresh in the memory, it does cause some concern.

5. New York Red Bull (5) - New York beat DC purely due to the failure of United to play a good game. The Bulls looked better with Jozy Altidore back, but they are still far from anything amazing. Age is catching up with them.

6. Columbus Crew (7) - Oh my, the Crew win again. If they playoffs started today, they would be in the sixth spot. This has been a great turn around due to fewer injuries, better midfield play and Guillermo Barros Schelotto (who is a big part of that better midfield play). This is a sleeper club just waiting to shock teams.

7. Toronto FC (6) - Finally, the road trip is over and it hasn't been all bad. Yes, they flunked out in Columbus but they can still be happy about where they sit as they get ready to return home.

8. Chivas USA (8) - The goats had no MLS action, however they did play a road game against the Seattle Sounders in the US Open Cup and, just like normal on the road, they got smoked.

9. Kansas City Wizards (9) - If Kansas City wants to become a big team, they need someone other then Eddie Johnson to score. EJ's work is great but the lack of support and, even worse, the slack play on defense, will eat this team alive.

10. Colorado Rapids (11) - The Rapids new plan of attack is to actually attack the opposition. Colorado was lucky to not get at least one red card this past week as they were throwing every part of their body into the Wizards. That said, it did seem to close some of the open space, so it wasn't all ugly.

11. Los Angeles Galaxy (10) - LA decided to take the week off from junk play in MLS in order to have some international junk play. It's great that Beckham is finally here but it was stupid to let him play against Chelsea. If this is the type of move this club is going to make, it is going to be a long, cold final half of the season.

12. Chicago Fire (12) - No MLS matches this past week, but they did get a 1-1 tie against Celtic. Counts for nothing but it was the start of all things Blanco who looked pretty good out there.

13. Real Salt Lake (13) - Another team with the week off from MLS play, but they did play host to Everton and actually beat them. At this point, any win, especially one where they score two goals, is worth something to Real.

And now week sixteen is dead to me.

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MLS Expansion - Is MLS looking for a Club America USA?

Could Mexico's Club America join their arch rivals Chivas in MLS? It seems the club will use this week's SiperLiga matches to judge the possibility of such a move.

Before the Earthquakes 1.0 moved to Houston, rumor had it that Club America would place an expansion team there, however, even with that option gone, Texas might still be in the running.
Club America, nicknamed Los Aguilas (The Eagles), is known as the team of the elite and is well-supported in the Houston area. The MLS hoped America would invest in a Houston satellite team, similar to Chivas USA, but the league instead moved the San Jose Earthquakes to Houston. The door is still open for an America expansion team, possibly in Texas.
I really don't think the league is ready to place a second team in either Dallas or Houston, which leaves San Antonio as the most likely option, however the league has a bad history with the Alamo city. MLS actually declared San Antonio as an expansion city a little over two years ago, however the deal fell apart in spectacular fashion as it became a major issue in the mayoral race. The main issue involved the deal for leasing the almost never used Alamodome stadium.

However, it should be noted that in his online chat last Tuesday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber listed the cities in which negotiations are on going as: Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, San Jose, Sacramento, San Diego, San Antonio, St. Louis, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Rochester, New York City, Atlanta, Miami and Las Vegas. Oddly enough, when he gave his state of the league address the next day, San Antonio was missing from the list (as were Rochester and Sacramento).

Could it be that two years later that San Antonio and the league might be able to work something out? Then again, San Diego could also be an option.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

2007 MLS Week 16 Recap or where are all the fans at?

This weekend saw some fun matches as Houston and New England turned in a full ride while Colorado actually found some offense to give Eddie Johnson and the Wizards a difficult night. Columbus might not have had a hard time with Toronto but it was still a good game to watch. Yet very few people did watch these matches as the league some of their worst attendance numbers of the season. I guess having all four home games in the cities with the worse averages will cause this sort of thing.

Anyway, here is the league by numbers 107 games into the season:
SeasonWeek 16
Att per game14,96012,473
Goals per game2.6263.25
Inter-conferenceEast 18-15-16Tie 0-0-2
Ties29 (27.1%)2 (50%)

Houston Dynamo 3-3 New England Revolution
So what happens when two of the best defensive teams meet? An offensive explosion of course. For anyone who thinks that MLS cannot field a good game, watch this match. There was so much good flow happening on both sides of the ball that it was a joy to watch. Is it any wonder why these two clubs are at the top of their conferences? If you have not seen this, do yourself a favor and go over to mlsnet.com and at least watch the highlights.
Goals: NE: Pat Noonan (3) 32', Taylor Twellman (8) 51', Shalrie Joseph (4) pk 66'
HD: Dwayne De Rosario (4) 49', Brian Ching (5) 60', (6) 61'

DC United 0-1 New York Red Bulls
What can I say, Jozy Altidore starts and the Red Bulls win. This was not a very inspiring game as both teams were sloppy and worse yet, not making anything of their chances. DC seemed to be playing the better game for most of the match, but they couldn't make anything happen. Fred getting a direct red in stoppage time sort of summed up the night for them.
Goal: NY: John Wolyniec (3) 19'

Toronto FC 0-2 Columbus Crew
Watch out East Conference, here comes the Crew. Columbus is finding their attack and making set pieces a dangerous situation for their opposition, plus their defense is holding tough. Toronto had a couple moments, but overall, it was a disappointment. Still, TFC truly does like to make the most of their chances as just about every shot was on frame.
Goals: Guillermo Barros Schelotto (3) 50', (4) 56'

Colorado Rapids 2-2 Kansas City Wizards
Welcome to Sunday Night MLS Fights. These two sides were just going after one another with the Rapids being the man instigators. How Mehdi Ballouchy was not red carded for his way after the play elbow to KC's Sasha Victorine throat in first half stoppage time I will never know. Anyway, the Rapids showed some offense by actually attempting shots with a number of them being strong chances, while the Wizards were a little more reserved in the play but showed they know how to set people up. It was a nasty one, but still a good show.
Goals: KC: Eddie Johnson (11) 24', (12) 43'
CR: Jovan Kirovski (3) pk 42', Facundo Erpen (1) 77'

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Is this the week Adu walks away from MLS?

The rumors are everywhere, Freddy Adu is about to sign with Benfica in Portugal if the club can agree to terms with MLS. Could it be that Adu has played his final MLS match and is ready to try his luck in Europe?

The timing of this move would be good for Adu and not that bad for the league. Freddy is coming off a strong U-20 World Cup where he earned much international praise while MLS is focused on Beckham, ie they have a bigger name to promote. Still, the league is asking for a $7.5 million transfer fee, which might be the hang up.

Is Adu worth that much? Based on his MLS work, probably not, especially when you look at Clint Dempsey, who had a much better track record, and see that he went for $4 million. Still, there is always that magic word that pops up whenever Adu is discuss, potential. Any club signing Adu is taking a risk, but he showed in Canada that when he is motivated, he can make things happen, but will he stay motivated enough to equal all the talk?

If he does move to Portugal, he will find himself a club rich with tradition and strong on talent meaning that the pressure on him to perform will be huge (maybe not as huge as carrying a whole league, but still a lot of pressure). MLS deserves to make some good money off an Adu transfer, but I hope that they do not let greed get in the way of Adu's future.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

2007 Asian Cup news - More joy for Iraq thanks to soccer

The country of Iraq doesn't have much to bring it joy these days, however their national soccer team is trying hard to change all that. The Iraqi squad beat Vietnam 2-0 in first knockout round of the Asian Cup to advance to the semi-finals for the first time since 1976.
Hundreds of Iraqis swarmed out of their houses after the victory, waving their country's flag and honking horns as men and boys jumped on top of minibuses and other vehicles. Those without flags took off their shirts and waved them.
An outcome of a soccer match means little long term for people suffering through everything that is happening in Iraq, however, even if just for a few moments, the game of soccer has been able to give them something of which to be proud.

Sadly, even in these moments, tragedy surfaces as two people were killed and 15 injured during due to celebratory gunfire.

In other Asian Cup action, the big game between Australia and Japan lived up to the billing as the sides were tied at 1 after extra time. In penalty kicks, Japan came out on top 4-3 thus earning some revenge for the 3-1 defeat in last year's World Cup.

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2007 MLS Week 16 Predictions

There are four matches taking place this weekend, but the most anticipated game of all (LA-Chelsea) is not one of them. However, that doesn't mean that these four games are worthless, as they should provide a good look into the next few months of the league.

So here go the predictions:
Houston Dynamo (10-5-3) vs. New England Revolution (7-3-5)
Sunday - 4pm ET/1pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
This one is the battle of the defenses. Houston currently ranks number one in the goals allowed per game average while New England is third. Houston comes in with their almost 700-minute clean sheet streak intact, but they might just meet their undoing in the Revs. With both Taylor Twellman and Andy Dorman doing great at finding net (not to mention the great assist work of Steve Ralston), the Dynamo defense is going to be under consistent pressure. However, Houston does have some attack of their own that can come from just about anywhere. There will be some fun action on the pitch, but with two of the best keepers on the field, don't expect many goals.
Predictions: Me HD 1-1 NE, Wife HD 2-1 NE

Toronto FC (5-7-4) vs. Columbus Crew (5-5-7)
Sunday - 5pm ET/2pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
Toronto has had a very good road trip (six points from five matches) and Columbus is their final stop. The Crew have had their own upswing recently as their midfield has started winning balls thus giving their forwards a chance while their defense went from giving up 16 goals in 7 matches to giving up just 5 goals in their last 6 outings. Both these teams could be dark horses in the east with the winner of this game getting the inside track. Look for lots of open play and a victory that is grinded out.
Predictions: Me TFC 2-3 CC, Wife TFC 0-1 CC

DC United (7-5-3) vs. New York Red Bulls (7-6-3)
Sunday - 5pm ET/2pm PT
TV: TeleFutura
Anytime DC and NY meet, it is going to be fun. Their meeting earlier this year started a shift in their fortunes as DC continued on a wonder run that took them from the bottom to the top of the table while New York began a slide that has people wondering if the Red Bulls of old are back. United has opened up their wing play of late but they have also reopened some defensive issues. New York will look to make something of that, however with Juan Pablo Angel out due to red and Jozy Altidore only just back from the US U-20 squad, it might have trouble finding it (Clint Mathis?).
Predictions: Me DC 3-1 NY, Wife DC 1-1 NY

Colorado Rapids (4-8-5) vs. Kansas City Wizards (7-5-4)
Sunday - 8pm ET/5pm PT
TV: Direct Kick
Internet: MLStv
Colorado is just on the edge of falling into complete disaster territory while KC, who sit in second in the East, still have not convinced anyone that they are for real. The only bright spot for the Rapids has been their defense, which has only allowed six (out of 17) multi-goal games. If this club had any offense at all, they would not have a mere 17 points. KC should use the wide-open spaces Colorado likes to provide to open up their attack. The Colorado midfield will make a number of sloppy passes that the Wizards just need to get to. If they can send Eddie Johnson forward with some help, they will get the goals they need.
Predictions: Me CR 0-2 KC, Wife CR 2-1 KC

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Friday, July 20, 2007

MLS Expansion - Is Philadelphia getting close to a stadium deal?

MLS has longed to be in the Philadelphia since the beginning, but was never able to find a way to make it happen. Last year it looked like something was about to break when the teamed up with Rowan University to build a site, but that deal fell apart when the public money dried up.

But there is still hope for those in Philadelphia as investors are pushing an effort to build a stadium on the waterfront in Chester, PA, about 10-miles down river from downtown (and 3 miles from the airport).

Although the investors are described as 'substantial', they are looking for some up from local and state governments. An effort to get partial funding added to the recent state budget failed, however there might be another source of money in the form of gaming revenue.

Local officials think the new stadium will help boost the local economy and provide a new alternative for kids in the form of youth leagues.

Those involved stressed that there is still a way to go before anything is official but that they are past the initial stage.

Philadelphia and Chicago were two cities the league wanted in their fold for the inaugural season, however it just didn't happen. Chicago was able to get their team two years later, but Philadelphia has stayed in the 'some day' column. Because of their large population and the possibility of some good East coast rivalries (NY & DC) as well as Philadelphia's strong tradition of soccer, the league is probably willing to bend a lot more to get a team there then some of the other possibilities. However, with all the failures that have happened in the past, MLS might be a little trigger shy when it comes to awarding a team.

Don't forget to vote in the MLS expansion poll

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Poll - Where should MLS expand next?

In his 'State of the League' address, MLS Commissioner Don Garber listed the cities the league is currently considering for expansion teams. They are, in alphabetical order, Atlanta, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New York (a second team), Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis and Vancouver.

He reminded everyone that they plan to be at 16 teams by 2010, so two of these cities will get teams. So what two cities should it be?

Should MLS find a home in the south with Atlanta, create an Ohio rivalry in Cleveland, go for sin in Vegas, make a return to Florida in Miami, give Milwaukee something good for all the beer they've given us, start an East coast intra-city rumble with a second New York club, give the city of brotherly love some love of their own, go for the dry heat of Phoenix, enter in the Northwest with Portland or Seattle, give California a fourth team in San Diego, find a way to get into one of the oldest soccer towns in the US with St. Louis or plant another flag north of the border in Vancouver?

Go ahead and vote for up to two teams below and let the world know where you think MLS should stand.

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2007 State of the League Recap

Yesterday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber updated everyone on MLS's progress. Sadly, the league did not stream this talk live so I was not able to watch it till today. Anyway, the big news was the rebirth of the San Jose Earthquakes, but there were also some other points that people might find interesting. With that in mind, here is my recap of Garber's talk. (You can watch the talk here)

- Recap of the past year including Toronto FC being a huge success, TV deals, new stadiums, new team owners, TV deals and David Beckham. Also thanked Pepsi (Sierra Mist) for supporting the league from the beginning.

- TV and soccer. The US-Mexico 'friendly' earlier this year was the second highest soccer broadcast ever on Spanish language TV. Ratings for the Gold Cup were up.

- Over 500,000 fans attended Gold Cup matches in June.

- MLS will begin a diversity initiative that will require clubs to interview an ethnically diverse group for any coaching/technical position. Similar to initiatives in NFL and MLB have been very effective.

- Facilities continue to improve with two more teams getting new stadiums that will include a local vibe in the next two years.

- 250,000 LA Galaxy jerseys have been sold which is more then Real Madrid sold in a similar time after their Beckham signing. Also, MLS as a whole represents the third best seller of Adidas jerseys (they are behind Liverpool and Real Madrid. Comment: comparing a whole league to individual teams is a little slanted but I guess it serves a purpose).

- Designated Player rule will help youth development and was not all about Beckham, but it has helped raise the MLS in international circles as seen by the over 700 media outlets at the Beckham introduction. He also gave a quote from Mexican head coach Hugo Sánchez on this:

"Soccer in the US, through this designated player rule will experience an accelerated growth, and by the way, that is when I begin to worry. They have now signed Beckham; there will be other players like Beckham since no team is going to want to be left behind.

Imagine what young kids now can do to have a soccer hero like David Beckham. These players are maestros, stars that speed up local development of players in the United States and now, in Mexico, we have something to start worrying about."

Comment: With the US beating Mexico on the internation stage almost everywhere except in Mexico, I think the time to start worrying has passed

- Others have come in because of DP rule, so don't forget about them. Also, a number of great players have come into the league that are not DPs (pointed to DC United's Fred and Emilio as well as FCD's Toja). This is due in part to research that showed fans wanted to see more international players.

- Players are getting better. Released 20 to play on the various US teams for this summer's tournaments.

- With SuperLiga qualification based on regular season results, these games have become more important.

- MLS Works is a great way to address social issues. Pointed to the 'Right to Play' campaign that seeks to improve health and work toward peace as well as the 'Nothing but Net' campaign the helps provide mosquito netting to countries will malaria problems. This has helped tie MLS players to the international community.

- Chicago Fire is in final talks with possible new owners with an announcement expected in 30-45 days.

- San Jose is back with Lew Wolf at the helm. They paid a $20 million expansion fee in 2005 to own the rights to bring a team back. The league is granting them a team even though they do not have a stadium in part because of the traumatic way the city lost their first club. In talks to finalize a stadium location.

- The league has gone from 3 owners of 10 teams in 2002 to 11 owners of 14 teams today.

- With the success of Toronto, further Canadian expansion a very real possibility.

- The league still plans to expand to 16 teams by 2010. The list of cities they are talking to are: Atlanta, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New York (a second team), Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis and Vancouver.

- 2008 All-Star game will be in Toronto.

- Closing thought: If the US embraces the game of soccer, we would become a dominant soccer power. To make this happen, we need to convert soccer fans into MLS fans and continue to show young players that a future in the game in possible.

There you have it, the 2007 State of the League. On Tuesday I posted my guess for what Gerber would say and I did alright. Of the 10 items I expected him to discuss, he touched on all 10 of them, even though I was a little off on a couple (I didn't note Phoenix as a possible expansion city and I need mention Rochester).

Of the possible surprise items, only one of the six happened as he named a specific expansion team (San Jose). He did mention that he hoped DC United would get a stadium deal soon and encouraged the press to talk with the DCU rep, but he did not issue a challenge similar to the one he did last year for Real Salt Lake.

None of the shock possibilities happened.

So overall, nothing that surprising here, although I thought he would spend more time on Beckham. I guess with the possibility of Becks not playing against Chelsea on Saturday and knowledge that reporters were bound to ask him about during the Q&A, he figured why harp on it.

There is the league, now feel free to vote for what city you think should get a team in the MLS expansion poll.

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EPL's Derby County wants Eddie Johnson

That is the speculation after Derby County manager Billy Davies praised Johnson in the press:
"He is young, has great pace and also a point to prove because he has never played in England before," Davies told the Derby Evening Telegraph.

"He scores goals for fun and has started the American season like a house on fire. He is the most valued player in the MLS.

"Very few American players have come to this country and failed.

"They have a lot to offer, they are fit and they are very good professionals."
It is interesting the Davies says he is the MLS's MVP at this point because you don't hear much of that in the US. I'm not saying Davies is wrong, in fact I think he makes a good point. Without Johnson, KC are a below average mess, but with him they are challenging for the top of the East.

Anyway, Davies would not confirm that he has or will make a big for EJ, but with his club returning to the Permership for the first time since 2002, I'm sure he is concidering it.

Then there is Johnson himself who has torn things up domestically but never really clicked on the international stage. From a technical stand point, a move to the EPL would be be a complete test of his skills and if he ever wants to make such a move, at age 23, he doesn't have much more time.

But the major issue might be the league and the Wizards. As I noted above, Johnson is the main reason KC has a chance this year and I doubt they are fired up about losing that option. Also, he Eddie is one MLS's major promo guys and they will not want to let that go cheap. However, if the offer was high enough, they could go for it.

Personally, I would love for Johnson to make the move to the EPL because I think he has gone as high as he can go in MLS. He does have a great deal of talent, but he needs better training and opposition, which a newly promoted EPL side can offer. If he is ever to become the threat we all want him to be on the international stage, chances are it will involve a move out of the US.

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2007 US Open Cup Third Round done - Another MLS team gone

Chivas USA 1-3 Seattle Sounders
The woeful work of MLS clubs in the US Open Cup continued last night as Chivas USA were thrown from the tournament by a Sounders team managed to make the most of everything they got. Much like in MLS play, the goats failed on the road because they could not create anything out of what they were handed. They out shot the Sounder and controlled the ball for significant stretches of the match, but they couldn't make Seattle sweat.

The win means home teams went 7 for 8 in the round and are 25 for 32 overall. Seattle will hope this trend continues as they play host to Colorado in the quarterfinals on August 7.

Here are the results from the third round:
Game Number, Date, Teams
25 July 11, DC United (MLS) 0-1 Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2)
26 July 10, NE Revolution (MLS) 4-2 Rochester Rhinos (USL-1)
27 July 10, Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS) 0-1 Richmond Kickers (USL-2)
28 July 15, Chicago Fire (MLS) 0-1 Carolina RailHawks (USL-1)
29 July 9, Atlanta Silverbacks (USL-1) 1-1 FC Dallas (MLS) FC Dallas wins on pks 4-3
30 July 10, Houston Dynamo (MLS) 0-1 Charleston Battery (USL-1)
31 July 10, California Victory (USL-1) 1-3 Colorado Rapids (MLS)
32 July 18, Chivas USA (MLS) 1-3 Seattle Sounders (USL-1)

Fourth Round schedule:
Game Number Date, Teams, Venue, Time
33 August 8, Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2) at NE Revolution (MLS), Gilette Stadium; Foxborough, Mass., 7:30 pm ET
34 August 7, Richmond Kickers (USL-2) at Carolina Railhawks (USL-1), SAS Soccer Park; Cary, N.C., 7:30 pm ET
35 August 7, FC Dallas (MLS) at Charleston Battery (USL-1), Blackbaud Stadium; Charleston S.C., 7:30 pm ET
36 August 7, Colorado Rapids (MLS) at Seattle Sounders (USL-1), Qwest Field; Seattle, Wash., 7 pm PT

With the way home teams have been playing, there is a very good chance that only one of the three remaining MLS teams will make it out of this round. Could this be the first year since 1999 that a MLS club does not win the US Open Cup?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

11 things MLS can do to improve the league

With the Commissioner's state of the league address coming, I thought it would be fun to put forward 11 ways MLS could improve the league. With these ideas I decided to go with things that were actually possible instead of such ideas like relegation/promotion or a drastic increase in the spending cap. Also, these are things that could be put into place by next season. Some of these have to do with image, some with substance and some are just things I like to think about.

Anyway, here is my list of 11 ways to make MLS better.

1. Change the logo - If you want the league to be seen as serious both domestically and internationally, it is time to retire the 1990's Microsoft word stock photo looking logo. In order to help shape the league's image as a world-class division, come up with something that does not involve such a playschool green and is a little more memorable.

2. Mini-designated player rule - Okay, this idea is not named exactly right, but I couldn't think of anything better. Anyway, here is my thought, allow clubs to spend an extra $1 million on salary if they choose, however, this is the club's money not the league's. This money can be spent on one player or a number of players however, if a clubs decides to use this option, they must give all their development players an $8,000 bonus.

The idea behind this is simple, if a team wants to spend some extra money on a player or two, they should be able to as it will make the play on the pitch better. However, if they want to do this, they must share a piece of the pie with the lowest earners. This will help development players focus more on their skill and less on thoughts about how to pay the rent.

3. Allow chartered flights - MLS does not allow teams to charter planes to fly them around, instead they fly commercial. They say this is because they do not want to give any team an advantage over another, however that seems a little stupid. If clubs want to pay to charter a flight (like say from LA to New York), they should be allowed to. This will help the players get where they need to go quicker, which will reduce the travel fatigue on the players, which will make the play on the pitch better. In addition, if they league really wants to start attracting more big names, telling them they will have to fly commercial is not the way to do it.

4. Adjustable fines - Right now if a player gets a yellow card, they are fined $150. This might not seem like much but if you are a development player earning a little over $1000 a month, this is huge. Why not change the rule to reduce the fine to $75 for players making less then $30,000 a year. This will not have a huge impact on the game, however it will make it a little easier for those who earn so little.

5. Improve the YouTube channel - It has only been up for a short time, so I can give it a bit of a break. Still, what is there is basically just highlights. Why not get more player interviews, game explanations, weekly previews and so on? Extra Time is a good first step but it needs to expand. This is the league's chance to push through the media filter and talk right to the fans (and possible fans) so it must be used in a better way.

6. Fan Zone on the web - My favorite part of going to a soccer match is cheering and signing the songs that support the team (or maybe negatively support the opposition). Non-hard core fans are interested in learning this part of the game, but they have no place to go to do so other then the supporters' clubs. Since that is a foreign concept to most average fans, the league should bring the songs to them. A site that explains the match and has recordings of the chants could really bring a new level to the stadium.

7. Better items for sale - Just having the standard jersey, shorts, keychain items for each team is nice, but not very interesting. Where are the rearview mirror pennants or some more interesting t-shirts? Also, why are there not more offerings for women?

8. Advertise - Yes, the clubs need to handle most of the local ads but MLS needs to do more in the form of TV commercials and, more importantly, print ads. National magazines and newspapers are a good option but so are nearby media outlets. For example, say Houston was playing a match on ESPN2, why not run ads in the Austin, San Antonio, and Bryan/College Station newspapers to promote their 'local' club. This is the most expensive of my ideas in terms of MLS money, but something needs to be done to increase the knowledge of the league .

9. Be internationally friendly - MLS should not play on international dates, period. With World Cup Qualifying coming up next year, the league should go out of their way to make those dates free. A team should not be punished for having a good player that plays for their country.

10. Give teams in the CONCACAF Champions Cup a break - Every year the MLS teams in the CCC have the same problem, they are only in their second or third week of training camp when they have to go play teams in the middle of their season. If the idea is to use this tournament to show how much the league has improved, then why tie their arms behind their backs? These two teams should be allowed by the league to start their training camps early to get in game shape. It should be an additional reward for doing so well in the previous season.

11. Change the playoff structure - I would love to see the total number reduced, but I don't think the league will ever reduce the number. So with that in mind, what I suggest is simple, the Supporters' Shield winner does not play a two game series in the first round. Instead, they play one match on their own pitch. The reason for this is simple, home-home series are designed to eliminate the advantage of the home pitch meaning the team that worked hardest over the whole season gets no reward when it is needed most. This keeps the same number of series, it just reduces the number of games. Also, it gives additional value to being the best team in the league.

So there you have it, 11 ways to make soccer the biggest game in the whole US of A. Alright, maybe I'm overstating there. It seems to me that all these ideas would help move the league forward. All of these ideas either reward teams that play strong, allow teams to improve them clubs and/or give the fans more (okay, the logo one doesn't really do that but I think it is still needed). Anyway, there are my thoughts, what do you think?

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2007 US Open Cup Third Round ends tonight

The third round of the great US Open Cup comes to a conclusion tonight as Chivas USA looks to earn back some respect for the MLS as they travel to Seattle for the second time this year to face the Sounders.

Of the seven matches already played, the MLS teams have been bested in four of them include two times against USL-Second division clubs. LA, Houston and DC were eleminated last week while Chicago was tossed 1-0 this past Sunday. If MLS wants to break even in this round, they need Chivas to pull one off in Seattle, however 6 of the 7 winners so far (and 24 of 31 over all rounds) have been the home team.

Although you will not be able to find this one on TV, if you have internet access (and I'm guessing you do), you can watch it for free thanks to USLlive. The winner of this match will face the Colorado Rapids in the fourth round.

Here are the third round results so far:
Game Number, Date, Teams, Venue, Time
25 July 11, DC United (MLS) 0-1 Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2)
26 July 10, NE Revolution (MLS) 4-2 Rochester Rhinos (USL-1)
27 July 10, Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS) 0-1 Richmond Kickers (USL-2)
28 July 15, Chicago Fire (MLS) 0-1 Carolina RailHawks (USL-1)
29 July 9, Atlanta Silverbacks (USL-1) 1-1 FC Dallas (MLS) FC Dallas wins on pks 4-3
30 July 10, Houston Dynamo (MLS) 0-1 Charleston Battery (USL-1)
31 July 10, California Victory (USL-1) 1-3 Colorado Rapids (MLS)
32 July 18, Chivas USA (MLS) at Seattle Sounders (USL-1), Qwest Field; Seattle, Wash. 7 p.m. PT

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July FIFA Rankings - US moves jumps but Mexico jumps higher

The new FIFA rankings are out and the USA has edged up two spots due to their Gold Cup run. However, even though they are champions of Concacaf, they are not the highest ranked side. That honor goes to Mexico who return to the top 20 this month thanks in large part to their Copa America work.

The other big news is that Brazil has recaptured the number one spot that they lost back in February.

Here is the top 20:
RankTeamJune RankChange
2. Argentina 5+3
11. Czech Republic 10-1
Teams moving into the top 20: Mexico, Serbia, Uruguay.

Teams moving out of the top 20: Poland, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana

Obviously the confederation cups have helped non-European teams out this past month. Still, it will be interesting to see if England's slide out of the top 10 gets their press heated up like it did in September '05 (the last time they were out of the top 10).

Anyway, the teams that jumped up the most were Mongolia (up 20 to 173), North Korea (up 21 to 115), Bolivia (up 24 to 68) and Vietnam (up 25 to 117). Those who fell the most were Ghana (down 18 to 37), Jamaica (down 25 to 93) and Burkina Faso (down 25 to 84).

Here is the way Concacaf ranks up:
Rank Team
10 Mexico
14 USA
50 Costa Rica
52 Canada
57 Panama
63 Honduras
65 Trinidad and Tobago
75 Guatemala
90 Cuba
92 Haiti
93 Jamaica
100 Guyana
103 St. Vincent and the Grenadines
118 Barbados
125 Suriname
130 Bermuda
131 Antigua and Barbuda
134 El Salvador
140 Dominican Republic
142 St. Kitts and Nevis
148 Bahamas
153 Nicaragua
156 Grenada
157 St. Lucia
166 Turks and Caicos Islands
174 Netherlands Antilles
179 British Virgin Islands
184 Dominica
185 Cayman Islands
194 Puerto Rico
196 Anguilla
199 Belize
199 US Virgin Islands
199 Montserrat
199 Aruba

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The Earthquakes are back!

David Alioto, executive vice president of Earthquakes Soccer LLC, ended speculationThe lingering black eye for the league seems almost healed as it appears the San Jose Earthquakes will return to MLS play next season.
According to a source with knowledge of the deal, Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff and his ownership group will be a guest of MLS Commissioner Don Garber at Thursday's All-Star game outside of Denver, and the official announcement will likely come at Garber's annual state of the league press conference on Wednesday. Wolff can now exercise his option to start his expansion franchise for the '08 season.
This new team will result in a balanced 14-team league with seven teams in each conference.

The new Earthquakes plan on building a permanent home out by the airport, but until then, they will rove around the Bay area.
Here's the most interesting part of the plan: Until the Quakes have a permanent home, they'll be barnstormers. Wolff says his team will play in different venues around Northern California, varying in size depending on the opponent.

In other words, when David Beckham and the Galaxy roll into town, the game could be at Oakland's McAfee Coliseum (where as many as 50,000 have turned up for soccer games) or Stanford Stadium. When, say, the Columbus Crew come to the Bay, the match might be at 9,000-seat Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, or perhaps the brand new, 15,000-capacity Aggie Stadium at UC Davis, 100 miles northeast of San Jose.
This idea will make season ticket sales a little difficult, however it is all part of Wolff's plan to make Earthquakes 2.0 Northern California's team.

It is wonderful to see the 'Quakes reborn. Now I just can't wait to see the reaction when Houston rolls back into town.

By the way, Wolff says that there is no plan to rename the team the 'Google Earthquakes' as one report suggested.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

2007 MLS State of the League - Preview

Tomorrow, MLS Commissioner Don Garber will give the annual 'State of the League' address at 2:15pm ET/11:15am PT. This is his chance to explain to fans and media a like just where the league stands today and in what direction it plans on going over the next 12 months.

Normally, there is not a lot of detailed information in this address; instead it is more of a big picture event filled with talking points. That's not to say it is not interesting, just a warning not to expect great explanations of anything.

MLSnet will probably carry this event live.

Anyway, here is my guess over what to expect from the 'State of the League Address - 2007.'

Things to expect:
- Beckham, Beckham, Beckham. Talk about the number of tickets sold, jerseys ordered and news stories wrote/broadcasted. He will stress that Beckham is not here to save the league, just to enhance it just like a number of other international signings.
- Talk about television by mentioning again that MLS is getting paid by four networks for the rights to broadcast as well as talking about the Gold Cup ratings beating the NHL finals.
- Toronto FC and how much of a success it has been.
- Seven teams playing in six soccer specific stadiums with one more opening next year (Salt Lake) and at least one more the year after that (New York).
- Quality of players MLS is improving every year.
- Expansion cities up for consideration including San Jose, Portland, Seattle, St. Louis, Las Vegas, New York, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Philadelphia. Expect one or two others to make the list like San Antonio, Miami, Vancouver, Atlanta or Rochester.
- The new city for next year will not be announced however he will say they are very close to finishing something (i.e. San Jose). Also, he wants the league to be 16 teams by 2010 and hopes to know the other two cities by the start of 2008.
- New owners coming into the league. Talk about DC United, KC Wizards and Chicago as teams with new owners since last year.
- All-Star game against a foreign team is an attempt to bring non-MLS soccer fans into the fold (he mentions this just about every year, so no big guess here).
- Talk about the international competitions such as SuperLiga.

Things that would be a surprise:
- Naming a specific expansion city.
- Change of league to a single table
- Change of playoff system.
- Calling out Washington DC to get a stadium deal done much like he did to Salt Lake last year.
- Adding another network to their TV list (or maybe a satellite radio deal).
- Expanding the number of teams or changing the SuperLiga in some way.

Things that would be a shock:
- A big name signing that would rival Beckham.
- Plans to do away with single entry system.
- A large increase in player salaries.
- Games to air live in Europe.
- Setting up an international break during the summer.
- A stadium deal for KC.
- Resigning as commissioner

There is my guess for what Garber will say about the league tomorrow. I'll check back in afterward to let you know where I stand on the 'shock' scale.

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2007 MLS Week 15 Power Ratings

With most of the top teams coming up with ties while the bottom feeders were mainly taking a week off to clean their pools or work on their resumes, there is not a lot of movement on the big board for week fifteen. The good news for the West is even though they hold three of the four bottom spots, they also hold two of the top three. Will this gap between the haves and haves not continue or will someone step up their pace and make a race out of it?

1. Houston Dynamo (Last week - 1) - The great stretch of 5 games in 11 days is over and the team and Houston is still looking good. Their defense is the story while their offense is hit and miss. If they could get some constant work up top, they would run away with the Supporters' Shield.

2. DC United (2) - That collapse against Dallas is going to sting for a little while. Their mistakes were minimal, so most teams would not be able to take advantage of them, however FCD is better then most teams. It is the little pains that still cause DC their big headaches.

3. FC Dallas (3) - I hope Dallas earned some respect with their come back on Saturday night. Yes, the team is always a little shuffled, but they, more often then not, find a way to get something out of it. However, the most impressive part of this club is their ability to get it done on the road. Seventeen of their 30 points have been taken on the road. Add to this that they only have four road games left this season and you have the making of something huge in big D.

4. New England Revolution (5) - There are still gaps in this club, but overall, they look to be past their slump. They need to get more people involved in their attack and their defense does leave people unmarked a little too often, but still looking good.

5. New York Red Bull (4) - The good news is the defense is looking better, however the offense is making it as hard as possible to enjoy this. If you can't finish the easy chances, you will not win. Jozy can't get back to this club fast enough.

6. Toronto FC (7) - The road has turned out to be kind for the team from Canada. TFC plays the best 'team' game in the league with everyone covering for everyone else if needed. With this structure, it is hard to imagine them not making the playoffs.

7. Columbus Crew (6) - They had a bit of a bump in the form of an own goal that cost them a point against Chivas, but they still played some good ball. The midfield is freeing up players and forcing difficult work by the opposition, which takes a lot of pressure off their still soft defense.

8. Chivas USA (8) - The goats still take way too much time to make something happen, but they are getting a bit quicker about it. If they can keep their home pitch safe and sneak some points on the road, they will cause someone pain in the playoffs.

9. Kansas City Wizards (9) - The Wizards are a lot like Chivas in that they need multiple openings to get a goal. Their defensive play has stepped it up but they need to focus their attack and get more then just Eddie Johnson on the sheets.

10. Los Angeles Galaxy (10) - The Galaxy were off this week and as far as I know, nothing happened with the team. However, their logo looks oddly different and I think I saw something on CNN about a new signing. I'll get back to you if I hear anything else.

11. Colorado Rapids (11) - Colorado took the week off to spend more time boring their family members.

12. Chicago Fire (12) - The Fire had no MLS matches this week, but did have a US Open Cup fixture. True to form, Chicago couldn't buy a goal and out they went.

13. Real Salt Lake (13) - Another game, another whipping. Sure, they only got beat 1-0 but that was one of the most lopsided 1-0 victories you will ever see. The goods, however, is when Real do get chances, they are normally dangerous ones. If they find a way to increase these chances and tighten up their midfield/defense, they could still make something of this year.

I have said my peace and now week fifteen is done.

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