Thursday, July 19, 2007

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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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have a link to the actual video of Garber giving the address.

1:20 PM  
Blogger scaryice said...

Check MLSnet.

Good post typing out all this stuff, even though most of it was pretty unnewsworthy.

3:57 AM  

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