AF Is In Charm City

Rafa dreaming about buying Lucas…

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MLS Expansion… Now’s The Time To Push

Many have questioned whether the World Cup would provide a boost to MLS. They have rightly pointed out that past big national team tournaments didn’t really have an impact on MLS attendance. But these writers are looking at the place. The World Cup for MLS was not about gaining fans, it was about gaining investors. And gaining investors is about increasing their confidence in the stability of the game in the US. That is why the World Cup was so huge. No one now can question the stability of the game.

While the economy is still depressed, the country has been jolted by soccer. The 25 million people watching the final, the excitement and enthusiasm for the US team and the outpouring of rage after getting robbed against Slovenia and the explosion of joy against Algeria, should drive home that soccer is not going anywhere. Furthermore, the average of the viewer during the World Cup was just 37 – a considerably younger demographic than other sports, demonstrating both that soccer has a bright future and that it is a marketing goldmine. Add the fact that ESPN – the “worldwide leader in sports” is fully on board – and you have a situation where an investor should be extremely confident about dumping money into the sport.

As a result, MLS stands to see a potential windfall. MLS is cheap and the most obvious place to invest. You can buy a team for a paltry $40 million and get in on the ground floor of a sport primed to expand. The interest and enthusiasm in the league is already apparent. Atlanta business owners have banded together to promote soccer and push for MLS. Investments in high profile designated players is expanding. And chatter has increased of Premier League sides buying teams and existing teams move to new stadiums.
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Merge Gold Cup and Copa America for genuine tournament of the Americas

Merge continental tournaments into true Copa Americas

This is the second post in a series of five recommendations for USSF President Sunil Gulati

International tournaments are soccer’s Holy Grail. Club soccer has exploded around the world and changed the business of game, but it’s still the World Cup that grabs the attention of fans like no other competition. Europe’s continental championship is just a tick below the World Cup and South America’s is well above other such competitions. These tournaments are not just great for fans, however, as consistent high-level competition is a huge advantage for national teams. Our continental championship, the Gold Cup, is a very poor tournament that does little for fans or players. A merger of the North and South American competitions in a true Copa Americas makes sense on competitive, fan interest, and importantly, financial grounds.

While the US national team has several years until its next truly consequential game, the first match in qualifying for Euro 2012 is just a few months away. The qualification round is the best of both worlds for the development of top European teams, as there is a mix of very weak teams and strong sides with a reasonable margin of error to get through to the tournament finals. The weaker and middling sides allow teams like Germany to bring younger players into the squad in competitive matches against weaker opponents while there are enough tough games to keep the team sharp. This works for fans too, as it’s just a short World Cup hangover until meaningful games begin again. And needless to say, the national soccer federations reap huge windfalls from playing numerous qualifying games on top of another major tournament. Continue reading

Meat Pies and Orange Slices

MLS to keep Donovan? So says Don Garber he says the league has no intention of selling Donovan who is vital to the league. Calm down folks. This is exactly what you say when you are trying to drive up someones price. We all assume Donovan is going to Europe for a reason – and that is Donovan refused to commit to MLS. Donovan has leverage here.

Why no Donovan rumors? My guess – repeat guess – is that LD and Everton have something worked out and his purchase is to be funded through the sale of one Stephen Pienaar. Now this would be a bit of a financial risk for the Toffees because LD will have no resale value at his age. But he brings the American market – which probably makes up for it.
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Transfer Rumors: Michael Bradley Is Not Going To Blackpool

No way, no how does Michael Bradley go to Blackpool. Yes a rumor has floated through the British papers that Blackpool is interested. If I were a Blackpool fan this rumor would make me worried about the intelligence of the management. Michael Bradley is 22, he just stared at the World Cup, while the fact that he is an American will for some reason likely lesson his value – he is still worth around 10 million dollars/euros/pounds. Do Blackpool have the money to spend that on a Premier League newbee? The answer is almost assuredly no.

Furthermore, a move to Blackpool makes no sense. Blackpool are almost assuredly going to be sent down to the Championship. At the very least they are going to be fighting relegation until the final day of the season, and most likely they are going to be playing very negative defensive football. Granted Bradley’s current club are no guarantee to avoid the drop, but they are a club that is in a stronger position in the Bundesliga. While the quality of the Premier League is slightly higher, moving to a team that is likely going to be there for just a year makes no sense.
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Starting the Jurgen Klinsmann campaign for US national team coach

This post is the first in a series of five recommendations for USSF President Sunil Gulati

Klinsmann is the right man to coach the US

Bob Bradley has had a successful run, but it’s time for him to move on to a new challenge and for US soccer to bring in a new coach to take soccer in America to the next level. There is really only one man for the job: Jurgen Klinsmann.  The former star striker and German national team coach is obviously a big name in world soccer, but after two good summers in a row US soccer no longer needs to prioritize borrowing other nation’s big names to be considered a serious soccer nation. There are four main reasons he should become the next US national team coach: he takes a holistic approach to building national team system from the playgrounds to the World Cup, he would develop a recognizable American style of play, he knows US soccer intimately and has thought about what it would take to transform the sport in America, and he is one of the best strikers of all time and would be a fantastic mentor to the future of US soccer, Jozy Altidore.

Let’s not forget to pay Bob Bradley his due. He took over in very difficult circumstances after a disastrous 2006 World Cup and an unsettled coaching search and not only righted the ship quickly, but won the Gold Cup in his first year, orchestrated a dazzling deep run in the Confederations Cup, won Concacaf World Cup qualifying, and won Group C at the Finals in South Africa. But despite those successes it wasn’t all roses. Bradley struggled to adapt his favored system to his personnel and was prone to play favorites rather than the best players. And while he fostered a remarkable resiliency within his team that produced too many comebacks to count, it is also true that his team found itself in need to come back far too often for it to not be partly down to poor match preparation and tactics. A four-year cycle is the right time to move on and that may be to Fulham if the rumors are believed. Continue reading

Assessing ESPN’s WC Coverage – A Major Step Forward For Soccer In America

Overall it was an outstanding World Cup for ESPN and a tremendous improvement over four years ago. ESPN’s massive investment in the tournament gave the World Cup and Olympics like feel and signifies the massive progress the game is making in this country. The coverage was thorough and professional and the on-air personalities seemed to gel well. However, the coverage in many ways seemed to emulate the approach to World Cup coverage pursued by BBC or ITV and was perhaps not as innovative as ESPN could have made it. Here is a run down of what worked and what didn’t.

Positives:

Chris Fowler. He was perhaps ESPN’s star of the tournament and showed he is a true professional. Fowler who had never covered soccer before to my knowledge almost never put a foot wrong. But it wasn’t just that he didn’t make a mistake, he provided insight and framed the topics of discussion in an interesting and easy to understand way. Perhaps for the fist time on national television on Sunday, there was a discussion of the different tactical schools of soccer from the Dutch to the Barcelona school. For soccer followers there wasn’t much new there, but on the other hand it was a generally informative discussion that gave the American viewer the sense that there were different ways of playing the game. Fowler was the one who presented the discussion and provided the context – he also had a great sign off at the close of proceedings that was quite an advert for South Africa.
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