Archive for December, 2009

Well, Now It Gets Interesting

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

The United States Soccer Federation has declined to sanction either the USL First Division or the proposed North American Soccer League for Division II professional status in 2010, saying “neither organization on its own was able to provide a viable and sustainable operation during the upcoming season.” Duh.

Makes sense, if you think about it – USL-1 as we believe it’s currently constituted (with only Portland, Puerto Rico and Austin having not jumped, Tampa Bay and Baltimore in limbo because of a lawsuit and New York apparently disorganized) isn’t a viable league, and the NASL has teams but no track record of actually running a league (despite all their bluster about how they can do it better than USL).

So now the two sides are going to have to sit down and figure out a compromise (USSF has given them seven days to “try to work out an interim solution for the 2010 season” – something I mentioned before may be one possibility). With time running out before the usual start to the season, it may very well be that they will have to put up with one another for a year and use the interim period to either patch things up or make better, stronger plans for 2011.

There really isn’t much of a Plan B. There could be more lawsuits (wouldn’t that be fun, given how NASL partisans reacted to USL filing suit recently), or NASL could go rogue for 2010. That would mean they couldn’t compete in the US Open Cup and none of their players could play in USSF/FIFA events (not that a lot of DII players do – some do play for the national futsal team). I don’t know if such a ban would be permanent or if it would just be double secret probation or what.

But the next seven days – only four working days, people! – will be very interesting. Place your bets, ladies and gents.

Okay, Now It’s Out Of Control

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Okay, Indianapolis. I know you’re upset because (boo hoo) your Colts lost a regular-season game for the first time in 24 tries on Sunday. I know seeing Peyton Manning leave the game and someone named Curtis Painter come in and proceed to stink up the joint isn’t what you had in mind.

But, no, you don’t get your money back. That’s insane. (more…)

This Place Is A Dive!

Monday, December 28th, 2009

A most excellent Christmas present from my awesome girlfriend, Brenda – we went indoor skydiving today at SkyVenture Arizona! It’s a big wind tunnel that simulates skydiving, only without the plane and the possibility that you’ll go kersplat and all that. Oh, and you don’t have the sensation of falling – just floating. It’s cool!

My Christmas Wish To You

Thursday, December 24th, 2009



USA Today Isn’t Even Trying Anymore

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Nicely done in this story on notable deaths in 2009, USA Today.

Numbers Game (Update with PDL numbers)

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

With today’s announcement that there will be just six teams competing in the USL Second Division in 2010, here’s a chart (still to be updated) showing the number of teams at each level of men’s pro outdoor soccer here since MLS launched in 1996:

Year Div. I Div II Div III PDL TOTAL USL
1996 10 *28 27 34 92 89
1997 10 24 39 30 103 93
1998 12 28 39 33 112 100
1999 12 30 26 42 110 98
2000 12 25 22 44 103 91
2001 12 21 17 45 95 83
2002 10 18 18 47 93 83
2003 10 19 13 50 92 82
2004 10 16 12 55 93 83
2005 12 12 9 54 87 75
2006 12 12 10 59 93 81
2007 13 12 10 63 98 85
2008 14 11 10 67 102 88
2009 15 11 9 69 104 89
2010 16 ?? 6 68 90+ 74+

*7 teams in A-League, 21 in USISL Select League, which merged in 1997. I didn’t want to make another column in the table if I didn’t absolutely have to.

So you can tell the players with a scorecard: MLS is Major League Soccer, of course. “USL-1″ was USL’s Select League in 1996, the A-League from 1997-2004 and the USL First Division since 2005. “USL-2″ was the USISL Pro League in 1996, the D3 Pro League from 1997-2002, the Pro Select League in 2003, the Pro Soccer League in 2004 and the USL Second Division since 2005. The “PDL” was the USISL Premier League in 1996, the Premier Development Soccer League from 1997-1998, and the Premier Development League since 1999. Same leagues, basically, just different names. (UPDATE: I’ve now renamed the first three column headers by division status, rather than league name.)

You can see that in 1998, we hit the historical high of 112 total outdoor teams at all levels (100 of those at the USL level). The nadir came in 2005 and it’s been inching its way up ever since (thanks in part to MLS expansion). (UPDATE: If 14 teams compete in the second division this year, either in two leagues or one, we’ll have matched last year’s total.)

I’ll update this chart again once we know how many teams will compete at the second division level (between USL-1 and NASL) and the PDL. (UPDATE: USL announced that 68 teams will compete in the PDL in 2010, down one from last year. See below for why.)

WhoSL? (Updated)

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Today’s news that the Western Mass Pioneers, who have been a very successful club at the USL Second Division level since 1998, would drop down to the Premier Development League is proof that while the drama is at the top, there’s plenty of churn at the lower levels of the United Soccer Leagues as well.

The clubs that have broken away from the USL First Division to attempt to form a rival league (the “new” North American Soccer League) are still seeking US Soccer Federation sanction for their new circuit. Meanwhile, USL’s other leagues continue to prepare for 2010. Here’s the latest on where things stand in USL, as best I can tell:

USL First Division (11 teams in 2009): Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Montreal, Rochester and Vancouver have cast their lot with the NASL. Charleston self-relegated to USL-2 to stay out of the fracus, making them unquestionably the smartest guys in the room. Cleveland, a once-successful USL-2 team, couldn’t make the jump to USL-1 and folded after one year in the higher league. It appears as though Austin, Portland and Puerto Rico are the only three of last year’s USL-1 teams who plan to be back in the top flight in 2010 – if there is one. New York and Tampa Bay were to be USL-1 expansion teams in the coming year, but the “new” Rowdies tried to jump ship to the NASL (they’re currently being sued for trying) and FCNY doesn’t appear to have its act together. USL may be hoping that USSF brokers a compromise or forces the erstwhile teams to come back under the USL umbrella, if only for 2010, to satisfy apparent contractual obligations. I’m not sure there is a Plan B.

USL Second Division (9 teams in 2009): Bermuda staggered to the finish line last year and who knows if they’re prepared to give it a go in 2010? Charlotte, Harrisburg, Maryland, Pittsburgh and Richmond appear in, as does Charleston. Wilmington couldn’t find new investors and appear to be done. Baltimore jumped to the NASL (and are being sued by USL along with Tampa Bay and Rochester because of it). Western Mass self-relegated. I’m told that this division is small, but committed and prepared to go forward with the six (?) teams they have. (UPDATE: USL just announced the home openers for the USL-2 teams, and there’s no Bermuda. It’s Charleston, Charlotte, Harrisburg, Maryland and Pittsburgh. Six teams.)

Premier Development League (69 teams in 2009): USL’s largest division usually experiences some year-to-year flux, and there hasn’t been much news on who’s in and who’s out. Such is life in the quasi-amateur division. (UPDATE: USL announced that 68 teams will play in the PDL in 2010, a net loss of one from last year. Gone are the Austin Aztex U23s, Bradenton Academics, Bakersfield Brigade, Cascade Surge, Cary Clarets, Fredericksburg Gunners, Virginia Legacy, Rhode Island Stingrays, Fort Wayne Fever. Replacing them are unnamed teams in Ft. Lauderdale and Albany (NY), the Washington Crossfire, MPS Portland Phoenix, Dayton Dutch Lions and Vermont Voltage, and the self-relegated Western Mass Pioneers and Bermuda Hogges.)

W-League (37 teams in 2009): The women’s league has apparently lost a dozen teams from last year and has gained four new ones. A 29-team alignment was just announced last week. Some notable omissions: the Boston Renegades, who can trace their lineage back to 1995 and who appear to be concentrating on youth soccer; FC Indiana, a four-time national champion whose coach apparently has gone to Russia; and the Western Mass Lady Pioneers, who went 1-13 last year and may have been a victim of whatever economics played into their men’s team dropping down a level.

April is just over 100 days away now and something has to get sorted out at the top of the USL pyramid. The lower levels will continue to have their comings and goings (they always have), but it’s the USL-1/NASL dispute that’s drawing the attention at the moment. My guess? Either USSF holds out as long as it can before granting the NASL provisional Division II status for 2009 with a list of things they have to do to get full status in 2011 or they use the hammer to force a truce between the sides that sees them all compete under the same roof this season. Perhaps the cooling-off period can result in a reconciliation.

If you’ve ever lived under the same roof as your soon-to-be-ex-spouse (I have), you know it’s not the most fun you can have. But it wouldn’t be all that different from 2009, where the teams that have since broken away were just as estranged – it just wasn’t publicly obvious.

That’s The Ticket

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the midst of a horrendous season (even for them), I dug up some fond memories of the (mostly) good old days. Okay, there were some bad days then, too, but at least now we can look back on them fondly, like we do with the creamsicle uniforms now.

Anyway, at left is a ticket stub from the final game of the 0-26 streak to start the Bucs’ existence. I believe this was the first Buc game (but not the first NFL game) I ever attended. Walter Payton ran for 101 yards on 33 carries and a touchdown where he went over the top (like he did a lot) right in front of us. The Bears scored all 10 of their points in the 4th quarter and, if you knew the Bucs’ offense then, that was really all you needed. They couldn’t score in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

More ticket stubs and (better) memories after the jump. (more…)

Ghost Of Christmas Past

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Twelve years ago today, then-MLS Commissioner Doug Logan sent this missive to soccer fans in Seattle, promising them a team by 2003.

Only missed it by six years. And Doug Logan, at last report, worked for USA Track & Field.

FC B.C.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

In the beginning…the game of soccer had issues.