More On The Phoenix Monsoon

As promised, an interview with Phoenix Monsoon point man Stu Starkey, wherein he touches on their plans to play in 2011 in a “Western Soccer Conference” along with at least three and hopefully five to seven other teams in California and Arizona, a potential home venue and the long-term goals for the team.

Quick thoughts:

  • The Phoenix Greyhound Park location seems to be a really good one. Just off downtown, right next to the airport, there’s a light rail stop there, loads of parking, no NIMBY issues. I’d have to be convinced that you wouldn’t be too far from the action (not to mention hermetically sealed) to make it worthwhile to go at all.
  • I hope they’re able to pull together more than four teams for this Western Soccer Conference in 2011. Nobody will take it seriously – even as a prelude to bigger and better things – with only four or five teams.
  • It’ll be interesting to see who ultimately gets the upper hand – this group or the other, which plans to take the field in 2012.

Phoenix Monsoon To Play in 2011

Phoenix will have a professional outdoor soccer team in 2011, but where and against which teams it will play are still up in the air. I had the chance tonight to speak to Stu Starkey, the man behind the Phoenix Monsoon. The Monsoon intends to play next summer in something called the Western Soccer Conference, with hopes of eventually joining either the United Soccer Leagues, North American Soccer League or whatever amalgamation eventually has Division II sanctioning.

Starkey told a gathering of soccer fans in Scottsdale tonight that Luis Dabo, local coaching legend and former head man of the CISL’s Arizona Sandsharks, will be the Monsoon’s head coach. The team hopes to be playing at a renovated Phoenix Greyhound Park in 2011, and negotiations with the City of Phoenix are ongoing. Finally, the Western Soccer Conference has, as of now, four committed ownership groups (one representing the San Francisco Bay area, apparently, with two other California cities as yet unnamed) and Starkey said they hope to have “six or eight” teams ready to play in 2011. The WSC would be a Division III level outfit that would hopefully move to the Division II level in 2012 after the fallout settles from the USL/NASL split that dominated the offseason news.

I videotaped an interview with Mr. Starkey, but Windows Live Movie Maker sucks, so I can’t bring it to you tonight. I’ll have it for you tomorrow. Watch this space.

(By the way, this is one of two groups attempting to bring a pro team to the Valley. The other is Phoenix Pro Soccer, and I’ll have interviews with their folks when they’re ready to talk about their plans.)


This is a fairly clever ad promoting the Kansas City Wizards’ under-construction stadium1. I like the cut of the Wizards’ ownership group’s jib, to be honest – not just in this ad, but in the way they go about things. They get it.

That said, am I the only one who’s skeptical about The Power Of Beating ManU In A FriendlyTM? I think it’s great if the Wizards sold 700 season tickets the day after their win, I’m just wondering if the cause-and-effect relationship is as strong as some might make it out to be.

If they weren’t building a new stadium (which has enough of a shape now to actually look like reality), would they have sold 700 new season tickets to Community America Ballpark based on beating ManU? Or was it the stadium and the fact they only put 2,011 season tickets on sale?

Hey, I’m all in favor of striking while the iron is hot, and there’s no better time to make a sale than when you can display your product in the best possible light. I am just curious how, if someone hasn’t been a season ticket holder for the Wizards for lo these first 15 years2, why beating Manchester United would suddenly do the trick. Because they’re not going to be playing Manchester United every week next year.

1 – Admit it, you didn’t think you’d read that phrase before you read “DC United’s new stadium,” did you?
2 – To be fair, when Lamar Hunt made that big push several years ago, the Wizards did bring in a bunch of new season ticket holders. I don’t know that they kept all that many of them, though.

PDL Playoffs Set

The playoff picture in the USL’s Premier Development League became clear over the weekend and 16 teams will play next weekend for the right to advance to the final four August 6-7.

Here’s the schedule as just released:

Eastern Conference Championship (At Ottawa)
Saturday, July 31
#1 Reading United AC vs. #2 MPS Portland Phoenix, 4 p.m. ET
#1 Ottawa Fury vs. #2 Ironbound Express, 7 p.m. ET
Sunday, August 1
Semifinal 1 Winner vs. Semifinal 2 Winner, 4 p.m. ET

Central Conference Championship (At Thunder Bay)
Friday, July 30
#1 Michigan Bucks vs. #2 Rochester Thunder, 3 p.m. ET
#1 Thunder Bay Chill vs. #2 Forest City London, 5:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 31
Semifinal 1 Winner vs. Semifinal 2 Winner, 5:30 p.m. ET

Southern Conference Championship (At Mississippi)
Friday, July 30
#1 Laredo Heat vs. #2 Baton Rouge Capitals, 5 p.m. CT
#1 Mississippi Brilla vs. #2 Houston Leones, 7:30 p.m. CT
Sunday, August 1
Semifinal 1 Winner vs. Semifinal 2 Winner, 7 p.m. CT

Western Conference Championship (At Kitsap)
Saturday, July 31
#1 Portland Timbers U23s vs. #2 Hollywood United Hitmen, 1:30 p.m. PT
#1 Ventura County Fusion vs. #2 Kitsap Pumas, 5 p.m. PT
Sunday, August 1
Semifinal 1 Winner vs. Semifinal 2 Winner, 5 p.m. PT

2010 PDL Championship (Site TBD)
Friday, August 6
#1 Seed Conference Winner vs. #4 Seed Conference Winner, Time TBD
#2 Seed Conference Winner vs. #3 Seed Conference Winner, Time TBD
Saturday, August 7
Consolation Match, 3:30 p.m. ET

Why do I bring this all to your attention? Because I’m calling the PDL title game on FSC on August 7 at 7pm ET. Only I won’t know until Sunday or maybe Monday morning where I’m actually supposed to go. Right now I’m pulling for either Hollywood or Newark.

Meanwhile, Atlanta, Vancouver, Buffalo and Hudson Valley have advanced to the W-League final four in Santa Clarita, California. It would be odd if Buffalo and Hudson Valley won their semifinals – it would mean two teams from New York state had to go to California to play for a title.

Taking Attendance, 7/26/2010

Here are the latest unofficial attendance figures for the various levels of soccer in the USA (and, occasionally, Canada).

Seattle Sounders FC 10 361,590 36,159
Philadelphia Union 5 113,097 22,619
Toronto FC 9 184,449 20,494
Los Angeles Galaxy 8 162,523 20,315
Real Salt Lake 9 149,685 16,632
New York Red Bulls 8 130,214 16,277
Houston Dynamo 9 144,028 16,003
DC United 9 134,543 14,949
Chicago Fire 7 103,446 14,778
Chivas USA 7 101,155 14,451
Columbus Crew 9 126,255 14,028
Colorado Rapids 7 95,123 13,589
New England Revolution 8 94,375 11,797
FC Dallas 8 89,848 11,231
Kansas City Wizards 8 80,047 10,006
San Jose Earthquakes 7 66,607 9,515
MLS TOTAL 128 2,136,985 16,695
Boston Breakers 8 35,980 4,498
Washington Freedom 8 34,587 4,323
Chicago Red Stars 9 37,042 4,116
Atlanta Beat 6 22,906 3,818
Sky Blue FC 6 20,697 3,450
FC Gold Pride 9 27,869 3,097
Saint Louis Athletica 4 12,109 3,027
Philadelphia Independence 8 24,061 3,008
WPS TOTAL 58 215,251 3,711
Montreal Impact 10 122,478 12,248
Portland Timbers 11 99,660 9,060
Rochester Rhinos 10 58,122 5,812
Vancouver Whitecaps 11 55,938 5,085
FC Tampa Bay Rowdies 8 36,751 4,594
Austin Aztex 10 35,276 3,528
AC St. Louis 6 18,943 3,157
Puerto Rico Islanders 9 21,041 2,338
Carolina RailHawks 5 11,326 2,265
Minnesota NSC Stars 11 15,628 1,421
Palace Baltimore 6 7,542 1,257
Miami FC Blues 10 12,296 1,230
USSF2 TOTAL 107 495,001 4,626
Charleston Battery 9 31,677 3,520
Richmond Kickers 8 15,563 1,945
Harrisburg City Islanders 8 13,303 1,663
Charlotte Eagles 9 7,845 872
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 7 5,929 847
Real Maryland Monarchs 6 3,602 600
USL-2 TOTAL 47 77,919 1,658
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Women 5 7,565 1,513
New Jersey Wildcats 3 2,085 695
Atlanta Silverbacks 2 1,360 680
Seattle Sounders 5 3,098 620
Colorado Force 4 2,114 529
Charlotte Lady Eagles 4 2,053 513
Long Island Rough Riders 5 2,258 452
Hampton Roads Piranhas 5 2,037 407
Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues 3 1,097 366
Santa Clarita Blue Heat 3 1,083 361
Rochester Ravens 6 2,101 350
Ottawa Fury 6 1,985 331
Quebec City Amiral 6 1,933 322
Pali Blues 5 1,494 299
Northern Virginia Majestics 4 1,113 278
Laval Comets 6 1,594 266
North Jersey Valkyries 4 1,030 258
Colorado Rush 5 1,185 237
Buffalo Flash 5 1,149 230
Hamilton Avalanche 5 875 175
London Gryphons 3 482 161
Toronto Lady Lynx 5 800 160
Kalamazoo Outrage 5 755 151
New York Magic 4 492 123
Chicago Red Eleven 6 666 111
Tampa Bay Hellenic 3 323 108
NJ Rangers 5 472 94
Washington Freedom Futures 6 455 76
Cleveland Internationals 4 268 67
W-LEAGUE TOTAL 132 43,922 333
Des Moines Menace 8 28,413 3,552
West Texas United Sockers 8 20,011 2,501
Fresno Fuego 4 9,839 2,460
Carolina Dynamo 2 4,086 2,043
Victoria Highlanders FC 8 11,973 1,497
Dayton Dutch Lions 8 10,195 1,274
Forest City London 8 9,971 1,246
El Paso Patriots 5 5,850 1,170
New Orleans Jesters 4 4,029 1,007
Laredo Heat 8 7,908 989
Ventura County Fusion 8 6,987 873
BYU Cougars 8 6,862 858
Kitsap Pumas 4 3,301 825
Thunder Bay Chill 8 6,348 794
Los Angeles Legends 5 3,579 716
Western Mass Pioneers 7 4,946 707
Cincinnati Kings 7 4,790 684
Mississippi Brilla 7 4,695 671
Portland Timbers U23’s 8 4,925 616
Michigan Bucks 7 4,064 581
Vermont Voltage 7 3,928 561
Ogden Outlaws 3 1,636 545
Indiana Invaders 5 2,722 544
Baton Rouge Capitals 1 540 540
Toronto Lynx 5 2,520 504
Hampton Roads Piranhas 7 3,085 441
Long Island Rough Riders 7 2,964 423
Ottawa Fury 8 3,034 379
Ironbound Express 8 3,022 378
Ocean City Nor’easters 5 1,702 340
Central Florida Kraze 7 2,330 333
Rochester Thunder 5 1,609 322
St. Louis Lions 8 2,298 287
Yakima Reds 4 1,020 255
Bermuda Hogges 6 1,524 254
Reading United 7 1,634 233
Southern California Seahorses 6 1,366 228
Rio Grande Valley Bravos 2 440 220
Nashville Metros 7 1,506 215
Dallas Fort Worth Tornados 3 605 202
Tacoma Tide 2 402 201
Springfield Demize 8 1,540 193
Albany BWP Highlanders 8 1,478 185
MPS Portland Phoenix 7 1,226 175
Kalamazoo Outrage 8 1,320 165
Hollywood United Hitmen 5 800 160
Washington Crossfire 5 790 158
West Virginia Chaos 7 1,039 148
Atlanta Blackhawks 5 727 145
Spokane Spiders 4 555 139
Abbotsford Mariners 7 930 133
IMG Bradenton Academics 6 795 133
Kansas City Brass 6 783 131
Lancaster Rattlers 5 645 129
Vancouver Whitecaps Residency 8 1,029 129
Houston Leones 5 560 112
Brooklyn Knights 8 875 109
Central Jersey Spartans 4 425 106
New Hampshire Phantoms 7 740 106
Ft. Lauderdale Schultz Academy 3 310 103
New Jersey Rangers FC 6 606 101
Orange County Blue Star 8 740 93
Real Colorado Foxes 6 480 80
Westchester Flames 8 640 80
Cleveland Internationals 6 366 61
Chicago Fire 5 218 44
Northern Virginia Royals 0 0 0
PDL TOTAL 400 222,276 556

Some notes:

  • Despite searching high and low, I’ve not found an attendance number for the Crew’s win over Houston this weekend. I’m sure my readers can come through, right?
  • It’s so cute how WPS’ Philadelphia Independence always takes an extra day or two to come up with their number. Hint: it makes me believe your number less, not more.
  • Speaking of WPS, The Stadium That Is Going To Change Women’s Soccer is right there in the middle of the pack.
  • There’s one more PDL game on the schedule, tonight (Bermuda at West Virginia, great seats still available). I am missing some 127 PDL attendance figures from this year (including all of Northern Virginia’s digits), but have made pretty good progress lately. I think you can get a reasonable idea of how PDL teams draw from the data we have. That is to say, not particularly well in most places.
  • The W-League season is over, I’m only missing about 30 of their games.
  • USL-2’s Real Maryland Monarchs have apparently gone back into their “we’re just not going to be buggered to report attendance figures” mode. Ditto for Crystal Palace Baltimore, which is a dead-in-the-water club.
  • If you want to see things broken out by level:

    League G Total Average
    MLS 127 2,100,652 16,541
    USSF2 107 495,001 4,626
    WPS 58 215,251 3,711
    USL-2 47 77,919 1,658
    PDL 400 222,276 556
    W-LEAGUE 132 43,922 333

  • If you ranked all 138 teams, you’d have (no surprise) MLS teams in 16 of the first 17 positions (with Montreal ahead of New England, Dallas, Kansas City and San Jose).
  • MLS has seen a slight boost in average announced attendance post-World Cup (going from 16,472 prior to the tournament to 17,417 after), but Seattle has had 2 of the 11 games and I don’t have that Crew figure yet, so it may not hold up. WPS attendance is off post-WC, while USSF-2 is up slightly. We’ll see how the trend finishes.

Team Handball Highlights: Germany vs. Poland, 7/17/2010

The “Battle of Chicago” matched the national handball teams of Germany and Poland at the UIC Pavilion last Saturday afternoon. If you missed it, various Comcast regional sports networks will be showing it (and the USA/Los Angeles match) over the next few weeks, so check your local listings. But here are some highlights of the Germany/Poland match, which was a rematch of the 2007 World Championship final.

There may be more team handball on TV before year’s end. I’ll keep you posted.

Team Handball Highlights: USA vs. Los Angeles, 7/17/2010

If you missed last Saturday’s rare exposure for team handball on television, don’t worry, Comcast affiliates around the country will be showing it again over the next few weeks. But here are some highlights of the match between the US National Team and the Los Angeles Team Handball Club.

The US men’s and women’s teams must have two-legged playoffs against Canada before year’s end in an attempt to qualify for the Pan-American Games.

Suddenly, Indoor Soccer Is A Growth Industry

“There’s no way pro soccer can survive anymore in this country without indoor soccer1.”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but all of a sudden there are signs of life in the game of indoor soccer, which has been on the downslide for a while now.

First, the (third, give or take) Major Indoor Soccer League announced a new franchise in suburban Kansas City, which will take the storied Comets name.

On Tuesday of this week, something called the Arena Soccer Association announced its launch. (If that looks and sounds familiar, it’s because some of the same folks who were behind the 1990s NPSL are behind this, too.)

And, a day later, United Soccer Leagues went back to its roots, announcing the launch of Indoor Professional Soccer (“The I-League”), complete with logo reminiscent of this. For those with a taste for nostalgia, the first franchise in the league will be the Rochester Lancers. As many as five to seven other regionally-based clubs are hoped for before the I-League launches in the late fall of 2011.

Both the ASA and the I-League folks talk about economic models that make sense – to which I say, “If there was an economic model for indoor soccer that made sense, don’t you think someone would have discovered it sometime in the last 30 years?”

Actually there is one that will result in fairly long-term stability: own a bank. (Well, it worked for a while.) Have control of the only arena in town, including booking and advertising rights. From time to time, employ your players in your bank. Win a few titles2.

But not everybody can do that. They can talk about regional play and bus trips and reasonable salaries and all that’s fine. That should keep the losses from being grotesque.

But this isn’t going to be easy. This is a tough sport to sell under the best of conditions. The I-League may turn out to be a developmental league for the MISL, which is one way to go about it. But will folks in Rochester and Syracuse and Hampton Roads out turn out to see “tomorrow’s indoor soccer stars today?” I doubt it.

Some have suggested futsal as an alternative, but I don’t see that ever being a viable spectator sport (slogan: “Like Outdoor Soccer, But Without The Excitement!”). Futsal is what baseball would be if all you could ever hit was singles. You think indoor soccer with walls has trouble drawing a crowd? Try selling futsal to the masses in today’s crowded sportainment environment. No chance.

The other day, I was talking with a longtime soccer exec who I respect greatly, and he opined that indoor soccer is the cockroach of sports. You just can’t kill it. Even if one or all three of these leagues die, the sport won’t die. There will always be someone, somewhere, who thinks he can put together five or six teams and have a league. There are a certain number of players you’ll always be able to find. There’s a certain fanbase you can attract, and they’ll be there most of the time.

But as far as growing and creating a bigtime, healthy sport, one that (believe it or not) once had well-known sportswriters say “I’m more than ever convinced that if soccer is to make it big in the U.S., it will have to be the indoor brand, where scoring action is furiously suited to American taste3,” I don’t see it happening.

1 – Chicago Sting owner Lee Stern said that. In 1983.
2 – The Baltimore Blast have been the kings of indoor, winning league championships in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009 in their most-recent incarnation, and in 1984 in the original MISL.
3 – Dick Young, New York Daily News, 1980.

Programming Note

Team handball gets major exposure this weekend with two games on television. The US Men’s National Team plays the national club champions from Los Angeles at Noon Saturday from Chicago, followed by “The Battle of Chicago” as the national teams of Germany and Poland go at it in a rematch of the 2007 World Championship match.

You can watch both matches live on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic (channel 642 on DirecTV, 424 on DISH) and on tape delay Sunday on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, with other tape-delayed broadcasts to be shown on a variety of Comcast and Comcast-affiliated networks over the next couple of weeks. Check your local listings.

John Ryan, editor of Team Handball News, will be my partner for the broadcast of the USA/Los Angeles match. I’m still waiting to hear which former German international will be my partner on the second match (which will also be shown live in Germany at 8pm on Sport 1, and, hopefully, in Poland on PolSat.)

I’m still relatively new to the sport, but trust me: it’s a lot of fun to watch. Give it a tumble.