Archive for August, 2010
The last time I announced high school football regularly, Emmitt Smith was a high school senior. Considering he just went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, that gives you some idea of how long it’s been. But starting tonight, I’ll be doing a weekly game on iBNSports.com (some of which, I’m told, will be picked up by USAToday.com as part of their Super 25 preps coverage).
It looks like you can tune in for tonight’s game between Sunrise Mountain and Liberty at 7pm PT / 10pm ET by clicking here. Supposedly it’ll be available on demand after the fact as well.
EDIT: And, in a case of “small world,” the officiating crew for tonight’s game is the one I almost joined last year before broadcasting commitments kept me from being their back judge. This year I’m not officiating at all and the first game I do, there they are.
Women’s Professional Soccer‘s second season is building to a….conclusion, and its sophomore year has been an interesting one. On the field, FC Gold Pride (with The World’s Best PlayerTM) has already clinched the regular-season championship and will host the final on September 26, Marta’s 15 goals lead the league, two expansion teams joined the fold and one of them opened a fabulous new stadium.
But after 20 weeks and 77 games, league attendance is down about 23 percent from 2009, with every team that returned from 2009 showing average attendance decreases ranging from 4% to 32%. This table ranks the teams by the difference in average from last year to this year.
|Sky Blue FC||9||29,299||3,255||3,451||-5.7%|
|Chicago Red Stars||10||42,056||4,206||4,628||-9.1%|
|FC Gold Pride||11||33,667||3,061||3,667||-16.5%|
|Saint Louis Athletica||4||12,109||3,027||4,055||-25.4%|
(WPS teams played 10 home games in 2009. Because of the longer schedule and the demise of Saint Louis early in the season, they’ll play 12 or 13 this year. The ’09 Average column is based either on the same number of home games as a year ago or 10 home games, whichever is less.)
WPS’ small number of teams (and, therefore, games in a given week) results in a small sample size, so weekly trends might not be that meaningful. But given that my man Rob Penner broached the issue, here’s how each week of the first two WPS seasons has gone from an average attendance standpoint:
(That spike in week 9 last year came from a doubleheader at RFK Stadium that saw a league-record crowd of 16,089.)
As Penner says, though, the trend at the end of last season was upward and they’re trending upward as 2010 approaches the playoffs. A drop of over 1,000 per game overall (based on a lot of factors – the loss of Los Angeles, two new organizations, bad economy, you name it) is not an encouraging sign, but I’ve heard WPS will announce a new expansion team very soon (maybe a return to LA?) and they’ve still got to be losing less money than WUSA did.
EDIT: Oh, yeah, the WPS expansion team might be the W-League’s Buffalo Flash moving up.
Nenad Krstic of the Oklahoma City Thunder fears he’ll be suspended by FIFA because of a bench-clearing brawl between Serbia and Greece? Wow. Krstic doesn’t even play soccer.
UPDATE: Awww, they fixed it.
Here are the latest attendance figures from the various soccer leagues around these parts, through yesterday’s games:
|MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER||G||Total||Average|
|Seattle Sounders FC||11||397,701||36,155|
|Los Angeles Galaxy||9||182,871||20,319|
|New York Red Bulls||10||174,249||17,425|
|Real Salt Lake||11||184,310||16,755|
|New England Revolution||10||118,139||11,814|
|Kansas City Wizards||11||111,202||10,109|
|San Jose Earthquakes||10||96,376||9,638|
|WOMEN’S PROFESSIONAL SOCCER||G||Total||Average|
|Chicago Red Stars||10||42,056||4,206|
|Sky Blue FC||9||29,299||3,255|
|FC Gold Pride||11||33,667||3,061|
|Saint Louis Athletica||4||12,109||3,027|
|USSF DIVISION II SOCCER LEAGUE||G||Total||Average|
|FC Tampa Bay Rowdies||10||43,730||4,373|
|AC St. Louis||11||30,438||2,767|
|Puerto Rico Islanders||12||27,428||2,286|
|Minnesota NSC Stars||13||18,067||1,390|
|Miami FC Blues||11||14,151||1,286|
|UNITED SOCCER LEAGUES DIVISION II||G||Total||Average|
|Harrisburg City Islanders||10||17,109||1,711|
|Real Maryland Monarchs||7||4,259||608|
|UNITED SOCCER LEAGUES W-LEAGUE||G||Total||Average|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC Women||5||7,565||1,513|
|New Jersey Wildcats||3||2,085||695|
|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|
|Quebec City Amiral||6||1,933||322|
|Northern Virginia Majestics||4||1,113||278|
|North Jersey Valkyries||4||1,030||258|
|Toronto Lady Lynx||5||800||160|
|New York Magic||4||492||123|
|Chicago Red Eleven||6||666||111|
|Tampa Bay Hellenic||3||323||108|
|Washington Freedom Futures||6||455||76|
|UNITED SOCCER LEAGUES PDL||G||Total||Average|
|Des Moines Menace||8||28,413||3,552|
|West Texas United Sockers||8||20,011||2,501|
|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||7||7,485||1,069|
|New Orleans Jesters||4||4,029||1,007|
|Ventura County Fusion||8||6,987||873|
|Thunder Bay Chill||8||6,348||794|
|Los Angeles Legends||5||3,579||716|
|Western Mass Pioneers||8||5,352||669|
|Portland Timbers U23’s||8||4,925||616|
|Baton Rouge Capitals||1||540||540|
|Hampton Roads Piranhas||7||3,085||441|
|Long Island Rough Riders||7||2,964||423|
|Central Florida Kraze||7||2,330||333|
|Ocean City Nor’easters||6||1,936||323|
|St. Louis Lions||8||2,298||287|
|Southern California Seahorses||7||1,634||233|
|Rio Grande Valley Bravos||3||590||197|
|Albany BWP Highlanders||8||1,478||185|
|Dallas Fort Worth Tornados||4||716||179|
|MPS Portland Phoenix||7||1,226||175|
|West Virginia Chaos||8||1,257||157|
|Hollywood United Hitmen||6||867||145|
|IMG Bradenton Academics||6||795||133|
|Kansas City Brass||6||783||131|
|Vancouver Whitecaps Residency||8||1,029||129|
|New Hampshire Phantoms||7||740||106|
|Ft. Lauderdale Schultz Academy||4||410||103|
|New Jersey Rangers FC||6||606||101|
|Central Jersey Spartans||6||600||100|
|Orange County Blue Star||8||740||93|
|Real Colorado Foxes||6||480||80|
|Northern Virginia Royals||0||0||0|
- MLS has four teams averaging over 20,000 per game. The three holdovers from last year have been joined by Philadelphia, but that’s artificial based on a couple of games held at Lincoln Financial Field. The Union’s PPL Park isn’t large enough for them to average 20k for an entire season.
- On the flip side, USSF D2 has five teams averaging under 2,300 per game, three of them under 1,400. I can’t see how Baltimore, Minnesota and St. Louis return and I’m not optimistic about Puerto Rico.
- MLS’ average for 45 games played after the World Cup (16,169) is slightly below its average for 93 games prior to the World Cup (16,472). In fact, that’s a trend seen at all levels. Every single league has a lower average attendance in games played since the World Cup than it did in games played before. Things in MLS usually pick back up in the fall, so that effect will be mitigated somewhat, and the second division schedule extends deeper into the fall than ever. We’ll see what the final numbers say, but what we have tends to give credence to the notion that the World Cup Bump isn’t as strong as some would like to think it is.
- Charleston averaged 3,534 per game in 2009 in the USL First Division. Despite dropping down to USL-2 this year, the Battery averaged 3,641 (they’ll also host the championship game against Richmond this Saturday).
- The Chicago Red Stars had their biggest crowd of the season Sunday (6,089 to see Marta and FC Gold Pride clinch the regular-season title and berth in the championship game). It was their second-largest crowd ever, trailing only the 7,959 for last year’s home finale against….Marta and the LA Sol.
It was nice of Miami FC to play along with the theme as the Rochester Rhinos of the USSF Division II Pro Soccer League paid tribute to their NASL roots last night. But let’s be honest, here – those are some half-assed throwbacks. At top above are the kits the Blues wore last night (photo courtesy James Kennith), with Ft. Lauderdale Striker team photos from 1982 (middle) and 1977 below that. Not even close, right?
To be fair, Rochester didn’t exactly outdo themselves with their throwbacks, but at least they were simple and didn’t look like something from a co-ed rec league.
For some reason, soccer teams don’t seem to do throwbacks all that well. When MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes wore throwbacks earlier this summer, they were from all the way back in…2005. Yay. (San Jose had worn NASL-inspired throwbacks in 2004 against Dallas). When the Tampa Bay Mutiny and MetroStars did a Rowdies/Cosmos homage back around the turn of the century, it was such a disaster (at least from the Tampa Bay side) that I can’t even find evidence of it.
It would be cool if the Rapids would wear these once or if DC United dipped into history, but I wouldn’t count on it anytime soon. And if the attempts aren’t going to be any better than Miami’s homage, I’d just as soon have the whole idea stay packed away.
Last week, Inside Minnesota Soccer revealed the actual standards the US Soccer Federation is going to (try to) hold any prospective Division II men’s outdoor league to in 2011 and beyond. You can go there and read the entire legalese, or I’ll condense the standards for you here and comment afterward.
General for any league:
1. Must determine a champion, either by “seasonal play” or a tournament.
2. Must play by FIFA Laws of the Game and relevant FIFA guidelines.
3. 75% of teams must be in the USA.
4. Must be able to control ingress and egress to stadiums.
5. Fields must be 110 yards x 70 yards and FIFA-approved.
6. Coaches must have USSF “A” licenses (or equiv.) within two years of their appointment.
7. Must use USSF-licensed or USSF-approved referees for all league games in the USA.
8. Leagues must require performance bonds “or other security” of amounts to be set solely by USSF.
9. League has to have an office open year-round during regular business hours.
10. League must have full-time CEO/Commissioner, active publicity/PR, marketing & sponsorship programs, director of officials (or delegate to USSF), professional registrar, disciplinary body and an executive committee.
11. League and each team must produce an annual media guide, league must produce weekly stats and regular press releases and league or teams must produce line-up card “or similar guide” for each individual game.
12. Teams must have General Manager, directors of Marketing/Sales, Communications/Media Relations, Promotions/Community Relations, Game Operations, head coach, assistant coach, trainer, ticketing manager, finance director and clerical staff.
13. Each team “must demonstrate its on-going commitment to the promotion of soccer at all levels in its home market.”
14. USSF can limit the number of foreign players.
15. No multiple-team owners unless “it is necessary for the viability of the league” and then you have to have a divestiture plan in place.
16. League must join USSF, pay all fees and and and its teams must be in good standing with USSF.
17. League must submit an annual report showing compliance with these standards.
18. League must release its players for national team duties and must “actively support the US national team programs.”
19. League must register its players with USSF “on a timely basis.”
20. USSF can review financial books of the league and teams.
21. The league must have a “code of conduct” for teams and players.
22. Teams have to provide attendance figures and “gross gate reports as requested by the Federation.”
23. USSF has to be notified if teams fall behind in paying players, stadium, league or “key vendors.”
24. You can request a one-year waiver from one or more of these standards but only in “exceptional circumstances.”
Specifically for a DII league:
25. Eight teams to apply for sanctioning. At least 10 teams by year three, at least 12 teams by year six.
26. US-based teams must participate in all CONCACAF competitions.
27. Teams in at least two different US time-zones. By year six, at least three different time zones.
28. At least 75% of teams must be in markets of at least 750,000 people.
29. 5,000-seat minimum stadium capacity, must be leased no later than 120 days prior to the start of the season.
30. $750,000 letter of credit to cover costs of operations, submitted 120 days prior.
31. Team owners must “demonstrate the financial capacity to operate the team for three years.”
32. One principal owner that owns at least 35% of the team must have an individual net worth of $20M.
33. Prospective owners must meet with USSF regarding “the responsibilities of owning a team.”
34. League must submit to USSF any violation of standards and how they plan to deal with it.
35. All required positions must be filled by full-time staff during the season.
Okay, so here goes:
1. Yeah, fine.
2. No experimenting, yo.
3. That means if you have Edmonton and Hamilton, you’d have to have six US-based teams with them. The NASL’s dream of a Canadian land rush may be dampened a bit by this.
4. Basically, you can’t play in an open field.
5. No crappy, short high school fields and only artificial surfaces that meet with FIFA approval. In other words, don’t go back to that high school in Cleveland. Also, Tampa Bay is going to have to stop playing at a baseball stadium at some point.
6. This has been a USL standard for years, though I’m not sure it’s been rigidly enforced.
7. That just makes sense.
8. Mandating performance bonds isn’t that new, but holding teams to it will be in USSF’s purview now.
9. That means you can’t have just one guy working out of his home office.
10. You have to have an actual league staff, not just one guy working out of his home office.
11. You know, the stuff actual leagues do. My guess is “line-up card” means match programme of some sort.
12. Teams must have actual staff.
13. You would think they would do that already, but whatever.
14. As per usual.
15. Could you please apply this to MLS?
16. Of course.
17. Wouldn’t you love to see these annual reports?
18. For DII, I don’t know how much of an issue this is going to be, but there’s always Jeremy Christie
19. Okay, then.
20. That will be fun. As private enterprises, teams haven’t had to do this (and, in fact, would balk at this if you asked).
21. Will it include time-outs?
22. We’ll definitely want to see both sets of those numbers. Good luck getting them.
23. Early-warning system, okay.
24. Translation: don’t expect much slack.
25. I got news for you: unless somebody’s sandbagging, I don’t see eight viable organizations right now, with six in the US (see #3).
26. Easy enough.
27. Eastern and Central would be easy and Eastern, Central and Pacific will end up being the three (Mountain Time always gets screwed).
28. This is interesting. You can have a Charleston, but (in an eight team scenario) you can only have two markets smaller than El Paso, Texas. Considering MLS has a lot of the larger markets already locked up, it’ll be interesting to see how this goes. The biggest markets MLS doesn’t have are Atlanta, Detroit and Phoenix. Minneapolis, St. Louis, Tampa, Baltimore, Portland and Austin are current D2 markets (Portland’s not long for the world, obviously) and Orlando (#27) is supposedly a USL expansion team for next year (good luck).
29. Note it doesn’t say “soccer specific stadium” anywhere that I can see. Just means they’re putting some minimum stadium standards that will (usually) rule out your run-of-the-mill high school stadiums that have plagued the lower levels for years.
30. $750,000 letters of credit should be workable for the high-net worth people they’re talking about, right? Still, I’m thinking Letter of Credit Day is going to be a nailbiter in late December every year.
31. Some have had the capacity, not a lot have had the ability. Just sayin’.
32. This might be the hardest one of all to accomplish.
33. Come in and see us, they say, so we can give you our blessing.
34. Do your own progress reports!
35. No interns doing actual grownup jobs.
So there we are. It seems as though most folks are, like FC Tampa Bay’s Andrew Nestor, saying all the right things, but let’s be honest here: the bulk of the currently-extant or proposed expansion teams at the DII level haven’t demonstrated the ability to meet all of these standards. We could go team-by-team, but what’s the point? I don’t believe there are eight actual teams that can pull this off.
So then what? It may very well be that, in 2011 at least, there is no second division. It may be that everybody plays in a league that gets Division III sanctioning (we don’t know exactly what those standards are, but I wouldn’t imagine they’d be too stringent. And, except for a niche of the soccer community, who’s going to care? Charleston has proven this year that level isn’t everything – that professional is as professional does. In their market, at least (and probably in many others) whether you’re in a DII league or a DIII league doesn’t seem to make a big difference.
The next 90 days or so should be very interesting. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but my guess is we’ll see some extreme volatility in the roster of teams for 2011 between now and Christmas. And that, once again, things will go down to the wire before we know what’s up for next year.
Congrats to the San Jose Earthquakes for signing their first-ever Designated Player. If they could sign a Designated Proofreader, that would be good, too.
The Situation was unavailable for comment.
A relaxing long weekend in Jerome, Arizona means I’ve missed a lot of what happened over the last few days, so let’s get caught up.
- Today is the 33rd anniversary of the day Elvis Presley faked his death passed away. I remember it like it was yesterday – WTVT Channel 13 anchor Hugh Smith coming on with a news update, saying The King is dead, 12-year-old me stunned (famous people die?), my mom crying for three days. The moral of the story? You can’t continually put stuff like this and this into your body and not have it come back to bite you.
- I can appreciate the second-half comeback and all that, but, seriously? You’re geeked up because the Rowdies won a contrived cup competition against the worst team in the league? As for me, I’m sick of all the draws. Draws are for average teams, and that’s all this team is right now – average.
- Tim Tebow’s pro debut went fine. That’s all - just fine. He made some plays. Made some throws. Didn’t look out of his element. Played against backups, yeah, but played with backups, too. And the Broncos’ backups don’t appear to be very good.
- The English Premier League season has started, and the Kansas City Star thinks they’re sooooo clever.
- WPS’ FC Gold Pride has the best player in the world and they’ve played three straight scoreless draws now. I’m sorry, I’m just sick of hearing how hard it is to score goals in this game. On the plus side, FCGP did have its biggest crowd of the year (3,328). Meanwhile, Boston drew a season-high 6,108 and Philadelphia…well, we don’t know what they drew because they’re continuing this annoying habit of waiting a day or two to release their number. What, do you have a bunch of interns counting ticket stubs?
- Brian Quarstad has the official US Soccer Federation standards for Division II play for 2011 and beyond. This merits its own post when I can get around to it. But Rochester owner Rob Clark, while agreeing to the standards, thinks the $20M ownership net worth requirement is a “lazy solution to the problem,” and that’s probably fair.
- Apropos of nothing, the NFL Network’s ticker may be even more lame and insidious than ESPN’s ticker. Since I rarely watch ESPN anymore, I’m just guessing here, but the people in charge of NFLN’s ticker just suck beyond words.
- See, it’s about creativity. I’m never offended by bad language as a parent or as a fan, I’m offended as a grown-up because I think heckling can be a fine art instead of fingerpainting hour.
- What’s the over/under on what week the Terrell Owens/Chad Ochocinco thing goes off the tracks? I’m pegging it at Week 9. Place your bets.
- The last two episodes made me realize what Entourage had been missing: nudity and Mrs. Ari looking really hot. The rest of it….meh.
Back to Monday. Almost time for a meeting. More later.