Thursday, June 30, 2005

Since last time 

Apologies for the lack of posting of late. I've been busy and, well, not much has happened in the footballing world. Except, of course, the manic transfer speculation, which I try to avoid as much as possible.

Be forewarned that posting will continue to be sporadic for the near future. Below is some of the news from the past week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Disappointment for US U-20s 

Marc Connolly and Andrew Winner dissect the US loss to Italy yesterday at the U-20s World Cup, while this AP piece addresses Freddy Adu's disappointing tournament.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

WBA to tour California 

West Bromwich Albion will be joining the European invasion of the US this summer, as they have scheduled matches against the Galaxy at the HDC on July 20 and Chivas USA in Santa Barbara on the 26th.

MLS: Week 12 

Summaries of Week 12 MLS action are available here. Jeff Cunningham of the Rapids was named Player of the Week after scoring four goals in two games.

MLS thinking bigger 

The LA Times' Grahame Jones follows up on the Anschutz ranch discussions from a few weeks back:
Somewhere between Major League Soccer as it is today and Tim Leiweke's vision of David Beckham in a Galaxy or MetroStar jersey lies reality.

It is Don Garber's job to find it.

Garber, commissioner of MLS for the past six years, has been entrusted with devising a plan to improve the quality of play in the 10-year-old league — while at the same time not breaking the bank.

...The consensus among the owners was that more money needs to be invested in MLS, particularly in player acquisition, so that the standard of play continues to rise.

In addition, they agreed large markets such as Los Angeles and New York need more marquee players if they are to reach their potential.

If that means bending salary cap rules so that, say, Juan Pablo Garcia can be brought to Jorge Vergara's Chivas USA, or Beckham can be brought to AEG's MetroStars, so be it.

...Garber is supposed to come up with some hard numbers and ideas by the time the MLS board of governors meets at the All-Star game in Columbus, Ohio, on July 30.
Elsewhere in the article, Jones notes that there is a slight concern that AEG is looking to set things up so that it can dominate the league, since it has by far the greatest purse strings.

With DC United close to being sold off, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, then, that Tim Leiweke is most enthusiastic about what seems to be a modified NASL development philosophy for the league. I remain skeptical.

Confed Cup continues 

The FIFA Confederations Cup continues to mosey along, as well, with the major upset thus far being Mexico over Brazil.

Germany, Argentina, and Mexico have booked their places for the semifinals. Brazil is going to be fighting it out with Japan for the last spot tomorrow.

U-20s World Cup goes to knockout 

The U-20s World Cup continues, with group play now giving way to the knockout round.

The US squad wound up winning the so-called "Group of Death" and advanced to face Italy today. The Americans were sent packing, 3-1. I didn't see the game, but most reports indicate that it was disappointing.

And, via Du Nord, here's a list of notable players from the group stages. There's one American in there, midfielder Benny Feilhaber. The player that seems to have raised the most eyebrows, though, is the Netherlands' Quincy Owusu Abeyie. Check out some highlights of Arsenal's hot, young prodigy, here.

US soccer's racial divide 

Writing in the Guardian, Steven Wells looks across the pond and sees worrying racial disparities embedded in American soccer. He warns:
soccer has become - in the words of Tom Simpson, president of the A-League's San Francisco Bay Seals - the "dream alternate sport for the white suburbs". A safe place where the grandchildren of the "white flight" generation can play in monocultural safety.
Yes, there is still somewhat of a stigma attached to soccer in many regions of the country, but these stereotypes are slowly receding to the extent that I don't think they're worth worrying about as a whole. Things have been and will continue to improve.

With US Soccer investing wisely and looking to attract youngsters who might not have previously considered playing soccer and MLS providing a stable platform for young talent, the infrastructure for youth development is growing rapidly in the US, for all sorts of children.

Demographic changes, notably the growing Hispanic influence in the US, will also mean that American culture will become much more receptive to "futbol." This will probably have a spillover effect across the social spectrum.

And, to throw in some anecdotal evidence, just look at players like Gooch, DMB, and EJ. These are the types of black players that you never would have seen in the US national team pool ten years ago. Now they're thriving in each of their respective environments, with Gooch and DMB overseas, soon to be joined by EJ.

As a whole, racial and class disparities are growing in the US, and they do deserve a great deal of concern. Soccer, however, is one realm of society which will likely become more egalitarian as time goes by.

If Wells had written this piece 7 or 8 years ago, I likely would have agreed with him. Now, I think he's behind the curve.

Frantic action in the Premiership 

The London Times reports that the EPL is getting more roadrunner-ish, according to a recent study:
Data gathered by ProZone, which assesses a majority of Premiership clubs, reveals that the average number of sprints by these teams in league matches has increased by almost a half during the past two years, the figure of 1,699 last season comparing with 1,156 in 2002-03. The total distance covered by a team’s players has risen by an average of more than two miles per game in that period, from 67.5 miles to 69.8 miles.

The result is that players probably have less time on the ball and, perhaps in consequence, they are becoming more prone to giving away possession. While teams showed a slight improvement in this regard last season compared with two years earlier, the average tally of 190 successfully completed passes was well down from 226 in the 2003-04 campaign. Given the apparent greater urgency shown by teams, it is no surprise that they are entering the opposition’s third of the pitch more frequently. They achieved this an average of 55 times per match in 2002-03 but 73 times last season.
Take this or leave it. This seems terribly wonkish to me, but fanatical football observers might find this stuff interesting.

Libertadores semifinals set 

FSC's Bobby McMahon previews the seminfinals of the Copa Libertadores. Chivas takes on Atletico Paranaense in one bracket beginning on Thursday, while Sao Paulo will be lining up against River Plate. The winners will meet in a two-leg final on July 6 and 13.

Also notable is that the FIFA World Club Championship starts up this December with a new format, so whichever club lifts the cup will secure a place in a tournament later on in the year already featuring the likes of Liverpool (Europe), Deportivo Saprissa (CONCACAF), and Sydney F.C. (Oceania).

Germany wins Women's Euro 2005 

Germany won the Euro 2005 Women's tournament on Sunday, beating Norway 3-1.

The BBC's Mark Ashenden offers a post-mortem of sorts on the competition, as well as the state of women's football generally.

Brazil's #9 

Aaron Marcus: "Poor Old Ronaldo Or Lazy Ronaldough?"

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Serving up a new stadium 

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a good article today on why the licensing agreement for Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas works out for everyone involved:
According to Dallas Business Journal and an MLS source, the deal calls for a 20-year partnership worth about $30 million, or an average of about $1.2 million to $1.5 million per year.

Why, when soccer is still working to find its place in the American sports landscape, would Pizza Hut pay that much?

Simply, the stadium provides more than the 25 or so FC Dallas home games per year. With 17 amateur fields surrounding the stadium, the facility essentially will enjoy usage on a daily basis with soccer practices, international youth tournaments, concerts, high school football and international soccer exhibitions.

For FC Dallas' part, the $1.5 million per year will take a major dent out of the organization's payroll. The player salary cap runs about $1.7 million. In 2002 the club reported in public documents to the City of McKinney that it carried $4 million in player and front-office salaries.
Note this last paragraph especially, and then throw in the knowledge that the new Adidas sponsorship agreement signed this year breaks down to $1.25M/team annually. That means a very significant percentage of operating expenses, at least for FC Dallas, are covered without even factoring in other ancillary revenues, merchandising deals, gate receipts, etc.

That's pretty remarkable. I recognize MLS has been in the red for some time, and will be for at least a few more years, but these deals are a major reason why the league's front office in NYC beams with confidence.

European invasion 

The AC Milan and Chelsea tour of the US in July has been finalized. They'll each play three matches total, two against each other and a third against a respective MLS side. Here are the games and dates:
To top things off, the LA Times' Grahame Jones is reporting that, around the same time, "Real Madrid will play the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center and possibly one other game against a Mexican club, at a site to be determined."

Don't forget that Fulham is set to line up against the MLS All Stars on July 30 in Columbus, as well.

Forlan vindicated 

Diego Forlan shared this season's ESM Golden Shoe award, which goes to the top scorer in Europe, with Thierry Henry.

I know. That just doesn't sound right, does it?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Garber milked for info in Dallas 

Buzz Carrick, who runs the excellent FC Dallas fan site 3rd Degree, was privy to some interesting remarks by Doug Garber at a media luncheon today. Here are his notes.

I started excerpting the important parts, but there's just too much good information in there. Be sure to read the whole thing.

Inter wins Coppa Italia 

Yes, that's Inter raising silverware. Your eyes aren't deceiving you. They beat Roma in the Coppa Italia final, 3-0 on aggregate.

Ruiz potentially unavailable for MLS Final 

If I supported FC Dallas, I'd be worried about this:
Here's a nightmare scenario developing for FC Dallas: Carlos Ruiz, the league's leading goal scorer, is one of the reasons the club likes its chances of landing in the Nov. 13 MLS Cup final.

But that date conflicts with a playoff for one of the final World Cup 2006 berths. The CONCACAF fourth-place finisher plays a home-and-away series against the fifth-place Asian finisher.

Your current fourth-place team in CONCACAF? That would be Ruiz's Guatemala. And the chance to lift the modest Central American nation, with roughly the population of Illinois, into a World Cup would probably be a pull too strong for Ruiz to resist.
Although it's a bit far down the road, I could easily see this conflict rearing its head.

Dilbert likes soccer 

Meet Drew Carey, unlikely posterboy for American soccer.

La Bombonera goes nuts 

Chivas players getting pelted with debris leaving the field

Disgraceful behavior down in Buenos Aires last night, where Boca players and fans decided to throw a hissy-fit since they couldn't overtake Chivas on the pitch in their second leg Copa Libertadores quarterfinal.

The scoreless match was abandoned in the 79th minute with Chivas up 4-0 on aggregate. The club from Guadalajara will await three other semifinalists, which will be decided in the next two days.

End-of-season handouts 

Good stuff from the Guardian, as usual: James Richardson and Sid Lowe are handing out their awards of the season for Seria A and La Liga, respectively.

Second U-20s match ends in tie 

The US played out a scoreless tie with Germany in their second U-20s World Cup match yesterday. Freddy Adu reportedly had a good game.

The Americans face Egypt in their last group match on Saturday. They can advance to the knockout round with at least a tie.

KC staying local? 

The KC Star is reporting that Andrew Murstein might have a little competition from a local ownership group in his bid to buy the Wizards.

Presuming they can muster a credible bid, Lamar Hunt would probably give them the nod over the NY businessman if it meant the team wouldn't relocate. Good news if you're a Wizards fan.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Record sales at Old Trafford 

For all the huffing and puffing over Glazer's buyout, Man U has sold a record number of season tickets for next year's campaign.

The mass-boycott threatened by supporters doesn't seem to have materialized, for whatever reason. Glazer is pretty close to asserting total ownership of the club, too.

Pizza Hut Park 

Yesterday's other major MLS news came from Texas, where Pizza Hut has acquired the naming rights to FC Dallas' new stadium complex in Frisco.

The actual dollar figure wasn't named, but Steve Davis of the Dallas Morning News provides a bit of speculation and context:
Although FC Dallas officials have revealed little about the naming rights negotiations, business analysts and other soccer officials have assessed the value at somewhere between $1.2 and $1.5 million annually.

That seems to compare favorably to the Rangers' deal for Ameriquest Field in Arlington. The baseball team's 30-year agreement with Ameriquest Mortgage Company averages $2.5 million annually.

American Airlines' deal for naming rights to the American Airlines Center is $6.5 million annually over 30 years.
"Pizza Hut Park" doesn't roll off the tongue, but I'm sure the folks in Dallas will adapt it somehow. This looks like a good deal, financially, for the team and league.

Fallout from Lalas appointment 

Michael Lewis over at Big Apple Soccer has a nice rundown of the teleconference yesterday announcing Alexi Lalas' appointment as Metrostars GM and President.

There was a lot of strong language thrown around that reflected disappointment with the current situation in Metro land and a strong intent to right the ship as soon as possible, if not before. The aggressiveness of the remarks coming from Tim Leiweke, in particular, makes me think that he got approval to start moving on some of those bold initiatives reportedly discussed at Anschutz's ranch last week.

It's also worth noting that there are a lot of people happy to see Nick Sakiewicz kicked out the door. Well, actually, he was kicked up the AEG foodchain a wee bit, and it appears that he'll handle the stadium project from here on out. I wish him all the best on his new endeavors as Anschutz's point man in the NYC area. He is still probably the best person to walk the Harrison project through to completion, something that -- brace yourself -- looks finally like it's going to happen. No more "60-90 days" smoke-and-mirrors!

Despite the ire most hardcore Metro supporters have for Nick, he has done a decent job on the business side of things. It's just, well, he's been horrible with player management (he's had help on this front, obviously) and community relations. As long as he's kept away from these two aspects of the franchise, which seems to be the case, then all's well.

I think this is going to be a very positive move, and this isn't just the hopeful Metro fan in me speaking. Lalas has ties to the area, and an enthusiasm that will help the team rebrand itself over the next two seasons. It's unclear what precise changes will come about in the short term (I wouldn't predict too many), but by next season you will probably see a different attitude on the pitch, in the executive boxes, and in the stands. Something, of course, which is direly needed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

What's on the front burner 

Glazer's plan for Man U 

The London Times got a hold of documents that purport to detail Malcolm Glazer's business plan for Manchester United. The main details:
Manchester United ticket prices are to rise by 54 per cent within five years, under plans by Malcolm Glazer, the club’s new owner, to boost club revenues to £246 million by 2010.

Previously unseen documents shown to The Times indicate that the American tycoon is also planning to increase the cost of attending Champions League matches by as much as 25 per cent from next year.

The plans are likely to fuel fears that United ticket prices will move beyond the reach of ordinary fans, and come as the Office of Fair Trading considers intervening in Mr Glazer’s £790 million takeover to protect United followers from what might be soaring prices.

...The documents also indicate that Mr Glazer is likely to have agreed a deal with the bankers that could make it difficult for United to sign more top stars such as Wayne Rooney, who cost them £27 million. Under the terms of the debt contract, the amount of money United have to spend on transfers has been set at £25 million a year, excluding receipts from player sales, over the next five years, although a further £25 million in total can be spent over that period.
Further analysis from the Times, here and here.

On a side note, this story broke on Friday. I headed over to the Times' football section, but it was nowhere to be found. Instead, it was deemed page one material. Football sure is important over in merry ol' England.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?