Sunday, June 13, 2010

Recap on USA-England and other matches

The atmosphere was electric. All across the country, millions of fans gathered in homes, bars, and even Dupont Circle for the most anticipated soccer match in American history, as the U.S. took on England. A 4th minute goal by Steven Gerrard quieted the crowd briefly and had many thinking the worst. But then, in the 40th minute, Clint Dempsey took a shot that bounced off English goalkeeper Robert Green and rolled into the net. It was a howler, but it was a goal nonetheless and the score was tied 1-1. In the 2nd half, both teams had their chances, but none better than in the 65th minute when Jozy Altidore took a shot that Green got a piece of but hit the post and out. In the end, the match ended in a 1-1 draw, which the U.S. will take. All eyes now are on Tim Howard, who got cleated in the ribs by Emilie Heskey in the 25th minute and had a remarkable game despite being in pain. They will evaluate his health to make sure he doesn't have any broken ribs, but as of now all signs point to him being in net on Friday against Slovenia.

In other action on Saturday, South Korea exposed Greece 2-0 with two great goals by Lee Jung-Soo and Park Ji-Sung. Greece was on its heels the entire match, and South Korea dictated the pace of play throughout. Also, Argentina faced off against Nigeria, and these two have a long history of great matches against each other in the World Cup and the Olympics. Gabriel Heinze kicked off the scoring early with a vicious header in the 6th minute, and despite Argentina's 3-headed monster of Messi, Tevez and Higuain throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Nigeria, their keeper was unflappable after Heinze's goal. Unfortunately, Nigeria couldn't put the ball in the net, and Argentina won 1-0.

Today saw 3 matches, Slovenia-Algeria, Ghana-Serbia and Germany-Australia. Slovenia beat Algeria 1-0 on another soft goal allowed by a GK in this World Cup, to the benefit of Robert Koren. It took a Ghana penalty on a Serbian handball in the box to get the win, as Asamoah Gyan sent home the winner to make Ghana the first African team to ever win a World Cup on African soil. Finally, Germany put on the best scoring display thus far in the tournament, taking Australia to the woodshed with a 4-0 shellacking. Goals by Podolski, Klose, Muller and Cacau were easy and demoralized the Socceroos.

So, the first half of the groups have played their first match. Now, we look at Groups E-H as they get ready to walk out onto the pitch for their opening matches over the next few days.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The World Cup!

Finally, it's here. After 4 years of waiting, the biggest tournament on earth opened earlier this morning to great fanfare and a highly anticipated match, the first World Cup match on African soil. In the opening match, hosts South Africa took on Mexico in Group A action. Bafana Bafana (as the South African team is affectionately called) kicked off the World Cup scoring with a fabulous goal early in the 2nd half. Mexico equalized in the 79th minute, and while South Africa had a brilliant chance in stoppage time hit the post, they managed to pull off the 1-1 draw against El Tri. South Africa, with its draw, extended the record of World Cup host countries to 14-0-6 in the opening match. Now, it will try to continue the momentum it certainly received from this match to try and extend the other World Cup record of each host country making it at least to the 2nd round.

In the 2nd match of the day, it was more Group A action as Uruguay tiptoed with France to a sluggish 0-0 draw. Uruguay saw Nicolas Lodeiro, who came on as a substitute in the 63rd minute, receive 2 yellow cards and get sent off in the 81st minute. Regardless, France couldn't muster much offense and neither could Uruguay as both teams couldn't put the ball in the back of the net.

The 2nd day of World Cup action sees what is easily the most anticipated soccer match in American history, as the U.S. takes on England in Group C action. This match has been talked about for months and anticipation has reached fever pitch long long ago. It certainly has this nation excited and it will surely be an electric atmosphere in Rustenberg. Other action on Saturday sees South Korea take on Greece and Argentina against Nigeria. Wherever you are, there is a great slate of action scheduled for tomorrow. I suggest you tune in to watch!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Final 23

Ladies and Gentlemen, your U.S. World Cup Team:

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Guzan

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Bornstein

Midfielders: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, DaMarcus Beasley, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Herculez Gomez, Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley

My thoughts? I was only incorrect on 2 selections (I had Alejandro Bedoya and Brian Ching over Bornstein and Buddle), but the rest was pretty straight forward. The most shocking omission is that of Brian Ching, a veteran who has been a stalwart in Bradley's USMNT lineups the past few years. It's also clear that Bedoya and Buddle were fighting for the last spot, with Buddle edging out Bedoya. Bornstein making it isn't too surprising, although I predicted he played his way off the roster last night. Findley making it is probably the biggest surprise, even though I predicted it. He didn't play last night, but Bradley clearly views him as the speed complement that we can bring on late in the game to stretch tired defenses. I thought that only one of Gomez or Buddle would make the team, but I'm happy that both made the team. They have worked hard and weren't even on the radar a few short months ago. Now, they're on the plane to South Africa.

We will see the 23-man team one more time in the States, this weekend in Philadelphia for a friendly against Turkey. What do you think about the roster?

Thoughts on USA-Czech Republic; Prediction on Final 23

The USA took on the Czech Republic this evening in their first of 2 sendoff matches before the 23-man roster heads on to South Africa. After a hard-fought game where many of our normal starters weren't in uniform, the Czechs took it 4-2, with goals by Maurice Edu and Herculez Gomez among the USMNT highlights. Here are some thoughts on the match:

-Clarence Goodson played excellent. So did Stu Holden. They both were really involved and created tons of chances to score, including Goodson's header to assist on Gomez's goal and Holden's cross that set up Edu's goal.

-Gooch is not 100%. He just isn't. However, I think he's closer than the early exit would indicate. He's probably at 75-80%. The question is, will that be enough for Bob Bradley to put him on the plane?

-Eddie Johnson, Johnathan Bornstein, Robbie Rogers, Heath Pearce and Sacha Kljestan didn't have great games at all...and definitely waited until the worst possible time to do it. When your place in the World Cup is on the line, you cannot play like these guys did. You need to step it up a level and play better than your best.

What this game definitely played out was who was fighting for some spots on the plane to South Africa (and apparently, to meet the President on Thursday. However, the final roster will be announced Wednesday on ESPN, and it will be interesting to see what Bradley has in store. So, here are my predictions for the final 23-man roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Howard, Guzan, Hahnemann. I think BB is pretty set with Guzan at #2, although we will see if Guzan trots out to goal on Saturday against Turkey. Howard is our undisputed #1.

DEFENDERS (6): Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Goodson, Spector. I think Bornstein played his way off the plane tonight, and I don't think Pearce did himself any favors. Goodson played like he could start if Gooch can't go for some reason. He was excellent, and he's a great guy for set pieces in the box, something we'll need in South Africa.

MIDFIELDERS (10): Beasley, Bedoya, Bradley, Clark, Dempsey, Donovan, Edu, Feilhaber, Holden, Torres. We take 10 midfielders to South Africa mostly because of the ability of many of our midfielders to assume other roles. Beasley or Edu could be called upon to play defense, while Dempsey or Donovan could be pushed up as strikers to allow Holden and/or Torres to come in and provide tons of speed on the flanks. Bedoya, while having some limited minutes in appearances, has shown me enough to get on the plane. While initially I thought that Bedoya was in a race with Beasley for a spot, I think both actually make the team. The rest of the choices, in my opinion, were very easy to make, and the cuts (Kljestan and Rogers) were even easier to make.

FORWARDS (4): Altidore, Ching, Gomez, Findley. I think that due to some midfielders like Dempsey or Donovan being able to slide up front if necessary, we only take 4 strikers. Gomez played his way onto the plane and proved he belonged. Buddle didn't do anything to lose a spot, just got beat by Gomez in my mind. Johnson wasn't making it to begin with. Call me crazy, but I think that Findley makes the team, even though I don't think he should. Bradley seems to love him, and he is the speedy complement that we could bring in like we did Charlie Davies (although Findley needs to learn how to finish).

Those are my predictions, but we will find out the true final roster tomorrow. I'm even going to predict the numerical roster (while most are easy to determine, some could be tricky). Who do you think will make the final roster?


Thursday, May 20, 2010

World Cup Schedule

For those of you who need the schedule for this year's World Cup, AODC member Chris Pavlakos took the liberty of putting one into Google Calendar. Here it is:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The USMNT Preliminary 30-Man World Cup Roster

Today, USMNT coach Bob Bradley announced the 30 men that were selected to the preliminary World Cup roster. There were some surprise additions and some surprise omissions. First, the roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton)

DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (12): DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), José Torres (Pachuca)

FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla), Eddie Johnson (Aris Thessaloniki)

First thought: No Charlie Davies. Davies has made an incredible comeback so far from his extensive injuries sustained during his car accident back in October. He has fought hard to get back...unfortunately he just ran out of time. As much as I and many other fans wanted to see him in the camp to be able to prove his fitness, I understand leaving him off. It's devastating for him, but he is our future just as much as he is our present. He will be back, stronger than ever, I'm sure of it.

Surprise additions: Rogers, Marshall, Kljestan. Rogers has not been good for club or country over the past year. It was quite a surprise for me to see him on the roster. Marshall has had terrible form lately also. Kljestan had a bad spell of play, but has turned it around so far this season for Chivas USA...still I found his addition mildly surprising.

Forward situation: With no Davies, most were wondering which of the hot strikers in the U.S. player pool would be called up. Edson Buddle has been on fire so far in MLS with 9 goals in 8 games, leading the league. Herculez Gomez tied for first in the Mexican Primera in goals with 10 in the season for Puebla. Also, Eddie Johnson has been tearing up the Greek League as of late, with 3 goals in as many games for Aris. Bob Bradley called up all 3, so we shall see which of those guys will join Jozy Altidore up front.

Other than that, not a whole lot of surprises. Our main stars will be there, and it will be interesting to see who our 23 World Cup players will be. For now, our 30 will take it to Princeton, New Jersey next week for training camp and with only 2 send-off matches before Bradley has to name his 23, it's now time for those 30 to show and prove.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

MLS Season Kicks Off On Time

On Thursday night, the MLS season got off to a rocking start when the expansion Philadelphia Union played their first-ever game against last year’s newbie Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field. Seattle picked up where it left off last year by posting a 2-0 victory over a Union team that tackled hard and even had a player sent off in the 40th minute but otherwise looked like they are in for a long season. But, while the story is the league’s 15th season starting this season with a loaded slate of games, the real story is that last night’s game almost wasn’t to be. Late last weekend, the MLS Players Union and the owners, after months of hard deliberation and threats to strike coming from the players, agreed to a new 5-year collective bargaining agreement. While the players didn’t get everything they were looking for (reports were that the players were fully prepared to strike on the 22nd and the owners were already lining up replacement players), a shock deal was agreed to in the afternoon of March 21st.

It was a great thing for MLS and soccer in this country for a collective bargaining agreement to be hammered out, avoiding a strike. In this, a World Cup year where more eyes than ever are tuning into the game of soccer in preparation for the world’s biggest tournament, it would have been a dagger in the heart of the league to have a strike dominate a season when they should be playing in front of raucous crowds in Seattle, Philadelphia, Toronto, DC and the rest of MLS. The agreement gives players more freedom to move between clubs (although there is no straight free agency that you see in other American sports leagues), increased salary caps and salaries, and guaranteed contracts for players over the age of 24 or who have 3 years of service. Kudos to the players and the owners for strapping on their helmets and striving to get the best deal done for their particular sides, but for having the courage and wisdom to strike a compromise that will benefit both sides and this great league.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

MLS Strike Looming, Implications on the League

The already-tenuous MLS collective bargaining agreement negotiations got even worse today, as over 350 players voted today to strike if an agreement is not reached by the start of the season on March 25th. Only 2 players voted against a possible strike. With the Season Kickoff scheduled for March 25th, only 2 weeks remain for MLS owners and the MLS Players Union to agree to a deal before we see the players hit the picket line.

What is clear among all parties is the following: 1) the players have a legitimate argument; 2) the owners have all the leverage; and 3) a strike could have a severely negative impact on the league. With many players in MLS signed to $16,000/season developmental contracts, and with strict rules on free agency and teams’ stronghold on player rights, the Players Union really has a great point in wanting to up salaries and have more freedom to switch teams within MLS and elsewhere. No one should be playing on a salary that’s below the poverty line. However, how much leverage does a Players Union with players that, depending on where they live, can’t afford housing on what they make have? Very little.

The owners hold all the cards in this equation. While more teams now are turning a profit, not all of them are. Some are still strapped in stadiums that are too big for them and not controlled by the teams, which means they can’t get money from other events (not to mention they’re paying exorbitant rental fees to play in those stadiums). Increasing salary cap may be a possibility, but owners can just claim that they don’t have the money to afford higher salaries than what are being paid right now. If the players strike, most of them cannot afford to strike for very long since they’re paid less than some summer interns. They can’t play in other leagues while the strike plays itself out, like many NHL players did during their strike in 2004-2005. They would be stuck living on no money with no ways to make money in other soccer leagues. All the owners have is time, as many of them would actually fare better during a strike (no chance to lose money). They would have to do very little but wait for the Union to break.

The worst part of this is what the PR hit a strike would give to the league. In a World Cup year, more eyes are on the game of soccer in this country than ever before. America’s top-tier league should be trying to capitalize on those potential new fans by showcasing their teams in the lead-in to the World Cup. Instead, they’re at an impasse that shows no signs of ending soon. This, in a word, would devastate MLS. This isn’t like the NFL or NHL where they are the top league in the world and have very few alternative options. There are dozens of soccer leagues in the world, many of them a lot better on the whole than MLS. If MLS went on strike, you won’t have fans sitting around wondering what to watch. They can watch the major European leagues, like the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga or Italy’s Serie A. They can tune into the Mexican Primera. They can watch the UEFA Champions League. With so many options, a prolonged strike could see many fans not return to MLS stadiums once they eventually re-open for business. They will just stick with watching higher quality leagues, all of which are readily available on TV.

So, while MLS players have a legitimate beef with how they’re treated, it’s their lack of leverage and the owners’ apparent desire to wait it out that could drive MLS into deep trouble. From all accounts, a strike looks imminent. However, for the sake of MLS and domestic soccer in America, let’s hope the owners and players can find some common ground, sign a collective bargaining agreement, and start the season on time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Expansion of Soccer Coverage

With the introduction of Fox Soccer Channel Plus (FSC+) on March 1st, Americans will have 3 soccer-only channels to choose from, FSC, FSC+ and GolTV. In addition, there are several channels that show soccer on a regular basis: ESPN , ESPN Deportes, Telemundo, Galavision and Univision. With these channels, American footy fans can get a taste of what several leagues from around the world have to offer.

Currently, the EPL, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga have the soccer market on lock here in the U.S., and with good reason. Most would place these 4 leagues in the top 4 in the entire world in any particular order, and there are several games in each league on TV here each week. There are also several Mexican League games on TV as well here, mostly on Spanish-speaking channels like Telemundo, Galavision and Univision. However, MLS only gets 2 national games of the week, one on ESPN or ESPN2 (simulcast in Spanish on ESPN Deportes) and on FSC. There is only one game a week with the USSF 2nd Division soccer a week and one WPS game each week. In other leagues, it’s possible right now to see games in the English Coca-Cola Championship (with premium subscription), A-League, Brasiliero, the Argentine League, the Columbian League as well as the Uruguayan League. Yet, it would be great to see more of other leagues on TV here in the United States.

While U.S. leagues are hard to find on TV if you don’t live in a MLS market, there are other great leagues from around the world, along with leagues that are usually compared in terms talent and quality of play to MLS, that are not broadcast on TV here or are not viewable by a mass audience. Maybe we can start to see more of the following leagues on our television screens as opposed to our internet streams:

Scottish Premier League – The Old Firm (Rangers v. Celtic) is one of the biggest rivalries in all of sport, and it’s a very competitive league among the other teams as well. Rangers has a couple American players, and there are lots of great players that hone their craft in this league.

Ligue 1 (France) – The French league is probably the 5th best league in the world, in my opinion. Lots of excellent teams from the French league routinely make noise on the European stage, including Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, and Paris Saint-Germain. Ligue 1 also has a few American players, including the USMNT captain Carlos Bocanegra and rising star Charlie Davies.

Eredivisie (Netherlands) – This league has a lot of great teams, including traditional powerhouses PSV Eindhoven and Ajax. The Dutch have a great style of play that is very popular, and a lot of their great talent is playing on teams within this excellent Top-10 league.

Coca-Cola Championship (England) – A lot of people have problems with supporting the EPL powerhouses like Chelsea or Manchester United or Liverpool. The Championship has a combination of the Premiership teams of yesterday as well as the Premiership teams of tomorrow. Lots of passion in this league, with each team playing with aspirations to join the big boys.

Portuguese Liga – Teams like Porto and Benfica are teams that most European footy lovers know and appreciate. It would be great to see teams like Sporting Lisbon and Nacional also on a weekly basis.

Turkcell Super Lig – I love the passion in this league. The teams are good, the fans are excellent, and the atmosphere at each game is like they’re playing for the championship. Teams like Besiktas, Fenerbache and Galatasaray are teams that have done very well on the European stage.

Russian Premier League – This league is probably one of the fastest growing in terms of quality of play and talent level, with tons of money being poured into the resident teams by local oil tycoons and other billionaires. We’ve already seen Zenit St. Petersburg win the UEFA Cup a couple years ago, and other teams like CSKA Moscow and Dynamo Moscow routinely make noise in football circles.

J-League (Japan) – This is a league that has been compared to MLS. Has a weekly review show currently, but would be great to actually see a game each week to see how teams in this league compare. Easy to play it in the middle of the night due to the time difference.

K-League (Korea) – Another league that has been compared to MLS, and very similar to the J-League. They have had teams that have proven they can play on the international stage, and would be good to see a different style of football. Again, with the time difference, it would be easy to show a live game each week along with the J-League and A-League (Australia)

MLS – It’s the top tier domestic league here, we absolutely should have more MLS games made available…and I’m not talking about through a subscription service like Direct Kick. There will be, at most, 8 games a weekend played in MLS. More games can be shown on national channels like FSC or ESPN or GolTV. More TV means more exposure means more money, money that they can use to invest in talent upgrade that will bring more fans out and, overall, grow the popularity of the league.

USL/NASL – Over the next year, as this league forms, hopefully they will be able to expand from one game a week to multiple.

There are obviously many more leagues out there that are either broadcast on TV here in the United States or maybe should be. But, expanding to more coverage of these leagues will really help bring some new faces into American homes, and it will help feed the growing appetite the American public is starting to have for soccer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finding A Sponsor For Sponsorless MLS Teams

Currently, with the introduction of the Philadelphia Union, MLS currently has 5 teams that are currently do not bear a sponsor on their jerseys. Philly appears to be close to naming their sponsor, which would bring the number back down to 4: Colorado, New England, Dallas and Kansas City. Colorado, while they search for a sponsor, did the right thing and removed the “Colorado” from their jerseys, leaving a blank, crisp look to their team. However, New England, Dallas and Kansas City continue to have their team name on the chest of their jerseys. Most people would agree that in soccer, while some may hate the corporate nature of putting a sponsor on your team’s jersey, it is the most valuable piece of real estate for a team to be sponsored, with thousands and sometimes millions of jerseys being sold with your corporate logo on it provides infinite public exposure.

So, let’s have a little fun and pick some sponsors that would look good across the chests of the Rapids, FCD, the Revs and the Wizards. I’ve listed out some possibilities of local companies or companies that have a big local presence and, in the end, select a best pick for a sponsor for each team.

Coors – Liquor sponsors are not allowed in MLS, but beer sponsors are. Nothing says Colorado like Coors, but Budweiser (MLS sponsor) may balk at this
Continental – started out in Denver, still has a big presence
Frontier – another airline based in Denver
Lockheed-Martin – huge presence in Denver
Chipotle – headquarters in Denver, national brand that would be recognizable worldwide
Qwest – already have naming rights with field where Seattle Sounders play, but lots of Denver offices
Pepsi – Already a MLS sponsor and have naming rights to Pepsi Center in Denver. Would be a good match
Invesco – local company, naming rights at Broncos’ stadium

Best Fit: Pepsi. This would be a match made in heaven for MLS, as a league-wide sponsor adorns the chest of a team in a locale where they already have a great presence in sports.

New England
Samuel Adams – local brewery whose popularity can go up even more with a Revs partnership
Fidelity – huge investment firm, but with the bailouts, may not be able to sponsor a team
Kraft – Robert Kraft is team owner, very confusing that this hasn’t happened already
New Balance – Adidas would probably flip out with this
Gillette – already adorn the field that the Revs play at, would be good to continue the partnership
TD Bank – adorn the Celtics and Bruins’ stadium, a bank name that has become popular nationwide
Liberty Mutual – Everyone knows Liberty Mutual, but probably not in a position to sponsor a team
Bain Capital – Another I-bank that may not be in a position to sponsor

Best Fit: Kraft. Owner owns the team, #1 in its market, of course has the money to invest and is already invested in soccer… as perfect a fit as there can be.

Compuware – moved their headquarters to Dallas from Detroit, founder owns 2 hockey teams; could make the move to soccer
Exxon – Definitely have the money to invest, could be great for FCD
Chevron – See Exxon.
AT&T – MLS sponsor, based in Texas, national brand
Texas Instruments – based in Texas, national brand, could be a chance to expand their exposure
Blockbuster – on rough times right now, but could be a chance to grow their brand again
Chili’s – based in Dallas, instantly recognizable
American – based in Dallas, would be great to partner with team especially with discounts for FCD fans to travel to away games
Southwest – based in Dallas, low-budget airline that fans would love to use to travel to away games

Best Fit: AT&T. FC Dallas has a ton of great fits, but another league sponsor could be the one to help the Hoops as well.

Garmin – runs the GPS market in America, would grow their brand
H&R Block – would be interesting to partner with the Wizards; likely could not use their trademark green block on jersey
AMC Theaters – interesting combination that would be good for team and league
Crayola – likely not a possibility, but Crayola is based in KC
SprintNextel – most of their sponsorship is in NASCAR, but is based in KC and would be great to have a huge partner like SprintNextel helping the team.

Best Fit: Garmin. A surprise pick from this bunch, but Garmin would be great to help themselves as well as the Wizards grow their brand in the U.S. Garmin has a lot of momentum and could see their market grow internationally should the Wizards improve.

So, there you have it. Pepsi, Kraft, AT&T and Garmin. The Rapids, Revs, Hoops and Wizards should get on the discussions immediately. It would be good to have these teams have an extra source of revenue as well as have more corporate partners investing in the beautiful game.

Increase MLS TV Exposure

On BigSoccer, one of the most popular soccer forums on the internet, there has been debate over whether the time has come for MLS to institute a MLS Network channel similar to that of NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB. There are definitely pros and cons of having a MLS Network channel, and while I would love to see a MLS Network, there’s a huge reason why it’s probably not in serious discussion at this time: as of March 1, there will be 3 channels completely dedicated to soccer: Fox Soccer Channel (FSC), GolTV and Fox Soccer Channel Plus (FSC+). All of these channels are showing nothing but soccer and soccer-related programming 24 hours a day. However, what is clear is that a MLS Network would allow MLS to grow with more expanded programming. While the other major sports have channels on various cable programming platforms, what is clear is that they are able to show more of their product 24 hours a day.

MLS can do a lot to increase the exposure of their product to the American soccer fans as well as the casual sports fans. It starts with having more MLS games televised. Sure, just about every MLS game is televised, and having them all televised is great. However, if you don’t live in a MLS market, then you’re only seeing 2 games a week: the ESPN2 Game of the Week (usually on Thursdays) and the FSC Game of the Week on Saturdays. Direct Kick does not cut it…that should be a last resort for people who want to follow a particular team in another market, not just to follow all the games. To increase the exposure of MLS in those markets that may not have a team, especially those who are close enough to teams for fans from those locals to travel (like Detroit, the Carolinas, Cleveland, Nebraska, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Sacramento, etc.), you want to be able to have those fans see as many games as possible. Expanding coverage is possible with a MLS Network; they can show as many games live as they want. However, for now, it’s better to work with FSC or ESPN to show more games or even expand coverage to GolTV. Currently, you can get more than 2 games a week of EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Mexican League and even sometimes the A-League (Australia). MLS should step up their efforts to have more games reach more Americans on TV.

MLS should also have a wrap-up show. This is usually an hour-long show that recaps all the games played over the course of a particular weekend or week that shows all the highlights of all the games. It’s incredibly easy to put together and cheap to produce – just a hour-long clip of highlights that are probably already batched together from individual games. Currently, you can find highlight shows for the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Brasiliero, the A-League, the J-League (Japan) and the Argentine League on TV. Having a prime-time slot for an MLS highlight show, perhaps on Monday nights, would be great for fans to see the goals and highlights from all the games they missed. It’s also good to showcase those players that played well on a particular week and really highlight the quality of play.

Finally, MLS should have a hour-long show that breaks down the week in MLS, with further analysis from MLS commentators. Right now, most, if not all, of the soccer analyst shows focus on the EPL. It would be great for MLS to have its own show to analyze the week that was and highlight the next week’s matches that are can’t-miss.

So, regardless of whether a MLS Network gets beyond the BigSoccer brainstorming stage, it’s clear that MLS needs to step up its programming to get more MLS soccer on TV. More games on TV to be broadcast to those soccer fanatics in areas that don’t have MLS soccer will allow for the domestic product to be showcased to a new set of fans, and perhaps it will help grow the popularity of the domestic league even further. Maybe then, we will see more people following MLS and attending matches, which will only help grow the game here in the United States.