Archive for the ‘MLS’ Category

For those that have been buried under a rock and have not heard yesterday’s news, Manchester City F.C. and the New York Yankees have purchased a Major League Soccer expansion franchise to be named New York City FC and start play in 2015 for a record $100 million dollar fee.  The team will likely play their first two or three seasons and Yankee Stadium before moving into a permanent facility in the city proper.  Creating a rivalry with the nearby New York Red Bulls of New York’s New Jersey suburbs (Harrison to be precise), the team’s admission to the league creates the league’s second local derby, the other being between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA, who share Carson, California’s Home Depot Center.

New York City FC would play in the Eastern Conference presumably, meaning that the Houston Dynamo are likely to be moved back.  The league’s next step should be to target Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, and Minnesota for expansion before the end of the decade.  Bringing the league to twenty-four teams, it would be hard not to realign into three conferences or into two conferences with two divisions each.  A scenario for each could look like this:

Eastern Conference: Atlanta, D.C. United, Montreal, New England, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia, Toronto

Central Conference: Chicago, Columbus, FC Dallas, Houston, Miami, Minnesota, Orlando, Sporting Kansas City

Western Conference: Chivas USA, Colorado, Los Angeles, Portland, Real Salt Lake, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver

An alternative could be to swap Atlanta with Columbus, which puts the entire southeast set of teams together, but also takes away a natural geographic rival from Chicago and puts four expansion teams into one conference.  Miami and Tampa Bay previously had teams that folded after the 2001 season, the only two MLS clubs ever to do so.

In the two sets of two format, it could look like this:

Eastern Conference Northeast: Montreal, New England, New York, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto

Eastern Conference Southeast: Atlanta, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston, Miami, Orlando

Western Conference Northwest: Chicago, Columbus, Minnesota, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver

Western Conference Southwest: Chivas USA, Colorado, Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake, San Jose, Sporting Kansas City

This format would not seem to work well, as travel would be enormous for some teams currently in the Eastern Conference that would be forced into the West.  If the MLS targets the southeast, could the league return to the three conference system?  How would the playoff format work then?  Lots of questions that will only be answered by time.

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Is Another Expansion Boom Looming?

Posted: April 29, 2013 in CFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL

The National Basketball Association relocation committee has recommended against the Sacramento Kings relocating to Seattle to revive the SuperSonics on Monday.  There is now speculation that Seattle may be granted an expansion franchise for the 2014-15 season.  The NBA isn’t the only league looking at expansion currently, as the Canadian Football League has made expansion to Ottawa official, Major League Soccer is close to granting an expansion club to New York, the National Football League aims to increase its global image, and the National Hockey League has been rumored to be looking at two expansion franchises.

Canadian Football League – The CFL has twice had to leave the Canadian national capital when the Rough Riders folded and their replacement, the Renegades followed suit in 2006.  By 2008, the city was granted another expansion team to begin play in 2010, which was continually pushed back and currently is set at 2014.  The team is expected to announce that it will be called to Ottawa RedBlacks on June 8th.  The league will likely be content with an uneven number of teams, but should it eventually look for a tenth franchise, Moncton or Halifax would seem to be the front-runners for a team to represent all of Atlantic Canada.

Major League Baseball – The MLB has no plans at expansion, and there are not that many markets that would seem ready to support a new MLB franchise for the time being.  Though it should be noted that MLB has experimented in the past with the Expos de Montréal playing games in San Juan, Puerto Rico before the franchise ultimately relocated to Washington, D.C. as the Washington Nationals.  Furthermore, the 1998 expansion that brought the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks into the league featured three strong candidates in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara, suggesting that the league may be more than willing to extend its bounds outside of the United States and Canada.

Major League Soccer – It won’t be the Cosmos, but Major League Soccer is coming into New York City with a team to rival the New York Red Bulls, a team that currently plays in Harrison, New Jersey.  The 25,000 seat stadium will be located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and share parking with Citi Field, home of the MLB’s New York Mets.  An ownerships group, stadium deal, and prospective owner should all be finalized within four-to-six weeks.

National Basketball Association – With Seattle the obvious expansion candidate for the 2014-15 season, should an expansion take place, the only remaining question is whether the league would stay at 31 teams or go to an even 32.  Louisville and Kansas City both have NBA-quality arenas done, and neither subjects the league to competition from the NHL.  Other markets that could house future franchises include St. Louis and Vancouver, a city that lost the Grizzlies to Memphis in 2001.

National Football League – The NFL is the best attended sports league in the world, but lacking even a team in Canada, the league has remained strictly within the United States apart from exhibitions in Toronto, Mexico City, and London.  The league could eventually see teams in all three of those markets, and with a “struggling” NFL franchise being relatively prosperous to teams in other leagues, the league has no extraordinary need for relocation (except maybe Jacksonville).  Besides international markets, the league needs to look at the second largest market in the United States: Los Angeles, a city that (with its suburb Anaheim) has two teams in the MLB, two in the NBA, two in the MLS, and two in the NHL.

National Hockey League – Amid the league’s third work stoppage of the Gary Bettman era, reports began to circulate that the league would be awarding two expansion franchises in the near future, most likely to Quebec and suburban Toronto.  With the NBA to Seattle efforts, Seattle ended up in the mix as well, but unless the NBA expands there, there will be no stadium to house an NHL team.  Portland and Kansas City both have made efforts to lure the Phoenix Coyotes from the desert.

The Los Angeles Galaxy win their second consecutive MLS Cup

The Los Angeles Galaxy win their second consecutive MLS Cup

The 2012 MLS Cup was the first Cup to occur in December and the first that was to be awarded to the participating team with the better record.  In what was to be David Beckham’s last game (and possibly Landon Donovan’s as well), a rematch of the 2011 MLS Cup was set between the Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy at LA’s Home Depot Center.

Both teams had several opportunities early, but it wasn’t until the 44th minute when Houston’s Calen Carr gave the Dynamo a 1-0 lead going into halftime.  Carr would not make it through the game, coming out with injury in the second half that saw the Galaxy score three goals to take the Cup.

Omar Gonzalez opened up the scoring for LA in the 60th minute, assisted by Juninho and Franklin, equalizing the match 1-1 in front of the Galaxy’s home fans.  Houston’s Bobby Boswell would receive a yellow card in the 64th minute on a penalty in the box, setting up Landon Donovan’s 65th minute penalty kick that put the Galaxy in front 2-1, a lead they would never relinquish.  Donovan would receive a yellow for time wasting in the 92nd minute, a move that was referred to as a “veteran move” by the announcers, for their was little risk of receiving another card that late in the game.  In the 93rd minute, Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall earned a yellow card and set up Robbie Keane’s free kick that put the Galaxy up 3-1 in the 94th minute.  The game could have been even higher scoring, as the Galaxy were called offsides twice on balls that went into the net, including one case where the announcers referred to the offsides as a “ridiculous call”.

In the end, Beckham left Los Angeles and the MLS a champion.

While I personally like to cover soccer, a majority of my audience is from the Chicago area, where the sport’s popularity has not soared as much as in other markets like Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, and Vancouver to name a few (though the Fire do have one of the most respected MLS supporters groups).  This MLS Cup in particular will certainly earn a larger television audience than in years past as Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham plays his final game in the league in front of the home crowd, while fellow Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan is undecided but a good possibility to retire.  Due to this, I have prepared a bit of background on the league, the teams, and the history.

The New Schedule Format – The Montreal Impact entered MLS as the league’s 19th team in 2012, bringing massive changes to the league’s schedule and playoff format.  With a ten-team Eastern and nine-team Western conference, the league chose not to increase the length of the season to 36 games to keep a balanced schedule.  Instead, the league created an elongated season with more bye weeks with different schedules for each conference.  The Eastern Conference teams would play each West team just once, seven of their conference rivals three times, and the remaining two teams twice.  The Western Conference teams would play each other three times each and each Eastern team once.  To account for this, the league removed their wild card rule that made two teams in a conference playing each other in the MLS Cup possible (much the same way the Cardinals and Brewers from the same National League division met in the 2011 NLCS), instead opting for five seeds in each conference.  These changes pushed the MLS Cup all the way back to December, and it would now be hosted by the team with the better record, as opposed to a Super Bowl-style pre-selected site, setting the stage for the most intriguing MLS Cup yet to be played again in front of the Galaxy’s home fans.

The Cup – The MLS Cup was first contested by D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996.  United would win, and would dominate the league’s early landscape, winning three of the first four, interrupted only by the expansion Chicago Fire coming out victorious at the Rose Bowl.  The Galaxy would have lesser fortunes, failing again to D.C. in 1999 and falling to the San Jose Earthquakes – the team that became the Houston Dynamo through a controversial Cleveland Browns-style suspension of operations – in 2001, before defeating New England for their first title in 2002.  The Galaxy would prevail again in 2005 and then again in 2011, as they aim to tie D.C.’s record four titles in 2012.  The Dynamo would win in each of their first two season in Houston, 2006 and 2007, as the officially entered the league as an expansion franchise, despite keeping the entire Earthquakes roster and personnel.  Ironically enough, had the league not granted the first Earthquakes’ championships to the new team of the same name, Houston would have that tie of four, and would be looking to not only keep Los Angeles from tying them and D.C., but looking to take sole possession of the most in history.

The Houston Dynamo – The fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Dynamo beat the Chicago Fire on Halloween to advance to the Conference Semifinals, where they would defeat Kansas City, before taking on D.C. in the Eastern Finals.  The Dynamo have a short but decorated history, featuring MLS Cup championships in each of their first two seasons, and having qualified for the Cup in four of their first seven seasons.  The club opened its soccer-specific stadium this year in BBVA Compass Stadium, holding a capacity of 22,039.  The Dynamo’s season started with chaos, as longtime Dynamo and fan favorite Brian Ching was left unprotected and then controversially selected by Montreal (which was well within their rights) leading to chaos in the Houston front office that eventually was able to reacquire him.  Well known players include Bobby Boswell, Will Bruin, Luiz Camargo, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Boniek Garcia, and the goalkeeper Tally Hall.

The Los Angeles Galaxy – The Galaxy are perhaps the most star-studded franchise in league history and were one of the league’s ten inaugural clubs in 1996.  Easily the best-known team in the league, the Galaxy brought in David Beckham before the 2007 season, helping the league’s popularity and economic strength soar.  While the former England captain is the most internationally recognizable player on the team, most would argue that the US international Landon Donovan and Irish international Robbie Keane are the Galaxy’s most effective players.  While the Cup has already been made out to be all about Beckham, this very well may be Donovan’s last game as well.  Making the game even more intriguing, is that the Galaxy succeeded in earning home field advantage when Houston qualified for the championship, the only Eastern Conference playoff team that had a worse record than them.  While it ultimately fell into the hands of the Eastern Conference Finals to grant the Galaxy home field, they had no easy path reaching that point, defeating Vancouver in the first round after trailing early, knocking off the Supporters’ Shield winning Earthquakes, and then barely holding on to a three-goal aggregate lead to knock out Seattle and advance.

Sco’s Prediction: Houston Dynamo 1 @ Los Angeles Galaxy 2 with goals coming from Camargo, Beckham, and Donovan.

Where/When to Watch: Due to the weather and field conditions in December, the game has been scheduled for 3:30 PM Central Time on ESPN live from Los Angeles’s Home Depot Center.

EXPANSION: Which Leagues Are Ready For It?

Posted: November 27, 2012 in CFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL

Expansion has always been a topic of discussion for every major sports league, though many leagues in the past have met their deaths because they’ve expanded too much (especially the NASL).  Baseball Prospectus recently released a study that shows which ten North American cities would be best suited for MLB expansion earlier in November, the NFL has obviously been looking at Los Angeles, rumors have circulated of the NHL planning expansion into Quebec and Toronto’s suburbs, and MLS has expanded every season since 2005 (though that streak will end in 2013, with the second New York club expected in 2016 or 2017).  While expanding a league’s footprint is usually a good thing, some leagues may not be ready for it just yet.

National Football League – The NFL is the Everest in the professional sports landscape, with attendances rivaled only by some of the more popular college football teams and revenues through the roof.  The league’s 32 teams are the most of any major league, yet a glaring omission exists in Los Angeles.  The NFL and AFL have combined for three teams in the city since the AFL’s inception in 1960: the Chargers (relocated to San Diego in 1961), the Raiders (relocated to Oakland in 1995), and the Rams (relocated to St. Louis in 1995), but stadium problems forced the latter two out, leaving the city without a franchise.  Serious consideration has been given to either relocate an existing team or place an expansion team in the city in the proposed new Farmers Field.  In the case of the NFL, the time is right for expansion into the nation’s second-largest city.

Major League Baseball – Many MLB teams are seeing considerable success financially in recent years, but other teams such as Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and of course the Marlins who traded away all of their star players in a single trade just a year after receiving a new publicly-financed stadium.  While some markets may be able to support a team, specifically Northern New Jersey and Portland, relocation would seem to be the better route to take.

Canadian Football League – The Canadian Football League originally announced an expansion team for Ottawa in 2008, but the franchise has yet to begin play even after holding an expansion draft and has only recently broke ground on a stadium.  As it stands, the eight-team league is expected to expand to nine in 2014 or 2015, but the obvious struggles in launching a team in the Canadian capital should thwart attempts at any further expansion for the time being (though Halifax or Moncton are still being considered)

Major League Soccer – Major League Soccer is probably the major league best poised for expansion, as the league has expanded rapidly since 2005 with positive results: Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake (2005), Houston (2006), Toronto (2007), San Jose (2008), Seattle (2009), Philadelphia (2010), Portland and Vancouver (2011), and Montreal (2012).  In a normal scenario, this would water down the league’s talent pool, but soccer’s talent pool is so international that there is almost no risk of a shortage and the continued expansion has brought many healthy franchised into league, greatly improving its economic situation.

National Hockey League – Amid the lockout, rumors have circulated that the NHL was close to awarding expansion franchised to Quebec, Quebec and the Toronto suburb of Markham, Ontario.  While this would provide the league with new healthy franchises in the great hockey market that is Canada, and both cities could definitely support teams, it also takes away possibilities for relocation of some of the league’s struggling franchises (of which there are plenty of).  The verdict on the NHL would have to be a no.

National Basketball Association – The NBA has grown as a league in recent years, surpassing the MLB as the second most popular professional league in the US.  However, it is clear that the Sacramento Kings want to relocate, as they can not reach a proper stadium deal in their current city, and whenever a scenario like this exists, the first method to grant teams to new cities has to be relocation.

David Beckham to Leave Galaxy

Posted: November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles Galaxy

November 19, 2012 – The Galaxy’s David Beckham announced on Monday that he will be leaving Los Angeles after the MLS Cup set to take place on December 1st at home against the Houston Dynamo in a rematch from 2011.  Beckham began play in the MLS in the 2007 season, and helped the league become what it is today.  At the time of Beckham’s arrival from Real Madrid, the MLS was a thirteen team league with the addition of Toronto that season.  The league was coming off of a 2006 campaign that saw average attendances of just 15,504 around the league.  With Beckham’s help, Don Garber’s MLS has blossomed into a nineteen-team league that averaged 18,807 fans in attendance per game in 2012.

In his six seasons in the MLS, Beckham appeared in 102 league contests and tallied eighteen regular season goals.  Beckham’s departure leaves the Galaxy with one open Designated Player slot to fill to complement Robbie Keane and, assuming he isn’t the next to go, Landon Donovan.  Speculation of Beckham’s departure has been reported for quite some time, but Beckham has not made his intentions fully clear.  Is he intending to retire?  Go back to Europe?  Or even join the New York Red Bulls?  The answers are not quite there yet, which should make for another intriguing offseason rumor to follow along with the progress on the league’s expansion into New York City with the potential revival of the Cosmos.