This week the World’s Game announced expected U.S. growth
I’m a huge soccer fan, and this week has been an amazing one for U.S.-based fans of the beautiful game.
To start, as the U.S. Men’s National Team prepares for the next round of World Cup 2018 qualifying to begin, it started its second stint under head coach Bruce Arena in a 0-0 draw against Serbia in a friendly Sunday. They return to action tonight in a friendly against Jamaica.
The next big news involved our domestic professional league, Major League Soccer, when 12 cities submitted bids to land four expansion teams.
Finally, A+E obtained 25 percent interest in the National Women’s Soccer League, The network launched NWSL Media, which will manage broadcast and sponsorship rights, and has already struck a three-year deal to televise Saturday league games on Lifetime beginning in April.
Combined, these are HUGE steps forward for soccer.
The U.S. national teams will, and should, dominate domestic soccer news. Arena’s return didn’t spark anything magical against Serbia. Granted, the roster was made up entirely of MLS players, who are in their offseason, and didn’t include Americans who play professionally in Europe, who are in the heart of their teams’ seasons. Hopefully, the Yanks can get something sparked something tonight against the Raggae Boys.
The biggest news of the week has to be interest in MLS franchises. The league added two teams in 2015, will add two this year and possibly two next year, and is looking to add four more clubs to expand to a total of 28 teams. The bidding groups include members with interests in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NASCAR, as well as eight from second-tier professional teams in the North American Soccer League and the United Soccer League, who are looking to play top flight soccer.
Terrance Thomas of the San Antonio Express-News reported that bids included “documentation focusing on three areas: Ownership; stadium details; and financial projections, corporate and soccer support.”
I think one of the things that has been so impressive about MLS’ growth is that they have made soccer-specific stadiums that seat roughly 30,000 people part of almost every teams’ mission.
MLS will evaluate the bids during the first and second quarters of 2017 and will award two franchises before the end of the year. Those teams will join the league in 2020. The remaining two franchises will be awarded at a later date.
The news of A+E Networks taking 25 percent ownership in the National Women’s Soccer League and announcing their games would be televised on Lifetime made me happiest.
In the past six months, I’ve coached U6, U8, and U10 teams. My U6 team is coed. The rest are girls’ teams. I’m excited for my daughters to have the opportunity to watch women play a sport they love and get paid for it.
Surely, A+E has witnessed the interest in the U.S. Women’s National Team, the 2015 Women’s World Cup championship game was the most watched soccer game in U.S. history, and sees an opportunity. That interest has translated to the NWSL, which is backed by the United States Soccer Federation and Canadian Soccer Association. Last season, the Portland Thorns FC, led the league last season with an average attendance of nearly 17,000 fans.
Major League Growth
Major League Soccer already expects to add two teams in 2017 and 2018. This week, the league announced it will add four more franchises, bringing the league total to 28 teams. Twelve cities submitted bids for those four teams.
|MLS Teams||Start Year||Expansion Hopefuls|
|Columbus Crew SC||1996||Charlotte|
|New England Revolution||1996||Detroit|
|New York Red Bulls||1996||Indianapolis|
|San Jose Earthquakes||1996||Sacramento|
|Sporting Kansas City||1996||St. Louis|
|Chicago Fire||1998||San Antonio|
|Real Salt Lake||2005||San Diego|
|Houston Dynamo||2006||Tampa/St. Petersburg|
|Seattle Sounders FC||2009|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||2011|
|New York City FC||2015|
|Orlando City SC||2015|
|Atlanta United FC||2017|
|Minnesota United FC||2017|
|Los Angeles FC||2018|
*pending stadium agreement