Antoine Hoppenot of the Philadelphia Union started it but Nelson Rivas of the Montreal Impact took it up a notch and things got really ugly in the MLS when he took justice into his own hands and headbutted Hoppenot.
Every Thursday Sports Grind Entertainment will present you with the Mama Margie’s Major Meltdown. The recipient of this honor goes to Houston Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark for being suspended three games by Major League Soccer for his use of a homophobic slur toward a ball ball on March 24. Clark was also fined him an undisclosed amount as microphones near the pitch caught him shouting the homophobic slur at the ball boy when he was slow to return the ball to Clark. In addition to his suspension and fine, MLS has also ordered Clark to attend diversity and sensitivity training.
MLS and the USSF have partnered to create the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), which will manage the officiating program for professional soccer leagues across the U.S. and Canada. The objectives of the new organization are to improve the quality of refereeing, develop younger refs and help officials get to the level of representing the U.S. and Canada at competitive FIFA events.
Beginning this year, PRO will manage officials in MLS and MLS Reserve games, the NASL, USL Pro and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Veteran English referee Peter Walton has been named general manager of PRO.
U.S. Soccer and MLS will govern and fund the organization, with support from the Canadian Soccer Association and other leagues.
“Thanks to collaborative work with U.S. Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association, officiating in MLS made significant strides forward in the past year,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “The overall level of MLS refereeing is good, and the creation of the Professional Referee Organization is the logical next stage of development. MLS and U.S. Soccer proudly welcome PRO General Manager Peter Walton, who will utilize his exceptional experience as a referee and as an administrator, along with substantial resources, to help MLS achieve its vision of setting the worldwide standard in officiating.”
“We’ve always understood that the development of referees is an important aspect to the growth of the game in the United States,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. “PRO is another step towards the improvement and professionalization of our top referees. With the additional resources and funding provided by the formation of PRO, we will continue to build upon the progress we’ve already made.”
FC Dallas, one of five MLS teams without a jersey sponsorship, is losing its stadium naming rights partner as well. Pizza Hut Park will be no more as of January 8, team officials confirmed. After that date, the 20,500-seat facility in suburban Frisco, Texas, will be known as FC Dallas Stadium until a new sponsor is secured.
“Pizza Hut, as the company has recently shown with some of its other venue agreements, has shifted its sports marketing philosophy and will no longer be our naming rights partner,” team officials said in a statement.
The only soccer-specific stadium in MLS that currently lacks a naming rights partner is Columbus Crew Stadium. Both the Crew and FC Dallas are owned by Hunt Sports Group, which was founded by the late Lamar Hunt and now run by his son, Clark.
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen came within 10 minutes of a shutout despite being hit in the head by an object thrown from the stands in a game against the Portland Timbers. Nielsen was struck by a piece from an Omar Bravo bobblehead doll, one of thousands given away to fans in attendance. The Danish keeper laid on the field for 4 minutes but was able to continue after being checked out by medical personnel.
Two people were arrested.
NBC will carry six MLS or U.S. men’s national team games annually, through a new three-year deal that will be formally announced today and will begin next year. With NBC gaining a TV package that had been on the Fox Soccer Channel, NBC’s coverage each year will include two MLS playoff games, two regular-season MLS games and two U.S.men’s national team games.
In addition to giving MLS broadcast network exposure, the new deal will increase MLS’s cable TV reach. As part of the deal, the NBC Sports Network cable channel will carry 38 regular-season MLS games, three playoff games and two U.S. men’s national team games. NBC Sports Net claims to reach about 76 million households about double the reach of Fox Soccer Channel.
Through a separate deal the MLS will continue to appear on ESPN channels.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has had his soccer career extended to include a practice game with the Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City. They have asked the six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver to play in their reserve team’s game on Monday against a local squad.
Ochocinco, who says he actually preferred soccer until he was persuaded to focus entirely on football after the 10th grade, began a four-day trial with the MLS team on Wednesday in part as a way to stay fit and keep busy during the NFL lockout. He will play the right forward position against the Kansas City Brass, a minor league team.
“This is not unusual,” team spokesman Dave Borchardt said. “They like for trialists to have a chance to play in at least one game, a chance to be evaluated even further. It’s the same opportunity that is given most trialists.”
The Vancouver Whitecaps made their MLS debut over the weekend while doing so with their owner amongst the fans in the crowd and creating a Canadian frenzy in pumping up the crowd. Their owner is Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash who bought a stake into the team back in 2008. At the time they were only playing in USL-1 but made the jump to MLS this year and won their first ever game in the league beating Toronto FC 4-2.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco is set for a four-day tryout with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer starting Tuesday. The club said Wednesday that after the tryout, it would determine whether to extend the trial period.
“We’re always searching for players who can help our team and bringing in new talent,” Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes said. “We know that Chad is an exceptional athlete and that he loves the sport of soccer, and he did play a lot when he was younger. We’re excited to see how his skills will translate once he arrives next week and begins training with our team.”
Ochocinco started playing soccer at age 4 but chose to focus on football in high school and uses a soccer ball to warm up for NFL practices and games.
“Due to the NFL lockout, I’m excited to be able to follow my childhood dream of playing for a Major League Soccer team,” Ochocinco said.
The Livestrong cancer foundation and MLS Sporting Kansas City have agreed to a unique six-year naming-rights deal for the club’s new $200M stadium, set to open June 6. Sporting Kansas City will donate a percentage of all sales at Livestrong Sporting Park to the foundation, which will not pay a fee to the club. Sporting Kansas City President Robb Heineman estimates the club could donate between $8-10M to the foundation over the six-year partnership.
Heineman said, “It’s either groundbreaking or it’s crazy, and there will be people to call (the relationship) both. What we’re trying to do is more than just have a soccer team and a soccer stadium. We want to be part of the social fabric of the community.”
The stadium sits 10 miles west of downtown Kansas City and it seats 18,500 for soccer games and 25,000 for concerts.
FC Dallas defender George John deflected a shot into his own net in overtime and the Colorado Rapids beat FC Dallas 2-1 on Sunday night to win their first MLS Cup.
Top British sportscaster Ian Darke, one of the lead commentators during ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will join the network as its lead soccer voice in the United States.
Darke will be the primary play-by-play voice on ESPN’s U.S. networks for Barclays Premier League matches, the U.S. National Teams (Men’s and Women’s), marquee Major League Soccer events, 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He joins ESPN after commentating on Premier League and UEFA Champions League matches for the past 18 years.
The biggest sponsorship agreement in MLS history just got bigger, despite having four years left on a 10-year, $150 million agreement with MLS, Adidas opened the contract and agreed to new terms that will see it remain the official athletic sponsor and licensed product supplier to MLS through 2018.
The deal is at more than $200 million, making it one of the sporting apparel company’s largest investments in the sport worldwide. The deal, which is worth $25 million annually, represents a 66 percent increase per year from Adidas 10-year, $150 million agreement signed in 2004.
In addition to maintaining its position as the official supplier to all MLS clubs and youth academies, Adidas will continue to provide the league’s official ball and remain the only athletic brand with advertising rights for all MLS games.
Thierry Henry, the French striker who last played for the Spanish league champions F.C. Barcelona, has made it offical and signed a contract to join the Red Bulls as a designated player. Henry will make his Red Bull debut on July 22 against the English club Tottenham Hotspur.
One of the best to ever hit the pitch, at least in my opinion
If your not in South Africa getting ready to play for the World Cup then there’s only one place you would rather be if you where Ronaldinho and that’s in Chicago.
AC Milen was there taking on the Chicago Fire when a fan bum rushed the field to plant a wet kiss onto the soccer legend.
Its not always sunny in Philadelphia former Villarreal midfielder Robert Pires says that he’d rather not play for MLS Philadelphia Union because it’s Philadelphia.
“It does not please me to [go to Philadelphia]. I do not want to be difficult, but if I had to take my family away, I’d rather do it in a beautiful city. Otherwise, I will put an end to my career.”
Pires isn’t down on all of America though, he thinks fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry’s likely move to the New York Red Bulls is a good one, saying “I wish him to go there. That is a beautiful city.”
Take that Philly fan.
A Utah man shopping at his local thrift store came across an interesting buy that connected him to the NBA. The Utah man bought a used cell phone for only 50 cents. When he went home and plugged it in, the Blackberry lit up with phone numbers for famous athletes and entertainment stars.
It turns out that the phone belonged to former Utah Jazz general manger and New York Knicks president and current Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts. He had lost the phone about 10 years ago.
All of the information was still saved and a list of the contacts included Patrick Ewing, Alan Houston, Wayne Gretzky, Bud Selig, David “The Goon” Stern, Marv Albert, Tom Brokaw and Jerry Colangelo, to name a few.
The phone actually has e-mails of proposals to bring an Major League Soccer team to Salt Lake City sent to former city Mayor Rocky Anderson and even former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.
There’s some people in the United States that wish this sport would somehow disappear and where hoping that a Major League Soccer strike would finally be the death blow it needed for that to happen. That feeling cannot be found anywhere within Sports Grind Entertainment and are happy to post that MLS and its players union announced a five-year collective bargaining agreement this afternoon, ensuring that the 15th season will start on time Thursday.
MLS commissioner Don Garber said the deal was signed roughly five minutes before a press teleconference. The agreement does address several of the players concerns like that of a majority of contracts being guaranteed, a greater ability to change teams at the end of a contract (though not outright free agency), and increased compensation.
Players were seeking greater free-agent rights and a higher percentage of guaranteed deals. Under the old deal, which was the first in league history, that expired expired in February, a team could maintain the rights to an out-of-contract player as long as certain conditions were met. That policy runs counter to most leagues around the world since the landmark Bosman ruling allowed players to become free agents, but MLS makes it possible through its single-entity structure, in which contracts are controlled by the league.
Players whose contracts had ended could go through a “re-entry draft,” which would be a more transparent way of moving players to new teams if their previous teams can’t or won’t make a new deal with them.
The season opens March 25 with the expansion Philadelphia Union visiting the Seattle Sounders, who averaged more than 30,000 fans next season.
Major League Soccer players voted to strike if a new labor contract isn’t agreed to before the first season opener on March 25.
The league’s first collective bargaining agreement, a five-year deal, originally was set to run out Jan. 31 but was extended twice while negotiations continued. It expired Feb. 25 after the MLS Players Union refused another extension.
“Recent comments from players simply reflect the fact that the players are unified and, per the results of our strike vote, will not begin the new season if a new agreement with the league is not reached,” union executive director Bob Foose said in a statement Thursday.
Unhappy with the single-entity structure that has seen the league negotiate all contracts since play began in 1996, players want greater free-agent rights and a higher percentage of guaranteed deals.
Player income averaged $147,945 at the start of last season, according to the union. But the median was $88,000 for 323 players listed. This comes on the heels of the MLS Cup attracting 1.1 million viewers, its highest rating ever for the event.
Ratings and viewership improved for the 2009 MLS Cup.
Real Salt Lake’s victory over the L.A. Galaxy drew a 0.7 U.S. rating and 1.1 million viewers on ESPN November 22, up 17% and 26%, respectively, from a 0.6 and 907,000 for Columbus Crew/New York Red Bulls on ABC last year.
During the decade, the highest rating for the MLS Cup was a 1.0 for the 2001 game between the Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes.
To put the numbers in perspective, the MLS Cup outdrew every single game of the 2009 WNBA Playoffs, and also topped every stage of the 2009 Tour de France. Additionally, the MLS Cup outdrew all but three IRL races on ABC and Versus during the ’09 season.
To the surprise of few outside of mainstream, but Major League Soccer is succeeding. The MLS Cup takes place tonight and it will likely yield the highest television ratings in the league’s history. The promising showdown between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake landed a beneficial time slot, ESPN will broadcast the final tonight at 7:30 PM CST. Last year’s final was squeezed between the NFL’s regular season schedule on network television in the middle of the day.
Like the Super Bowl, the location of the MLS Cup rotates each year. In a wise decision orchestrated by the league, today’s Cup will go down at Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Sounders. Professional soccer came to the city of Seattle, Sounders owners include Paul Allen and Drew Carey, after their basketball team abdonded them for Oklahoma City.
On Thursday MLS Commissioner Don “Groundbreaker” Garber participated in an online chat, telling the world that all was well with the MLS and would be even better in the foreseeable future.
“This season will forever be known as one of the key moments in the history of soccer in America,” Garber said.
Next year, the Philadelphia Union will debut, in a brand new stadium no less. Portland and Vancouver will follow in 2011. Montreal is also on board. If all goes according to plan, the league will then contain 19 teams. The question just remains is when will the San Antonio city council make a push for a team, in a city that will absolutely support it
People are watching American soccer.
Once again, you can catch the MLS Cup tonight at 7:30 PM CST on ESPN.
Major League Soccer will suspend play during the group stage of next summer’s World Cup. MLS released a statement Wednesday afternoon indicating that it plans to leave the schedule blank from June 11, the first day of the tournament, until the group stage concludes on June 25. It also will not play any games on the days of the World Cup semifinals and final. In the past, the league has continued to play through the World Cup, its been indefensible that the league continued to play games at the same time as the U.S. national team’s World Cup qualifiers.
“The decision to stop league play during the group phase of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is part of MLS’ commitment to deepen its connection with the millions of soccer fans in the United States and Canada. The World Cup will be a focal point for all MLS fans and several MLS players will compete with their national teams at the tournament,” Commissioner Don Garber said.
Separately, the league unveiled its scheduling format for next season, each club will play a balanced 30-game schedule, a balanced schedule eliminates the need for conferences. This will feature home and away dates against each of the other 15 teams. Eight sides will qualify for the playoffs, as usual, with the MLS Cup final taking place on Nov. 21. That would be another MLS decision that certainly would be hard to fault.
The growth of soccer in this country only helps the MLS.
Freddy Adu sure wishes it was 2004 all over again, at that time he was on almost every sports magazine cover, doing television segments, basically introducing himself to the non soccer fan. He became the youngest player ever drafted in the United States at the age of fourteen, when he was selected by D.C. United in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. Adu’s stock was at an all time high, as many pegged him to be the future face of American soccer for many years to come.
Many viewed him as the one with all the tools, technical ability, physical maturity, and instincts. As of yet that hasn’t happened. He’s currently trying to get a loan move, his most recent attempt, a season long loan to Danish club Odense BK fell through over wage demands last week. S.L. Benfica wants his loan destination to pay for his whole wage bill; Odense BK declined.
Adu’s been told by Bob Bradley that he needs to play regularly for a club to get even a sniff at a national team call up. His club isn’t going to play him, and there’s only a week left in the transfer market; with Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, and Kenny Cooper all managing to both play and impress abroad. Davies has already scored more goals in his three appearances with Sochaux than Adu’s has ever scored for any of the European clubs he’s played with. Adu is got to find a club willing to take on his wages and play him, or his chances of getting a call up to the World Cup in serious jeopardy.
Just years ago numerous clubs would have jumped at the opportunity but today, that list is extremely short. The salary is the main issue. In many leagues, there’s a minimum salary requirement for non-EU players. Any team wanting to bring Adu in will have to pay him somewhere around $10,000 a week, which is far more than he’s valued at. Adu’s left with few options seeing he can’t get a work permit in England an S.L. Benfica wont ever play him.
Oh 2004 please come back.
La Jornado had an interesting tidbit of news on MLS expansion prospects in San Antonio. The former president of Mexican club Necaxa, Antonio de Alba, tells the paper that he is in “advanced” discussion with MLS to acquire an expansion franchise for the Texas city. He also indicates that he has discussed the plan with the mayor’s office and the owner of the San Antonio Spurs as well.
San Antonio has not been mentioned for either of the league’s next two expansion spots. Montreal is though to be the clear front runner for one of those bids, with several other markets, including St. Louis, rumored for the other. San Antonio would be a perfect fit for the MLS; great city size with limited competition from other professional sports, and a strong soccer-loving community.