Posting my first blog gets me excited and nervous! The blank space invites my opinions and thoughts to be expressed to anyone who is willing to read them, and yet it makes me nervous at the same time. Will I make a mistake? Probably. Will anyone read this? Maybe. Is it worth it? YES. Soccer On.
Soccer has taken a dramatic rise in popularity in the United States in recent years. [Even MLS has taken notice of it, emulating its upward momentum through the middle of their new crest that also acts as a kick-stand.]
Whether or not you like the new logo, it's here for the foreseeable future. Soccer On.
Back to soccer - it's on the rise. Generally speaking there has been a spike of interest in the sport about every four years here in America. Yes, like the good Americans we are we support our national team(s) when it comes to competition on a global scale. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was different though. The U.S. escaped from the "Group of Death" with an unimpressive 1-1-1 record only to lose to Belgium in the Round of 16 in a heart-wrenching loss with plenty of mistakes and missed opportunities. But interest in soccer didn't fade like many thought it would.
What does soccer in the U.S. look like?
At the top of the food chain is Major League Soccer (MLS). The league is entering its 20th season with 20 teams. New clubs New York City FC and Orlando City SC will be joining while troubled Chivas USA was dissolved at the end of the 2014 season. MLS has more expansion fever though; Atlanta and Los Angeles FC are slated to join the league in 2017. David Beckham and his quietly vanishing Miami franchise can still join the league pending the approval of a downtown stadium. Let's just say that's not going well. With the intention of having 24 teams by 2020, MLS definitely has a line of suitors waiting to join. Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and St. Louis have all stated their intentions to join MLS. Who will be the 24th team? Will MLS stop at 24? Only time will tell...more specifically Garber has said the "24th" [assuming Miami gets a stadium] team will be announced within the first five months of 2015. Soccer On.
Next on the food chain is the North American Soccer League (NASL). It shares the same name and many team names from the league that brought 1st division soccer to North America from 1968-1984. It's a relatively new league only about to start its 5th season. It currently has 11 teams with the addition of Jacksonville Armada in 2015. It too has expansion fever, expecting to grow to 18-20 teams by 2020. Oklahoma City FC and Virginia Calvary FC have been awarded franchises but have been delayed joining - and in all honesty, I don't think we'll ever see them play. It's been a mess with those two groups. A rumored LA franchise has yet to be announced but I think we'll see that happen before the spring season begins. My beloved San Antonio Scorpions FC play in the NASL and are the 2014 NASL Champions! We're aiming for that repeat!
The 3rd tier of American soccer is the United Soccer Leagues Professional division (USL Pro). Until recently, USL Pro had been just the 3rd tier on the soccer pyramid. In 2013 USL Pro and MLS signed an agreement that would see each MLS team either partner up with a Pro side or create a reserve team that would play in the USL Pro league. For 2015, USL Pro will be growing from 14 teams to 24, and yes, you guessed it, the majority of that growth comes from MLS "2" teams. For MLS it allows their clubs to have reserve players play against pretty decent quality while trying to make their 1st team. From a USL Pro perspective it has just become a defacto reserve league. Even though there are independent clubs in the league, playing against reserves that just want to make a 1st team roster spot doesn't exactly get the fans excited. It's yet to be seen, but in my opinion, attendance will drop and eventually the remaining independent teams will want to jump ship. Who knows...
Whew! That was a lot for my first attempt at this. I guess this was just a level setting post. Within each league there are issues that I would love to write about. As the days go by, if news is slow, I may dive deeper into some of these topics. But for the most part I will try to keep my posts about present topics/issues. Be patient with me if I babble on, I'll always refocus by using "Soccer On". It's my little phrase for us fans to continue to grow the game in America.
Alright - that's it!
Soccer On. -ASC
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