Soccer Business Bits: Doubleheader in Dallas, Dallas Jerseys and More

fc dallasWith the playoffs in the balance, FC Dallas and the New England Revs are getting set for a mid-week tilt in the Metroplex.  However,  this weekenight match comes with a twist, Dallas will host the Revs in their pre-Pizza Hut Park home, the Cotton Bowl.  The MLS match will be the appetizer for an international friendly pitting Mexico against Colombia.  Though not an official international match day, both national teams promise to bring some recognizable names to the game.

There have been a number of estimates suggesting that more than 30k will be in attendance for the doubleheader with a small percentage their for the Dallas/Revs match.  Nevertheless, for a franchise that has really struggled to generate attendance, the doubleheader presents an important opportunity to put their product in front of local soccer fans.  Dallas is playing very well at present, and the opportunity to perform in front of a much larger crowd provide an opportunity to sell MLS to a new audience.

We previously touched on the appearance of ESPNDallas.com on the front of the FC Dallas jerseys as the season nears conclusion.  For more on that story, click here for some information from 3rd Degree.  It is likely no surprise that the deal was struck prior to the Cotton Bowl game.

One final note, FIFA has announced that Mexico has withdrawn its name from consideration to host the 2018 and 2022 world cups, leaving 10 nations (including the USA) vying for the two events.  The news has been abuzz with Barack Obama’s efforts to bring the Olympics to Chicago.  Given the flap over his lending his office to those efforts, it bears watching to see if he will continue to actively support a USA World Cup bid.

Soccer Business Bits: Tickets in Philly, Trouble in Honduras And MLS Promotinos

phillyWe’ve criticized the decision to open their season at the Linc, but Philly deserves credit for its season ticket sales.  Soccer America is reporting that the expansion Union have sold more than 10k season tickets with more than 6 months before their home opener.  This is a great number and would slide Philly into third place among MLS teams in season ticket sales.  With an 18k capacity stadium to fill, and half a year to do it, the Union should be close to a sell-out all year once they move to the Linc.

This is a business site, not a politics site, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the situation in Honduras.  Multiple outlets have reported in the unrest in the Central American nation and on the potential impact of events on the USA/Honduras WC qualifier. The actual impact is unknown; CONCACAF Champions League is still going forward in Honduras, but FIFA and the USSF will certainly be hesitant to play a WCQ match in such an unsettled situation.

One final note, MLS is running a promotion with AXE shower gell.  The promotion offers prizes including trips to South Africa for the World Cup, gear and other items. While the promotion features prominently on the MLS website, it is  unclear whether any MLS themed prizes are part of the game.

The Monday After: Attendance Summary, FC Dallas Jersey Sponsor and More

mlsAnother big weekend of Major League Soccer and once again fans turned out in big numbers during the playoff stretch drive. In New England, about 16k were in attendance for the Revs/Seattle match. In Columbus, 21k were at Crew Stadium for the 2-0 victory over the Beckham-less Galaxy.  About 9700 were at Community America Ballpark for the Wizards/Rapids and about 17k were in Chicago for the exciting TFC/Fire draw.  There were 14k at the Home Depot Center for the Chivas/Red Bulls draw.  We have not yet gotten a number for the Dallas/RSL game.

There are reports that FC Dallas entered into a two-game jersey sponsorship with the Dallas version of the new regional ESPN.com. The two game deal will be the first jersey sponsor for FC Dallas.  Given the recent addition of a Boston version of the site, it is surprising that a similar deal was not reached between ESPN and the Revs.  Nevertheless, it is a good opportunity for FC Dallas to generate some revenue.  Moreover, it is apparent that these new local sites are providing MLS teams with some additional exposure.

A while back, Tim Martin, a 10 year veteran of the sports marketing field and the President of soccer marketing entity Gallagher Sports, spoke with us about MLS jersey sports sponsorships  Mr. Martin has worked for a number of major brands in an array of sports marketing categories and has negotiated tens of millions of dollars of sponsorship agreements.  Click  here for the interview.

Soccer Business Bits: Seats in Seattle, Union at the Linc & More

soundersRunning around a bit, so just some quick notes…Already smashing attendance records in their inagural season, Seattle seems close to opening up even more seats in 2010.  Seattle is reporting a waiting list of at least 6,000 in addition to their 30,700 average.  According to team president Adrian Hanauer, existing season ticket holders are renewal at an extremely high rate and requesting additional tickets.  According to the article, the team is again considering offering an 18 game plan for its fans that will include 15 MLS matches and other high profile matches like the Barca game this year.  The article also touches on some interesting topics, including grass at Qwest, World Cup Break and more.

Today is the day MLS announces its schedule of home openers for 2010.  In advance of that announcement, multiple sources are reporting that Philadelphia will indeed open its season at the Linc.  As we have repeatedly said, we think this is a bad idea for the League and Union. Better to wait for the stadium in Chester to be ready, rather than have a mediocre opening at a football stadium.

One final note; the Rapids’ Wednesday night game against San Jose is the annual Oktoberfest. The event includes beer, music, dancing and more events in the two hours prior to the game.  During the game, hot dogs are only $1.

Soccer Business Bits: Portland Stadium Update, DC United Lawsuit Update, and More

pgeAccording to a Tuesday afternoon story in the Oregonian, the revamped PGE Park will have a soccer capacity of about 17k.  Interestingly, this is similar to the current capacity even though the renovation will add about 5,000 seats.  According to the story, 5,000 existing seats will be blocked off for games and used either for advertising or other display purposes.  Because of predictions that 17k will suffice for soccer crowds, this will allow Portland to keep the “worst” seats blocked off, although they will be available for bigger events.  For more on Portland’s stadium efforts, click here.

We wrote a few weeks back about the lawsuit brought against DC United by two gentlemen seeking a commission from the introduction of VW as a sponsor.  While the lawsuit contained some interesting business tidbits about the business of MLS, the real action in the lawsuit is now just starting.  As of today, the summons has been “returned to court” and thus a deadline of October 5 has been set for DC United to reply.  A copy of the Complaint was served upon Michael Williamson, the CFO of Macfarlane Chang DC Soccer on September 14 by a private process server.  As of yet, no attorneys have appeared on behalf of DC United.  We will continue to monitor the case as it moves forward.

Finally, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story about Dave Checketts’ thoughts on operating a sports franchise in this climate.  While the story does not focus on RSL, it does give an interesting perspective on how Checketts thinks a team ought to operate when times are tough.  The piece also notes that RSL attendance is up about 8% this year. rsl

The Major League Soccer GSL: Our Chat with MLS Vice President of Club Services, Brad Pursel

mlsFor the last few years, MLS has offered its fans the opportunity to purchase a “Guaranteed Seat License” for the MLS Cup and MLS All-Star game.  For a one-time fee, the GSL affords the purchaser the lifetime right to purchase tickets for those two events every year.  We were intrigued by the program, and MLS Vice President of Club Services Brad Pursel was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the GSL.  Mr. Pursel has worked with MLS since 1997 in various capacities and his answers are below.

Footiebusiness.com: What is the intent of the GSL program?  What is MLS trying to achieve by offering this opportunity?

Brad Pursel: The intent of the GSL program is to offer our fans the opportunity to always secure seats for our annual All-Star Game and MLS Cup, our two biggest events. It’s a special and unique program that does not exist in other professional leagues.

FB:   Who is the target audience for the GSL program?   What is MLS doing to promote the program to this target audience?

BP: We’ve targeted core MLS fans for this program, which is why it is primarily promoted via our websites, MLSnet.com and FutbolMLS.com, and through our e-blasts. We’ve seen many purchases by families and as gifts for children to enjoy for a lifetime.

FB: Has MLS capped the amount of GSLs it will sell? How many has it sold so far?  When will the offer end?

BP: We have not yet capped the number of GSLs that are available, but we will monitor it closely to determine when the offer should end. Although we do not disclose the number of purchased GSLs, the number has exceeded our expectation.

FB: As the popularity of MLS increases, do you envision GSL holders using the GSL as an investment opportunity?  Will holders buy tickets using the GSL and then try to sell them at a profit?

BP:  GSLs are a personal investment for enjoyment and entertainment and the price could increase in the future. GSL holders are not permitted to sell their tickets.

FB: Finally, how did MLS decide on the $500 price point?  The amount seems too low to be much of a revenue generator.  Was it intended as such?

BP: In the beginning, we wanted to offer GSLs at price point that was not too low or too high. We are considering increasing the price,  especially as the number available decreases. The program has generated a significant amount of new revenue.

Thanks to Mr. Pursel for his responses.   We think the GSLs are a great idea for fans seeking to hedge against the increasing popularity of the League.  In an ideal scenario, MLS Cup will become a hot enough ticket such that GSL holders will have a chance to purchase tickets for an otherwise sold out event.  When MLS holds these matches at soccer specific stadiums, the events typically sell out and thus GSL holders have an avenue to purchase tickets for these games.  However, when the League uses bigger venues, tickets are typically available the day of the game and thus the value of the GSL is minimized.

We were a bit surprised by Mr. Pursel’s responses about the re-sale of tickets purchased through the GSL program.   The terms and conditions of the GSL preclude the transfer of the license, however the rules do not appear to preclude the sale of individual tickets purchased via the license.  That said, even if MLS didn’t explicitly preclude the sale of tickets purchased with the GSL, the ticket holder would be subject to applicable state laws.

Overall, we think this is a worthwhile program, especially if League’s profile continues to grow. Imagine if this opportunity was offered for the Super Bowl 40 years ago.  For more on the GSLs, click here.

The Morning After: Attendance, San Jose Stadium and More

san-joseBig weekend of games in MLS, with playoff spots on the line in almost every game.  The crowds did not dissapoint, with about 11k in New York and 10, 500 (sellout) in San Jose for a pair of Friday Night games.  Elsewhere, Seattle brought its usual 32k plus while more than 18k were at Robertson stadium for a thrilling RSL/Houston matchup.  The Wizards got their ususal 10k plus sellout and more than 18k were at the Home Depot Center to see the Galaxy severely dent TFC’s playoff chances.  Finally, on Sunday the East’s two best teams played to a 2-2 draw in front of about 15,500.

The big business news of the weekend comes from San Jose, where the Earthquakes have released the first images of their proposed new stadium. The stadium is planned near the San Jose Airport and will reportedly required two years to construct from the date of the ground breaking.  The funding for the planned stadium has always been a bit fuzzy.  The city of San Jose had previously agreed to chop $40 million off the purchase price of a 75 acre parcel that will include the Stadium and additional mixed use development. We reported a while back that based on a request by owner Lew Wolff, Mr. Wolff will now pay $89 million for the site (purchased by the City for $81 million). The stadium will seat 15,000 (with additional seating for 3,000 more on a berm at the stadium’s open end) and will use 14 acres of the site.

In addition to the difficulty in moving the stadium project forward, the team has struggled on the field. Since entering MLS in its current form, San Jose has had two consective last place seasons and fell out of the playoff race fairly early in 2009.  In response, the Mercury News is reporting, that in “an effort to soften the blow of not breaking ground as promised, the team announced it will cut ticket prices by as much as 40 percent for next season. Season-ticket prices will be available for as low as $12 a game, single-game tickets for as little as $20.”  Wolff and San Jose are really discounting their product to keep the fans coming.

Some final business notes; Goff is reporting that MLS will open on March 25 with Seattle hosting Philadelphia at Qwest.  That should be a great game for an ESPN national televsion audience as the League combines its best atmosphere with the addition of a large television market to the fold.  He is also reporting that Philadelphia will open at home in the third week of the season.  As we have previously said, we believe the League should push the Philly opener back until May to ensure the building is finished on time.  Finally, the Red Bulls are slated open their new home in week three against Colorado.

Soccer Business Bits: Trouble in Chester? & Weekend Preview

phillyBack in August, we explored the possibility that the new Union stadium might not be ready for its 2010 opening.  Over the last couple of days there have been multiple reports exploring the possibility that the Union are exploring alternative arrangements for their 2010 opener.  According to quotes from team president Tom Veit, construction is on schedule for the home opener, but the team is exploring using Lincoln Financial Field for the game in the event there are construction delays.

In our view, this would be a mini-disaster for the club.  Opening in a half filled stadium would take the wind out of the opener and likely set the franchise back in front of the fickle sports media and fans of Philadelphia.  The Union has one shot to get it right and should do everything in its power to ensure it does.  If that means sending Philly on a prolonged road trip (see Galaxy, Los Angeles) to start the season, MLS should seriously entertain that option.

Speaking of stadiums, check out this post at Pitch Invasion about recent developments in Kansas City.  We touched on this issue last week.

Another full slate of games in MLS this weekend.  Interestingly, the weekend starts with two Friday night games including matches in San Jose and New York.  ESPN2 will televise the San Jose match.  After the Friday match ups, there are a couple of exciting games with big playoff implications.  With matches in Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle, there is a strong liklihood of good attendance on the weekend.  There don’t appear to  any big promotions for the weekend matches.

Covering the Coverage: Local Newspapers

soccer paperWith the Summer winding down, we thought we would take a look at the coverage of American soccer in the United States.  A  couple of weeks ago, in Part I, we took a look at the mainstream media.  To read that article, click  here.  Thereafter, we took a look at sports radio. Today, we are going to take a look at local newspapers.  Although many consider the local paper a dying enterprise, papers still represent an important source of news and sports coverage; especially for local teams.  Despite shrinking staffs at many papers, beat writers still cover local teams and provide the regular features not available in the insta-news driven internet.

Levels of coverage vary widely across the country.  Some papers like the Washington Post and Houston Chronicle provide regular and detailed soccer coverage of both national and local teams.  They offer dedicated beat reports who follow the local MLS franchise and provide the in depth feature and news reporting common to the rest of the  major sports.  Others like the New York Post and Boston Globe provide limited soccercoverage of their local teams and often rely on pool reports or stringers to cover their games.  The recent departure of a dedicated soccer write lie Frank Dell”Apa has weakened the once strong coverage of the Globe. Some markets like Seattle, Toronto and Salt Lake City have multiple media outlets that provide regular coverage of their local MLS teams.  Papers in these markets offer multiple articles a week and sections of their websites devoted to their local team.  Yet,   in Los Angeles, soccer doesn’t even make the primary lists of sports of the Times.

Some reporters have moved to other outlets to continue to cover the beautiful game (often in addition to their paper responsibilities).  Many fans are familiar with Steve Goff’s Insider and Soccer By Ives.  Others, like Dell’Apa contribute to ESPN or follow Andrea Canales’ lead to soccer publications.  Kyle McCarthy of the Herald has taken much of his content to Twitter.

So yes, soccer fans are typicaly an internet savvy bunch.  Many get their coverage through web sources, including first person accounts by fans and message boards such as Big Soccer and others.   Yet there is a huge soccer audience, largely under-acknowledged by these internet fans, that still relies on local papers for their news (whether online or in paper form).  When MLS is relegated to standings table or short AP blurb, their opportunity to follow the team is greatly diminshed. The absence of such local coverage is a severe detriment to the teams and the fans.

Perhaps more importantly, it is the local reporters that ask the tough questions of coaches and players before and after games.  Their familiarity with the team allows them to provide unique insight not available to the national media.  Without local reporters, fans are left to their own observations or those of the web sources where analysis frequently turns to argument.  Local coverage allows fans to get closer to their teams whil providing a typically objective and reasonable view of the day-to-day of the squad.

So is local coverage still necessary?  Is it important?  How does your local paper cover soccer/MLS?  Please let us know your thoughts.

Soccer Business Bits: TV Madness

soccertvThe big TV item of the week was broken by Steve Goff over the weekend, when he reported the news that the USA/Honduras World Cup Qualifier would not be available on American household televisions.  According to Goff and other subsequent reports, the rights to the American broadcast of the match are held by a Spanish based firm that specializes in the Pay-per-view and closed circuit broadcasts.  Because FIFA grants televsion rights to the host nation in qualifiers, the USSF had no input into the sale of the English language broadcasts.  Efforts were made by ESPN to purchase the rights to the game, however the asking price was reportedly too high.

Following close on the heels of the Mun2 Mexico/USA broadcast, this news is sure to raise the ire of American soccer fans.  Obviously the purchaser of the rights feels that its purchase is financially sound and that it will make its money back on the game.  There are reports that the broadcast will only be offered in commercial settings.  Thus, there needs to be enough bars and other locations will to pony up for the rights and willing to close off their bars to paying crowds on a Saturday night in October. It is also possible that in the next month, an English language outlet will purchase the rights and bring the game to American televisions.

In other TV news, this Friday represents the lone ESPN2 broadcast of MLS in September. The late night match-up features a well rested San Jose team against Colorado in San Jose.  Fortunately for MLS fans, the broadcast is preceded by boxing (and not College Football).   As a result, there is a strong likelihood that the MLS game will start on time.  Over the weekend, FSC will broadcast the Chivas/Seattle game from Qwest in a mid-day 3:00 p.m. start.  The game should show well on television and will be an important playoff battle.

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