Two years ago, WPS launched with great fanfare, including the signing of world star Marta, a relationship with PUMA, a television relationship with FSC and a promise to provide quality soccer without budget busting salaries. Early in 2010, the league announced its first league specific stadium in Atlanta and expansion plans. Yet by the end of the year (despite a new team in Western New York), more teams had folded, (including the reigning champions), players were scrambling for teams and the league’s finances looked shaky. The league is moving forward with 6 teams in 2011, but WPS’ failure to gain traction on the eve of Womens World Cup year could prove the league’s death knell.
4. Soccer Stadiums
The rush to build soccer specific stadiums in the US and Canada continued in 2010, with the opening of Red Bull Arena, ground breaking in Kansas City and renovations in Portland. A new stadium opened in Atlanta and another in Philly. Houston moved closer to a stadium reality while Vancouver continued its renovation of BC Place. In the last five years, soccer stadiums have become fixtures in American cities across the country and more stadiums are coming in 2011, but 2010 was watershed year for stadium construction, planning and financing. Stadium construction cams and 3D stadium viewers became “must clicks” as fans followed construction progress across the country.
Few sports fans are as devoted to social networking sites as soccer supporters. Because of the lack of soccer coverage in mainstream media, soccer fans are forced to the web to follow their favorite teams and games abroad. Twitter has provided the perfect vehicle for fans to keep track of live matches, interact with players and journalists and discuss the beautiful game 140 characters at a time. Anecdotaly, Twitter use among soccer follower has exploded in 2010, with even technophiles recognizing the value of Twitter as a source for information on the beautiful game.
2. MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement
It was just a few months ago that the MLS season seemed in doubt. The league and Players Union couldn’t agree on on a new CBA and Free Agency seemed an impossible sticking point. The league was determined to hold onto its single entity structure while he players clamored for more freedom to change teams. Then following a marathon mediation session just days before the season was set to kick off in Seattle, the parties announced an agreement on March 20, setting the stage for five years of labor peace. There is now a flicker of free agency in MLS, a growing youth setup and expanding rosters. Both sides can be happy with the deal, as it allows the league and players to move forward with financial security.
1. World Cup Coverage
In June of 2010, the World Cup was the biggest sports story in the United States. ESPN devoted hundreds of hours of progamming to the tournament, sports radio was forced to provide intervies and commentary and newspapers across the country led with game stories and photos of South Africa. Despite mid-day start times, ratings were extradordinary and soccer became watercooler fodder across the country. Whether the tournament becomes a stepping stone to a greater place in the American sports hierarchy for the beautiful game remains to be seen, but for one month, soccer ruled the airwaves in America.
That is our top five. Do you agree?