Soccer Business Bits: Wizards’ Stadium Moves Forward, 2010 Uniforms & More

A final agreement has been reached on the Wizards’ plan to build a new stadium as part of a $414 million dollar development in Wyandotte County.  The deal will be paid for in part by $ 85 million in state money and more than $144 million in STAR bonds.  In addition to the stadium, the project will include a new office complex, youth fields.  Based on a vote of the County government, construction is set to start as early as today.

The STAR bonds are a Kansas State program that relies on “transient guests” to pay the bonded amount over a 20 year period. For more on the program, click here. The stadium wasn’t built for April, 2009 (as initially promised when the team was purchased by OnGoal LLC), but it looks like it will be ready sometime in 2011 (or the start of 2012).  This is great news for the franchise, as the Wizards can now move out of the cozy confines of Community America Ballpark and move into their own home.  Click here for more on the project.

In apparel news, PUMA has unveiled its 2010 WPS uniforms within hours of conducting the 2010 player draft. The uniforms are available for pre-order through the WPS site and include expansion side Atlanta and the rest of the teams in the League.  Recall that PUMA is a founding member of WPS and the official sport, apparel and lifestyle sponsor of the league.

In MLS, the 2010 jerseys are also for sale, with the adidas jerseys now offered through the league website.  Long sleeve versions are featured and the Philly uniform (that had previously been revealed) is one of the offerings.  MLS is also promoting its new adidas match ball.  For more on the two leagues’ efforts to sell product through its website, click here.

Finally, stadium efforts in Houston are not going as well as those in in Kansas City, but it has not kept Dynamo fans from working to move things along.  For more on those efforts, click here.

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Major League Soccer & Charity

Every so often, we take a look at American Soccer’s charitable efforts.  We have looked at MLS W.O.R.K.S, Passback and individual team efforts.  With the ongoing crisis in Haiti, the great efforts by Seth Stammler, and the recent appeal of former Red Bull Jozy Altidore for aid to his parents’ homeland, we thought it worthwhile to take another look at some of the charitable efforts promoted by MLS and its players.

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, MLS is promoting the national “Day of Service” that honors the former civil rights leader.  MLS is driving interest to the Day of Service through the WORKS program and the effort was the lead story on MLSnet on January 18.

At the same time, MLS is partnering with UNICEF to aid children impacted by the earthquake in Haiti.  Again through its WORKS  program, MLS is providing links for donations and service to the United Nations’ charitable arm.  According the the official website, MLS and the NBA are the two American sports leagues to partner witih UNICEF in response to the Haitian tragedy.

Finally, a special word about Red Bulls’ midfielder Seth Stammler and his personal efforts to assist the tiny island nation.  After a 2006 visit to the country with musician Wycleaf-Jean, Stammler started the Sporting Chance Foundation to provide water and academic aid to children in Haiti.  His interest in Haiti pre-dates the tragic events of last week, but in the rebuilding to come his efforts will be even more important.

Soccer Business Bits: New MLS Sponsor, Sol Sold? & More

Sports Business Daily (sister publication to the Sports Business Journal), is reporting that longtime FIFA sponsor Continental Tire has signed with MLS as a league sponsor.  The multi-year deal provides signage at all MLS matches, hospitality arrangements at games and commercials on league broadcasts.  As is typical for such league-wide deals, SUM negotiated the deal on behalf of MLS and terms of the deal were not disclosed.  Continental is now the official tire of MLS and will have the right to use league marks in its advertising and product.

Elsewhere, there have been multiple reports that showcase WPS franchies Los Angeles Sol is in the process of being sold by AEG to group committed to keeping the team in Los Angeles.  The Sol are led by Brazilian star Marta, but lost a reported $2 million last year despite being the only team in WPS to have a shirt sponsorship.  The deal, with Amway International, includes the Amway name on the jersey, stadium signage and placement on an array of Sol items.  In a separate deal, Marta signed a three year endorsement deal with the company.

Finally, the Galaxy are promoting “Galaxy night” at a Los Angeles Kings game.  Bruce Arena and Cobi Jones will be at the signing autographs.  Discount tickets will be offered for $19.  Unfortunately, the Galaxy provide very limited information about the game on their website; the link simply takes you to a TicketMaster page. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Kings are promoting the game in any day.

Covering the Coverage: MLS SuperDraft

As promised, we are providing some analysis of MLS SuperDraft coverage from around the country. Before we get into the ESPN broadcast, a couple of quick notes.  First, Philly.com, provided a fairly comprehensive running blog of the draft from the convention center in Philadelphia.  Each pick was announced and fans permitted the opportunity to comment.  ESPN provided similar coverage hosted by Ives.  As is typical for the draft, there were stories in a number of local papers where potential draftees were either raised or went to college.  The usual cast of soccer journalists, including Steve Goff and Kyle McCarthy also provided regular updates.

Prior to the draft, ESPN’s coverage was fairly disappointing, as there was no reference to the event anywhere on either the home page or Soccernet’s front page.  However, they should be commended for their television coverage.  The entire first round was presented on ESPN2 and the broadcast was sharp, well produced and modeled after their NFL draft coverage.  The show was hosted by Rob Stone, with Harkes and Lalas joining him in studio.  Alan Hopkins manned the convention center and provided interviews and insights from the floor.

The broadcast was presented by adidas, and commercial advertisers included McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Scottrade, the Post Office and AT&T.  Commericals were actually few and far between.  Screen graphics were easy to follow and highlights were well timed and presented professionally.  Kudos to the ESPN for devoting some of the down time during the draft to discuss the labor issues facing MLS with the ongoing negotiations of the CBA.  Harkes and Lalas did a good job hitting the issues of both sides.  Hopkins also had an interview with the Commish to discuss the negotiations.

MLS Expansion: Where we were

With the draft upon us, we believe the official start of the MLS 2010 season is here.  As we are getting ready to cover  the new season we started to look back at our posts from the winter of last year as we were gearing up for the 2009 campaign.  At the time, expansion was the hot topic, with a long list of cities vying for 2 2011 spots.  Since then, Portland and Vancouver have become  the big winners and the list of possible expansion cities for the next round have changed dramatically.  We thought we would re-visit some of that discussion in the last moments before the unofficial start to the new season.

When MLS officials announced the next round of expansion, St. Louis, Montreal and even Portland were among the favorites to land the new franchises.  Passed over in the prior round of expansion, St. Louis, lead by Attorney Jeffrey Cooper, landed a stadium deal and big name investors like Albert Pujols.  Nevertheless, MLS has long had concern about Cooper’s financial stability.

When Montreal  and Atlanta dropped out of the race (leaving Portland, Ottawa and Vancouver among the possibilities) the Gateway City seemed almost guaranteed a spot for 2011.  Then a dark horse entered the race in the form world famous F.C. Barcelona.

barca

The Spanish powerhouse combined with Marcelo Claure and Florida International University to  submit a bid to bring MLS back to South Florida.  As MLS fans well know, the Miami Fusion entered the League as an expansion team in 1998 and were contracted just four years later.  That background, combined with South Florida’s rather weak history of supporting its teams (Florida Marlins anyone?), has lead many to scoff at any move back to the Miami area.  Add in the lack of a Soccer Specific Stadium (the team would share with the FIU Football team) and the Miami bid seems like a sure loser.

However, the leadership of MLS seems to disagree.  Apparently wowed by the glam of FC Barcelona and the billions in Claure’s pockets, the league seems eager to embrace South Florida.  Commissioner Don Garber just announced that if the Miami bid is accepted, the team would start play in 2010, a year ahead of schedule and at the same time as Philadelphia.

Count me among the unconvinced.  The “beloved” Miami Dolphins strugle to sell out their games, the Panthers are barely a blip on the Miami scene and Marlins are an annual embarassment.  Why would MLS be any different? The idea of 9,000 fans snoozing through Sunday afternoon game in 110 degree Miami August heat, is a nightmare scenario for supporters of the Leage.   MLS may love the idea of Barca dumping money into its coffers, but like Chivas before them, I see little chance of a big time soccer power adjusting to life in Major League Soccer.  League rules will not permit “Barca USA” to serve as a farm team of the parent club or as a way station for up and coming talents.  MLS should have no interest in serving as a marketing opportunity for the Spanish Giants.  As much as Barca might love the idea of selling jerseys in North America, I think the League would be far better served  taking $40 million from St. Louis and and Portland in 2011.

Soccer Business Bits: Portland Expansion Moves Forward, Fox Soccer Doubles Up & More

The Daily Journal of Commerce in Oregon is reporting that a final deal for the Timbers to move forward in the renovation of PGE Park could be in place by Thursday.   Construction has already begun on the PGE renovation despite the absence of a development deal thanks to a 3-2 vote last week.  That could all change Thursday if the proposal clears a final hurdle.  Apparently, Commissioner Amanda Fritz had been one of the folks not yet sold on the deal between owner Merritt Paulson and the City.  However, according to the cited report, Commissioner Fritz has had many of her concerns alleviated and the project may be set to move forward. A final vote is due at the end of the month that would clear the project to move forward in earnest and meet the 2011 opening date.

In media news, Fox Soccer Channel is reportedly set to add a second network devoted to the beautiful game.  The channel will be devoted to English and European soccer.  The channel is set to debut in March and will be called Fox Soccer Plus.  Some of the content will be derived from the staggering Setanta USA.  Not yet determined, is how the channel will be offered on American cable systems.  The network will reportedly carry games in HD.

Finally, there are multiple reports that Columbus has re-signed former League MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto.  Although terms of the deal have not been released, it has been announced that Columbus will not be  using its DP slot to retain the Argentininan midfielder’s services.  This continues a trend of MLS teams finding a way to keep high priced talent will using the allocatino funds or by simply reducing salary for former DPs.  Claudio Lopez agreed to a similar arrangment last season with Kansas City.

Soccer Business Bits: MLS Draft Coverage, Interliga Attendance & More

On Thursday, January 14, ESPN2 and ESPN360.com will again televise the MLS draft.  Coverage in the past has been modeled on ESPN’s extensive NFL draft coverage, with an onsite set, player interviews and graphics about each player.  Last year, ESPN’s coverage was fairly shaky as Stone, Lalas and crew tried to recreate the NFL experience.  Despite some discomfort among the talent, the show was fairly thorough and the network has alloted one hour to the coverage. We will provide a detailed review of the coverage on Friday morning.

Four games were on the weekend Interliga schedule with a pair of doubleheaders from the Home Depot Center.  On Saturday, a sparse crowd of less than 10k watched the final games of the group stage.  On Sunday, the doubleheader, anchored by Club America, drew a sellout crowd of 27k.  All of the games were televised on Fox Sports Espanol.  Tickets range from $20-$100 per seat for the mid-week final doubleheader.

Finally, last week the Union announced new seating options for their Chester stadium.  These three new premiums seating plans include parking and pre-game field access.  The plans range from $2,000 for a season’s worth of single game tickets to $10,000 for a table of four with food and drink.  The Super Club option is $7,500 per seat and includes tickets to 17 games and away travel, lodging and tickets to an away match.