Looking Forward to 2011

Yesterday we recapped our top five 2010 stories from the world of American soccer business.  Today, we thought it worth taking a look at the coming year to predict the big business stories for 2011.  We’ll dispense with the list format, but here are some thoughts on what will make headlines in 2011.

The Womens World Cup will go forward this Summer from Germany and American sports fans will again have the opportunity to embrace womens soccer.  The struggling WPS could certainly use the boost and a successful run by the American team could generate interest in the fledgling league.  The Cup may represent the last, best, chance for the league to generate publicity and bring fans to their stadiums.  At the same time, this version of US team is lacking some of the dominant personalities of past teams, and neither the team nor the individual players have captured the attention of the casual fan.

Sticking with the National Team, the 2011 Gold Cup will be played throughout the United States.  Although arguably played too frequently, the tournament is a big revenue generator as it provides ex-pats from a number of countries the rare opportunity to see the teams from their homelands playing live.  Unlike some versions of the Gold Cup, the 2011 version will likely feature the top players, as the teams are vying for a spot in the 2013 Confederations Cup.  The games have been scheduled for a mix of soccer specific stadiums and larger football venues.  For a stadium like Red Bull Arena, the game provides both an opportunity to generate game day revenues and show the beauty of the stadium to another audience.

MLS stadiums and expansion are a last big business story for 2011.  Stadiums will open in Kansas City, Vancouver and Portland.  The Timbers and Whitecaps will join the league giving MLS a further hold in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.  Attendance for these new teams promises to rival some of the better attendance numbers in the league.  One big question will be whether television ratings follow.  We have documented the ongoing negotiations between MLS and FSC.  Ratings for MLS have been flat despite success at the gate and the popularity of international soccer.  Will footholds in more markets equal better ratings?