The Wednesday After

After about 48 hours without power, we are back up and running here (although many in the area may have another week without juice).  We are way behind on our business news, but here are a couple of stories from the last couple of days.

The George John transfer from FC Dallas to Blackburn fell through.  Last week we noted that under league policy, FC Dallas would receive 2/3 of the transfer funds while the league will receive the rest.  FC Dallas would have been able use $650k of the transfer funds as allocation money to purchase new players and pay for more talent.  Even thought the deal fell through (reportedly because John and Blackburn couldn’t agree on terms), FC Dallas comes out a winner.  The retain the talents of John for the rest of the season while sending a message to players and agents that they are willing to transfer players that are looking to move on to bigger clubs. This type of reputation is extremely positive in the world of soccer.

On the attendance front, it was a solid weekend for MLS, with the ususal big crowds in Seattle (36k+), Vancouver (20k+) and Toronto (21k+).  Chicago edged past 15k while Sporting sold standing room seats and passed 20k.  Chivas rounded out the weekend with more than 14k.  Obviously, a number of games were postponed because of the weather.   MLS and its clubs deserve credit for acting early to move these games.  While the Giants and Jets were dithering about their Saturday game until late, MLS was proactive in trying to change the time and date of multiple match-ups.

Finally, WPS’ newest franchise also became its newest champion in the WPS Championship presented by Citi.  Western New York beat Philadelphia at Sahlen Stadium before a crowd of more than 10k.  While there were some turbulent times for WPS in its third season, the league deserves credit for seeing the campaign through to the end and showcasing an exciting  final.

The Monday After…Irene

“The Monday After” will be pushed to tomorrow as the power is still being restored in my area after Tropical Storm Irene dumped 6-10″ of rain in the Greater Hartford area.

Enter Irene

We were going to devote this post to one of our semi-regular looks at stadium construction and development around Major League Soccer.  However, with Hurricane Irene churning up the coast, it makes sense to put off the stadium discussion until next week.  Games in New York and Philly have already been postponed and other games have had their start times modfied.  From a business perspective, the postponment of the Galaxy/Red Bulls matchup is a disappointment for the league.  The match has long been announced as a sell out and was teed up for an ESPN2 broadcast on Saturday night.  While the network will still televise the game, the match will now be a Tuesday night at 8:00 with a strong liklihood that the sold out crowd will not turn out en masse.

Regardless, we want to wish everyone good health and safety this weekend as the storm makes its way North. Even here in Hartford, we are expecting some significant weather on Sunday. It seems the entire Northeast is in the cross hairs of Irene.

Be safe

More Soccer Business Bits:

Lots of smaller business stories worth noting from the last couple of days.  We’ll start with an announcement from MLS and Neulion to increase the league’s mobil device reach.  According to the press release, the league and Neulion announced the launch of MLS MatchDay Live on Panasonic Viera Connect TVs and Roku devices across North America.  Subscribers will be able to watch over 200 games live, as well as view on demand video such as previously broadcasted MLS games and highlights. MatchDay Live is available to fans as a subscription-based service in HD quality via PC, iPad, Roku box, Roku 2 box and Panasonic Viera TV.

Great article by John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal about NBC Sports’ efforts to compete with ESPN.  The essence of the piece is that NBC is counting on its high quality production and promotion with the NHL and MLS as a stepping stone to bigger sports properties.  This should be music to MLS fans’ ears.  If NBC believes that MLS is a ticket to greener pastures, the network has every motivation to devote significant resources to league.

One final business note.  George John’s transfer from FC Dallas to Blackburn is reportedly concluded with the former collegian becoming the lastest league product to parlay his time into MLS into bigger things.  Under league policy, FC Dallas will recive 2/3 of the transfer funds while the league will receive the rest.  FC Dallas can then use $650k of the transfer funds as allocation money to purchase new players and pay for more talent.

The Status of

Yesterday we discussed some of the great success enjoyed in year two of the revamped  Page views are up and the site has become a hub for soccer news seeking web surfers.  Today, the site launched a great project chronicling North American Soccer.  Check here for a link.

We thought it worth taking a look at how far the site has come.  Below, please see part two of our interview with Greg Lalas from the Spring of 2010.

Last month, the new replaced the outgoing with great fanfare, as MLS took its website in house and completely redesigned the format and content.  At the start, an array of technical issues created an uproar among MLS fans unable to access stats, video and other features of the website.  While the technical issues have significantly improved, many fans are still getting accustomed to the new types of articles and commentary available on the site.  Presiding over the content side of the new site is Editor-in-Chief Greg Lalas. A former player in MLS, Mr. Lalas has also been a broadcaster for the New England Revolution and written for sites such as  Mr. Lalas was kind enough to chat with about the new site, the technical issues and the content.  Because of the length of the interview, we have broken it into two parts.  Part I is here.  Thanks to Mr. Lalas.

FB: What role will sponsors have on the site?  Will we see ads for official league sponsors or other companies coming up as part of the content or clickable content on the front page?

GL: There will certainly be ads for our sponsors. With the new editorial direction and the new creation of content, we are presenting opporunties for the sponsors to be involved and sponsor the content.  We have this great video feature called the debate team which is almost a spoof of Crossfire, but it will involve very serious discussion about the game.  These new content things we are coming up seem to me to present  an opportunity for a sponsor to be involved.

FB: How have the numbers been as far as traffic?

GL: So far we are pleased with what we have. Considering all the problems, I think we are ok…they keep going up.  The site was designed to really grow traffic and engage the user, and so I think that once all of these smaller issues and a lot of the features that are still not there yet, as soon as they come on line, I’m expecting traffic to grow greatly.

FB:  Have there been significantly fewer complaints about the MatchDay Live feature over the last few weeks?

GL: Yes. That is one of the things that I think is incredible about the site, the video. There have been some issues with it, but they are cleaning it up.  It’s hard to beat that quality when it is working that way its supposed to.  The quality on the site, I would say, is incomprable.

Thanks again to Greg Lalas for a few minutes.

Soccer Business Bits: NBC Starts Promotions, MLS Web Success & More

MLS fans curious to see how the league’s new deal with the Peacock would increase the visibility of the league got a glimpse of NBC’s promotional power during the recent Sunday Night Football broadcast.  The 20 second spot ran during the Cowboys/Chargers game and teased fans with the upcoming 2012 NBC MLS broadcasts.  To see the clip click here.  Not surprisingly, the ad features Beckham, Donovan and Henry, but Brek Shea, Kenny Cooper and Luke Rogers also got some air time.  The ad was well produced and showed a good mix of stars, goals and atmosphere.  It is actually quite impressive that NBC produced a promo spot for soccer broadcasts 7 months before the network’s first league telecast.  Fans are rightly excited by the message sent by NBC Sports.

According to an article in the most recent Sports Business Journal, had its best month ever, with more than 3 million unique visitors, a 30 percent increase over July, 2010.  According to the article, the All-Star Game was the site’s most trafficked day ever.  SBJ also notes that the site employees a total of 65 people in full time and part time positions. In our view, the site has steadily improved and evolved into a top destination for soccer news.  Perhaps most impressive is the breadth of video and other multimedia offerings.  Fans are treated to almost instant highlights, informative podcasts and more.  For our 2010 interview with site editor Greg Lalas, click here.

One final note, the New York Times ran a piece looking at the struggles of the Newark Bears, an Independent minor league baseball team.  The piece suggests that Newark made a terrible choice when it rejected the Red Bulls in favor of baseball.  While some fans might shudder at the seeming comparison between top tier soccer an unaffiliated baseball, the article provides some interesting Red Bulls related information and quotes for readers not familiar with Red Bull Arena and the success the team has enjoyed since its move.

The Monday After

Another busy week/weekend in American soccer.  Before we get to the attendance picture, here are a couple of other business notes from the last few days.  We’ll start in the world of television, where Fox Soccer Plus has announced a free preview from August 22 to August 28.  The week long preview will include matches from Champions League, EPL, Ligue 1 and Serie A.  According to the network press release, the FOX Soccer Plus free preview is available on select FOX Soccer Plus affiliates:  AT&T, Bend Broadband, Blue Ridge, Cox, DIRECTV, Frontier, Full Channel, RCN, SureWest and Verizon.  Noticeably absent fro that list is the largest cable provider Comcast.  One other business note.  Multiple outlets are reporting that Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o has signed the richest player contract in soccer history topping out at almost $29 million per year.  If true, the deal would put Eto’o’s wage more than $10 million over that of Ronaldo and Messi.

On to attendance, where the week started with a slew of Wednesday matches.   The Revs hosted Houston on Wednesday night before just under 11,000.  Sporting was also at home on Wednesday and played in front of more than 15k.  Chicago mustered almost 16k for their nationally televised match against DC United. On Saturday, the Revs rode the Red Bulls lone visit to Gillette to a crowd of almost 19,000.  Perpetually disappointing Columbus fell just short of 14k.   Houston fell just shy of 16,250, Portland saw more than 18,200 and Colorado impressed with almost 17k.  Dallas dragged down the average with 11,600 but Robbie Keane’s debut brought a full house of 27k to the HDC bringing the weekend average over 17,500. Perhaps most impressive, more than 10k fans came out to see the Timbers and Whitecaps reserves square off on Sunday.  Chicago hosted more than 12k on Sunday for their 2-0 victory over Toronto on Sunday.

In WPS playoff action, more than 5400 fans turned out for Philadelphia’s 2-0 victory over Magicjack.  The game was held at PPL Park.

Soccer Business Bits: Vancouver Season Tickets, Champions League Attendance & More

Time for a quick look at some business items around MLS and US Soccer.  We’ll start in Vancouver, where the Whitecaps have set their season ticket prices for year two.  According the Vancouver Sun, season tickets at BC Place will increase by 1-3% in year two of the team’s Major League Soccer tournament.   The lowest end ticket will go for $329 (a $10 raise) while the most expensive season tickets will sell for $988 (a $22 jump).  Interestingly the pricing schedule is based on a 17 game regular season and 2 Nutrilite Canadian Championship matches.  However, the amount of games to be played in MLS remains a mystery with Montreal joining in 2012. It is unclear how the team will handle pricing if the schedule changes.  Vancouver has more than 15k season ticket holders in 2011 and hopes to increase that number as the team moves to BC Place.

It was a banner week for Major League Soccer in the first round of group stage games in the CONCACAF Champoins League.  5 squads from MLS qualfied for this phase of the tournament that is continuing its rise prominence. Success at the gate however, is difficult to measure.  Just over 8k fans made it to the Home Depot Center for the Galaxy’s home match on Wednesday.  Colorado managed just half that number for their home win.  Just over 10k came out to Qwest for Sounders home victory. The away matches were also fairly lightly attended.

We’ll end with some quick hits. Multiple sources are reporting on a possible George John transfer to EPL side Blackburn. If the move goes through, it should represent a tidy profit for FC Dallas and MLS and would provide a glimpse into the potential benefits of the new DP focus on young players. Elsewhere, the machinations of the Galaxy and Chivas USA surrounding the trade of Juan Pablo Angel and transfer of Robbie Keane are complete.  With all paperwork reportedly finalize, Keane is set to debut for Los Angeles.



Where Do You Get Your Soccer Fix

Over the years we have learned that are readers are savvy consumers of soccer media who use multiple sources to check soccer news, keep in touch with other fans and follow trends in the beautiful game.  Because a large part of what we cover is the soccer media, we thought it was time for the first Footiebusiness poll since 2009.   The poll seeks to track the source of our readers’ soccer information sources.

We’ve tried to limit the answers to some of the most popular sources of online soccer knowledge. The poll only lets you vote for one choice, but feel free to refresh your browser to vote for all that apply.

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. Other fans prefer sites like BigSoccer that allow fans to interact with each and provide informed (and uninformed) thoughts with each other.

Soccer Journalists such as Steve Goff and Ives Galarcep also enjoy big followings.  Their blogs have long been go to sources for MLS, USMNT and general soccer news.  Fans also use those sites to post comments and react to events in the soccerverse.  Other fans still go to local newspapers (whether in print or via the web) for detailed coverage of their favorite team.

If you use a source not mentioned in the poll, please let us know.  What are the best sources of information?

MLS Changes Designated Player Rule

During an afternoon conference call with the media on Tuesday, Major League Soccer’s Vice President of Competition and Player Relations announced a significant change to the league’s Designated Player rule.  The call was attended by various print, online and broadcast media outlets and was hosted by Dan Courtemanche, the league’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications.

Boiled to its essence, the amended DP rule allows teams that sign players 20 and under that would count as DPs while significantly lessening the salary budget.  There is a similar reduction for players 23 and under.  In real terms, the salary budget “hit” for the youngest DP’s will be only $125,000 while the older group counts at $200,00.  This significantly reduces the percentage of salary budget taken up by younger designated players while theoretically providing teams with extra motivation to pursue rising stars around the globe.  The new rule will specifically not apply to American and Canadian players.  As Mr. Durbin rightly pointed out during the call, the Generation Adidas program provides a mechanism for the best American stars to avoid impacting team budgets.

During the call, Durbin repeatedly emphasized that teams had been reluctant to purchase young potential stars because the risk of “missing” on such a purchase could significantly burden a team budget.  Teams can also take risks on players with the hope that they can earn significant value during a future sale of same player.  Announcing the change now allows teams to start the process of locating and securing these types of players well in advance of ther 2012 campaign.

Overall this seems like a great move for the league. The promise of more players like Fabian Castillo and Freddy Montero coming to MLS is certainly a positive for the league.  Such players add quality to the league, increase excitement among fans interested in following young talents and bring the possibility of significant sales in the future.