Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Problem with Women

Courtesy of Goal.com
If you happened to tune into NBC Sports Sunday night, you saw the United States Women's National Team (USWNT) knock off Canada 4-0 in Vancouver to win the CONCACAF Olympic Tournament and secure their spot in London this summer. The team was led by up-and-coming forward Alex Morgan who scored four minutes into the match, then provided two assists before finishing off her night with a second goal. Abby Wambach, the work horse of the US frontline, made up the other two goals on the night to run her all-time total to 131 in 171 matches; amazing statistic. The team is loaded with excellent players; Lauren Cheney, Hope Solo, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Christie Rampone, and Heather O'Reilly. To say the team rebounded from their last major tournament, losing in the 2011 World Cup finals to Japan, is a bit of an understatement. For the tournament the team accumulated victories over the Dominican Republic (14-0), Guatemala (13-0), Mexico (4-0), and Canada (4-0) for a margin of victory of 35-0. Give Canada some credit, their program has come from out of nowhere to be one of just 12 teams playing in the Olympics this summer and their performance on Sunday night was sub-par based on earlier matches in the tournament. We may be looking at the greatest USWNT in history based on their margins victory and just potential stardom of their players. But as the trophy was being lifted Sunday Night in Vancouver, the draft copies of a press release were being polished off for Monday release by the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) league.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Footnotes

Courtesy of MLSsoccer.com/Getty Images

If you tuned into FOX last Sunday morning for the first EPL match broadcasted live on network television, you were one of about 1.3 million viewers to see Arsenal lose to Manchester United. Though the numbers fell well short of the 2.0 million estimate that some analyst were hoping for, the results was still very good for soccer on network television especially without an NFL game immediately following on the same channel. Steven Goff, Soccer Insider for the Washington Post, explained the ratings in a tweet saying "keep in mind no one is watching TV on a Sunday morning except soccer and Meet the Press fans." While we take exception to Meet the Press reference (we follow This Week on ABC instead), Mr. Goff does have a point. Take into consideration that several markets including the soccer hot bed of Milwaukee chose to stick with their standard Sunday morning infomercials in lieu of showing the live broadcast. On a typical Saturday or Sunday morning, FoxSoccer will typically draw in the neighborhood of 300k to 400k viewers for a match between the big four clubs. Frankly, FOX knew they would maintain that audience and bring in several hundred thousand more viewers by putting it on network television. In comparison, the NFL matches later that day drew roughly 40 million viewers each, but I'm sure you could have guessed that. So why did FOX decide to show the match on their network instead of FoxSoccer? Forbes magazine had a great article earlier this week about FOX's push into soccer in America and worldwide. A few months ago it was announced that FOX had beat out NBC and ESPN for the right to host the World Cup and all men's and women's national team matches 2015 to 2022. A bit of a coup considering ESPN will have held the rights for almost 20 years when they finish up with the 2014 World Cup. Shortly before that, ESPN and FOX lost out to NBC for the rights to broadcast MLS starting in 2012; NBC changing Versus into NBC Sports Network where most of the MLS matches will be shown. The next big battle ground is the 3-year television rights for the EPL which will be negotiated this spring for the 2013/14 through 2015/16 seasons with expectations of bringing in over $3B worldwide. ESPN is holding on by a thread to any presence in soccer in the American sports television landscape. So naturally you would think that ESPN would go all-in on the EPL broadcast rights in an attempt to stay relevant to soccer fans. ESPN's 1 or 2 matches a week now are only the result of a contract buy-out they got "on the cheap" from Setanta going bankrupt. In all honesty, the days of Ian Darke and Steve McManaman on ESPN will likely be coming to an end in the spring of 2013, but just like Rob Stone moved from ESPN to FOX expect a similar transition for commentators to the new leader in soccer broadcasting. It will be interesting to see the result of the EPL negotiations, but regardless of the results FOX will ended up as the new leader in soccer broadcasting in America... if they aren't already!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Orlando City Supporters Summit Recap

2012 Umbro Home Kit
Courtesy of Orlando City SC
It seemed like only days ago that Orlando City announced the arrival of professional soccer to the City Beautiful and only days ago that same club lifted the USL PRO trophy. In actuality it has been almost 5 months since the team win the championship at the Citrus Bowl, but never to rest on their accomplishments the franchise has been hard at work in the off season. This became even more apparent to the hundreds of fans that packed into the Mojo Bar and Grill in downtown Orlando tonight for City's first annual Supporters Summit. The legends of Lions faithful rub elbows with the front office staff, players, and coaches in a spectacle that is atypical of the USL PRO level teams and unusual even for those in MLS.

The festivities started a bit late due to the larger than expected crowds and some of that classic downtown Orlando rush hour traffic keeping people from arriving on time. No worries, the additional half hour allowed for the atmosphere to building from legions of followers of The Ruckus and the Iron Lion Firm as well as other supporter groups. After priming the crowd with a fantastic team-produced video package, the franchise faces took the stage, that being Phil Rawlins, Adrien Heath, and Alex Wolf.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 22

Courtesy of Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Depending on who you listen to on the web and twitter, this weekend in the EPL was the most important match of the season for some teams. 4 of the top 5 teams were playing each other with Man City hosting Tottenham and Man United traveling to Arsenal. Chelsea also had to go on the road to Norwich which has been a tough place to play this season. For the Manchester squads the weekend was like any other for the top 2, the chance to draw even in points or slightly further apart, but by no means elimination from the title run. However, if the results fell the wrong way, Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arsenal could all be written off from the title race and this could truly become a 2 horse race. Those were the stakes coming into the weekend, and if you like a Manchester team you were not disappointed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Footnotes

Courtesy of www.guardian.co.uk/football
Beckham's Buy Option

With much less pomp and circumstance than his arrival in MLS in 2008, David Beckham and the LA Galaxy announced the midfielder's signing of a new 2 year contract that will see him playing until he is 38 years old. While the offers from Europe offered more money upfront, (PSG offered $17.5M for 18 months) the option of a reduced fee for an MLS team after his retirement was too much to pass up. The clause was part of Beckham's original contract where he would be given the option to buy a new MLS franchise outright at a reduce fee. Montreal, who enters the league this season, paid a $40M fee and it is expected that if the 20th team ends up in NYC it could have an entry fee of $100M; a bit steep in my opinion. What isn't known by the casual follower of the Beckham experiment is the clauses to the clauses. Part of Beckham's previous buy option had an exclusion for teams in LA and NYC, meaning if NYC2 occurs and Beckham was retired he couldn't apply his option to that team. While the specifics of his new deal are slowly leaking out one thing is clear that the option has been "slightly modified" from the original offer. Tim Leiweke, chief executive officer of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the Los Angeles-based company that owns the Galaxy alluded to the modifications in the option during the press conference yesterday. He stated that, "the partners in the league have structured that option in a way that will allow David to become a partner in the league, to become an owner in the league at some point in the near future and operate and run his own franchise, and were going to encourage that." The previous option allowed for outright ownership of a new franchise, but Leiweke's wording leads you to believe that perhaps it would mean a majority ownership option of a new or existing team. In the case of AEG, they own 100% of the LA Galaxy and 50% of the Houston Dynamo, so perhaps Beckham's buy option lies in Houston. MLS approached AEG and Hunt Sports Group (HSG) in 2007 and informed both groups that they wanted to move away from the multiple-teams-single-owner arrangement so AEG sold half their interest in Houston to Brener International Group and Goldenboy Productions (aka Oscar De La Hoya). Of course the actual wording of the new Beckham buy option have been released yet, but if this all holds true then you can expect all things to be a go for the 20th team to still be announced this year. We will keep you posted on this as it impacts our followers in Orlando and NYC as potential MLS expansion sites.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Orlando's Path to MLS

It's not news that Orlando City S.C. is working to gain a franchise in Major League Soccer (MLS); owner Phil Rawlins has stated that since he relocated the team from Austin. It's not news that Orlando City has been in discussions with MLS about a franchise; Don Garber and City's front office have confirmed talks and non-disclosure agreements. It's not news that the entire southeast of the country is absent of a MLS team; odd for an otherwise "national" league that stretches from east to west and into Canada. And, of course, it's not news that MLS wants the 20th expansion team to be in New York City. What is news is the path for Orlando to join MLS is becoming increasingly more clear. The dynamics of having a league that contracted to just 10 teams in 2001 and has since expanded to 19 teams for the 2012 season has caused a shift from the traditionally strong sports town to less traditional locations. Don't be confused with our other articles, this is an opinion piece, but it is based on facts gathered as part of our research and reporting for other stories. Here is our view of how Orlando can find its way into Major League Soccer in the near future.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 21

Courtesy of Skysports.com
Contrary to popular belief, "The Keeper" was not holding out for a new contract or a trade as part of the mid-season transfer window. In all honesty with Christmas and New Year's falling on weekends, Monday didn't lend itself well to blogging about the weekends matches, especially if I didn't watch any of them. Instead I spent the time with family, which is a rare occurrence with us spread out all over the country. Don't get me wrong, there was some soccer in my holidays. Santa brought me a nice selection of Manchester City swag including a garden gnome, calendar, and "Why Always Me" t-shirt so I can channel my inner Mario Balotelli. Besides, with the mix of mid-week games over the last several weeks it is hard to delineate the end of one week's worth of games and the start of the next. Anyway, enough about my excuses, let's get to the task at hand, Week 21 of the EPL and the second half of the season.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Orlando Lions: Part 1 (Vision - 1986)

Not only are neon shirts and aviators glasses back in style, but there is a professional soccer team here in Orlando who are nicknamed the Lions. They have held their own against first division European teams, are trying to join the highest levels of American soccer, and would eventually like to build a soccer specific stadium. Sure sounds like 1985 all over again. Orlando has had a rich history of soccer, from being a featured city for the 1994 World Cup, playing host to several international friendly competitions, and a having several college level programs. Orlando City is coming off a tremendous inaugural season in USL PRO and with their sights firmly fixed on gaining membership into Major League Soccer we thought it would be great to look back at the history of the Orlando Lions. Over the next few weeks we will jump in our soccer DeLorean and travel back in time to a time when soccer in Orlando was just getting started. Hopefully these articles will bring back fond memories for Lions fans of old and help fill in some of the history of the team for new fans. We have old pictures, game programs, and lots of information to share, enjoy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

WTF? What's The FAcup?

If you flipped through the various soccer channels this weekend looking for the regular selection of English Premier League matches, you may have been a bit confused. Sure you could find Manchester City hosting Manchester United, but then Tottenham Hotspur played Cheltenham, Fulham beat Charlton, and who the hell is Sheffield Wednesday (who beat West Ham)? You may have thought Dagenham & Redbridge were a 1970’s folk band or that Brighton & Hove Albion was a new law firm in England. No my friends, it wasn’t a prolong new year’s hangover, at least we hope, you found yourself right in the middle of the 3rd round of the FAcup. So now we will attempt to explain the tournament in the only manner which makes sense to our audience, by comparing it to American sports tournaments.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

11 Questions: Phil Rawlins (President, Orlando City S.C.)

Courtesy of Orlando City S.C.
The Scoring Third is an Orlando-based soccer blog, so I would be remised if I didn't admit to being a bit of a "homer" when it comes to our local professional soccer team, Orlando City F.C. Although we typically focus our 11 Questions series on players, we thought it would be great to reach out to our hometown club to see if we could get an interview. Needless to say, the front office staff was very responsive and we were able to hook-up with Orlando City's President, Phil Rawlins, to get the inside story on the club and its plans for 2012 and beyond. What better way to start off the new year for a Lions fan, right?

Originally hailing from Stoke-on-Trent, England, Phil Rawlins has been living and working in the United States for the last two decades. Although he accumulated his wealth through several information technology and consulting companies, his passion has more recently focused on professional soccer club ownership. He is on the board of directors for Stoke City F.C. of the English Premier League and purchased the USL-level Austin Aztex in 2007. He decided to move the team and his family to Orlando in 2011 with a new group of partners in an effort to gain a more favorable market for growth and possible MLS expansion. In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of the club Phil is deeply involved with growing soccer in Central Florida. With the recent addition of soccer camps, clinics, and satillite training facilities for the team, Rawlins' vision for the franchise goes well beyond the walls of the Citrus Bowl. With his wife, Kay Rawlins, as the director of community relations for the club, this is more than just a business venture, but rather a family affair.

With a successful inagural year in Orlando, winning the USL-PRO Championship, and rumors filling the internet of potential MLS expansion discussions, we were excited to have a few minutes with Phil to discuss what is in the works for the club.

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