Business of Soccer Archive

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NASL Commissioner Peterson: Canadian expansion talks in next 60-90 days

Bill Peterson

Bill Peterson

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson was in Edmonton for Sunday’s game between the Eddies and the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He was on hand to thank Edmonton City Council for approving the new $1.25-million permanent-football-line free turf that was installed at Clarke Stadium in July.

Of course, when he met with the press, the subject of expansion and a rumoured NASL Canada league came up.

And he said some expansion conversations are heating up.

“We have had discussion in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and over the next 60 to 90 days we expect to have more discussions in Canada,” said Peterson.
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MLS announces a major rebrand: Should the league have considered changing its name?

MLS_Next_126Major League Soccer has a new logo. Refreshingly, it does not have a soccer boot crashing into a ball, as the outgoing one did.

(For two decades, it was nice to be reminded by a soccer league that has “Soccer” in its name that, indeed, its teams do play soccer.)

The new logo is remarkably simple, with “MLS” in a simple wordmark on a stylized shield split into two halves. One half bears three stars — and the other is left blank. The shield’s colour scheme can be altered to match any of the league’s teams — and the cynic will say that’s a reminder of the fact that, even though you may have a club to call your own, in the end it’s the league office that controls contracts and calls the shots.

It’s also incredibly bold for a league to announce a change in the way it markets itself, going into a year where a new Collective Bargaining Agreement needs to be negotiated. The current CBA expires after this season.

“Our new brand and crest are the result of an iterative process that has helped us better understand the world in which we operate in. The outcome is not an evolution, but a revolution,” Howard Handler, the league’s chief marketing domo, said at a news conference held Thursday in New York.

But there’s something I hope came up at the marketing meetings. If MLS has decided to go ahead with a major rebranding of itself, it should tackle what is maybe its own worst enemy. And that’s its name.

Major League Soccer.
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Leiweke’s departure: Toronto soccer supporters can’t be blamed for fearing for the future

leiwekeNo doubt, the next few days worth of stories in the Toronto media will feature a lot of he-sad, she-said.

There will be speculation over the magical straw that broke the camel’s back at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. What was the major reason (or reasons) that spurred the company and its high-profile head to announce their impending divorce?

Was it the failure to get an NFL team? Or the rumoured dislike the Leiweke clan holds for the Canadian winter? The fact there are no In ‘N’ Out Burger outlets to be found in the GTA? Conflicts between the outgoing CEO and the MLSE board?

In the end, it doesn’t matter. The optics of the situation are simple. MLSE announced Thursday that CEO Tim Leiweke will step down by the end of next June, or earlier if a suitable replacement is found. And that means one of the highest-profile venue builders and managers in all of North American sport will fall well short of fulfilling even half of his five-year mandate.

And the question will be, if Leiweke is chewed up by the Toronto sports cauldron, who could take the job without being a well-paid yes-man? Thanos, maybe?
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Stats show link between number of draws and playoffs; are there lessons there for MLS?

MLS-logoAs of Thursday, 31.7 per cent of Major League Soccer’s game end in draws.

That’s not a number that falls far from the conventional soccer wisdom that says that between a quarter and 30 per cent of all games will end in ties. But, probability changes as the game evolves. And, if you look at other leagues around the world, the 30-per-cent-draw figure isn’t such an accurate reflection of how the game is being played nowadays. The rate of draws is actually closer to 20 per cent, if you look at the major Euro circuits.

In the previous English Premier League season, just 78 of 380 matches ended in draws — or a shade above 20 per cent. Major League Soccer has seen 61 draws already, in just 192 games played so far in 2014.

In the previous Bundesliga campaign, 64 of 306 matches ended in draws. Just a bit under 21 per cent, and consistent to the English trend. In Spain, 86 of 380 matches were even after full time, a rate of 22.6 per cent. A little higher than in England or Germany, but nowhere close to MLS.

In the 2013 season, MLS had a 25.4 draw percentage. Slightly higher than the elite-European-league norm, but 2014 is trending upwards, thanks to the likes of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire, who each have drawn more than half of the games on their schedules (and, so fitting, played to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday).
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13

FCE raves about new longer and wider pitch at Clarke Stadium

ClarkeTurfFor FC Edmonton’s players, there was cause for celebration, Tuesday.

After two and a half seasons of playing on the rock-hard, football-line filled turf at Clarke Stadium, the Eddies were able to train on the new FieldTurf surface for the first time.

“It’s quite nice,” said assistant coach Jeff Paulus. “It plays as close as we can get to real grass. I think it’s now the best artificial surface in the country. I can’t think of anything better.”

The installation of the $1.2 million, FIFA-approved turf at Clarke Stadium finishes two years worth of lobbying to get a surface that was free of the football lines. The lines can be painted on for junior and high-school football games played at the facility.

The new turf also allowed FC Edmonton the chance to expand the field dimensions — both length and width. The old dimensions saw the goal lines placed on the goal lines of a Canadian football field, 110 yards apart. The new field is now 115 yards long by 75 yards wide.
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8

Montopoli: Canada has no plans to share World Cup 2026 bid with another nation

Peter Montopoli

Peter Montopoli

The General Secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association made it clear: When Canada bids for the World Cup, it won’t have a dance partner.

Peter Montopoli was in Edmonton Wednesday, speaking to the Chamber of Commerce about the coming U-20 Women’s World Cup and the Women’s World Cup in 2015. But the Canadian Soccer Association’s bid for the 2026 World Cup, which is expected to go to FIFA some time in 2016, also came up.

And, when he was asked about the possibility of submitting a shared bid, Montopoli said the answer is no.

“It’s a single bid. It’s Canada, at this moment. It’s Canada, the Canadian Soccer Association that will be bidding, and we will continue along that line. There really have been no discussions on joint bids, either Mexico or the United States. It’s not a position we’re taking. It is a straight bid from the Canadian Soccer Association.”

Montopoli said that getting the 2026 World Cup would complete a journey that began in Edmonton in 2002, when 45,000 fans attended the final of the then-named U-19 Women’s World Championship, a predecessor of the U-20 Women’s World Cup. FIFA officials were startled by the Canadian suppot for women’s youth soccer, and that final put Canada on the road to hosting the U-20 World Cup in 2007, then the U-20 Women’s World Cup this year and the Women’s World Cup in 2015.
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Garber hints that Canadian-player rules in MLS may change: Why we need to look at minutes played, not roster spots

Don Garber

Don Garber

In a Facebook chat with fans held on Monday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber was greeted with the thorny question about Canadian players in the league.

Francis Ghanimé asked him: “Will Canadian players ever stop counting as internationals for American clubs?”

And this was the answer from the commish.

“We are working on a new approach to our international player rules as they relate to Canada. Stay tuned.”

We have asked MLS for more clarification on the issue.

But, we do know the rules as they pertain to Canadians are on the radar. We also know the Canadian Soccer Association has lobbied MLS to changes the rules so Canadians are seen as domestic players, league wide. This would then put MLS on an equal footing with USL-PRO, which allows Canadians to be domestics on U.S. clubs.

Right now, the Canadian teams are required to each carry three Canadian players on their rosters. On the U.S. teams, Canadians are counted as international players and take up roster space that many American teams would prefer to give to players from, well, sexier parts of the soccer world. Meanwhile, on Canadian teams, Americans are seen as domestics.

The timing is interesting. We know CSA has been pushing for changes for a while. But, now, the CSA has gone public with its stated goal of having Canada’s own “Division 1A” (CLICK HERE or see issue 2 of Plastic Pitch), and reports continue that NASL, CFL owners and the CSA are discussing the formation of a Canadian division — something that NASL won’t deny, but says it simply can’t comment on… at this time.

So, pressure is no doubt building on MLS.
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FC Edmonton likely to boost number of Fort McMurray “home” games in 2015

fort-mcmurray-aerial-twoFC Edmonton announced earlier this year that it would be playing an NASL match in Fort McMurray in the 2015 season.

Now, the team says that it’s likely that two or three league games will be played in Canada’s oil-sands territory next season.

Because Edmonton hosts more games than any other city at next year’s Women’s World Cup, Clarke Stadium won’t be available for six weeks, through June and into the first week of July. Clarke Stadium is adjacent to Commonwealth Stadium, and wouldn’t be available when FIFA takes over the site.

The number of games FCE would play in Fort Mac would depend on when the NASL schedules its break between the spring and fall seasons. But, as of right now, the team has indicated that it looks like at least two dates in June could go to Fort Mac. That could go as high as three.
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9

NASL Commissioner talks about Canada’s long-term plans, expansion and league format

Bill Peterson

Bill Peterson

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson says his league is looking closely at one unnamed Canadian market as an expansion candidate, and is supportive of the long-term goals of the Canadian Soccer Association.

In a state-of-the-NASL conference call held Thursday morning, Peterson said he would be talking with CSA officials later in the day to discuss the organization’s long-term vision for the game in Canada. And he said the NASL would support the CSA’s vision, even if it includes the eventual launch of a Canadian Division “1A” league.

“We will have discussions with the CSA looking at the long-term future, what it looks like,” Peterson said. “We are open and supportive to what the long-term goals are going to be.”
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FCE’s home opener against the Fury moved to Commonwealth

PHOTO: CITY OF EDMONTON

PHOTO: CITY OF EDMONTON

FC Edmonton has announced that its NASL fall-season home opener against the Ottawa Fury will be moved to Commonwealth Stadium.

But just how many — or how few — sections of the 56,000-seat stadium will be filled could depend on television licensing issues.

The Eddies were forced to move the game because they could not be 100-per-cent guaranteed that the installation of a new turf surface at Clarke Stadium would be done in time for Sunday’s match. General Manager Rod Proudfoot said it was likely that the Clarke Stadium work would be done on time. But, “likely” isn’t the same as “guaranteed.” And even if there was a one per cent chance that the Clarke resurfacing wasn’t going to be on schedule, the game had to be moved.

Now, this is where it gets tricky. The World Cup final kicks off Sunday at 1 p.m. local time. FC Edmonton hopes that it can open the Commonwealth gates at noon, and then show the game on the brand new Jumbotron that has been installed at the stadium. But it’s not that simple. The team confirmed it needs to ensure it has the rights to show the game at a ticketed event. And that means approaching either the CBC and/or FIFA.
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