Tuesday, November 28, 2006

MLS/MFL, CONCACAF Champions Cup, and Champions League

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, this title may seem like a big thing, but they are all combined into 1 thing. I will explain.

So recently, the blog, Logan's Revenge came out with a list of teams that are believed to be competing in the tournament to bring out as many people as possible. Those 4 MLS teams, DC United, LA Galaxy, FC Dallas, and Chicago Fire. The 4 Mexican teams that they will supposedly play against, are Chivas, Club America, Cruz Azul and Morelia. The teams would be divided into 2 groups. According to Logan's Revenge, next year there would be a qualifying process to qualify for the challenge.

Also recently, CONCACAF held their draw for the Quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champion's Cup. MLS Supporters Shield winner, DC United will play CD Olimpia of the Honduran league. MLS Cup winners, Houston Dynamo, play Costa Rican side, Puntarenas FC. To get to this point, the 2 MLS sides qualified through their awards in the MLS season. The 2 Mexican sides, Pachuca CF, the Clausura winner, and whoever
wins the Apertura. CD Olimpia and Puntarenas FC qualified by making it through the Central American qualifying bracket. Puntarenas originally made this group by taking second in last seasons Costa Rican league. CD Olimpia qualified by winning the Honduran leagues Clausura and Apertura last season. CD Olimpia and Puntarenas FC then went into the qualifying against teams from the other Central American leagues. Both teams made it through the first round, quarters, and semis to qualify for this seasons CONCACAF Champion's Cup.

Whichever team takes third out of the Central American group between
Deportivo Marquense of Guatemala and CD Victoria of Honduras. The final spot will go to the winner of the Caribbean qualifying group. Which starts with with 15 teams going for 1 spot in the CCC. After a group phase, the 4 group winners move onto semis, and finals to decide that spot.

With the current lack of interest in the CCC, and the establishment of the MLS/MFL tournament set up, CONCACAF looks to be reacting to this new tournament. In a presser they released that I heard about here, the federation is quoted as saying "
at the next Exco meeting, a proposal by the CONCACAF Secretariat to develop the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup™ into a larger “Champions’ League” style event, beginning in 2009."

So CONCACAF wants to make the Champions' Cup into a bigger event, great. Most people I know would love to have a Champions' League for CONCACAF, and currently the system is a little drab. Here's what I would do personally and this is my own opinion to get the teams for the tournament.

First, you'll want a group stage of I'd say 16 teams with the top 1 maybe 2, depending on how big you want the tournament, qualifying for the knock out round.

To get those 16 teams, you'd have some automatic qualifiers from the 2 biggest leagues in the region, Mexico and the US, give each of those 2 automatic spots, so we're up to 4. Also give 1 automatic qualifying spot to the champion of Costa Rica and Honduras who always seems to be competitive in CONCACAF competitions. So where do we get the other 10 spots from?

Like the Champions' League, I would have some qualifying rounds first, with the smaller leagues, and secondplace teams from leagues playing to qualify. You would have 20 of the second place and those from the smaller leagues face off in a first round play in game. Then take the remaining 10 teams, which would include the runners up in both series of the Mexican League, and the US Open Cup winner, the Canadian Champion, and have them play the 10 winners. The winners of those 10 games then qualify for the group stage with the 6 teams that automatically qualify.

So you're 16 spots would look like this:
  1. Mexican Clausura winner
  2. Mexican Apertura winner
  3. MLS Supporters Shield Winner
  4. MLS Cup Champion
  5. Cost Rica Champion
  6. Honduras Champion
  7. play in winner
  8. play in winner
  9. play in winner
  10. play in winner
  11. play in winner
  12. play in winner
  13. play in winner
  14. play in winner
  15. play in winner
  16. play in winner
There you'd have your 16 teams for the group stage. You'd then divide them into 4 pots, and have them drawn out for the group stage.

The one problem with this, is when do you start said tournament, as many of these countries run different schedules in when the league occurs. The best bet would be to have the 2 play in rounds in the fall sometime between Sept and Oct. The group stage would then start when the current quarterfinals start for the Champions' Cup.

My humble attempt at creating a Champions' League for CONCACAF.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Expansion Draft

So yesterday MLS released the list of players each team made available for the expansion draft on Friday. I'm not gonna pretend that I know enough about each team to break down each player available for the expansion Toronto FC to choose from, but I will go through the Wizards players left available and give my idea of who might be selected.

Wizards Players Available

Matt Groenwald - The Wizards starting right back on opening day of the season, showed flashes and looked to be a good late round pick. A few things later in the season seemed to go against his season. The first was the birth of his daughter. This caused him to have to leave the team, leaving his spot. (Side bar: I am not saying this wasn't the right thing to do, because it 100% was the exact thing he should have done.) The other thing was the replacement of Bob Gansler as coach, once Brian Bliss took over, Matt's minutes decreased. Matt could be a cheap pickup for Toronto, but doesn't seem to likely as it doesn't seem overly worth it to spend a YI spot on a player that many see as dime-a-dozen in MLS.

Will Hesmer - The Wizards back up keeper and platoon keeper for a few games. Will got his first MLS start this season, but is unlikely he'll be choosen as there are a number of better keeprs available.

Eric Kronberg - The Wizards third string keeper that spent time with Miami FC last season. Even less of a chance then Hesmer as he's still unproven.

Ryan McMahen, Sergei Raad, Brian Roberts, Stephen Shirley - I've listed all these players together because none of them got any significant league minutes, in fact, only Raad and Roberts played in an MLS match this season, for a combined total of 39 minutes. None of these guys will be going to Toronto.

Bo Oshoniyi - The Wizards number 1 the past 2 seasons. He's likely being listed because the Wizards see no risk in leaving him available. There are better keepers available in the draft this season then Bo, including 2 players with National Team experience, Nick Rimando and Zach Wells. Plus with the rumors of Toronto signing Greg Sutton, chances of them taking Bo are slim, although many Wizards fans would not shed a tear if he was picked up.

Ryan Raybould - Came on and played right back for most of the late season run. Like Groenwald, though, he's one of those players that the Wizards could find a replacement for fairly easily, but he won't be going to Toronto either.

Dave van den Bergh - The weirdest of the Wizards exposed player picks, was leaving van den Bergh available. After joining the team during the summer transfer window, van den Bergh had a good run to end the season at left forward. Due to his likely salary and his SI status, it seems unlikely that he'd be taken ,but he's the one that I am the most afraid of losing, as I think a full season with him could go very well.

Tyson Wahl - Got some significant minutes while Jimmy was at the World Cup, being the first defender off of the bench. Will he be selected? There's a chance, but I don't really see Toronto wasting a YI on him.

Lance Watson - "Scrappy" seemed to lose his place in the side once Bliss took over for Gansler, there are better players then him available in this draft.

Alex Zotinca - Alex could be a useful pick up for Toronto due to his experience and his salary which isn't too high. Chances are, though, TFC won't look his way.

The Draft

With that said here are the 10 players that I could likely see Toronto taking on Friday. This is of course expecting they don't pass on any of their picks, which they very well could.

Houston - Serioux, Adrian - One of the no brainer picks, even though Mo didn't get along with him in NY, he's the only Canadian national teamer exposed, they'll pick him up.
RSL - Williams, Andy - The other no brainer pick, as Andy was born in Toronto which classifies him as a Canadian citizen, putting him on his 7th MLS team.

From here the selection gets a bit tougher
DC - Clyde Simms - A player that people say could be a starter in this league, I think Toronto is willing to use a pick on him.
Chicago - Calen Carr - Had a productive first season coming off the bench for Chicago could be a good forward depending on what direction TFC plans to go.
RBNY - Edson Buddle - Mo really likes Buddle, I would be surprised to see him follow Mo up to Canada
FCD - Chris Gbandi - Young defender with talent, could give TFC some help along the back line in their first season.
NE - Jeff Larentowicz - Got significant minutes for New England this season, is young and is not a cap burden, could be a nice pickup.
C-bus - Knox Cameron - A forward pick up that could be used as a target forward.
Chivas - Rodrigo Lopez - US U-20 player, could be a nice pickup if given the right conditions to grow.
LA - Kyle Veris - Someone TFC could find useful if given some minutes.

Leaving KC and CO without having a player taken. Course I'm probably way off on this, but that's the fun of the expansion draft.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Congrats to the Dynamo

Congratulations to the Houston Dynamo on winning their first title in their first season in Houston. The club had perviously won 2 MLS Cups as the San Jose Earthquakes, but started their history over again this season with the move to Houston.

A fairly dull final, with some decent chances from both sides saw regulation end with the score tied at 0-0. Then in the second overtime 2 goals in the same of about a minute made the game 1-1. The first goal from Taylor Twellman after Khano Smith's run at the Dynamo defense had freed up Twellman and a great pass allowed Twellman to easily slot the ball past Pat Onstad.

Basically right from the kickoff, though, the Dynamo drove right back down the field, with Brian Ching finishing a header to knot the score at 1 a piece, so it was on to PK's.

The majority of the PK's were a clinic on how to properly take a penalty kick, well placed and with power, leaving Onstad and New England keeper, Matt Reis, with little chance on any of the PKs. A miss by Pat Noonan, and a Reis save on Brad Davis' PK put the score at 4-3 heading into the last shooter for New England, Jay Heaps. Ater the basic clinic that was put on, it was Heaps deciding PK that was the worst of all of them. Hit with little pace, on the ground, and not well placed, it was an easy collection for Onstad as it went right into his stomach and easily held. It's a PK that should be shown to all youth players as how to NOT take a penalty kick.

So New England moves to 0-3 in MLS Cups and has a total of 1 goal. Houston wins the Cup in their "first" season and gains a spot in next seasons' CONCACAF Champion's Cup along with Supporters Shield winner DC United.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

State of the League

So on Friday, Don Garber gave his state of the league address. It was suppose to be broadcast live on MLSnet, course their system didn't seem to be working properly, and I was unable to watch the address. We do have a write up on all the changes to MLS for next season, that can be found here.

Some of the highlights:

  • a 30 game season down from 32 games this season. This was due to a couple things, the addition of Toronto FC as team number 13, making an imbalanced league. Another reason was the upcoming tournament between MLS and the Mexican League. Finally less games was demeaned necessary to allow for the Gold Cup and Copa America next summer, both events the US will be participating in.
  • There will still be 2 conferences, the East will have 7 teams, as TFC will go there. The West will have 6. This is how the scheduling will break down for next season. Each team will play a home and away against every other team in the league for a total of 24 games. Then the 7 teams in the East will play 1 more game against each conference opponent, 3 home and 3 away. In the West, the 6 teams will play each team 1 more time, giving them 29. The last game will be a "rivalry game." The LA derby, the Texas derby, and the Rocky Mountain Cup will be the 3 rivalry games.
  • The playoffs also got a bit of a makeover, there will still be 8 teams, but the way those 8 teams qualify will be different. No more will it be 4 from each conference automatically. Now, the top 2 from each conference will qualify, followed by the next 4 best, meaning you could have 5 from the East and 3 from the West or any other combination.
  • The qualification for the US-Mexico Challenge Cup, will be based on league position, in the hopes of making the league more meaningful.
  • More foreign players are on their way, and the Beckham rule has been approved.
So, let's break this down, 1st, a 30 game season makes sense, with the way to break for the 2 international cups, this is what many people have been calling for, to give players a chance to compete in these events without having to miss more league games. I personally would have preferred a break during this time so that they missed no league games, but I guess that's not being done.

The schedule has been redone again in the last day. If you caught an early version of the announcement, it said that each team would play their conference rivals 4 times, and play the other conferences teams once each. So the East would have 24 games against each other, and 1 game each against, LA, Chivas, Dallas, Houston, RSL, and CO. The West would have 20 games against their conference rivals, 1 each against the 7 East teams, and the 1 rivalry game as well. Thankfully this has been dropped in favor of the newer schedule which makes more sense if they are sticking with the conferences.

I have no problem with the playoffs the way they are going to be. People will complain about there being too many teams making the playoffs, therefore making the regular season mean less, but it works the other way too though. If a team is knocked out of the playoff chase in late August or early September, that's about a month's worth of action that they won't have anything to play for. And you think the fans are going to show up for the team, even if they're still trying to qualify for the "Challenge Cup" between the US and Mexico?

I weary of the Beckham rule being put in place, I may not have been around for much of the NASL, but I've seen what they did, and I want MLS to learn from it, which they have so far. If it's done right I have no problem with it, but this is MLS, and I am not sure how well they'll do it.


In some news that will sting for Wizards fans, this was released today. The Mayor of OP has pulled his support of the STAR Bonds for the Wizards stadium. Kinda funny that he's done a 180 from where he originally was on the topic. You gotta love politics and the two faced double turns that you get. We'll see where this one goes to from here.

Right now it doesn't look the best, but remember this about the Wizards new owners OnGoal LLC, they are business men and they didn't get to where they are in the business world by only having 1 plan. They had a backup plan from the beginning in case this happened, so we shall see what their other plan might hold.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Youth Soccer Complex Voted Down

So yesterday in Johnson County, KS, Question 1 was voted down. This Question would have been a tax to fund a youth soccer complex, a park, community center, walking trail, and other amenities. The purpose of the facility was suppose to alleviate some of the pressure on the current number of youth fields. As those in favor mentioned numerous times, there is currently a lack of fields for the number of players that there are in Johnson County. These fields would also allow the Kansas City area to host bigger tournaments, like USYSA regionals and nationals, state cup competitions, or other tournaments, possibly on the scale as big as the Dallas Cup or the Schwan's USA Cup. Both of those last 2 tournaments bring in international teams from around the world to play.

The opposition to this proposal did a masterful job of confusing voters and used some misleading information that ultimately doomed the proposal. Saying that the proposal was going to help subsidize the KC Wizards MLS team or that they would be used just for Wizards youth teams. Other misleading information that was used was that each field in and of itself would cost $5 million each, not taking into account the purchase of the land and the building of the other
amenities that would be involved in the project.

Does this Doom the Wizards?

There has been talk bigsoccer.com about this dooming the Wizards and that they will now be leaving the city. This thread specifically on bigsoccer brings back the rumor of the Wizards moving to Philly, which is completely unfounded.

This question has not killed "Plan A" for the Wizards. The plan for OnGoal LLC, the Wizards new owners, is to still build a Soccer Specific Stadium in KC for the Wizards to play in. As
Robb Heineman, principal of OnGoal LLC and interim president of the Wizards, said in the paper today about the issue, "This doesn’t change what our vision is for soccer in Kansas City. The Wizards’ vision is that this is going to work in Kansas City,” Heineman said. “We’re going to push forward. … We’re going to be a world-class soccer organization, and we’re going to be in Kansas City.”

This to me seems to be a direct quote saying they aren't moving, so where does the guy in Philly get the idea the team is moving there? A few sentences earlier in the same article: "Robb Heineman, principal of OnGoal LLC and interim president of the Wizards professional soccer team, said he was disappointed, but remained resolute in getting a stadium built by 2009, but not necessarily in Johnson County."

The bolded part is the section the poster had zeroed in on, saying that this was a sign that the team was moving. All along the Wizards goal had been to get a stadium built by 2009. That plan is still there, the location has just possibly changed.

Has the failing of this ballot issue hurt the Wizards? Yes it has, it'd have been fantastic to have a youth soccer complex right next to the stadium, and that still is a possibility to have a complex like Pizza Hut Park, down in Dallas, but the stadium can still be built without the youth fields, just as the youth fields could have been built without the possibility of the Wizards being right next door. It's just back to the drawing board for the Yes on Youth Soccer people, as there is most definitely a need for the fields. And for the Wizards, it's still pressing forward with the hope of Overland Park acquiring the STAR Bonds necessary to help build the stadium and retail complex.