Welcome to the RSL Cup blog

I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

FSV Mainz fans


Supporters of the local team cheer prior to the Bundesliga match between FSV Mainz 05 and VfL Wolfsburg at Coface Arena on April 20 in Mainz, Germany.

I actually thought about dressing up like this (seeing as RSL's colors are also yellow, red, and blue) back when RSL was in their first year or two. I never did, I kind of wish now that I would have. It would have been epic.
(more to come)

Real Salt Lake

2007 - present

2005 - 2007
 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Beckham in US: He came, he sold, he conquered

(si.com 12-2-12)

David Beckham came, he sold, he conquered.

For the first two years after he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, he was more of a brand than a player, his impact at America's cash registers far greater than any transformation on the field.

By the time the 37-year-old English midfielder played his final game in Major League Soccer on Saturday, he had achieved his goals athletically in addition to financially, winning two more titles and expanding the U.S. audience for his sport. He gained attention for his play, not just for his ever-changing hairstyles, Spice Girl wife and celebrity friends.

"When I decided to come here, I think I raised a little bit of interest, and I hope that's what I've done," Beckham said. "If that's the single thing that I've done, then great. But I think the foundations are there now in this league. It's a 17-year-old league and the foundations are great. It will continue to grow."

The league expanded by about 50 percent, with new teams announced during the Beckham era that started play in San Jose (2008), Seattle (2009), Philadelphia (2010), Vancouver and Portland (2011), and Montreal (2012). That raised the total to 19.

Ground was broken for soccer-specific stadiums in Houston, Kansas City and Philadelphia, the long-delayed venue in New Jersey was completed, and extensive renovations took place in Montreal, Portland and Vancouver.

MLS' regular-season attendance averaged 15,504 in 2006, the last season before Beckham left Real Madrid to sign with the Galaxy. It was up to a record 18,807 this year, still well short of the record 44,293 set by the Bundesliga in 2011-12 and the 35,356 for England's Premier League.

Beckham said his goals were to win and increase awareness of the league both domestically and abroad.

"I don't think anybody would doubt that he has over-delivered on every one of those measures," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "There's arguably not a soccer fan on this planet that doesn't know the L.A. Galaxy and Major League Soccer, and David played a significant role in helping us make that happen. He was an unbelievable ambassador for the league, for the Galaxy."

Beckham made his debut for Manchester United's first team in 1992, the year when he turned 17 and played alongside Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville for the Red Devils' winning team in the FA Youth Cup. By 21 he made his debut for England's national team.

He helped United win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the 1999 Champions League. Sold to Real for 35 million euros (then $41 million), he won Spain's La Liga in his fourth and final season.

By then, he already had announced he was moving to Los Angeles. While his handlers and the Galaxy hyped the deal as being worth "in excess $250 million," it turned out to be a $32.5 million, five-year contract. Still, he earned 50 times the league's average of $129,395 in 2008 and twice as much as any other player.

Following his first Galaxy appearance, in an exhibition against Chelsea, he was given a welcoming party hosted by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. A crowd of 46,686 showed up for his MLS debut on Aug. 9, 2007, at D.C. United.

While injuries limited his playing time, the five games he played averaged 37,659 fans - in a league where the overall average that year was 16,770. MLS jersey sales rose 780 percent.

"I don't think there's any doubt that David has increased the visibility of MLS and the sport more generally," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "That very positive impact will be felt for many years."

When Beckham arrived, his mind seemed to be on England as much as it was on California. He commuted back to play for England's national team, hoping to make its 2010 World Cup roster, and played on loan for AC Milan in early 2009 and 2010. While in Italy, he tore his left Achilles tendon, ending his England career after 17 goals and 115 appearances - second only to goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125.

Only after the injury did he seem to focus on MLS. His relationship with Galaxy co-star Landon Donovan improved - Donovan took back the captain's armband - and Beckham helped Los Angeles to three straight league finals - beating Houston in the title game in 2011 and this year. He scored 20 goals in 116 competitive appearances over 6 1/2 years.

Only in television ratings did MLS fail to achieve a long-term boost. The league's regular-season telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 311,000 viewers this year, up less than 5 percent over 2007.

Rafa Marquez, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane followed him to MLS. Frank Lampard and Kaka may become the next big stars to join the league.

The very best players, Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real's Cristiano Ronaldo, are far too good and far too expensive to leave Europe for MLS right now, a league still in its developmental stage.

Beckham, though, made it acceptable for stars just past their primes to trek across the Atlantic as salesmen and scorers. After the next stop in his playing career - likely the last - Beckham intends to return to MLS as an owner.

"I know it's the No. 1 sport in the world. There's other great sports here, of course, I believe it can compete with the basketball. I believe it can compete with American football and baseball," Beckham said. "That's why I'm totally committed to that."

Beckham wins 2nd MLS title, Galaxy beat Dynamo 3-1

(by Greg Beacham ksl.com 12-1-12)

David Beckham stood on the podium with his three sons, an oversized Union Jack knotted around his Los Angeles Galaxy jersey. With a practiced lift and a broad smile, he raised the sparkling silver cup over his head to a raucous ovation amid a confetti blizzard.

Now that's a Hollywood ending worthy of a star.

Beckham wrapped up his MLS career as a two-time champion Saturday, with Landon Donovan's tiebreaking goal on a penalty kick in the 65th minute propelling the Galaxy to a 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup.

Omar Gonzalez tied it in the 61st minute with a long header for the Galaxy, who defended their title in a rematch of last season's championship game. For the second straight year, Beckham raised a trophy that stands as evidence of the 37-year-old English midfielder's indelible impact on American soccer during his six seasons in Los Angeles.

"It's been a successful six years here, and now that we've won the second one, it's even more satisfying," Beckham said. "I just hope people have enjoyed me playing here. It's what I always hope for when I step on the field."

With a stirring second-half surge capped by Robbie Keane's goal on another penalty kick in injury time, Los Angeles won its fourth MLS Cup, tying D.C. United for the league record.

The Galaxy also gave an appropriate farewell to Beckham, who will play elsewhere in the new year before eventually returning to MLS as a team owner. With rumors linking him everywhere from Sydney to Paris, he hasn't disclosed his immediate plans beyond a Christmas vacation back home in England.

Los Angeles will miss Beckham, but the glamorous global icon is going out at an apex for MLS' highest-profile franchise.

"I just hope I've brought a bit of interest to the game (in America)," Beckham said. "If that's the single thing I've done, then great. But I think the foundations are there now in this league. It's a 17-year-old league, and the foundations are great. It will continue to grow."

After Calen Carr put Houston ahead in the 44th minute, Beckham and his high-scoring teammates systematically broke down the defense of the Dynamo, who lost the MLS Cup 1-0 to Los Angeles on the same field last year.

While Gonzalez got the equalizer on a cagey play by MLS' top defender last season, Keane played another stellar attacking game for Los Angeles before earning his own penalty kick when Houston's Tally Hall knocked him down in the box.

Donovan redeemed himself for missing an open net in the 13th minute by burying his penalty kick after a handball in the box by Houston's Ricardo Clark. The U.S. national team star, who is also contemplating a departure from soccer, won his record-tying fifth MLS title while scoring his fifth career MLS Cup goal and the record 22nd goal of his postseason career.

"It's a little surreal," Donovan said. "In any sport, to repeat is really hard to do. ... For me personally, this felt more satisfying (than last year). We could enjoy it a little bit more."

After Keane's goal clinched it, Beckham left the game to a raucous standing ovation from the packed stadium amid chants of "Thank you, David!"

Beckham hugged Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who won his fourth MLS title, and just about everybody on the Galaxy bench before the game ended moments later.

Beckham streamed onto the field with his teammates and waved thanks at the fans before he was joined by his three sons, all clad in No. 23 Galaxy jerseys.

"Today was always going to be an emotional day for myself, win or lose," said Beckham, who also won trophies in his final seasons at Real Madrid and Manchester United. "Coming off was tough, but I enjoyed the win today."

The pregame rain cleared long enough for MLS' sunny farewell to Beckham, who arrived in Los Angeles in 2007 from Real with designs on changing the American perception of the world's most popular game. The league has grown steadily during his tenure, with most MLS franchises on sound financial footing and in excellent stadiums, although the sport's popularity and TV ratings haven't matched the other American pastimes.

Beckham was wildly cheered by many of the same diehard Galaxy supporters who booed him three years ago after his loans to AC Milan and an injury-riddled start to his Galaxy career. The Home Depot Center souvenir stands were loaded with Beckham shirts, including one that said "Take Me With You!"

These two franchises have combined to win eight of the last 12 MLS titles, dating back to the Dynamo's days in San Jose. Houston seems stuck as a supporting player in the Galaxy's story, despite its rally from the Eastern Conference's last playoff seed to the championship match.

"You have to be proud of what we've accomplished once again," Houston captain Brad Davis said. "It isn't easy to get to this game, and this is the fourth time in seven years. It's a credit to this group of guys."

After winning the title last year on a Beckham-to-Keane-to-Donovan beauty of a goal, Los Angeles nearly had another storybook score in the 13th minute when Beckham launched a long, high pass to a sprinting Keane, who slipped behind the defense and centered it perfectly for Donovan.

But he inexplicably pushed his shot inches wide of the post, leaving him with both hands on his head while the stadium released the usual post-goal confetti anyway.

"When you're in a moment like that, you feel like you let the team down," Donovan said. "Candidly, it sat with me until halftime. I took a few minutes at halftime, sort of collected myself, and tried to stay present, because you can't change it."

The Dynamo improved their pressure late in the first half, and Adam Moffat's long pass eventually set up Carr's impressive near-post goal past Josh Saunders.

Carr leaped the corner flag in celebration of a rare score for the forward, a Bay Area native who joined the Dynamo last season and managed just four goals this year.

But with Keane and Beckham leading the second-half charge, the Galaxy finally broke through when Gonzalez stuck around the box after a failed setpiece and managed to bounce a looping header past Hall. Gonzalez's delayed return from injury this season sparked the Galaxy's late-season surge.

"At the beginning of the season, I didn't see myself getting back to this level," said Gonzalez, named the game's MVP.

Clark was then called for a handball in the box in the 65th minute after an extended defensive scramble by the Dynamo. It was another high-profile mistake by the U.S. national team player whose turnover led to Ghana's first goal in the Americans' 2-1 elimination loss at the World Cup two years ago.

"When the penalty came, I'm not going to fool anyone and say I was calm about it," Donovan said. "I was pretty nervous. But you have to keep going, and every one of these guys said, `Forget about it. Keep going.'"

After Donovan scored, Houston frantically pressed for an equalizer in the final minutes, but Saunders and his defense repeatedly denied the Dynamo. After Hall wrapped his hand around Keane's thigh to stop a chance in the box, Keane confidently ended it with his sixth goal of a spectacular six-game playoff run in the Irish national team captain's first full MLS season.

"Being successful doesn't come easy," Beckham said. "You have to work at it. I tell my children every single day that if you want to be successful, it's hard graft. It doesn't come easy, and I think we proved that this year."

Beckham mum on plans after leaving MLS, Galaxy

(by Greg Beacham ksl.com 11-20-12)

David Beckham will announce the next stop in his soccer career near the end of the year. Until then, he's focusing on winning one more trophy with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Beckham said Tuesday he has several "exciting opportunities on the table" to continue playing after he leaves the Galaxy next month, capping a six-season U.S. career with Los Angeles' second straight appearance in the MLS Cup on Dec. 1.

"I still feel that I have something left in me as a player," Beckham said at the Galaxy's training complex. "I still feel like I have one more challenge in me as a player. Even at 37 years old, I still can play at a high level. Where that will be yet, I haven't decided.

"Right now my focus is on the final," he added. "Once that's out of the way, we have an (exhibition) tour to deal with, and then it's Christmas, which we always spend in London, so I'll be there and I'll make the decision then."

The English midfielder wasn't specific about where he might end up next, deflecting questions about every destination from Australia and China to France and Britain. While discussing his future in the most oblique terms, Beckham only confirmed he won't move to New York or any other MLS team.

"There are options, and I'm very lucky at my age to have options," Beckham said. "People have talked about my retirement, people have mentioned will I retire, and I actually don't feel I'm ready to retire yet."

After two strong MLS seasons largely free from major injuries, Beckham says he's leaving Los Angeles only because he reached every goal he set for himself in his landmark move stateside in 2007. He agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Galaxy last January after completing his initial five-year deal, but revealed the second year of his deal was a mutual option.

"I feel that I've been successful off the field, but on the field has always been the most important thing for me," Beckham said. "To be able to win a championship last year, that was the final goal for me with this team."

Given Beckham's acumen for managing his worldwide celebrity alongside his soccer career, his next destination could be Australia's A League, where five clubs have confirmed interest in acquiring him to boost the sport's relatively low popularity Down Under, or China's Super League, where Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka already are playing for Shanghai Shenhua.

Beckham politely declined to give any indication where he'll play in the new year – but he confirmed he plans to become an MLS owner in the near future, sounding his usual optimistic notes about soccer's future in North America. Beckham's MLS contract includes an option to purchase a franchise when his career ends.

He also did nothing to squash growing speculation he could become at least a part-owner of the Galaxy if he doesn't get an MLS expansion team. AEG, the sports conglomerate that owns the Galaxy and the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, is for sale.

"The foundations are now there for this sport to continue to grow," Beckham said. "I've seen it grow in the last six years, and we all want it to continue to grow. My commitment as an owner, people will be well aware of that in the new year, and hopefully where that will be. And like I said, my commitment as an ambassador for this sport and this country won't change."

When asked whether he was aware the Galaxy are for sale, Beckham smiled and said: "I heard that. I heard that. We'll see."

Beckham announced his decision to his teammates earlier Tuesday, although coach Bruce Arena and star Landon Donovan already knew about it. Beckham said he got a round of applause and "a little abuse" from the Galaxy, who will attempt to win their second straight league title against the Houston Dynamo at Home Depot Center next Saturday.

"We're all very aware of the timing," said Donovan, the American star who clashed with Beckham upon his arrival in Los Angeles before forming a durable partnership. "It's a good thing. He's certainly going to be very motivated, and all of us who have been around are going to want to send him out the right way."

Although Beckham is done playing for the Galaxy, it's clear the global icon isn't permanently leaving Hollywood. Beckham said his family considers it home, and he plans to "be at as many games as possible" next season.

"I'll continue to support this club, because I love the players here," Beckham said. "I love the fans. I love the ownership."

When asked if he would miss Beckham, Arena smiled.

"He'll be around," Arena said. "David can talk about what David is doing, but I don't think he's leaving Los Angeles forever. He'll still be here."

When asked how Beckham would do as an MLS owner, Arena joked: "He might get rid of the coach. That might be one of his first acts as an owner."

"I'm sure he'll be very good," Arena added. "My guess is David's not going to be sitting behind a desk 12 hours a day in a management capacity. I think he'll be a little bit apart, and come in when needed and do that. But I think his experience, his presence, his name is going to do wonders for whichever club he ends up being part of."

When asked whether he could work for Beckham, Arena cracked: "I've been working for him for the last four years. I'm happy I'm getting a break for a little bit."

David Beckham to Play His Final Game for the LA Galaxy in MLS Cup 2012

Midfielder to end six-year playing career with LA on Dec. 1

(lagalaxy.com 11-19-12)

LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham announced today that MLS Cup 2012 on Saturday, December 1 will be his final competitive game with the club. Originally signed in January 2007, Beckham has spent the past six seasons with the Galaxy, helping lead the club to three MLS Cup berths, including the third championship in club history in 2011 when they beat the Houston Dynamo 1-0 in MLS Cup 2011 at The Home Depot Center in front of a then-stadium record of more than 30,000 fans.

During his playing career with the Galaxy, Beckham catapulted Major League Soccer onto the world stage, dramatically enhancing its profile globally and increasing the popularity of soccer in the United States.

The arrival of Beckham in Southern California and Major League Soccer has coincided with a period of unrivaled growth for both the Galaxy and the league, which is approaching the conclusion of its 17th season. Seven expansion teams - Montreal, Portland, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Jose and Toronto FC - have debuted since 2007 while 15 of the league’s 19 teams now play in soccer specific stadiums, up from five prior to 2007. Attendance at those stadiums are at unprecedented highs with an average of 18,807 fans attending games during the 2012 MLS regular season and nearly 22,000 fans turning out per game in the postseason. Additionally, exposure and recognition of the Galaxy and MLS are at all-time highs with the league maintaining national television broadcast deals with ESPN, NBC Sports and Univision while the Galaxy reached a 10-year broadcast deal with Time Warner Cable Sports in November 2011 that is the most lucrative in MLS history.

"I've had an incredibly special time playing for the LA Galaxy, however, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career," Beckham said. "I don't see this as the end of my relationship with the league as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future."

Beckham, who is managed by Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment, added, "In my time here I have seen the popularity of the game grow every year. I've been fortunate to win trophies, but more important to me has been the fantastic reception I've had from fans in L.A. and across the States. Soccer's potential has no limits in this wonderful country and I want to always be part of growing it."

In his six seasons with the Galaxy, Beckham appeared in 98 regular season games, tallying 18 goals and adding 40 assists, good for the fourth most in club history. An MLS Best XI selection in 2011 and a three-time MLS All-Star, Beckham also helped the Galaxy qualify for the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League in each of the last two years and reach the Western Conference Championship in each of the past four years, advancing to MLS Cup three times. Beckham has excelled in the postseason, appearing in and starting all 16 playoff games that the Galaxy have played since 2009. In that time, he has recorded eight assists, which are the third most in club history, meaning that he has set up one third of his team’s goals in that time. He set an MLS record by becoming the first player ever to register an assist in five consecutive postseason games, including one in all four of LA’s games during their run to the 2011 MLS Cup championship.

“Seldom does an athlete redefine a sport and David not only took our franchise to another level but he took our sport to another level,” said Tim Leiweke, President and CEO of AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group). “It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of his world, and more importantly, to have him be a part of ours.”

A veteran of three World Cups and the most capped field player in England history, Beckham made 115 appearances for his country, scoring 17 goals while captaining the side on more than 50 occasions. His club career prior to coming to MLS was equally stellar, having won six Premier League titles during a sensational 12-year career at Manchester United that also saw him win the FA Cup twice and the 1999 UEFA Champions League title, helping United claim the “Treble” that season, winning the Premier League and FA Cup in addition to the Champions League. In July 2003, Beckham moved to Spain, signing with Real Madrid. In his final season at the Bernabeu, Beckham helped lead Madrid to the 2006-07 La Liga title, ending a four year title drought. Following that season, Beckham officially joined the Galaxy, debuting in a friendly against Chelsea at The Home Depot Center.

“When David Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007, he set out to help grow MLS and the sport of soccer in North America,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “There is no doubt that MLS is far more popular and important here and abroad than it was when he arrived. David has achieved great things on and off the field during his time with the Galaxy, and he will always be an important part of our history. We look forward to his continued involvement with the LA Galaxy and the League.”