Saturday, October 21, 2017

NYCFC Moves Final Regular-Season Game to Citi Field

(by Christian Araos 10-12-17)

New York City FC will play its final regular-season game on Oct. 22 at Citi Field because of the New York Yankees‘ participation in the American League Championship Series, the club announced Thursday. Should the Yankees reach the World Series, NYCFC is expected to move its Major League Soccer conference semifinal home game, a senior club official confirmed.

Since the MLB playoffs involve additional field and stadium preparations it takes more than the normal three-day window to convert Yankee Stadium from baseball to soccer. Besides the field markings, there are installations built inside the stadium specific to the postseason (such as suites and arrangements for television rights holders) that cannot be easily taken down and rebuilt to accommodate both the Yankees and NYCFC. This applies to the specific security plans and installations that will be in place for the Yankees games which could not be disclosed given their sensitive nature.

“While we are happy for our partners, the New York Yankees, we understand that relocating a home game is a significant challenge for fans,” NYCFC club president Jon Patricof said. “We feel Citi Field will give our team the best chance of success on the field and provide a good environment for our incredible fans.”

Under the recommendation of City’s sporting department, the field at Citi Field will have the same dimensions as Yankee Stadium. The match against Columbus Crew  will kickoff at 4 p.m. as previously scheduled. The club said it intends to inform season-ticket holders of their options, but they will be similar to the arrangement for the Sept. 23 game in East Hartford, Conn., where fans had the option of replacing or receiving refunds for their tickets.

“Citi Field is an excellent ballpark which has hosted international soccer matches in the past,” Patricof said. “From a Sporting perspective, this represents an easy transition which would allow our team to get the result we will be looking for.”

Similar to Pratt & Whitney Stadium, Citi Field has hosted international soccer games with a field oriented within the outfield. The club is unsure what the capacity for the Citi Field game will be, but it is expected to be higher than the 10,000-or-so who attended the game in Connecticut. Citi Field is accessible by car or the No. 7 train though it is unclear whether the Willets Point Long Island Railroad station will be open for the day.

NYCFC is in negotiations to move its playoff game should the Yankees reach the World Series. The official confirmed that Citi Field is under consideration, but a possible golf event held for the weekend after the playoff round could complicate the negotiation. The sporting department has made it clear that grass fields are preferred but stadiums with turf are also under consideration. An announcement is expected next week.


Anthony Precourt claims ‘misrepresentation’ during meeting with the media

The Crew investor/operator leaves people with more questions than answers as he answers media questions

(by Ralph Shudel 10-20-17)

When Anthony Precourt purchased Columbus Crew SC from the Hunt Sports Group in 2013, many fans became uneasy with an “outsider” taking control of the first club in Major League Soccer.
What did a venture capitalist from San Francisco with no prior ownership experience want with MLS’s first franchise? Many feared the team would become expendable to the new owner.
Former ownership trusted Precourt as did then-mayor Michael Coleman.
He told members of the media that he and his ownership group remained “very committed” to keeping the Crew in Columbus and pledged that he wouldn’t be an absentee owner. He even spoke of buying a second home in Central Ohio.
Fans were reassured as the agreement between Precourt Sports Ventures and the Hunt Sports Group included a promise to keep the franchise in Columbus for at least 10 years. However, a then-unknown escape clause was included in the event that Precourt decided to move the team to Austin, TX.
Former Columbus Dispatch Crew beat writer Adam Jardy remembers when he first met Precourt on the day he bought the team. He recalled his first encounter with the Crew owner in an article he wrote this past Tuesday.
“When I asked him if there was any language in the deal binding him and/or the club to Columbus, he acted offended and gave a curt reply, repeating what he said publicly about being committed to the city.” - Adam Jardy
Fast forward to present day and trouble is on the horizon.
News broke late Monday evening about Precourt’s intention to move the Black & Gold to Austin barring the construction of a new downtown stadium.

Understandably, fans were upset and confused as information poured out from multiple sources. Supporters took to social media to vent their frustrations, but would have to wait for official answers when the Black & Gold owner was scheduled to meet with the media via teleconference Tuesday morning.
Precourt began the meeting by speaking of unprecedented growth in MLS and how the product has improved year over year, listing his accomplishments of the last 4 and a half years.
He then moved onto the bad news.
He stressed that PSV was beginning to explore “strategic alternatives” to secure the long term viability of the club due to the business struggling to keep pace with the rising standards of the league, match day attendance, an inability to grow the season ticket base and the disparity in match attendance and corporate support.
Precourt also felt it necessary to address the elephant in the room.
Just 12 hours prior, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Alex Fischer, CEO of the Columbus Partnership, along with a group of business leaders from around Central Ohio approached Precourt with offers to buy the Black & Gold outright and engage in a 50-50 partnership.
Precourt rejected both offers.
The Dispatch also reported a prospect of the new Austin franchise playing on the University of Texas campus should the franchise relocate. Another source also confirmed that Precourt had his heart set on playing at the University of Texas and that people at MLS headquarters weren’t exactly keen on the idea.
The investor/operator said that “misrepresentations” had been made and emphasized no relocation decision was final. Precourt told this to reporters despite having created the “MLS2ATX” domain, copy written under PSV, in August.

Precourt also denied other reports, or “misrepresentations.”
“We are not asking for public tax dollars and we are not asking either city to build a stadium for us,” he said. “Any conversations we’ve had in Columbus with potential investors center around a new, privately-funded stadium in the downtown area.
No investor in Columbus presented a serious offer to invest in the club while the team plays at MAPFRE Stadium. Not for 100 percent, not for 50 percent, not for any percentage. To say that a deal has been made to host games at UT-Austin is also premature.”

Tom Bosco, a reporter from ABC 6 in Columbus, continued to press the issue.
Precourt responded by denying the existence of the Columbus Partnership offer.
“We’ve had private conversations and they’re probably better to remain private,” he said. “At this time, I’m going to stay there. There were no serious offers made to me in regards to the Crew.”
Sources have told Massive Report that a $75 million bid was made to purchase just a half stake in the franchise. And was turned down. Precourt in his above quotes, denies this is the case.
Who isn’t telling the truth?
Many city officials seem blindsided by Precourt’s proclamation including Franklin County commissioner John O’Grady.
“If he needs a Downtown stadium, he should have said something,” O’Grady told The Dispatch. “That’s a weird negotiating ploy.”
Andrew Erickson of The Dispatch asked Precourt about the reaction from city officials, many of whom mimicked O’Grady’s reaction.
“Why, from the city aspect, were they kept in the dark and how can those conversations progress going forward?” said Erickson.
Precourt danced around the question, saying again that it was a “misrepresentation” and that he had been clear about his desire for a stadium since the beginning of 2016.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther told The Dispatch, the stadium discussion began only a few months ago.
Andrew King of asked Precourt to field the hardest question of the teleconference. King asked, “Just last October you told The Columbus Dispatch you were, ‘tired of the insecurities Crew SC fans have about the team possibly moving.’ Now you’re openly considering moving the team. Do you feel like you maybe owe those Crew fans an apology for suggestions of unwavering commitment?”
It was an honest question and what King and the members of the media received was a shockingly honest answer. Precourt said that he stands by what he said and hopes that “you guys recognize the ambition” as the club tries to take the next step in Major League Soccer.
For those hoping for answers from Precourt this week, you did not get them. At least not ones that really answered the questions.
As Precourt made it clear, there are “misrepresentations” going on. It just remains unclear who is doing the misrepresenting.


Columbus to Austin is a breach of MLS faith

If it can happen to Columbus, it can happen anywhere

(by Rafael Naboa 10-17-17)

My mom was born in Ditmas Park in Brooklyn, and later moved 17 blocks from Ebbets Field. She grew up watching Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, and yes, even Jackie Robinson. She split her childhood between Brooklyn and Mexico City, but to this day, she still identifies as being from Brooklyn. The Dodgers were central to that identity; after the team left for Los Angeles, she basically stopped following baseball, and really, all sports.
I grew up in a small Ohio town -- Granville, to be exact. Growing up, I became an Indians fan, a Cavs fan -- and yes, a Browns fan. The idea that a team like the Browns could simply pick up sticks and ditch a town like Cleveland was inconceivable. I knew all about the Dodgers leaving from my mom, but I thought that was something in the past. Not something that would happen in, say, 1995.
And then Arthur Bertram Modell broke faith with a city, and did just that. I was a freshman in college, and I watched the team I grew up adoring play out a desultory autumn in Municipal Stadium. I made the road trip up to Cleveland for the last home game the original Browns ever played. I was 19, unfamiliar with tragedy and heartbreak, besides the picayune kind that every youth is acquainted with -- a broken heart, not getting your way on a trivial thing or another. I saw grown men crying. Not just crying; sobbing. Not just sobbing; wracked with grief, heaving back and forth and to and fro, devastated in only the way that a broken dream and a broken marriage can devastate someone.
Because, for a lot of people, that's the kind of emotional investment you put into a team. And when you break faith like Modell did with Cleveland, or Robert Irsay did with Baltimore, that's the kind of emotional wreckage you leave behind. And every time it happens, people lose just a little bit more faith in the institutions that bring us together.
Those scenes haunt me to this day. It's been 22 years, and I have to tell you: I haven't been an NFL fan since that day. Oh, I'd love it if the Cleveland Browns were to somehow -- despite the futility that is bred deeply into their DNA -- win a playoff game, let alone make it to the Super Bowl, let alone win it. But I'd be lying if I were to tell you that my connection with this version of the Browns was anything like the one I had with the team that left for Baltimore. It isn't. It cannot be. That team broke my heart as a kid when it lost games to Denver, and it obliterated it when it moved to Baltimore.

If there's any team that embodies a grassroots team in MLS, it's Columbus. Alan Rothenberg and the rest of the MLS honchos awarded a team to Columbus simply on the strength of 10,000 tickets being sold to a fanbase that desperately wanted a professional soccer team. No other MLS team can claim that. It was the original, the first. You don't need me to reiterate the history. Before Toronto, before Seattle and Portland and Kansas City and Atlanta and all the other shiny cities and stadia that MLS loves to milk for marketing purposes, there was Columbus.
See that picture up top? That’s the Nordecke. The Crew were the very first team I ever bought season tickets to, in 1996. One of the very first stops I made after I got back from Army basic training was to then-Crew Stadium, just to check it out. My mom had sent me news clippings during boot camp. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been there, for both Crew games and national team games.
Sports team owners like Anthony Precourt like talking about how their teams are a civic institution. But that's all a pack of sweet lies, sold in service of a willing fantasy, devoured by people eager to believe it. You want to know what a civic institution is? A school. A park. A monument. You don't hear about Goodale Park and Schiller Park ditching Columbus -- the city I grew up thinking of as a "big city" -- in pursuit of desired demographics. You don't hear about Columbus Academy abandoning Columbus in pursuit of a better student base or better test cores.
At 10:51 p.m., Grant Wahl broke a story that anyone who follows or writes about sports dreads: a team was abandoning one town for another. But this isn't just any team, and this isn't just any town. The Columbus Crew SC were quitting Columbus, Ohio, for the apparently more verdant pastures of Austin, Texas.

And now there won't be. There won't be, because Anthony Precourt wants to move the team he owns to Austin, Texas, in pursuit of soccer hipsters and a shiny downtown stadium and who knows what else. No one does, least of all Precourt, who's reduced to babbling incoherently about how "they've seen new markets be successful". That sure inspires confidence about his ability to succeed in a place where soccer will rank ahead of college football in interest -- oh, wait, it won't.
See the folks in the picture above? Those folks — folks I went to grade school, high school, college with — are losing their team.
This is a travesty. It makes a mockery of the compact that every fan makes with any team they follow: I will give you my heart and loyalty, and you will honor it, not abandon it.
But in my life, I've seen football abandon Cleveland, hockey abandon a host of cities, baseball abandon Montréal, and basketball abandon Seattle. I was more the fool to believe that soccer wouldn't abandon the one city that gave it meaning and heart. Columbus gave MLS its love, its devotion, and its loyalty. And the league is repaying that with a middle finger.
I’ll ask you for one favor: if you want to know more about this story, and the Crew, and its fans, visit Massive Report. They could really use your support.


Sacred gound

First soccer specific stadium in the US

Friday, October 20, 2017

Columbus Crew won't give refunds for 2018 season tickets amid move plans

( 10-20-17)

Columbus Crew SC will not give refunds to season-ticket holders for what might be the team's last season in Ohio before a possible move to Austin, Texas.

Returning season-ticket holders had already been charged at least part of the amount of their ticket plan for next season when club owner Anthony Precourt said this week that he would need to see a "dramatic change" to keep the team in Columbus beyond 2018.

Fans who did not want to automatically renew their tickets had to opt out before Sept. 18, according to the membership plan laid out on the club's website.

A club spokesperson confirmed to ESPN FC on Thursday that no refunds would be available for the funds already collected by the club for the 2018 season. The refund policy was first reported by local TV station NBC4.

"There are not going to be refunds issued for season tickets for the 2018 season," the Crew spokesperson said. "We are playing at MAPFRE Stadium in 2018."

Season-ticket holders could have elected to pay their entire bill for 2018 before Sept. 15 of this year, or choose from a three-month, six-month or monthly payment plan. According to the club's website, the deadline for the second installment on the monthly plan would have been just hours before the news of the potential move broke on Monday night.

Columbus' website says: "In the event you fail to make any timely required payments, Crew SC reserves the right to either (a) withhold your tickets for upcoming events until payment is made and the account is in good standing or (b) terminate the Membership, with any payments made prior to the termination date forfeited by you."

Precourt has been frustrated at the team's inability to increase revenue streams in terms of overall attendance, sponsorship and season tickets. With one week to go in the regular season, Crew SC's attendance ranks 20th out of 22 teams.

The owner intends to explore concurrent paths towards a new stadium in both Columbus and Austin -- a plan that has the support of Major League Soccer -- but Columbus mayor Andy Ginther said the Ohio city will not support public funding for a new venue.

In a letter to season-ticket holders on Tuesday, Precourt expressed optimism for the 2018 season, but admitted concerns over the Crew SC's long-term future.

"Although the club continues to address a series of historic challenges related to our ongoing business operations, we have specific concerns as we strive to realize our full ambition of becoming a standard-bearer in Major League Soccer," his statement said.

"The facts and findings surrounding the health of the club dictate that we urgently expand and explore all options to preserve the long-term sustainability of the club -- including remaining in Columbus."


Thursday, October 19, 2017

FC Dallas? It should be FC Goliath

Where did FC Dallas find this race of giants?

Look how big and tall these two FC Dallas players are! The look like giants out there kicking a ball.

Reyna on U.S. soccer: 'We're far too arrogant, far too obnoxious'

(by Ives Galarcep 10-17-17)

The former USMNT captain sounded off on what he sees as serious problems with American soccer in the wake of the recent World Cup qualifying disaster

Compared to other high-profile names in American soccer, former U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna is a man of few words. While some have become television personalities and others have gone into coaching, Reyna has taken on the role of sporting director of New York City FC, where he goes about his work in relative anonymity, seldom speaking to the media. He generally stays behind the scenes as he looks to build a championship team.

It is that normally understated demeanor that made Reyna's words even more eye opening as he sounded off on what he sees as a systemic problem in American soccer. With the stunning disappointment of the U.S. men's national team failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986 having occurred just a week earlier, Reyna didn't mince any words.

"Our approach and our behavior to the sport here — to coaching, to everything, is just wrong," Reyna told Goal on Tuesday. "We’re far too arrogant. We’re far too obnoxious. We are egotistical having never won anything or done anything, and that’s not the case around the world.

"You travel to Spain, Argentina, Germany and you run into coaches and sporting directors and there’s a humility about their work that doesn’t exist here, and that’s, for me, seeing it, is to me a big concern.

"When you have a disappointment like last week, and we’ve had past disappointments as well, and we’ll have disappointments in the future, but what we need to understand that it’s for me behavioral.

He added: "We have coaches who think they’re better than they are. Across the board, we just think we do things better than we really do. I mean in every way. Whether it’s broadcasting, or media, coaching, we’re just not as far along as we tell ourselves we are.

"We need a little honesty, and hopefully this brought it. I think it’s far too late. I think we’ve been asleep at the wheel for a little bit too long."

Reyna enjoyed a stellar playing career, having represented teams in England, Germany and Scotland, serving as captain of several of them. That career helped expose him to a wide variety of approaches to the game. Since his retirement he has continued to work in the game, spending time working within U.S. Soccer before his move to NYCFC.

What he has seen since settling back in the United States is a culture of arrogance, along with a seeming failure to learn from other countries and cultures.

"We have all these countries around the world we can learn from, and you go over there and you’re not going to see different training sessions," Reyna said. "You’re going to see good games, and poor games, like in any league across the world.

"But the one thing that we haven’t realized, I think, when we have our American soccer people go abroad to learn, I don’t think they see the behaviors of the people and how they coach in their day-to-day work. That’s the shake-up I hope people realize more than anything.

"You go to a U-14 and U-15 coach in Spain, and they are 10 times more humble than a U-14 or U-15 coach in Connecticut, New Jersey or New York, who thinks they’re the next Pep Guardiola or Patrick Vieira.

"Until we realize that  — that we’re not as good as we think we are at all levels — then I think we’re going to continue being what we are, which is mediocre."

While the game of soccer has grown in many ways in the United States, Reyna believes that the sport hasn't necessarily improved along with that growth.

"What I think has happened in the past 10 years is we’re confusing investment, expansion, growth, (U.S. Development Academy), and all these other things with progress," Reyna said. "All these things have sort of created a feeling that we’re progressing, but I call it expanding, growth and more fans.

"From the general growth side it’s happening, but are we really progressing? When I look around at certain levels I don’t see progress happening."

Reyna isn't the first former USMNT standout to speak out in the wake of the national team's shocking failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but he's hopeful that an increased dialogue will lead to some real changes.

"I remember the great Johan Cruyff would say something about Dutch football, or Franz Beckenbauer in Germany, and when other big players and coaches spoke out and were honest, it shook things up and make people ask, ‘How are we teaching the game to our youth? How are we playing the game? What’s the competition like?'

"We don't have those kind of serious discussions here. We just seem to talk, but never really make any significant changes."

The U.S. team's failure to qualify for the World Cup has led to a serious backlash, and raised real questions about the state of the game, and how to improve.

"People are sitting together and thinking about strategies and how we’re going to get better," Reyna said. "We need a little humility and modesty at the table. Unfortunately we have a little too much 'Mr. I Know Everything', 'Mr. Arrogance', 'Mr. Obnoxious', 'Mr. Loud', and when those get together nothing happens."

As harsh as Reyna's comments may sound, he also sees positives in the state of American soccer, particularly the quality of talent being developed, such as the standouts leading the current U.S. Under-17 national team into the World Cup quarterfinals. Reyna's youngest son, Giovanni, 14, is one of the top young prospects in the American soccer talent pipeline.

"There’s good players at every age group. There’s some very good players in this country," Reyna said. "As supporters of these players, whether it's coaches, sporting directors, team presidents, we need to continue to push ourselves to make sure they have the best environment to develop because the talent is here. One thing I’ll never say is we don’t have good players, because we do.

“There’s a lot of positives despite the disappointing result that we had last week,” Reyna said. “I think we’re all embarrassed. I’m embarrassed as a former player that I have to go around and have people make fun of us, and get texts from my friends in Europe who remind me we’ll be on [vacation] next summer.

"I can laugh, but it hurts. It definitely hurts.”


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Columbus behind in fight for Crew

(by Jeff Carlisle 10-18-17)

Anyone who was a fan of the San Jose Earthquakes back in 2005 can tell their Columbus Crew SC counterparts how this story ends.

Back then it was the Anschutz Entertainment Group who insisted they were doing everything they could to keep the Earthquakes in San Jose. Never mind the years of rumors that the team would be moved, sold, or both. If only the local politicians would see fit to subsidize a new stadium, then the Quakes would remain in the South Bay.

It didn't happen. At the conclusion of the 2005 season -- a Supporters Shield-winning campaign at that -- a sense of dread permeated the fan base and, once the spiral started, there was no stopping it. The franchise moved to Houston shortly thereafter.

Twelve years later, history looks set to repeat itself. Now it is Anthony Precourt, CEO of Precourt Sports Ventures and chairman of Columbus Crew SC, who is issuing the "build me a stadium or else" edict.

In this case, he is pitting the cities of Columbus and Austin against each other, a tactic that is as contemptible as it is familiar in the world of sports ownership. The first to come up with a stadium plan gets the award of an MLS franchise.

Crew SC president Dave Greeley insisted that when it comes to a stadium: "We're just starting to have these conversations with Austin."

But this is one race that looks to be employing a staggered start, and one that isn't in favor of Columbus, as the city's mayor noted on Tuesday morning. A Columbus Dispatch report cites a source close to the team saying a deal to play temporarily at the University of Texas starting in 2019 is "all but done."

The Dispatch also revealed the juicy detail that, when PSV purchased the franchise from Hunt Sports Group in 2013, Precourt inserted an out clause allowing him to move the team to Austin and avoid keeping the team in Columbus for the otherwise contractually obligated 10 years.

Then there are Precourt's own words. He spoke of his talks with Columbus' political and business leaders as being "extensive, exhaustive." When asked if he thought the city of Columbus was standing behind him, Precourt spoke of the organization's subpar revenues from attendance, season ticket numbers, and sponsorship compared to other mid-market teams in MLS before concluding: "I think there's room for improvement."

Would having a new stadium in Columbus even be enough to turn things around? Precourt answered: "That's part of the conversation. As you develop a new stadium plan, you'll have conversations with founding sponsors, and a new stadium naming rights sponsor. Having sponsors in any market, they need to believe in the new stadium plan."

All told this is a man who seems tired of Columbus. On top of that, Precourt seems eager to embrace Austin. He spoke of a "long-standing affinity" for the Texas capital, though on some levels it seems odd. Both cities are comparable in size and have attention-hogging public universities in their midst: Ohio State in Columbus and the University of Texas in Austin. Columbus also is the bigger television market. But part of Precourt's calculus is gauging where Austin will be in 10 years as opposed to where it is now.

"Austin has a growing presence as a national and international city," he said. "With soccer being the world's game, I think this bodes well for Austin. Austin is consistently ranked as one of the country's most attractive cites to live and work in. It has a vibrant economy that is growing faster than any of the other major cities in the U.S., it's millennial, it's multicultural, it's a great soccer market. It's got an international reputation. I think it compares very favorably to some of our most successful markets in MLS, being Portland, Orlando, Kansas City."

It's Precourt's team to do with as he pleases, so long as his fellow owners are willing to go along. And you can bet they will for the same reasons owners in other sports rarely, if ever, stand in the way of a relocation.

Sure, the league is saying all the right things about how it's never good for a team to pull up stakes and move somewhere else. But owners are aware that some day it could be them trying to find a city willing to acquiesce to their stadium wishes. If Precourt decides to move, he should reach the necessary two-thirds majority on the MLS Board of Governors easily. It just seems disingenuous to suggest that this is a fair fight.

There will no doubt be ripple effects on the current expansion race. Crew SC leaving Ohio would certainly ease the path for Cincinnati to get one of the four slots, while simultaneously leaving San Antonio, which had touted its close proximity to Austin as a plus for its bid, with almost no shot; it looks like it has been upstaged by its neighbor to the northeast.

As for Columbus, maybe the only comfort it can take is that there are no absolutes in these kinds of situations. San Jose had to wait a mere two years to get its team back, though it meant starting at the bottom as an expansion franchise. That was a different time, however, and the San Francisco Bay Area is important in terms of the league's national footprint. Columbus, if it is indeed spurned, cannot count on anything remotely resembling a similar outcome.

Instead, Columbus will be left to engage in a mad sprint to beat Austin to the tape. A victory seems unlikely, though, as Precourt seems to already have taken two steps -- and then some -- in the direction of Texas.


Crew's Fabric is Interwoven With Columbus; If Precourt Can't See That, He Should Sell, Not Move

Anthony "the Weasel" Precourt

(by Brian Straus 10-18-17)

Another day, another own goal for American soccer.
Back in the olde country, they often blame “schoolboy defending” for this sort of self-inflicted wound. But here in soccer’s new world, those own goals are scored by experienced, accomplished, full-grown adults.
They could be decorated coaches whose steadfast faith in their own genius obscures the evidence in front of them. They could be administrators convinced the sport’s continued growth hinges on the preservation of their power. Or they could be owners practicing cafeteria capitalism. That sort of owner believes his investment in a club isn’t also a commitment to a community—that a team is theirs to move, collateral damage be damned, as an unnatural insulation against risk.
Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt announced Tuesday morning that he’s prepared to take the club—an MLS original—to Austin, Texas in 2019 if plans for a downtown stadium in the Ohio capital aren’t finalized in time. And that doesn’t leave much time.
Precourt, of course, will claim he’s been trying to find a more modern alternative to venerable Mapfre Stadium since he bought the Crew in 2013. And it isn’t difficult to compare the strides made in competing markets with his struggle to extract revenue from the modest facility located on a sparse corner of the state fairgrounds. In fact, Precourt has partners at MLS HQ who are doing just that.
“As attendance league-wide continues to grow on a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus’ situation is particularly concerning,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a Tuesday statement. “Despite [Precourt’s] significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the league in all business metrics and the club’s stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS.”
MLS and Precourt can point to his “significant investments” and claim they should’ve been enough. And there were investments. He paid for stadium upgrades. He overhauled the brand, and in 2014, the Crew introduced a new logo that was well received. He hired and retained coach Gregg Berhalter, who’s managed the Crew to three playoff berths in four seasons and one conference title.
But after all that, the Crew apparently remain “near the bottom.” So it must be the city’s fault. The fans didn’t show, the politicians didn’t genuflect and the sponsors didn’t pay. It’s true that there’s been concern for some time about Columbus’s long-term MLS viability. It’s a smaller media market (ranked 32nd) where college football reigns supreme and where Mapfre’s location has been an issue.
But it’s tough to separate interest in the product from the quality of the product, and therefore from the owner. Has Precourt done everything possible to make it work? Were mistakes made along the way? Crew fans certainly have pointed out a few over the past 36 hours. Isn’t it true that permission to move to Austin was written into Precourt’s 2013 purchase agreement? That raises obvious questions about his long-term commitment. And is it possible a wealthier owner could’ve made more progress on a new stadium, or signed the sort of stars who attract sponsors and fill suites?
Perhaps the situation in which Columbus now finds itself says as much, or more, about Precourt as it does the city’s viability.
Precourt is a venture capitalist. He knows all about the risk/reward nature of investing, and he surely is aware that not every investment is successful. He bought the Crew and for whatever reason, it’s not working out like he’d hoped. But rather than take the loss, he’s considering killing off the team. The problem is, the team isn’t his to kill. He may own the Crew, but he’s far from its only investor.
This has become about Precourt in all the wrong ways. This is American soccer arrogance in all its self-defeating glory.
The Crew’s average attendance this season was 15,439. That may not compare favorably to much of the league. But it’s still a significant number—certainly enough to keep a business afloat—and it represents an investment of money, time, effort and emotion on the part of those people. The Crew has had no issue exploiting the passion and color in the Nordecke and the tradition established at Mapfre Stadium to market the club. Their commitment appears to be meaningful only when it's convenient.
Take a look at the Crew’s list of corporate partners. There’s a lot of local on there. Each of those companies has spent money to be associated with the Crew and in turn, help keep it in business. Hundreds of local youth players have turned out for the club’s academy teams, which have won national titles at the U.S. Youth Soccer and USL U-20 levels. Not all of those teams are free. And Precourt said this week that three potential stadium sites have been proposed to him. That’s likely an effort by local politicians to assist in holding on to something regarded as a civic asset.
The club has become inextricably tied to the city, which is the idea. If that results in something too modest to compete with the Torontos and Seattles of the league, so be it. Then that’s what Precourt will own or that’s what he’ll have to try and sell. He didn’t build it–he just bought it. And since he did, he has the right to make money off the club. But he also may lose money. Protecting his investment cannot come at the expense of the people who’ve poured in just as much. It’s theirs, too.
Sometimes, teams die. There’s a threshold. Chivas USA hit it. But that was a flawed idea, poorly executed. The Crew are far from death’s door. They may not be the most robust, ambitious, flashy MLS member, but plenty of teams around the world survive, entertain, contribute and win with less.
Precourt, like the aforementioned coaches and administrators, has to be better about taking real responsibility for results. The tone-deaf, “let them eat cake” approach at so many levels of American soccer—especially during the past week—needs to change. The game requires investment. It needs leaders. But when it stops being about the game and starts revolving around the ego and position of individuals, those leaders must evolve or make way.
The Crew aren’t an extension of Anthony Precourt. They’re an extension of Columbus. If he no longer wants to own the Columbus Crew, he should sell. If he loses money, well, that’s the nature of capitalism. That’s how he’s chosen to make his living.

Posted on the Columbus Crew Facebook page

(by Ricardo Mejia)

Again, anyone who thinks this wasn't the intent from Day 1 is immune to facts.

1. Original out clause in contract. He must keep the team here for 10 years, unless he goes to Austin.

2. Said clause is trumpeted by Precourt, never mentioned the caveat.

3. Overpays for $68 million for the Crew. A lot cheaper than a $150 million expansion fee.

4. First TV deal he signs puts the Crew on a channel only Time Warner Cable subscribers have, making it impossible for 50% of Columbus to watch the team.

5. Precourt makes Austin the Crew affiliate for 2014. Makes no geographic sense. Building brand awareness down there.

6. Precourt sits on the expansion committee.

7. Don Garber continually talks up Austin, even after San Antonio has the Spurs behind them. And Austin doesn't submit a bid.

8. Austin, despite wanting a team, doesn't submit an expansion bid. That's odd. It is almost like they knew they didn't have to. When were bids due?

9. Precourt turns down offers for half & all the team. Never makes a serious push for a stadium here.

10. The mayor says the team was not fully engaged on stadium talks.

11. Precourt moves up the ST renewal period this year & institutes an 'auto renew' plan than auto enrolls STH for PO tickets. The early enrollment period for STH ended Friday. Team refuses to honor cancellations for PO tix & ST renewals.

12. Timing of announcement is insane if you have any interest in staying. It deflates the fanbase.

Kills walk-ups for any home PO game. And distracts the team. Still, he & Don couldn't risk the Crew making a deep run (9 games unbeaten) and/or winning the Cup. Or hosting it (we have more points that any West team and could finish 2nd in the East). If that happened, attendance could spike for next year. This way, he ensures that attendance is poor next year and the move is justified.

First 11 are facts. I feel pretty comfortable with #12. They lied to our faces for 4 years.

And we wonder why the US failed to qualify with people like Garber at the helm? The best future for US Soccer is to clean house: Sunil & Garber out.

I would encourage all Crew fans to boycott MLS and their sponsors if you can.

Without a Downtown stadium, Crew likely to bid adieu

(by Andrew Erickson 10-18-17)

With Crew SC’s future in Columbus beyond 2018 hanging in the balance, the Major League Soccer team’s investor-operator said Tuesday that no decision on a move has been made yet.

“This is just an announcement that we are exploring our options,” Anthony Precourt said. “No relocation decision has been made.”

Precourt Sports Ventures, the Crew’s ownership group since 2013, announced Tuesday that it is “exploring strategic options” to ensure the club’s long-term viability in MLS, a strategy that will move forward with one of two options: remaining in Columbus at a new, Downtown stadium or relocating the franchise to Austin, Texas.

That announcement, preceded by a Dispatch story Tuesday morning revealing the possible move, prompted what Precourt perceived to be a few “misrepresentations.”

Precourt, who will be in Austin on Wednesday, said he and his ownership group are not seeking public tax dollars to build a stadium in Columbus or Austin. He also downplayed the nature of investment deals presented to Precourt Sports Ventures, adding, “No investor in Columbus presented a serious offer to invest in the club while the team plays at Mapfre Stadium.”

No matter what, Crew SC will play at Mapfre Stadium in 2018, but the key to keeping the franchise in Columbus beyond that is construction of a Downtown, soccer-specific stadium..

Asked if Crew SC staying put requires a Downtown stadium, Precourt replied, “Yes. Whether that’s Franklinton or Arena District or Downtown, yes.”

Austin’s viability as a market also would require a league-approved stadium site. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement Tuesday that an MLS team would find support in Austin but that there would not be support for a publicly funded stadium.

A few stakeholders in Columbus appeared to be caught off-guard by the nature of Tuesday’s announcement, including Mayor Andrew J. Ginther.

“I have met with the owner and business partners of Crew SC, and shared our thoughts on ways to find the best solutions to keep the team in Columbus. Unfortunately, we did not receive full engagement from the team’s ownership,” Ginther said in a statement. “We were surprised to learn of their decision in this way. Losing the Crew to another city would be a huge disappointment to their loyal and growing fan base in Columbus.”

Asked why city officials seemed to have been left in the dark regarding Tuesday’s announcement, Precourt called that a misrepresentation.

“I have been very clear since the start of 2016,” Precourt said. “I raised my hand and expressed our concerns around the health of our business with both public and private leaders in the Columbus community.”

Those concerns relate to attendance and corporate sponsorship struggles in a growing MLS. Crew SC is 20th in MLS with an average attendance of 15,439 this season and had difficulty securing a jersey sponsor for 2017 before signing a three-year deal with Acura in late February.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement that Crew SC is close to the bottom of the league in all business metrics and that Mapfre Stadium is “no longer competitive” relative to other MLS venues.

The announcement also came as a surprise to Crew SC supporters, many of whom grew up with the team from its infancy as one of MLS’ original franchises in 1996.

Longtime supporter Morgan Hughes, co-host of the ACES Radio Crew SC podcast and an organizer of Crew tifo art projects, said the realist in him is preparing to say goodbye to a team he has supported for years. Hughes said he was unsure of how the team’s uncertainty in Columbus beyond 2018 might impact fan support.

“That’s probably the question, isn’t it?” he said. “I don’t know, I probably have to talk to some of my Browns (supporting) friends to see what the right answer is. There’ll be a lot of everything. You’ll be seeing all the stages of grief live and in real time.”

Caught in the middle Tuesday were Crew SC players, as well as coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter. They chose their words carefully when asked about the possible relocation.

Crew SC, which has clinched a playoff spot, is in the midst of a nine-game unbeaten streak and will play at New York City FC on Sunday in its final game of the regular season.

The news, which was relayed to team leaders Monday night and the rest of the team Tuesday morning, will naturally stir emotion among players, but Berhalter said it would not become a distraction.

"As far as I'm concerned, the focus remains the same. We’re extremely focused on next week’s game and then moving into the playoffs,” Berhalter said. “What I would say is any time you learn of ambition from the club, it’s a good thing, and I take it as a positive.”

Where that ambition carries Crew SC in 2019, Precourt will determine in the coming weeks and months.


Crew SC exploring new Columbus stadium or potential move to Austin

(by Simon Borg 10-17-17)

Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt announced on Tuesday that the club is looking at strategic options to ensure the long-term viability of the club, including a new stadium in Columbus or a potential move to the city of Austin, Texas.

Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) acquired Crew SC in July 2013 from Hunt Sports Group, the original owners of the club since its founding as an MLS charter club in 1996.

While there's been an uptick in season tickets and corporate partnerships since Precourt assumed control of the club, Crew SC still rank near the bottom of the league in both areas and in a Tuesday statement PSV cited a "growing disparity in attendance and corporate support compared to its MLS peers and other midsize markets, such as Kansas City, Orlando, Portland and Salt Lake City."

Precourt Sports Ventures indicated that the group has been in communication with city and community leaders in Columbus regarding its concerns since early 2016. Last October the club also hired a firm to look at the feasibility of a new stadium in Columbus.

“Despite our investments and efforts, the current course is not sustainable,” Precourt said in the statement. “This club has ambition to be a standard bearer in MLS, therefore we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options. This includes a possible move to Austin, which is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise. Soccer is the world’s game, and with Austin’s growing presence as an international city, combined with its strong multicultural foundation, MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit.”

“As attendance League-wide continues to grow on a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus’ situation is particularly concerning,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “Despite PSV’s significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the League in all business metrics and the club’s stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS. The league is very reluctant to allow teams to relocate, but based on these factors, we support PSV’s efforts to explore options outside of Columbus, including Austin, provided they find a suitable stadium location.”

In stressing the "paramount importance" of the stadium site, Precourt also made it clear in the statement that "private funding will be key in any stadium solution."

Crew SC have already clinched a berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, making the postseason for the third time in the last four years. League champions in 2008 and finalists in 2015, Crew SC are currently the hottest team in MLS with a 6W-0L-3D record in its last nine games.


News article from 2013 where Precourt states "The Crew are in Columbus to stay."

Crew under new ownership


Precourt Sports Ventures of San Francisco has bought the Columbus Crew from Hunt Sports Group. Clark Hunt, chairman of Hunt Sports Group, made the announcement today at Crew Stadium.

On the eve of J. Anthony Precourt’s unveiling as the new chairman and operator-investor of the Crew and Crew Stadium, Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman had one question.

“My first question was, ‘Is the Crew staying in Columbus?’ He said, ‘Absolutely. The Crew is in Columbus to stay.’ ” Coleman said.

Today at noon, Precourt was officially introduced as the second investor-operator in Crew history at a press conference inside the Upper 90 Club at Crew Stadium. Flanked behind a table with Coleman to his right and departing owner Clark Hunt to his left, Precourt had earned the approval of the city’s mayor.

“I’ve come to understand his passion for soccer,” Coleman said. “He has a genuine interest and commitment to Columbus.”

Precourt, the managing partner for Precourt Capital Management and Precourt Sports Ventures, has purchased 100 percent of the Crew. Precourt declined to discuss the financial terms of the deal.

Precourt first approached the Crew in April and expressed an interest in acquiring a minority stake in the club. The Crew has been fruitlessly engaging potential investors for minority ownership for several years, but as Precourt grew more familiar with the organization his interest level grew.

"It’s an emotional process,” Precourt said. “I’ve laid awake a lot of nights contemplating those decisions. The more I thought about it, I wanted to be involved. I had so much passion and excitement and enthusiasm for Major League Soccer, I wanted to be the guy. So that’s what we’re doing.”

The Hunts and Precourt began to talk more seriously about his ownership stake within the last four months. Although the contract does not contain any clause that would bind the club to Columbus, Precourt said he is committed to the city.

“I think it was very important to the Hunt family and to Major League Soccer that the Crew would remain in Columbus,” Precourt said. “We’re very committed to that. We’re excited to be here. I’m excited to get to know Columbus better. To be honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time here but I intend to start spending a lot of time here.”

The Crew was not the only MLS team Precourt said he had approached about becoming a minority investor but declined to name the other teams he spoke with.

A native of San Francisco, Precourt said he will own a second home in Columbus but will not live here full time.


"Dramatic change" needed to keep Crew SC in Columbus - Precourt

Columbus Crew SC will need "to see a dramatic change" in attendance and other factors to keep the MLS club from moving to Austin, Texas, owner Anthony Precourt told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview.

Precourt Sports Ventures, the investor/operator of Crew SC, announced on Tuesday that it is has decided to "explore strategic alternatives to ensure the long-term viability of the club."

These consist of either remaining in Columbus contingent on the construction of a new stadium, or relocating the team to Austin, Texas. The plan to concurrently explore stadium options in both cities has the backing of MLS.

Commissioner Don Garber called the situation in Columbus "particularly concerning, and Precourt, the CEO of PSV and chairman of Crew SC, told ESPN FC that a lot needs to change to keep the club in Ohio.

"MLS is enjoying unprecedented growth and our league peers are improving on and off the field, year over year" Precourt said. "So that high-water mark keeps getting higher and higher, and we have an ambition as a club. We want to be one of the standard bearers in MLS, we want to be a successful club on and off the field.

Precourt spoke of how the Crew lags behind mid-market franchises like the Portland Timbers, Sporting Kansas City, and Orlando City in terms of attendance, season ticket holders, sponsorships, and relevancy in the market.

Columbus' average attendance of 15,439 in 2017 currently ranks 20th out of the league's 22 teams and well below the league average of 21,918.

"It's become clear to us that we need a new stadium and a new business model to realize our ambitions of being a top club," he continued. "It's really about keeping up with our peers, having strong ambition, and getting to a world-class, state-of-the-art new soccer stadium."

The Crew's current home of MAPFRE Stadium opened in 1999 as the first soccer-specific venue in the country, thanks to the vision of then-owner Lamar Hunt. It has been witness to several memorable matches, including several World Cup qualifiers between the United States and Mexico.

But Precourt lamented the venue's "antiquated infrastructure" as well as the fact that the area surrounding the stadium isn't a "destination" for fans to enjoy entertainment offerings before or after the game.

He added that a new Columbus stadium must be in a downtown location, though he didn't specify a timeline for when he would make a decision, even though published reports indicate it will happen in time for for the 2019 season.

When asked how a new stadium would be financed, Precourt said it would be done "primarily" with private money. But when asked if that meant more than 50 percent of the financing would come from private sources, Precourt said, "We're not going to get into the specifics of the stadium financing at this time.

(for the rest of the article follow link)

Columbus Crew SC exploring possible relocation to Austin, TX

The owner of Columbus Crew SC is considering relocating the team to Austin, Texas, unless the city of Columbus, Ohio, can come up with a plan for a new downtown stadium.

Anthony Precourt, the CEO of Precourt Sports Ventures and the chairman of Crew SC, said he intends to explore concurrent paths towards a stadium in both markets -- a plan that has the support of Major League Soccer.

However, Precourt told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview that "we're going to need to see a dramatic change" in attendance and other factors to keep the team in Columbus.

(for the rest of the article follow the link)

From BigSoccer poster and Crew season ticket holder djtrinidad


Dear Crew SC Season Ticket Member:

Precourt Sport Ventures released a statement (insert link) earlier today related to the future of Columbus Crew SC. We are reaching out to follow up on this announcement because you are a valued member of the club.

First, thank you for all you do for Crew SC. Simply put—your belief in our club forms the core of our existence. We are honored and grateful to have earned your passion and support.

We recognize today’s update may be difficult to process, but please know that we are attempting to be as transparent as possible, given the circumstances we presently face.

Although the club continues to address a series of historic challenges related to our ongoing business operations, we have specific concerns as we strive to realize our full ambition of becoming a standard-bearer in Major League Soccer. The facts and findings surrounding the health of the club dictate that we urgently expand and explore all options to preserve the long-term sustainability of the club—including remaining in Columbus.

Our ongoing exploration of options will coincide with the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, as well as the 2018 MLS Regular Season.

Our return to the playoffs has been made possible through a bounce-back season, including a club-record number of home wins in a regular season. We have high expectations as a club, including the opportunity to secure another MLS Cup for Columbus.

Looking ahead to 2018, with the composition of our roster we have faith and excitement about the prospects of the 2018 campaign at MAPFRE Stadium. The 2018 season will also mark the 10-year anniversary of the beloved 2008 MLS Cup team, and we look forward to honoring this milestone.

We recognize that no soccer club can achieve its full potential without passion from dedicated supporters like you. Your support of Crew SC, our upcoming playoff run and the 2018 season is greatly appreciated.


Anthony Precourt
Columbus Crew SC

Precourt Sports Ventures Considering Relocation of Columbus Crew Soccer Club

Securing Stadium Location Is Key to Decision

Precourt Sports Ventures, LLC (PSV), owner of Columbus Crew SC since 2013, announced today that it is exploring strategic options to ensure the long-term viability of the Club, including remaining in Columbus at a new stadium or potentially relocating the Club to the city of Austin, Texas.

Columbus Crew SC was the first charter granted in Major League Soccer in 1996. Columbus Crew SC has recognized its growing disparity in attendance and corporate support compared to its MLS peers and other midsize markets, such as Kansas City, Orlando, Portland and Salt Lake City.

“Despite our investments and efforts, the current course is not sustainable,” Anthony Precourt, chief executive officer of Precourt Sports Ventures and chairman of Columbus Crew SC, said. “This Club has ambition to be a standard bearer in MLS, therefore we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options. This includes a possible move to Austin, which is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise. Soccer is the world’s game, and with Austin’s growing presence as an international city, combined with its strong multicultural foundation, MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit."

“As attendance League-wide continues to grow on a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus’ situation is particularly concerning,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “Despite PSV’s significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the League in all business metrics and the Club’s stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS. The League is very reluctant to allow teams to relocate, but based on these factors, we support PSV’s efforts to explore options outside of Columbus, including Austin, provided they find a suitable stadium location.”

Precourt Sports Ventures has been in communication with city and community leaders in Columbus regarding its concerns since early 2016.

Recently, in September 2017, Precourt Sports Ventures joined a forum of Columbus leaders to outline the Club’s specific challenges and to discuss the organization’s intent to explore strategic options for the future.

In evaluating Austin, as with any new MLS market, a critical component is the stadium plan. Without an MLS-approved site, Precourt said the Austin move would not be viable.

Studies and league data show that MLS clubs are most relevant and successful when playing at a downtown stadium location or at a site that is a destination for the entire community.

“The stadium site itself is of paramount importance and we recognize that private funding will be key in any stadium solution,” Precourt said.


News outlet from Autsin

In the works since February?

Columbus Crew Angling Toward Relocation to Austin in 2019

(by Grant Wahl 10-16-17)

The Columbus Crew, one of MLS’s original teams, is angling to move its franchise to Austin, Texas, has learned.

Columbus owner Anthony Precourt is set to announce in a press conference on Tuesday that he will move his team to Austin in 2019 if a downtown soccer stadium for the Crew cannot be finalized in the next year.
Precourt, who lives in California, did not reply to a message on Monday night.

Alex Fischer, the president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, a group of 60 Columbus business leaders and CEOs, said Precourt had rejected offers to buy 100 percent and 50 percent of the Crew by a group of local business and community leaders in Columbus. (On Tuesday, Precourt denied that there had been offers to buy the team.)

“We met with ownership a month ago to discuss their stadium study and plans and ideas for a new stadium in Columbus,” Fischer told “Those conversations turned up the fact that ownership had been in extensive conversations over the last number of months with leaders in Austin about a possible new stadium and moving the team there.”

Fischer continued: “We’ve received notice from the ownership that at a press conference [Tuesday] they are going to announce they are jointly pursuing that plan in Austin as well as continuing conversations about a possible new stadium in Columbus.”
When asked if he thought Precourt was seeking public financing or support for the stadiums in Columbus and Austin, Fischer was clear. “I think there’s no question he expects public financing and or support for any stadium in either city,” he said.
If Precourt moves the team to Austin, it’s expected it would play in a temporary facility in 2019 and ’20 before moving into a new urban soccer stadium in 2021.

The Crew’s Mapfre Stadium was MLS’s first soccer-specific stadium when it was built in 1999. But its amenities are far behind those of other, more recently-built stadiums in the league. Precourt bought the team in 2013, but the financial side has been challenging. A source with knowledge of the situation said Columbus has been in the bottom three teams of nearly every MLS business metric for a decade.

A source with knowledge of the situation told the league expects Austin will have votes in December and again in June 2018 on a soccer stadium in that city. (The city of Austin and Columbus dispute that assertion.)
On the field, Columbus has been on a terrific run of form as it heads into the MLS playoffs.
Said Fischer, “It’s a real disappointment for our players and our fans to have this news coming out on the eve of the playoffs. But I guess owners have to make the decisions they have to make.”


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How Mike Petke tore down, then rebuilt Real Salt Lake in his intense image

(by Kevin Nielsen 10-14-17)

Inheriting a last-place team with myriad issues, Mike Petke tore down Real Salt Lake and built the team he wanted, layer by layer.

The team has made a late climb into the playoff hunt, but regardless of how the standings look at season’s end there’s new hope for the future in Utah. Petke’s done it with a couple new additions and some tactical shifts, but he says his first task was to get everyone to listen.

“I remember the very first practice I was here, very first, I made one tactical change, which is how our outside backs played,” Petke said. “We worked on it for that first day, second and third day leading into the first game, and I saw that aspect right away. That told me immediately, ‘OK, I have players that are willing to listen.’”

From there, he went about building a new foundation and constructing a revamped contender on top of it.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said. “It’s winning games. It’s finding an identity again. You start to get all those things. You build a foundation. Guys start to get familiar. You start playing together more. You start going into games expecting to win. When you’re on the road, you’re going to expect a result. You get that belief more in everything you do and that builds your foundation.”

Petke was skeptical of just where everyone was when it came to believing in themselves and the team at first. But now he’s confident in the team’s mentality.

“These guys believe and they know what they’re capable of. That’s one thing that I know I’m not questioning at all,” said the former New York Red Bulls boss.

With those answers, Petke went to work changing the team to look a bit more like him.

“The way things click is, we tell the players, we show the players, we work on with the players, how we want to play and what our expectations are,” Petke said.

Since April, RSL have changed into a team that likes to press defensively, transition quickly into the attack, involve the outside backs in the buildup and stay solid at the back, even when there are only four players back to defend.

“We were able to add layers. I’m not saying every layer we added was perfectly implemented, but my whole thing is I like to see the attempt at it,” Petke said. “It’s not always going to come off. If I want a player to do A and he does B, C and D, I’m not going to be happy about it, but if I tell him to do A and he tries to do it, I can never fault him if it doesn’t work out. Just as long as they’re listening.”

Each new layer was a work in progress from April through June, and a new layer didn’t always lead to better match results. A couple wins here and there were followed by lopsided defeats in the following weeks. That cycle continued until July.

(follow the link for full article)


Monday, October 16, 2017

Das American: Christian Pulisic's Spectacular Rise

Promotion and relegation could unlock U.S. soccer's potential - Ricardo Silva

The man behind the 4 billion dollar bid for MLS rights tells Gab Marcotti the lack of promotion-relegation is holding back US national team.

Seattle take 2017 MLS Super Cup

Seattle Sounders 4 - FC Dallas 0

First Half Notes:

12’ – Seattle would have taken an early lead if not for a point-blank save by FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez on forward Clint Dempsey. The chance was set up by Joevin Jones, who flew down the left flank, rounded a defender and centered a pass for Dempsey. The Texas-native struck the ball with his first touch, firing a high shot towards the back post, but Gonzalez was in position to slap the attempt over the crossbar and out for a corner kick.

31’ – Seattle’s Victor Rodriguez put his team up, 1-0, after a failed clearance attempt by FC Dallas fell to the feet of Sounder FC’s Clint Dempsey. The forward instantly put Rodriguez in on goal and the midfielder pushed a shot past Gonzalez, who charged off his line to challenge but could not stop the well-placed shot from Rodriguez.

Second Half Notes:    

49’ – Early in the second frame, Michael Barrios would earn Dallas’ most threatening set piece of the night just outside the penalty area after a Cristian Roldan foul. Mauro Diaz stood over the free kick and sent a dipping shot over the wall, but couldn’t put it under the bar as the shot missed high on the left side of goal.

64’ – The Sounders expanded its lead just past the hour mark as Dempsey took a shot from the top of the 18 that went between the legs of Matt Hedges and on goal. Gonzalez was able to stop the initial screened shot, but forward Will Bruin shouldered off Atiba Harris and beat him to the rebound, which was sitting on the top of the six-yard box and chipped it past the sprawled-out goalkeeper.

67’ – Bruin would strike again just moments later after Maynor Figueroa made a clean tackle in the box to dispossess Rodriguez. Unfortunately, the ball went directly to the forward, who was sitting near the penalty spot. Bruin tucked a low shot inside the left post for a 3-0 Sounders’ lead.

90+2’ – The home side would add a late goal in stoppage time to complete the night as Uruguayan Nicolas Lodeiro sent a cross in from the right flank off the counter and found the head of Lamar Neagle, completing the 4-0 score line and securing a postseason berth for the Sounders.

Scoring Summary:

SEA: Victor Rodriguez (Clint Dempsey) 31
SEA: Will Bruin 64
SEA: Will Bruin 67
SEA: Lamar Neagle (Nicolás Lodeiro, Harry Shipp) 90'+2


FC Dallas – Jesse Gonzalez, Maynor Figueroa, Atiba Harris, Matt Hedges, Hernan Grana, Carlos Gruezo, Javier Morales (Maxi Urruti 57), Tesho Akindele (Victor Ulloa 78), Mauro Diaz (Roland Lamah 70), Kellyn Acosta, Michael Barrios.
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Seitz, Cristian Colman, Ryan Hollingshead, Walker Zimmerman.
Seattle Sounders – Stefan Frei, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones (Harry Shipp 81), Kelvin Leerdam, Roman Torres, Clint Dempsey, Cristian Roldan, Gustav Svensson (Nouhou Tolo 23), Nicolas Lodeiro, Victor Rodriguez (Lamar Neagle 76), Will Bruin.
Substitutes Not Used: Bryan Meredith, Tony Alfaro, Henry Wingo, Jordy Delem.

Misconduct Summary: 

DAL – Javier Morales (caution) 8
Attendance: 48,478
Weather: Clear, 60
Referee: Drew Fischer
Assistant Referees: Joe Fletcher, Cameron Blanchard
4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal
Video Assistant Referee (VAR): Jon Freemon

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Nike Soccer- Brazil Airport commercial

Markets NASL Should Target That MLS Won’t – Part I: The Big League Cities

Soccer in America is a growth industry.  Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League and the United Soccer League are all expanding.  Even the fourth tier NPSL and PDL are adding teams each year. The American soccer landscape has transformed in the past decade.

As MLS nears what is likely an upper limit of 28-32 teams, plenty of strong markets across the country will be left without top level soccer even as the sport’s popularity is still trending upwards.  This presents an opportunity for the North American Soccer League.  Today NASL is clearly second division.  MLS has better stadiums, richer owners, bigger payrolls, more lucrative marketing alliances, a higher profile media presence and stronger attendance.  Since its inception, NASL has steadily improved its ownership group, product on the field and marketing agreements.  It still has a long way to go, but NASL aims to grow into an equal with the 15 years older MLS over time.

As MLS picks its final 4-8 markets, it will prioritize those cities that will maximize revenue for the single entity league.  Whereas once upon a time, in a smaller MLS, Rochester might have been courted and Salt Lake City might have landed a team, it is a different era.  The final 4-8 markets will likely be 4-8 of the biggest markets left on the table.  Sacramento and San Antonio are all but in.  St. Louis is openly coveted.  San Diego, Detroit and Phoenix are among the biggest markets remaining, and any successful NASL or USL team with financial backing operating in them over the next few years will be snatched up by MLS as Minnesota United was.
(more to come)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Answers to 5 Key Questions in NASL's Lawsuit vs. U.S. Soccer

(by Michael McCann 9-25-17)

Last week the North American Soccer League took its gloves off and readied for a battle. The NASL filed an antitrust lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, insisting that its survival hinges on this case.

NASL’s complaint invokes federal antitrust law to argue that USSF is breaking the law. To that end, NASL contends that USSF and three alleged co-conspirators—Major League Soccer, Soccer United Marketing and United Soccer League—have unlawfully prevented NASL from competing with MLS as a Division I pro soccer league. Further, NASL asserts, USSF has sought to illegally strip NASL of its placement as a Division II league. It has done so, NASL maintains, so that MLS's favored minor league, USL, can become the sole Division II league.

NASL demands a preliminary injunction that would block USSF from revoking NASL’s Division II status. It also requests a permanent injunction that would prevent USSF from classifying leagues by division.

NASL warns that unless it obtains these remedies it could be driven out of existence. In such a scenario, NASL asserts, soccer fans would be the real victims. Their choice in men’s professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada would be greatly diminished.
NASL claims that it is a victim of a “conspiracy.” Could you explain the legal significance of that assertion?
NASL raises two claims in its complaint. The first is under Section 1 of the Sherman Act and it concerns the so-called soccer “conspiracy” theorized by NASL.

Section 1 makes it illegal for competing businesses and other entities—including non-profit organizations like USSF—to conspire in ways that unreasonably harm economic competition. Such harm is normally shown through higher prices, fewer choices of a product or service or diminished quality in a given marketplace.

Here, NASL argues that USSF—a national governing body under FIFA—has taken steps with the help of its co-conspirators to damage competition across men’s professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada. NASL charges that USSF has effectively made it impossible for NASL to compete with MLS as a top-tier league. Also, NASL insists, USSF now seeks to bar NASL from competing with USL as a second-tier league. These arguments directly relate to competition. One less competing league, so the logic goes, means that the remaining league becomes a monopoly over a particular level of pro soccer. With that status, the remaining league—in this case MLS for Division I and USL for Division II—theoretically has fewer incentives to innovate. Likewise, the remaining league can charge consumers (fans) higher prices and pay labor (players) less.

In order to prevail, NASL will need to convince a court that its depiction of competition fits relevant markets. NASL’s complaint expends considerable energy distinguishing top tier/Division I soccer teams from second tier/Division II teams. Likewise, NASL insists that Division I and Division II are not substitutes for one another. For instance, NASL highlights the existence of higher-value sponsorships and more national associations for Division I teams than are typically found among Division II teams.

NASL also maintains that fans of professional soccer do not consider other pro sports leagues, such as the NFL and NBA, to be viable substitutes for Division I and Division II men’s professional soccer. Those leagues “have different rules of play” and appeal to fans with different kinds of interest.

NASL’s desire to describe top-tier and second-tier soccer as unique carries significance under antitrust law. NASL is more likely to prove that USSF is unlawfully harming competition if NASL can show that the relevant market for competition analysis is limited to these two soccer leagues. USSF, in contrast, will be poised to argue the relevant markets are less fixed and more dispersed. Along those lines, USSF will claim the relevant markets span across the sports and entertainment industries—and thus any USSF rules that limit competition in soccer are not especially impactful when considering the totality of sports and entertainment offerings for consumers.

Under the relevant standard, Rule of Reason, NASL will need to show that USSF’s rules harm competition more than they help it. With that in mind, expect USSF to argue that in the absence of USSF rules that limit competition, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to organize men’s pro soccer in economically beneficial ways. USSF could stress that soccer leagues across the world are designed as pyramid structures with multiple divisions—albeit with promotion and relegation, which does not exist in the U.S. and Canada. Further, given the volatility in professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada over the years, USSF may be able to persuade a court that its structure is essential to ensuring that U.S. soccer fans receive a reliable product and one in which sponsors will invest.

NASL also raises a monopoly claim. How strong is that claim?

NASL’s monopoly claim invokes Section 2 of the Sherman Act. Section 2 prohibits an entity from intentionally acting as an unlawful monopoly in a relevant market. Here, NASL charges that USSF has ensured that MLS enjoys monopoly status for Division I soccer in the U.S. and Canada. USSF has done so, NASL contends, by trying to destroy NASL and thus wipe out any competition. NASL also asserts that USSF desires to see USL become a monopoly of Division II soccer.

Whether NASL can prove its monopoly claim will depend on whether MLS and USL’s market positions reflect willful acquisitions of power rather than simply being good at what they do. In other words, if MLS has enjoyed full control over top tier men’s pro soccer because of its organizational strengths, then it would be more difficult for NASL to prove the existence of an illegal monopoly.

How does FIFA fit into this dispute?

NASL is a member of USSF and USSF is a member of FIFA. Statutes promulgated by FIFA require that “disputes affecting leagues, clubs, members of clubs, players officials” go first to arbitration before they can be heard in a court. FIFA uses the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland as a forum for arbitration matters.

Instead of seeking a remedy through arbitration, NASL has sought relief through a U.S. federal court. To be sure, USSF will argue that the court should dismiss NASL’s lawsuit as not yet “ripe”—meaning, NASL is contractually obligated to first try arbitration before seeking court intervention.

In response, expect NASL to contend that it should not be obligated to arbitrate matters that pose an immediate threat to its existence. If NASL were forced to arbitrate, it may not be able to obtain the kind of remedy it seeks—a preliminary injunction.

Why is NASL’s chief lawyer an important part of this controversy?

(more to come)


Last-Gasp Meeting to Shape Future of NASL–and U.S. Soccer's Club Landscape

(by Brian Strauss 9-14-17)

The U.S. Soccer board wasn’t convinced two weeks ago that the NASL had a viable plan to meet the standards established for second-division professional leagues. So this Friday in New York City, where the federation denied the NASL’s request for 2018 sanctioning in a September 1 vote, owners will gather and attempt to come up with one.
They’ll need to find a path they can go down together—and one that entices others to join them—before convincing the USSF to consider reversing its decision. The fate of the seven-year-old league hangs in the balance.
Multiple sources confirmed Friday’s meeting to and through conversations with executives connected to the NASL, USL and U.S. Soccer, a picture of the complex, sometimes controversial sanctioning process took shape. Most declined to speak on the record. An NASL spokesperson referred to a statement released last week, which read in part, “The NASL is disappointed with the [USSF] decision and does not believe that the federation acted in the best interest of the sport …. the NASL remains committed to growing the game and is exploring multiple options as it continues planning for the future.”
Launched in 2011 following a split in the league that became the USL, the NASL has been about ideology as well as soccer. It’s an eight-team circuit that advocates for self-determination and independent clubs and bristles at the stricter, more centralized structure of MLS and the USL (which are partners). There are those who feel the federation’s current standards, which were established in 2014 and dictate minimums league members must meet in order to achieve a specific sanctioning level, are part of the problem. Perhaps at this point in American soccer’s evolution, they’re arbitrary or even unnecessary, they argue.
Those arguments, however—the ideological ones—will have to wait for another day. In order to have them, the NASL must survive. And without second-tier sanctioning, it’s in serious trouble. Sponsors, TV partners and segments of the media and fan base do care about division designation, and owners believe it impacts their asset's value and appeal. Falling to D3—U.S. Soccer likely would be amenable to such an application—isn’t going to be a well-received option in the NASL board room. So, they have to find another way.
The USSF handled the sanctioning issue last winter by offering provisional D2 status for 2017 to both the NASL, which didn’t have enough teams (12), and the USL, which moved up from D3 but still has members that didn’t meet every piece of criteria (stadium/field size, coaching licenses). By August 15, each league had to submit its D2 plan for 2018—the federation didn’t want to leave teams scrambling again by waiting until the last minute.
The USL has 30 members currently and will comprise at least 33 next season. And there are instances (around 20 or 21 according to a source) where several clubs don’t meet every D2 standard. For example, the Charlotte Independence must expand their new facility in suburban Matthews, N.C., to hit the 5,000-seat minimum. But the issues appear to be manageable, and on September 1, U.S. Soccer gave the USL 30 days to provide a plan to resolve each waiver requested. At worst, a non-compliant club can drop to the third-division league USL plans to launch in 2019.