Daily news roundups

Re-Entry Draft today, no Waiver Draft selections, MLS Expansion details, more

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft takes place today beginning at 3 pm. Available from the Union is Leo Fernandes. Click here’s for the full list of the 41 players available in the draft.

The Waiver Draft took place on Thursday and the Union, just like every other team in the league, made no selections from the 43 players available in the draft.

Union owner Jay Sugarman is among the five team owners who make up the committee who will review bids from prospective ownership groups as the league expands to 28 teams (see below).

At the Union website, Marisa Pilla talks to Garrison Draper, the team’s Director of Performance, about some of the offseason training Union players are doing.

At Goal.com, a projected roster for the USMNT’s January camp includes Keegan Rosenberry, “who was one of the best right backs in MLS in 2016.”

City Islanders

The City Islanders have announced Tiago Lopes as president, the post he previously occupied for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The announcement notes, “Chief among Lopes’ vision for the immediate future is to reestablish the connection between the club and the local community.”

Central Penn Business Journal reports, “Lopes said the plan is to play all 16 home games in 2017 at FNB Field. And the club is hoping that the relationship will extend beyond next season.” FNB Field is the home of the Harrisburg Senators baseball team and where the City Islanders played the bulk of their home games in 2016.

The CPBJ report also says,

The stadium is next to the Islanders’ former home, Skyline Sports Complex, which no longer meets professional standards as the sport grows nationally. One of the directives given to the Islanders by the USL was to upgrade its stadium.

The league also wanted the club to attract a bigger investment group and increase the staff. The Islanders have taken those steps.

Lopes said the plan is to play all 16 home games in 2017 at FNB Field. And the club is hoping that the relationship will extend beyond next season.

The Islanders’ ownership had been looking to build a new soccer stadium on City Island. But those plans have not materialized.

More at USLsoccer.com.

Ocean City Nor’easters have announced, “The first tryout session on Saturday, Dec. 17 in Evesham Township, N.J. has been postponed due to weather.”

MLS

On Thursday, Don Garber outlined the league’s current plans for expansion to 28 teams. With LAFC bringing the total number of teams to 23 when they begin play in 2018, and Miami slated to be the 24th team, the league will announce the 25th and 26th teams “during the second or third quarter of 2017, at an expansion fee of $150 million each, and begin MLS play by 2020.” After that, the 27th and 28th teams “will be announced at a later date, at a price delivered in conjunction with the timeline.”

Miami Herald notes Garber made clear the Miami Beckham group must conclude negotiations to secure land for a stadium soon:

We have a lot invested in it because of the amount of time we’ve spent on it. Everybody needs to understand, including David and his partners, that we’ve worked hard, and it’s time for us to reach a conclusion…We are very focused on Miami being our 24th team. And we’ll continue to work with them to try to achieve that…I’ve also learned, having done this a long time, that not everything you want to do gets done. Sometimes you have to take a step back, and if you can’t get it done, you move on.

The expansion announcement notes “ownership groups from 10 markets have publicly expressed interest in securing an MLS expansion team: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg,” adding, “Interested expansion owners must submit applications by Jan. 31, 2017.” (It is unclear if the deadline applies in any way to Miami.) A formal review process “will take place during the first and second quarters of 2017” with a focus on three areas:

  1. A committed local ownership group that has a passion for the sport, a deep belief in Major League Soccer and the resources to invest in the infrastructure to build the sport in their respective market.
  2. A market that has a history of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events, is located in a desirable geographic location and is attractive to corporate sponsors and television partners.
  3. A comprehensive stadium plan that ensures the club will have a proper home for their fans and players while also serving as a destination for the sport in the community.

At ESPN, Jeff Carlisle notes the $150 million expansion fee “is just the start of what is expected to be a sizable investment by an ownership group. When stadium plans, development of training facilities, youth academy infrastructure, and players and team staff are included, the total investment is expected to exceed $300 million.”

At SI, Brian Straus writes, “The short time frame between Thursday’s meeting, the application due date and next year’s announcement suggests that Sacramento and St. Louis likely will be teams No. 25 and 26. Those cities appear to be further ahead than the competition, with investor groups finalized and stadium plans in motion.”

More on the expansion plans at The Charlotte Observer, Cincinnati.com, Detroit Free PressThe Detroit NewsNashville Business Journal, WRALSacramento Bee, St. Louis Post-DispatchSan Antonio Business Journal, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Tampa Bay Times, Yahoo Sports, Reuters, and the AP. At Soccer America, a review of the ten groups in the expansion race.

Colorado has signed head coach Pablo Mastroeni to “a new contract through the 2019 MLS season.”

Dallas has re-signed defender Atiba Harris.

Portland and former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor have mutually agreed to part ways.

At Brotherly Game, Matt Ralph has a suggestion for making the SuperDraft more interesting: Expand Generation adidas so “players could be eligible regardless of age or college eligibility remaining…Open the draft up and expand opportunities for U.S.-based players in high school or college to start their professional journeys at a younger age.”

NASL saga continues

Sources tell Big Apple SoccerEmpire of Soccer and SBI the NASL is hoping to return with eight-to-ten teams in 2017, rising to 12 to 14 teams in 2018. SBI reports, “According to the sources, there are no guarantees, given the tumultuous nature of expansion, but the league is pushing to add teams from several interested expansion groups.”

Which gives rise to a couple of questions: exactly how many teams remain in the league at present and just where are these new teams coming from? The league fielded 12 teams in 2016. Minnesota United begins play in MLS next season, and Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies have left the league for the USL, which brings the number of existing teams to nine. Reports have indicated Rayo OKC is not returning in 2017, and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers are without an owner, which brings the number to seven. New York Cosmos has released its players and looks likely to be going on some kind of hiatus. You will recall Empire of Soccer reported on Wednesday Jacksonville Armada had “officially made the call to terminate all player contracts” after reporting earlier this week “the Armada have officially given notice to the NASL that they will no longer be a part of the league” ahead of a possible move to the USL. A club spokesperson has denied that all player contracts have been terminated — “We are still a functioning business” — but the club announced on Thursday five players have been released.

If Jacksonville is out, that leaves five teams: FC Edmonton, Indy Eleven, Miami FC, North Carolina FC, and Puerto Rico FC (although Carolina recently announced its intention to pursue a MLS expansion spot). One team is already slated to join the NASL in 2017, San Francisco Deltas, which would make six teams (the Deltas announced their first signings — three players — earlier this week.) So where will the two to four other teams come from for 2017 and how stable will they be if they are rushed into the league? The Peter Wilt-led Chicago bid has been mentioned but how much more is realistically out there and ready to begin play in 2017?

And there is this report from earlier this week in which Puerto Rico FC president Thomas Payne says the team is hoping for a NASL-USL merger: “Look, I’ve been around soccer for a long time, having worked at LA Galaxy and even in advisory roles within some USL teams. A league with only 5–6 teams is not competitive and not meaningful, and ultimately not something we’re interested in. This is why we hope this merger will happen, or we’ll continue to explore our other options.”

The question of how many teams remain in the league is a vital one, and not for competitive concerns. FiftyFiveOne reported on Thursday that (based on documents from 2014) NASL bylaws tie the fees a team must pay if it exits the league to the number of teams in the league. If the league has seven or more teams, the exit fee is somewhere between $2 million and $3.5 million. If the league has less than seven teams, the exit fee plummets to $25,000. If the NASL loses Division 2 status, no exit fees can be claimed by the league. You will recall US Soccer said on Dec. 6 that it would delay a decision on whether the NASL retains Division 2 status by ten days. Will an announcement be made today?

Big Apple Soccer reports New York Cosmos may have found a potential buyer: “According to a reliable source, the club has been negotiating with GF Capital Management & Advisers, LLC of New York City to purchase part of or the entire team from chairman Seamus O’Brien and Sela Sports…The Cosmos and GF Capital Management have been negotiating for about a month, the source said.” The report also says, “One intriguing rumor bouncing around has new owners acquiring the team. They would then have the club stay out of competitive soccer for a year and then purchase the Red Bulls to perform in Major League Soccer in 2018.” SB Nation NYRB blog Once a Metro says of the rumor, “Great. Now RBNY is getting dragged into the Cosmos’ sorry saga.”

Acknowledging much of the NASL’s troubles “is the result of a self-inflicted wound of financial and cultural hubris,” FourFourTwo wonders how the connection between US Soccer and MLS as manifested by Soccer United Marketing affects lower division soccer in the US, namely, the NASL.

US

The fan vote for the 2016 CONCACAF awards is open now through Sunday, January 8, 2017. Lots of US nominees.

Fox Sports on how financial concerns mean many women professional players retire early.

Elsewhere

Reuters reports, “FIFA’s Appeals Committee on Friday rejected an appeal by former German Football Association (DFB) President Wolfgang Niersbach, maintaining a one-year ban on him imposed in July. Niersbach was suspended by world soccer’s ruling body for failing to report potential misconduct surrounding the award of the 2006 soccer World Cup to Germany.”

At ESPN: “FIFA ref’s chief defends Club World Cup VAR trial after Ronaldo goal.”

Some two billion people watched Euro 2016.

Football Map from FIFPro.

Check out the latest Footy on the Telly for listings of live soccer on TV, online, and on satellite radio for the upcoming week.

18 Comments

  1. Reading about MLS’s ongoing expansion, I can’t help but get a gnawing feeling that the Union, and in fact many of the MLS 1.0 and 2.0 teams, are about to be largely priced out of competing. It’s only a matter of time until most of the price controls in place are completely removed. There is a good chance that Atlanta spends more for manager and transfer fees before their first game than the Union have spent in their entire history combined. How are we supposed to compete with that?

    • In 2016 the Cubs had MLB’s 14th highest payroll and won the World Series. In 2015 KC had the 16th highest payroll, with the same result. On the other hand, in the NFL, NHL & NBA the last few champions in each league were at or near the top of the salary chart, and each of those leagues have hard caps.

      So while the thought of no cap may seem scary, it tends to actually favor teams who spend conservatively. Both the Royals and Cubs had a really good manager and strong front office, but both focused on building an actual team as opposed to buying one. I think the same will work in MLS, which means they have to allow players to flow through systems more organically and stop trying to “even” the playing field through the draft and these made-up rules. If a team can’t figure out to build a team and attract players, they will either have to spend or be left in the dust. There’s is a good argument for keeping a strong cap and building financial stability, but moving away from a cap will allow teams the freedom to build and grow a team in different ways and could create a really fun and exciting league.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        minor semantic quibble, ;-). Are not all “rules” “made-up?”

      • While I agree with your general premise, it’s also hard to overlook the fact that Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and even our Phillies (and their shiny new Comcast deal) can buy their way back to the top.
        KC, Pittsburgh, TB, and other smaller teams have to get lucky with prospects coming through their farm system and then hope that they win the Series before those very same players go to NYC/BOS/LA for megabucks.
        .
        When you talk about a league having a hard cap, most teams that win will be near the top. In fact, so will most teams at the bottom of the standings.
        .
        It always comes down to intelligent front offices.
        Big Money can get you the Yankees of the early 2000’s, or the LA Angels of today. It’s all about the strength of the organization.
        .
        But having no money to spend really puts you behind the 8-ball when there is no cap.

      • I don’t think you can use the MLB as a comparison for one major reason: in the MLB, when you develop superstars in-house, you get to keep them for 6 years guaranteed, and often longer than that (e.g. the Phillies just locked up Odubel Herrera through 2023). The Union have finally developed a true MLS-quality star in Blake and we’re already sitting here wondering when he’s getting shipped out.
        .
        The big difference in the NFL, NHL, and NBA is that teams are mandated to spend at a certain level. In the NFL, there was a 17% difference in spending between the top and bottom teams, and a 6% difference between 3 and 22. In the MLS right now, because of the way their salary structure is, the difference in player cost outlay is in the hundreds or thousands percent.
        .
        The name of the game is talent. You gotta pay to retain it or pay to bring it in. If some teams are spending 20+M on player costs and other teams are spending 5M, the teams spending 8 figures will win more. Sure, a low payroll team will put something nice together for a year or two here or there, but when push comes to shove, money speaks on the field. It’s hard to get accurate figures because MLS, but the MLS playoffs were made up mainly of big spenders. The finals were two of the biggest spending teams. The MLS is not a develop-to-win league. Everybody talks about FCD’s model, but their model is predicated on identifying and importing undervalued South American talent more than internal development.
        .
        Basically, screw developmental. That’s now how you win in MLS, that’s how you make money. To win, you gotta spend.

      • To counter your first point, selling Blake gets the Union cash, straight up, to spend on other players, while in MLB trading a top player may not get you a prospect that works out. So in the case of selling Blake, he could land us a paycheck that can pay for 2 new starters, or pay for another high-priced player without going into their wallets. In MLB, players of that caliber leave at the trader deadline for a wealth of 50/50 prospects and maybe a guaranteed guy, or they leave in free agency for a comp. pick.
        —-
        As for your talent argument, I can’t disagree, but when you talk about the playoffs that’s a completely different ballgame. During the 34-game regular season Seattle struggled despite a high payroll, and Toronto wasn’t the best in the East. The Red Bulls payroll was much lower. Now the talent rose to the top in the playoffs, but that’s a much smaller sample size and there are many more factors involved. So in the vacuum of the entire season, spending won – but separate the playoffs and regular season, and FC Dallas’ method & NYRB’s lower payroll trumped the spending methods of Seattle and LA. And before you brush that off, the Conference winners get a spot in the CCL, so the regular season still matters a great deal.

    • Spending is the most reliable way to compete, but not the only way. But, yeah, I share your concern about our team’s abilities to compete on and off the pitch. One thing I would say is that there’s nothing stopping Sugarman from attracting more investors to the club. Union has to be worth quite a bit. The sport is a big growth opportunity in the states. There’s a reason Atlanta and City Football decided the league was worth it.

      • I think spending is the only way. I don’t think we’ll see fruits from the academy for years.
        .
        Sugarman could use the expansion fees as the new valuation standard (think Zillow for home prices and your HE loan). He may dilute his ownership level, but even if he sold 20-30% interest, thats $30-45M. Goes a long ways to improving the on-field product.

      • I like the thought on the expansion fee as a value marker. I’m sure there are more expansive valuations as well. And yeah, 30 to 40 million $$ would be remarkable for the club.

      • The academy requires cash as well. It’s cheaper than buying the finished product, but by no means, not without risk.

      • It is exactly that value that is keeping Sugarman from taking on additional investors.
        One, he is not in the mood to share the wealth.
        Two, no serious investor is going to be willing to sink more money into the club than Sugarman did intially and not have some ability to direct the future of the cliub.

      • I agree with Pete – it’s pretty stellar that Sugarman will be the first to cut those big checks, but as the sport grows, I’m sure he’ll recognize the need for additional pockets to fund the team.

    • And maybe I’m being too optimistic, but Soccer is the one sport where a well maintained and set up youth system can really help put a team over the hump. Even if we don’t spend the most money in the league, being able to develop players from their teens and put them in the first team will really help.

      • To a point. Look around the world at the best youth academies. Unless they have a Championship senior team above them, the academies serve as little more than profit generators.
        .
        Without being able to spend at least close to what the big boys do, we’ll be left to sell our best young players on a regular basis, just like teams all over the world.
        Look at Southhampton. Great at identifying and selling talent. There are many more examples, but they were the first that came to mind.

      • Well the EPL is a beast unto its own.

        In most other leagues, the team with the best (or a very good) youth development setup is usually near the top of the league. Look at Sporting CP or Ajax. Most South American leagues. ETC.

  2. Interesting…Arena says that Pontius will invited to the USMNT January camp.
    .
    https://twitter.com/DougMacESPN/status/809816630918254593

  3. Sounds like you can now stick a fork in NASL. I hope the remaining teams find a future elsewhere.

    That rumor about an investment group buying the Cosmos and the RB only to rebrand the whole RB/MetroStar franchise seems pretty far fetched. Though there were pretty strong rumors a year or two ago that Red Bull was shopping the team around…. Would hate to see the Cosmos brand disappear, but maybe it’s better off if left alone.

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