What does hosting Copa America mean for US?

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Tonight marks the commencement of the Copa America Centenario tournament, the 100th anniversary of the storied South American competition.  However, all eyes will be on the United States as for the first time ever, the tournament will be held outside the Southern Hemisphere, pitting all 10 South American international teams against 6 of CONCACAF’s finest.  While there are many articles and stories out there predicting which nation will hoist the trophy, and which stars you should watch during the largest competition held in America since the 1994 World Cup, how easy is it to predict the economic implications of this event?

Before Orlando, Florida was awarded the rights to host three group stage matches, its bidding effort launched some pretty bold estimates on how much impact just one game could have on the region.  In the presentation by the Central Florida Sports Commission last March, $30 million to $50 million in revenue were projected figures depending on actual attendance.  In many ways, Orlando has realistic data to use as a reference when conjuring these estimates  based on its history as a host city during the 1994 World Cup.  Some other projections were the possibilities of 10,000 international travelers visiting the city, as well as 40,000-45,000 room reservations for at least one night stays in local hotels.  Orlando will host games on June 4, June 6, and June 8.  Time will tell if these predictions become reality.

The host city in the Bay Area of California, Santa Clara, is currently in the epicenter of American Sports with the Golden State Warriors of basketball competing in the NBA Finals, and the San Jose Sharks of hockey competing in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Tonight, Levi’s Stadium hosts the opening match between the United States and one of the favorites, Colombia.  A reported 67,000 seats have been sold as of the morning of June 3. Considering the capacity is 70,000, local businesses should be very pleased at the turnout.  Before San Francisco was awarded its bid, it projected a $139 million economic impact on the region based on the events. With the United States playing in the stadium, that number could reasonably grow even higher depending on the result.

From a sponsorship perspective, many big brands have hopped on the bandwagon to have their names associated with Copa America Centenario.   Anheuser-Busch, Delta Airlines, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Sprint will all feature prominently in this tournament.  Soccer United Marketing and IMG reportedly guaranteed the tournament organizers a minimum of $20 million for TV and sponsorship rights.  Fox Sports paid $15 million for the privilege of English language rights, while Univision reportedly paid over $60 million for the Spanish language rights. Realistically, the TV ratings for the Spanish language viewers should be tremendous given all the star power.  This proves once again that television reigns supreme in the sports world.

In short, the influx of international soccer fans, the passion of American soccer fans and the tourism revenue that will be present over the next month will be a spectacle that even the most passive sports fan can appreciate.  Copa America is normally held every other year, so the normal schedule would dictate that after the 2015 iteration, the next tournament would not be held since 2017.  To honor 100 years of the tournament (and cash in on the marketing implications of a South American competition on U.S. soil) an exception was made for 2016.  The most amazing part of all this is that the tournament almost didn’t happen after investigators uncovered a bribery scandal involving the organizers in the first place.

In case you’re curious, I predict a Mexico victory over Argentina in the final.

 

REFERENCES

http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2015/03/big-score-if-bid-is-successfulcopa-america-could.html

Copa America Soccer Tournament Comes To South Bay

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-07/anheuser-busch-delta-to-sponsor-centenario-soccer-tournament

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What Can Zlatan Do For You?

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He has over 3.5 million Twitter fans.  He has over 14 million Instagram followers. Before he played his last game with PSG at Parc de Princes, he had this to say:

“I came like a king, left like a legend.”

Amazingly, this statement is quite accurate.  The club president even announced plans to name a stand after him upon his retirement. He is arguably the most interesting man in the world. In soccer, at least.  Oozing of Scandinavian confidence, and scoring goals like there is no tomorrow, the chance of having this publicity machine play on American soil should cause casual soccer fans to rejoice.  But what else could Zlatan moving to the U.S. possibly do to change the game here?

Major League Soccer could finally have it’s own counterpart to LeBron’s coverage on ESPN.  AND to top it off, he’s European.  Okay sure, you may be thinking so what? He has a reputation, a history of being temperamental off-field, an ego the size of Greenland, and his hair is an ever-changing piece of modern art.  Big deal, David Beckham fit most of those criteria and soccer still isn’t America’s favorite sport.  Very true.  But let’s take a look at the stats. David Beckham could kick a set piece like no other, and off the field he was a tabloid sensation.  But in his 6 seasons in MLS, he scored 18 goals, averaging just 3 goals a season.  Zlatan is a different story.  He isn’t just exciting to watch on set pieces.  This past season with PSG in league play, he scored 38 goals in 31 games.  He’s 34 years old.  While many could say MLS has held on to its less than admirable reputation as a retirement league, it’s hard to deny that Zlatan still has the right stuff to be considered one of the best in the world.

He’s played with Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, PSG, and now…Philadelphia? Probably not, especially if the man with an ego has conditions to coming here.  Early reports have reported that he would be coming to the LA Galaxy, as most stars from Europe appear to do, yet the Galaxy’s current stock of talent seems to have reached its limit, financially at least.  The team already has the maximum number of Designated Players allowed, so unless MLS somehow changes the rules to allow the Galaxy to become to American soccer what Glasgow Celtic is to Scotland, it seems another destination could be necessary if Zlatan is still interested in coming to America on the next plane.

How about New York? No, not New York City FC, they have already reached the maximum amount of Designated Players as well with Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, and David Villa filling up plenty of cap space.  There is a team across the river with quite a bit less star power that could use a boost in the standings at the moment.

Yes, the Red Bulls have undergone a thorough restructuring process that most notably involved a philosophy shift from attracting aging European stars to building off of younger, more physical, homegrown talent.  Yes, this shift worked wonders last year as the Red Bulls coasted to a first place regular season finish despite an early exit from the playoffs. However, 11 games into the current season, the Red Bulls sit in 8th place out of 10 teams in the Eastern Conference, scoring a total of 13 goals in those 11 games.  Who has a reputation of scoring an unfathomable amount of goals?

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The next step in the progress of MLS is to get more people to watch games on TV.  This guy is quality television.  Who could possibly be a better draw for soccer ratings in the U.S? Mario Balotelli, maybe.

 

REFERENCES

http://www.espnfc.us/story/2871792/zlatan-ibrahimovic-confirms-paris-saint-germain-exit-this-summer

http://www.espnfc.us/paris-saint-germain/story/2873938/psg-to-honour-zlatan-ibrahimovic-with-parc-des-princes-stand-in-his-name

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/may/16/major-league-soccer-zlatan-ibrahimovic-la-galaxy

 

 

Should MLS expand to Sacramento?

sacramentoDuring a recent fan fest held in Sacramento, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced that the next round of MLS expansion would most likely occur in the year 2020 after Los Angeles FC, Atlanta United, Minnesota United, and ideally Miami Beckham United, have all entered the league.  One of the biggest potential candidates would have to be the Sacramento Republic which already draws an average of 10,000 fans per game and possibly has the backing to get a new stadium deal completed in time for 2020.  This conversation has happened since before the team started play in 2014.  Don Garber has even called Sacramento “MLS ready” multiple times as evidence of all the pieces it already has in place. But will it become a reality?

As the Republic website states, Sacramento is “committed to bringing MLS” to the region. So far they would seem to be on the right track with a solid supporters group called the Tower Bridge Battalion, a soccer specific stadium named Bonney Field, and the backing of the local government.  The region would have very little competition from other sports as well, with no football, baseball, or hockey franchises to eat into fan interest.  On top of that, Sacramento has consistently high TV ratings for marquee World Cup games compared to other U.S. cities. The team even has a shirt sponsorship deal in place with U.C. Davis Children’s Hospital.

On paper it seems like MLS in Sacramento would be a winning combination. But here are the roadblocks.

  1. The expansion fee.  One could expect the MLS to ask for over $100 million, especially after the record fees paid by NYCFC and Orlando City to join the league.  Money talks, and this could be one of the main reasons Sacramento has been bypassed thus far by cities with less concrete franchise plans in place.
  2. Location.  While the lack of competition in the area could be seen as an advantage, there is also a reason why few other major league sports franchises reside in the area.  There are bigger media markets out there to take advantage of.
  3. Commercial commitment and sponsorships.  This is more of a league-wide issue than a Sacramento issue.  In a recent interview, Garber stated that the “last piece of the puzzle” for the Republic ownership group would be to secure commercial commitment and sponsorship.  If a more lucrative shirt sponsorship can be found, and TV partners as well, Sacramento could be in business quicker than 2020.

Overall, Sacramento Republic FC is in great shape to move up to MLS.  It has the fans, the ownership group, the stadiums, and the can-do spirit necessary to take the next major step.  Sacramento has more pieces in place than Miami at present, and time will tell if the Republic can leapfrog Beckham to earn their fair place in the top tier of American soccer.

 

REFERENCES

  1. http://www.sacrepublicfc.com/community/sacramento-soccer-history/
  2. http://www.sacrepublicfc.com/football-club/built-for-mls-sacramento/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramento_Republic_FC
  4. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/apr/21/st-louis-sacramento-among-leading-mls-expansion-ca/

2016 MLS Predictions

2015-08-05-impact-VS-NY-RedBull-CIMON-225--2The new season is already underway, and with it comes a lot of uncertainty.  Which team will surprise us the most? Can the Portland Timbers repeat their performance in 2015?  Will the LA Galaxy continue their dominance over the league? Will the Seattle Sounders finally win a well deserved title for their passionate fans?   But most importantly,  will the attendance and TV viewership continue to grow?

The most intriguing aspect of this season may be that the league won’t see any form of expansion.  In 2017,  we could see two, maybe even three new teams in Atlanta and Minnesota, possibly LA too, but for the time being, Major League Soccer remains at 20.  Since many other sports have not seen any form of expansion in the past decade, this may not seem like a big deal,  but for a league like MLS that generates a considerable amount of hype every time it grows, this temporary halt in growth could arguably affect the buzz it relies on for ticket sales.  The good news is the decrease will probably be negligible

The last time MLS came out of an expansion season without expanding again the following season was 2013, the year after the Montreal Impact became the league’s 19th franchise.  2012 was a record-setting year for MLS in total attendance with over 6,000,000 fans.  2013 only saw a decrease of 1.1%, but for a league built around growth, any move such as folding a failing franchise (ie. Chivas USA) or building a soccer specific stadium (ie. DC United) needs to be calculated with careful consideration.

But here are a few things we can reasonably expect, with a small margin of error:

Average attendance figures will increase every so slightly from 2015 numbers by the end of the year.  As usual, the first few weeks of MLS action will generate the biggest crowds, but over time attendance will fizzle.

NYCFC vs. NY Red Bulls will be bigger than ever.  The crowds last season were very ample, and combined with increased marketing buzz and better play by the Bronx sophomores rallying around a new coach, this could quickly become a ratings boon for the league almost as big as all three Cascadia rivals across the country.

TV Viewership will remain stagnant or very close to it.  Until MLS figures out a way to draw attention away from the British Premier League,  it will be awhile before American soccer sees its large payday from TV Networks in the same way that the NFL, NBA, MLB, and even the NHL see to a greater extent.

The star power express from overseas will continue to flow in like we saw in 2015.  Building off the buzz created by stars like Sebastian Giovinco, Giovanni Dos Santos,  Andrea Pirlo, Kaka, and Didier Drogba, we are already seeing slightly older stars like Ashley Cole and Antonio Nocerino travelling across the pond in 2016, and there is no reason to believe the trend will stop anytime soon.  The day an abundance of young stars from overseas want to play in the US is the day MLS can finally challenge the European juggernauts in England, Spain, and Germany.

Only time will tell what happens, but for the time being, kick back, relax, and enjoy the new season of soccer in America.

REFERENCES

http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2015/03/25/expansion-timeline-minnesota-united-becomes-mls-newest-expansion-team

Attendance worries have quietly disappeared for Major League Soccer

http://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2013/10/31/5047982/mls-attendance-2013-report

MLS to St. Louis?

USATSI_7274155Many consider it to be the historic soccer capital of America.  What some still consider the greatest game ever played by the U.S Men’s National Team, 5 of the 11 starting players on the 1950 FIFA World Cup team that stunned powerhouse England were from St. Louis.  Since that time, some of the greatest players in U.S. soccer history have either hailed from St. Louis are played college soccer in St. Louis such as Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan, Brian McBride, and Tim Ream.  When the U.S. Open Cup was in its infant stages, St. Louis teams generated the most success, starting with a team named Ben Millers winning the championship in 1920.  This city clearly has a rich soccer history.  But can it sustain an MLS team?

Since the news of the Rams moving to Los Angeles, and the NFL abandoning St. Louis a second time (see the Arizona Cardinals)  the MLS has declared a renewed interest in bringing an expansion franchise to the area.  Last week, Commissioner Don Garber met with St. Louis Sports Commission Chairman Dave Peacock to continue a dialogue. The two of them had reportedly met ten years ago to have the same conversation, but as we can see, there is currently no Major League Soccer team in St. Louis.

St. Louis has had many iterations of professional soccer in the past.  Besides the semi-pro teams that emerged victorious in the early years of the U.S. Open Cup during the ’20s and ’30s, perhaps the most prominent team was the St. Louis Stars of NASL fan during the ’70s.  Ironically, that team moved to LA too. There was also an indoor soccer team called the St. Louis Steamers that averaged almost 12,000 fans per game for the better part of the ’80s. While none of these franchises had a happy ending, the departure of an NFL team leaves a gaping hole to be filled in the sports landscape of the city.

As many news outlets have been reiterating, there are usually three factors for bringing an MLS team to a city.  1) An already present fanbase  2) A viable ownership group  3) A viable (preferably downtown) stadium site with easy access for fans.  One of the reasons that talks to bring a team to St. Louis in the past may have stalled could have been the issue of a viable stadium site.  But now that the Rams have flown away to the West Coast,  a beautiful, riverfront stadium site suddenly appears within grasp.  The MLS appears to be so interested in this site, that the St.Louis Dispatch has even reported that the league has begun gathering potential owners.  Other markets have already expressed their vehement interest in a franchise such as Sacramento, San Antonio, and San Diego, but if the MLS is truly planning to expand to 28 teams by 2020, perhaps all these markets can make their way into the fold.

Short of a definite answer, it appears MLS is coming to St. Louis within the next five years.  The NFL leaving AGAIN is the perfect opportunity for MLS to capitalize on a market that only has baseball to watch in the summer and hockey in the winter months.  The fanbase appears to already be in place, with 43,000 fans seeing a USMNT World Cup Qualifier in Busch Stadium, a minor league team starting play last year in the USL, and if the site deal can be closed soon (not like the catastrophe that happened with NYCFC in Flushing) this deal to move into the 21st largest media market in America is too good to pass up.

 

REFERENCES

http://www.espnfc.us/major-league-soccer/story/2801606/mls-very-focused-on-expanding-to-st-louis-don-garber

http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2014/05/30/building-soccer-pyramid-success-finally-cards-historic-st-louis

http://saintlouisfc.com/history

 

A Fresh Start

cropped-site_iconIn Spanish, “chivas” means goats.  Quite literally, Chivas USA was the goat of MLS during its brief existence.  Consistently last in attendance, the fledgling franchise was always the ugly stepbrother of the league’s crown jewel, centerpiece, and innovative pioneer, the LA Galaxy.  Now a new era begins for a replacement franchise that has already recaptured many members of the small but proud Chivas USA fanbase.  This past week, the new team, Los Angeles Football Club, unveiled its first ever logo and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  The team even revealed a surprising co-owner with celebrity status when Will Ferrell crashed the stage.  On paper, things are looking very bright for the new LA team.  But when the team plays its first competitive game in 2017, will the atmosphere still be so rosy?

Continue reading “A Fresh Start”

MLS Cup: How Far Back Is The Futbol Championship from the Football Championship?

MLS-Cup-2015-imageIt’s a question you both want to ask and don’t want to ask at the same time.  Exactly how far back is the MLS Cup from its American football counterpart in terms of popularity? Without a doubt, the gap isn’t even close. But it would be nice to know what you’re up against when you face an upward climb, right?

Continue reading “MLS Cup: How Far Back Is The Futbol Championship from the Football Championship?”