The Decade in MLS
Top Seasons of the Decade:
- Kansas City 2000
- Columbus 2008
- DC United 2006
- Houston 2007
- Miami 2001
Top Teams of the Decade
- San Jose/Houston
- DC United
- Los Angeles
- New England
Top Coaches of the Decade
- Dom Kinnear
- Frank Yallop
- Steve Nicol
- Sigi Schmid
- Dave Sarachan
Top Moments of the Decade
- John Thorrington’s stoppage time goal lifts Chicago over LA in playoff deciding match, 2007
- San Jose’s epic comeback versus Los Angeles in the 2003 playoffs
- Carlos Ruiz’s winner in the 2002 MLS Cup during Extra Time
- Dwayne DeRossario’s winner versus New England in MLS Cup 2007
- Tony Meola’s second half saves while suffering from a concussion versus Chicago in MLS Cup 2000.
Biggest Stories of the Decade
- David Beckham’s signing
- Landon Donovan’s return to MLS from Bayer Leverkusen
- San Jose moves to Houston
- Soccer Specific Stadiums spring up around the country
- The continued failure of MLS’ signature franchise, DC United to get a stadium of its own
MLS grew from 12 teams at the beginning of the decade to 18 by decade’s end. Eight new teams (several which were “promoted from the A-League/USL-1) dwarfed the failure of the two Florida franchises.
Best New MLS City: Houston
Houston combined on the field success with an ability to market to all segments of the community and maintain a winning product.
A city that should have been involved in MLS from the beginning, the metropolitan area is probably as diverse culturally and ethnically as any in the US. South Asians, Latinos, East Asians, Arabs and Europeans of every stripe all make their way to Robertson Stadium to support the Dynamo.
The success of the organization in taping every segment of the community to build a fan base stands in direct contrast to the failures other, longer standing MLS cities have had in drawing ethnic fans to games, consistently.
New York, New England, Chicago and Dallas could learn a great deal about marketing and community outreach from Houston.
Market MLS Should Not Have Abandoned: Tampa Bay
MLS left both the Tampa Bay and South Florida areas after the 2001 season. Miami/Fort Lauderdale is a bad big league sports market, and the failure of FC Barcelona to penetrate the market demonstrated that MLS may have done the right thing in pulling the plug. Moreover, the lack of TV interest or ink spent in local papers on the Fusion’s demise further that thinking.
However, MLS absolutely did the wrong thing abandoning Tampa Bay. Ownership issues were a problem, but since 2001 it has been reported that interested in saving the Mutiny was high from several quarters including Malcolm Glazer, who now owns Manchester United.
Tampa Bay was the second best NASL market behind New York during that league’s glory days, and continues to have one of the biggest youth soccer programs in the country. Additionally, a US friendly in 2007, right after a disastrous World Cup was attended by almost 35,000 fans at Raymond James Stadium.
The local excitement and news coverage about a new second division professional team using the name of the old NASL Tampa Bay Rowdies, speaks volumes as to the potential in the market. Additionally, with US Soccer’s Bradenton Academy just down the road, Geography benefits having a strong first division presence in the market.
I could write an entire dissertation about the mistakes MLS made in the Tampa Bay market, but will rest my case on this issue stating that by pulling out the 13th largest TV market in the country while having teams in several markets ranked below 30th in the nation affects TV ratings dramatically. As MLS looks to expand into the future, it would be wise to take another look at Tampa, especially if the NASL or USL Rowdies are successful at the gate. (As I suspect they will be)
Best Fan Culture
- DC United
- Toronto FC