Saturday, April 02, 2005

MLS Year 10

In just a few minutes, Major League Soccer kicks off its tenth season of play. I can hardly believe that it was nine years ago when I tuned in to ESPN for the league's inaugural match. It was a poorly played, scrappy affair, on a ridiculously small field, rescued only by Eric Wynalda's late moment of brilliance. Yet none of that really mattered. The very fact that the game was played was the important thing.

Since then MLS has had its problems, but the overall picture is positive. The standard of play has improved tremendously, as reflected in the performance of the US National Team and of former MLS players in Europe. The league is in much better financial shape. A new 10 year, $150 million contract with Adidas is both a major financial boost and an important vote of confidence. Dallas, Chicago, and Colorado will each move into their own soccer-specific stadiums within the next two years. Two new clubs open play this year, with the promise of future expansion to come.

MLS still has a lot of work to do, but the long-term outlook remains bright. As with so many other things in life, establishing professional soccer as a major sport in the USA is a marathon, not a sprint.

For more on the new MLS season, see this article from the AP, as well as the following Web sites:

ESPN Soccernet

Fox Soccer Channel


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