By Ted Westervelt
After a century of trying to do soccer like Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League – the results are in: the US game has failed to reach its massive potential in our closed league system. Even today it continues to reject every effort to cloister it.
Meanwhile, the game thrived in open leagues featuring promotion and relegation.
Dysfunctional relationships between federation and closed league are chronic. Autonomous governing bodies played a critical role in the global development of the game. They ushered it to universal success. Instead of being a potent force in the development of our game, our federation has been bullied, ignored and finally subordinated by our closed leagues. Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that the behavior of US Soccer vacillated between bellicose, ineffective, inane and complaisant.
The inability of US closed leagues to tolerate independent federations is easy to plot. Our first great top-flight league showcased world class clubs, top European talent, and a wave of US player development. It also featured a falling out with US Soccer so complete, it set American soccer back fifty years and left the federation shell shocked. In our second well financed shot at the big time, one league jolted the US into a footy craze, made soccer the most popular youth sport in the country, and produced a generation of players that took us back to the World Cup for the first time in forty years. They also chose to simply ignore our federation – and collapsed as quickly as the first. In our latest attempt at D1 professional soccer, US Soccer has simply accepted an unprecedented level of subordination to a top-flight league that limits investment, access, and interest in the US club game. Perhaps federation control is a key component of MLS closed-league single entity survival, but TV ratings, player development and our national team stagnate alongside it.
In 1985 Giorgio Chinaglia told the Montreal Gazette, “Fans want to see strong international play. Anything less will not draw fans.” (see timeline) In an effort to insure the survival of club soccer – in our pro sports model – MLS uses powers extorted from our federation to limit club quality. By limiting club quality, the league prohibits teams from reaching their potential. Judging by their consistent inability to draw interest, MLS – like all their closed league predecessors – cannot meet the demands of the increasingly sophisticated US supporter. To be fair, they cannot accommodate billions of fans around the world who demand both stable leagues and clubs that are not arbitrarily capped in caliber.
In the twentieth century, closed US leagues of independent and unfettered clubs tumbled over financial cliffs like so many lemmings – despite consistent and demonstrable affection for the game among many Americans. In the meantime, a wildly successful, stable and unlimited global club game developed in the rest of the soccer world. It did so under a free market system of promotion, relegation and independent clubs. It relied on an umbrella of sovereign and potent federations, and accommodated the autonomous and boundless teams around which the game revolves.
Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” After watching US Soccer try the same thing and get the same results since Herbert Hoover, perhaps he would advocate joining the rest of the world in the open market of club soccer. As a devout supporter of the United Nations, he would certainly support a system of healthy, independent and effective governance.
Despite Chinaglia’s warning and Einstein’s logic, our club and international game continue to flounder far behind. The US closed league straight jacket has been laced down tighter than ever before. Today MLS survives on a cornucopia of privileges from US soccer based on precedents set by sports that little in common with soccer. Can it be sheer coincidence that they fall further from reaching the US soccer market today than at any time in their history?
Welcome to the asylum.
A group of ex-British enthusiasts meet in Newark, NJ to form the American Football Association. It already the fourth attempt to form a national governing body for soccer.
In first international match outside the British Isles, Canadian and US teams face off at Clark Field in Northern NJ.
The governing body of English football adopts an open league model featuring promotion/relegation between two top leagues of independent, professional, autonomous clubs. They decide the existing FA Cup, a competition open to every pro, amateur or league club in the country, will continue unchanged. This basic system would stay largely stable and intact until the present day, and would be embraced by the vast majority of nations over the next century.
AFA preference for semi-pro clubs drives amateur New York clubs to break away and form the American Amateur Football Association.
The first attempt is made to establish a fully professional American soccer league. It is also the first attempt by another major American sport to co-opt professional soccer into the budding American closed league model. The six-team American League of Professional Football (ALPF) is not promoted by any of the existing soccer associations, but is formed by a group of professional baseball owners from the National League.
ALPF collapses among heavy financial losses during its first season.
Independent clubs survive when the major league baseball attempt to co-opt the game fails: American Cup Final sells out, Fall River and Kearny already fully established as soccer hotbeds. New York Times, March 4:
The National Association Football League (NAFL) is formed on a closed league model, but is created by lifting top teams in the New York City and New Jersey regional leagues. Founding members include Kearny Scots, who endure today:
NAFL is suspended due to waning fan interest.
FIFA forms. US soccer supporters are unable to coalesce behind a national soccer organizing body, and cannot secure membership.
St. Louis Soccer League goes professional, but does not adopt promotion/relegation open league model that has already produced a thriving, stable pro league in England.
NAFL is revived, again under a closed league model.
Bethlehem Steel FC formed.
After nine years of infighting between AFA and AAFA, FIFA finally accepts AAFA assembled bid for US membership: The United States Football Association. Despite this victory for supporters of the professional game, a divisive rift between professional and amateur club supporters will persist for fifty more years.
In their crowning achievement, US Federation inaugurates National Challenge Cup – competition known today as the US Open Cup:
The Southern New England Football League forms under a closed league model.
Club scene thrives in San Francisco:
Steel Field is built in Bethlehem, PA. First soccer specific stadium in the US, it still stands today:
Bethlehem Steel wins third US Open Cup Final in Pawtucket, RI:
Charles Schwab sends his Bethlehem Steel FC on a Scandinavian tour. Club draws sellout crowds and compiles a winning record against top flight competition:
In a move partly designed in part to purge poor, low performing clubs stagnating in their respective closed leagues, NAFL merges with SNEFL to form the nucleus of the American Soccer League (ASL). This marks the beginning of the first golden age of US club soccer.
Sam Marks builds 10,000 seat soccer specific stadium in North Tiverton, RI for his Fall River Marksmen.
St.Louis Soccer League fields top-flight clubs:
ASL becomes the second most popular pro sport league in the United States behind baseball’s National League.
Fall River Marksmen celebrate their first ASL championship.
In prophetic early battle between federation and closed league, ASL advises clubs not to enter the National Open Challenge Cup (later to become the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup) claiming schedule conflicts.
American Archie Stark sets current world record for most goals scored in a single season for a top-flight club – 67 in 42 games for Bethlehem Steel, FC
Stark (front row center) tallies four times as the USMNT defeat Canada in Ebbet’s Field:
Attendance at ASL matches regularly passes 10,000.
October 31 Fall River Globe – Alarmed at exodus of top players to ASL, Scottish FA cries foul:
Vienna Hakoah tours the US. The European superclub’s first three matches against ASL opponents draw 25,000, 30,000 and 36,000 spectators respectively. The tour culminates in the famous May 1 1926 match against ASL New York stars from the Giants and Indiana Flooring at the Polo Grounds: 46,000 attend the match, setting a record for an American club soccer match that will stand until 1977:
ASL establishes first “Champions League” with three ASL and five top Canadian clubs.
New York Times reports on Eastern European plot to oust US Soccer from FIFA. Austrians and Hungarians upset by ASL recruitment efforts:
Problem of cash strapped low performing clubs lingering in a closed league strikes again. Recently purchased Philadelphia FC struggles mightily out of the box and is dropped from the season via a league office decision. In order to balance the schedule the league abruptly drops Hartford, another struggling team.
American “Soccer War” begins begins in earnest, marking the beginning of the end of the ASL and defining persistent battle lines between closed leagues and federations. League announces that it wants US Open Cup competitions moved to the end of the league season or its teams exempted until the season is over. US Soccer refuses, and the ASL orders teams not to participate. Bethlehem Steel FC, Newark Skeeters and New York Giants defy league and participate anyway. ASL President Bill Cunningham institutes fines and suspensions on these clubs, who appeal to the USFA. ASL refuses an order from the federation to reverse these actions and is suspended by US Soccer.
ASL continues to operate as an outlaw league, and the USFA assembles the three renegade ASL teams with other clubs from the Southern New York State Association, leading to dispute between the SNYSA and the USFA. SNYSA teams up with the ASL against the regional Eastern Soccer League and USFA.
The New Bedford Whalers jump to the ESL mid season.
In an early example of US Soccer inefficacy, US Olympic squad chosen in an elimination tournament instead of via all-star selection. Result was an 11-2 drubbing by Argentina:
Disappointed in the quality of ESL play, New Bedford jumps back to the ASL.
The ASL and US Soccer finally reach an exhausted compromise. ASL abandons partially competed fall 1929 season, and in another move to purge the league of poor, underperforming clubs, merges strongest teams with better ESL teams to form the Atlantic Coast League.
Fall River Marksmen defeat Bethlehem Steel in their final US Open Cup matchup:
With a properly selected squad composed entirely of US club players, USMNT reach semi finals in the first World Cup undefeated and unscored upon – netting back to back 3-0 shutouts against Paraguay and Belgium. Fall River Marksmen Bert Patenaude becomes first player in the history of the tournament to notch a hat-trick:
The New York Times calls the USMNT “Favorite to Win World’s Soccer Title”:
Argentina ends the USMNT World Cup run in the semifinals, defeating them 7-2.
Storied NAFL and ASL club Bethlehem Steel FC folds
Top Mexican side Nexaca embarks on US tour.
Scottish champions Glasgow Celtic tour the United States:
After moving to Yankee Stadium for one season as the New York Yankees – and beating Scottish champs Celtic behind three goals from Billy Gonsalves – storied SNESL and ASL club Fall River Marksmen fold.
ASL is reorganized out of existence along with every remaining storied club. It marks the biggest closed league debacle to date, and ends the first golden age of U.S. club soccer.
Second American Soccer League (ASL II) formed with entirely new line up of clubs as a closed league – but elevates strongest amateur and semi pro teams from local leagues, including storied NAFBL clubs Kearny Scots and Kearny Irish. Initially, league is confined to NY/NJ/Philadelphia region. It will survive for 50 years and become the longest surviving extra-regional closed league in soccer history.
USMNT exits World Cup in first round, losing to Italy 7-1.
Kearny Scots win first of five consecutive ASL II league titles.
ASL II sponsors first Charlton Athletic US tour.
Chicago Sparta win US Open Cup 8-0 on aggregate:
Citing political tensions, USMNT withdraws from World Cup in France.
St. Louis Soccer league goes regional as Cleveland Slavias and Chicago Sparta join their “Inter City Soccer Loop”. First attempt at Midwestern League only lasts one year.
Mexico forms national first division and adopts promotion/relegation system:
United States Football Association changes name to United States Soccer Football Association.
North American Soccer Football League (NASFL) formed on the closed franchise league model.
ASL II sponsors first Liverpool FC US tour. Reds defeat NY Select team led by ageless former Fall River Marksman Billy Gonsalves:
Chicago Viking defeats Fall River Ponta Delgada for the US Open Cup 3-2 on aggregate. First leg held in soccer specific Mark’s Stadium:
ASL II sponsors first Manchester United US tour. Defeat Joe Gaetjens and NY ASL All-Stars 9-2:
USMNT appear in their third World Cup Final and stun England 1-0 in first round behind a Joe Gaetjens’ strike:
CONCACAF qualification for the 1954 World Cup consists two home and away series. In the first, US Soccer mysteriously allows scheduling of both WCQ in Mexico – and organizes no practices for the veteran squad. USMNT lose both matches, and are eliminated before second series with Haiti begins.
US fields Olympic team, but is routed by Czechs 9-1 in their first an only match.
US, Mexico and Canada battle for one World Cup Finals slot. Again, many players did not even meet until they arrived in Mexico for the first match, and US Soccer is unable schedule any practices.
After two losses to their Mexican rivals, US federation changes strategy radically: Team is disbanded and entire US Open Cup Champion St. Louis Kutis squad is drafted to represent the country. Strategy fails as Canadians win both remaining matches.
ASL grows to ten clubs across five states.
Manchester United tours the US again. Draws over 20,000 fans to a friendly with Hearts of Midlothian at Ebbet’s Field in Brooklyn.
The second International Soccer League (ISL II) a closed league formed with off season international clubs including Bayern Munich, Sporting Lisbon, and Red Star Belgrade, and a U.S. club of stars from ASL II.
US fails to qualify for the 1962 World Cup, but ties regional power Mexico in Los Angeles 2-2.
US Open Cup Final features intriguing East/West matchup:
Manchester United tours the United States for the fourth time since 1950:
Senator Robert F. Kennedy attends Brazil v USSR friendly, meets Pele’:
ISL II folds.
Tape delayed ABC telecast of 1966 World Cup Final between West Germany and England sets a US ratings record for a soccer match that will last until 1994.
ASL II expands nationally with franchises in the Midwest and Northeast.
Inspired by huge American television audiences for the World Cup, two rival investment groups led by owners of other professional sports franchises form the United Soccer Association (USA) and the National Professional Soccer Association (NPSL). Both are set up as closed leagues.
Per the ISL II model, the USA arranges importation of entire international clubs for their inaugural season in order to get a leg up on NPSL rivals.
Two top flight leagues hit the US at once. USA and NPSL compete for US market share and both nearly go bankrupt in their first seasons. NPSL nails a $1 million CBS contract but not a US Soccer sanction. The USA obtains sanction, but no national TV.
The New York Times struggles to explain latest US pro sports owner attempts at soccer:
First major league soccer match takes place in Atlanta:
USA and NPSL purge low performing clubs and merge to form the North American Soccer League. NASL retains US pro sports model, and does not obtain US Soccer sanction.
Manchester City tours the US. Loses to former NPSL side Atlanta Chiefs twice:
Chicago Mustangs embark on European Tour:
Fans flood Yankee Stadium to see Pele’ and Santos defeat Napoli June, 22 New York Times:
NASL drops to five clubs and splits season into two halves. In first, league reverts to USA model of importing entire foreign clubs. In the second, clubs begin play with their own rosters.
St. Louis utilizes homegrown talent in the second half – 14 Yanks on 18 man roster.
Madison Square Garden draws 17,000 fans to watch a World Cup match on television.
NASL takes the extraordinary step of “promoting” 2 ASL clubs to stay alive: Rochester Lancers and Washington Darts. Rochester leads the way in attendance at over 5000 a game.
New York Cosmos admitted into NASL.
NASL carries all teams from previous season – a first for the league – though Washington moves to Miami. Also becomes first soccer league to set up college “draft”.
US qualifies for first Olympics since 1956:
NASL has an American year: an American leading scorer, three Americans among the top 10 scoring leaders, an American as the league leading goalkeeper, an American Coach of the Year, an American Rookie of the Year, four Americans on post-season all-star teams and a champion that started six Americans in the league final.
Brand new Philadelphia Atoms draw over 21,000 to their league opener go on to average 11,382 per game for the season (a new league record) win the championship, and their goalkeeper becomes the first soccer player to ever grace the cover of Sports Illustrated:
Seattle Sounders admitted into the NASL:
NASL side LA Aztecs defeat Mexican powerhouse Monterrey:
San Jose Earthquakes admitted into the NASL
Pele’ debuts for the New York Cosmos. Second golden age of US club soccer begins:
NASL reaches twenty clubs.
Portland Timbers admitted into the NASL.
Tampa Bay Rowdies purchase Rodney Marsh from Queens Park Rangers. San Antonio sign former England captain Bobby Moore away from Fulham. Los Angeles-and new part-owner Elton John – sign 29 year-old George Best. Giorgio Chinaglia joins Cosmos from Lazio.
Sounders draw over 58,000 to the first sporting event held at the Kingdome: A pre-season friendly with Pele’ and the Cosmos.
Minnesota averages over 23,000 per game.
Playoff game between the Cosmos and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers draws 77,691 fans to Giants Stadium, breaking the record set by Vienna Hakoah and the ASL’s New York All-Stars forty-nine years earlier:
Cosmos average 34,000 fans per game, defeat Sounders in 1977 Soccer Bowl.
NASL clubs participate in record 48 international friendlies. Cosmos tie Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in front of largest crowd of the season. Also defeat Atletico Madrid at Vicente Calderon.
Giorgio Chinaglia scores fifty regular season goals for the New York Cosmos:
Chinaglia finds the net seven times in one playoff game:
ABC averages 2.7 rating for NASL telecasts – about 2 million households – more than double the ratings of any single MLS Cup telecast:
RFK Stadium hosts NASL Soccer Bowl:
United Soccer League (not to be confused with the United Soccer Leagues) formed on the closed league model:
Seattle Sounders drop out of NASL
(approx) Soccer becomes the most popular youth sport in the United States.
Los Angeles Olympic soccer matches draw massive crowds, including 78,000 for US v Costa Rica and over 100,000 for both medal matches.
New York Cosmos defeat Italian champs Juventus in front of 36,000 at the Meadowlands
Western Alliance Challenge Series (Later the western Soccer Alliance) another closed franchise league, begins with teams in San Jose, Victoria, Seattle and Portland, playing an abbreviated 7-game season.
Chicago Sting win final NASL Soccer Bowl.
Montreal Gazette previews fall of the New York Cosmos.
The most storied US club since the Fall River Marksmen and Bethlehem Steel FC, New York Cosmos is reorganized into a local soccer academy.
Like their storied ASL predecessors, NASL - at least the seventh major attempt to force top-flight soccer into US style closed leagues – collapses in a sea of red ink.
Only four professional outdoor soccer clubs remain in North America – the lowest number since 1905. Still, one of them draws a visit from Manchester City:
USMNT fail to qualify for World Cup final.
Lone Star Soccer Alliance debuts in Texas and surrounding states as a closed franchise league.
FIFA awards World Cup 1994 to the US on the condition that the USSF establish a first division professional league.
Sunbelt Indoor Soccer League (SISL) a closed franchise indoor league based in Florida and run by Former NASL executive Francisco Marcos debuts an eight-club outdoor season.
43,000 fill Franklin Field in Philadelphia to watch the USMNT defeat top Russian club Dnepr 1-0.
USMNT qualify for first World Cup Finals since 1950:
USMNT make first World Cup Finals appearance since 1950. Eliminated after losing every group stage match.
FIFA endorsed candidate Alan Rothenberg defeats long time incumbent USSF President Werner Fricker.
ASL III merges with the WSA to form the American Professional Soccer League (APSL) under the closed league model. FIFA sanctions APSL as the US second division league. Together, they employ future US MNT stars Marcelo Balboa, Tab Ramos, Kasey Keller and John Harkes:
APSL nearly folds, but survives through another purge of non-performing, financially weak US clubs from a closed league.
Trying to meet FIFA demand for a first division league, an investment group headed by USSF President Alan Rothenberg that includes NFL and former NASL investors battles, APSL, USISL, and the indoor MISL for FIFA/US Soccer first division sanction. Federation takes bids for leagues, does not open leagues for clubs.
J-League inaugural season marks the beginning of an open league model, featuring promotion and relegation, for Japanese club soccer. Japanese professional baseball maintains American closed league model:
Aided by the vast net worth of his partners, Rothenberg led group calling itself Major League Soccer prevails in battle for US first division sanction, promises to begin play in 1995. US Soccer sanctions MLS despite their continued adherence to a closed model – at least the eighth such national attempt in US club soccer history. Federation also grants MLS a unique single-entity business model in which league owns every tea – and with it the power to limit the quality of every club via salary caps and squad limits.
APSL bid for D1 rejected, despite the fact that league is up and running with six clubs including Tampa Bay Rowdies and Montreal Impact.
USMNT play record 34 matches in preparation for 1994 World Cup Final – nearly a full club season in many countries.
USA hosts first World Cup Final, draws record 3.6 million spectators, at a record average of 67,000 per game – despite the fact that the country does not have a running first division soccer league.
Top six best attended soccer games in US history remain World Cup matches held in the Rose Bowl. Final between Italy and Brazil draws all time US record 101,799:
USMNT advance to second round for the first time since 1930.
Seattle Sounders join APSL.
APSL refuses offer from MLS to join their single entity. Owners prefer to own clubs and players as practiced all over the world.
MLS moves back opening day to 1996.
APSL changes name to A-League.
Chasing ghosts of Bert Patenaude and the 1930 USMNT World Cup semifinalists, Earnie Stewart and his USMNT storm to Copa America Semis in Uruguay. Run includes a 3-1 trouncing of Gabriel Batistuta’s Argentina:
In a consolidation of power unprecedented in over one hundred years of professional US club soccer, the A-League and USISL work out an agreement to act as farm systems for the MLS. For the first time, the United States has a recognized three-tiered league structure, sanctioned by FIFA – although clubs are still institutionally blocked from moving between divisions.
Major League Soccer (MLS) arrives. League places a high priority on relative team parity and discount pro-sport ticket pricing. In response to the problems their predecessors encountered applying the American closed franchise model to national club soccer, US Soccer grants MLS an unprecedented array of intrusive top-down policies and procedures. On paper, MLS is organized under a single entity corporate structure with teams managed by investor/owners. League manages all player salaries, signings, allocations, approves all trades limits teams to five foreigners, institutes a salary cap of $1.25 million per team and a maximum player salary of $175,000, and pays all players directly. Investor/owners of each team “invest” to the tune of $75 million – ostensibly to cover expected operating losses for the first five seasons of the league. Ten corporate sponsors sign, and television contracts are signed with ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and Univision. NFL owner and NASL backer Lamar Hunt is a major investor.
Top Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos leaps into MLS:
DC United win inaugural MLS Cup.
MLS average attendance hits 17,695.
USISL establish Select League of top teams in an effort to gain second division status.
Select League and A-League merge and receive second division US Soccer sanction under A-League name.
MLS average attendance drops by over 1000 fans per game.
US cannot advance out of World Cup group stage.
DC United win CONCACAF Champions Cup.
In the high water mark for MLS in international competition, DC United become champions of the western hemisphere by defeating South American club champion Vasco De Gama in the InterAmerican Cup:
USISL changes name to United Soccer Leagues. A-League is absorbed into USL-1 and recognized as American second division, USL-2 as third division.
MLS average attendance drops to all time low of 13,366.
LA Galaxy wins CONCACAF Champions Cup.
MLS contracts to ten teams by purging Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion.
Portland Timbers reincarnated into A-League/USL-1.
San Jose Earthquakes reincarnated into MLS.
USMNT advance to quarterfinals in the World Cup.
Only a heroic effort from Oliver Kahn and suspect officiating keeps the USMNT from making their first World Cup semifinal appearance since 1930:
Manchester United pays MLS $4 million transfer fee for Tim Howard:
Kraft Soccer Executive and Columbia Econ Professor Sunil Gulati ascends to volunteer Presidency of US Soccer.
Once In A Lifetime – The Extraordinary story of the New York Cosmos debuts in theaters.
MLS moves storied NASL brand San Jose Earthquakes to Houston to become the Dynamo.
Fulham pays $4 million transfer fee to MLS for Clint Dempsey:
Cultural Icon David Beckham signs with MLS/Los Angeles Galaxy:
MLS average attendance rises to 16,202.
MLS sells Jozy Altidore to Spanish first division club Villareal for record transfer fee of $10 million.
San Jose Earthquakes re-reincarnated into MLS.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter announces that preference will be given to prospective World Cup host nations who adopt open league model featuring promotion and relegation.
FIFA calls promotion and relegation by sporting criteria “The essence of the game.”
Australia’s soccer governing body announces plans to move from franchise model to open league model featuring promotion and relegation. Once completed, this move will leave the United States and Canada the last major soccer nations committed to a closed league model for domestic club play.
Average MLS attendance drops 1.8%
Seattle Sounders reincarnated into MLS for a reported franchise fee of $30 million – and average nearly 30,000 fans per game.
Despite remarkable success in Seattle, As of early June, MLS average attendance drops 8.8%.
USL-1 club Puerto Rico Islanders advance further than all MLS teams in CONCACAF Champions League play.
US President Barack Obama announces bid for 2018/2022 World Cup Final. Meets FIFA President Sepp Blatter in the White House. Blatter asks US President when the US will adopt promotion and relegation system for club soccer.
MLS announces plans to reincarnate Portland Timbers into MLS.
As pressure mounts on US Soccer, MLS Commissioner Don Garber responds to question on promotion/relegation and open league play on the MLS web site:
“Unfortunately our country does not have the infrastructure to support promotion/relegation at this time. We’ll continue to monitor this, but it will likely be at least ten years before promotion/relegation could ever be considered.”
Americans buy more tickets to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa than citizens of any other nation.
USMNT lose to Mexico 5-0 in Gold Cup finals.
Massive US crowds assemble for international matches: LA Galaxy v Barcelona – 93,137 • Mexico v Haiti – 85,000 • Chelsea v Inter Milan – 81,224 • Mexico v USA – 79,156
After struggling into the knockout stages, USMNT eliminated by Ghana in World Cup play for the second straight time.
Re-animated NASL brand obtains provisional D2 sanction from US Soccer:
Despite the efforts of President Clinton, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Spike Lee and others, US loses bids to host 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Despite little promotion, US Open Cup Final between Seattle Sounders and Columbus Crew draws 31,311 fans to Qwest Field, breaking tournament attendance record set in 1929.
Another huge attendance year for international matches in the US: Manchester United v Barcelona – 81,807 • Mexico v El Salvador – 80,108 • US v Argentina – 78,682
Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps “promoted” and join Seattle Sounders in MLS. Reincarnated NASL clubs draw massive local interest and allow MLS to eek out a new average attendance record.
Seattle Sounders win their second consecutive US Open Cup, and set another new attendance record – 35,615:
Despite failure rate of lower division US clubs at nearly 75% since the inception of MLS, NASL narrowly avoids US soccer desanction. MLS Commissioner and President Gulati abstain from vote.
Real Salt Lake drives to the Finals of the CONCACAF Champions league, but succumbs to Monterrey.
Juergen Klinsmann hired to coach USMNT.
Fox begins broadcasting English Premier League games on broadcast television. Ratings dwarf those of any MLS Cup, much less MLS regular season matches.
Fox loses contract to broadcast MLS to NBC – though Fox bid was reportedly significantly higher.
Volunteer US Soccer President/MLS owner employee Sunil Gulati changes title at Kraft soccer from President of the New England Revolution to Special Adviser to the Kraft Family.
A century deep in US professional soccer history awash with closed league failures, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said this when asked about promotion/relegation:
“While I personally think promotion and relegation would be very exciting, the professional soccer landscape in the United States and Canada is not mature enough to support this type of system.”
US fails to qualify for the Olympics for only the second time since the 1970s.
NASL Commissioner David Downs says promotion and relegation is in his wildest dreams.
Montreal Impact “promoted” to MLS.
Final US clubs eliminated in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
ESPN releases poll showing dramatic rise of club soccer popularity in the US:
NBC begins broadcasting MLS on their new sports channel. Ratings remain largely unchanged.