November 2010: New boom years for soccer in the USA: champions Colorado

“Exciting stars, bigger crowds: soccer is enjoying increasing popularity in the USA. There are many reasons, even the image as a soft sport helps , wrote the German “Süddeutsche Zeitung” newspaper mid-November 2010 when the Major League Soccer (MLS) was approaching the season’s end. “The USA is discovering soccer as a mass phenomena,” continued the paper, who are renowned for their excellent sports section.

Ice cold ecstasy: the Colorado Rapids celebrating the Major League Soccer championship title in Toronto. (Photo: GettyImages)

A new league champion was crowned on 21 November, the final day of the MLS season. The Colorado Rapids became the soccer champions of the United States of America for the first time. The team, which included Conor Casey, the former Hanover 96, Karlsruhe SC and 1 FSV Mainz 05 player, won the final in Toronto against FC Dallas 2-1 after extra time. Casey, the 29-year-old striker, scored the equaliser (57th minute) for his team which has its home in Denver in the state of Colorado. David Ferreira had previously put the Texans in the lead in the 35th minute. Then the Dallas defender George John became the tragic figure in the 107th minute when he deflected a Macoumba Kanji, the substitute, shot into his own goal. With the temperatures below zero, the match, which turned out to be a disappointing affair, was watched by a 21,700 crowd. The season on the whole though was far more exciting and attractive and has helped trigger a MLS boom.

Casey Conor (in red) scores sitting down past Jair Benitez and goalkeeper Kevin Hartman to equalise (1-1) in the MLS final against Dallas. (Photo: GettyImages)

“Soccer is improving all the time in the United States,” wrote the German news weekly “Der Spiegel” (edition No. 47 from 22.11.2010/P. 184). “Migrants love the game, the World Cup in South Africa was a TV success, the New York Urban Soccer League is the favourite hobby for thousands of the city’s men,” explained the article which centred on the Red Bull company, who not only have the Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel “on their books” but also the soccer team formerly known as the Metro Stars. It now goes by the name of “Red Bull New York”.

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The Americans are suddenly watching a sport that has taken a while for them to appreciate. Dirk Nowitzki, the German basketball superstar, comforted the team from the city of his Dallas Mavericks after the defeat in Toronto via Twitter. “An awful goal to lose to. So unlucky. But I’m so proud of the way the team fought,” wrote the German according to a Deutschen Presse Agentur (dpa) report. With the exception of the Denver and Dallas supporters, many soccer fans were disappointed that none of the top stars made it to the final. Dallas had beaten Los Angeles Galaxy and their English superman David Beckham 3-0 in the semifinal and Red Bull New York, who had signed the top French star Thierry Henry (formerly Barcelona, Arsenal) at the start of the season were surprisingly dumped in the previous round by San Jose Earthquakes.

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David Beckham seen in September 2010 during his comeback after a long injury. Los Angeles Galaxy won 3-1 against Columbus Crew. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

Soccer is catching up: 18,000 spectators on average – Continental a sponsor

In 2010, soccer escaped the shadows of baseball, basketball, ice-hockey and American football. The Red Bulls, who own their own stadium in New Jersey, have to compete in the region with the Yankees (baseball), the Rangers and Islanders (ice-hockey), the Knicks (basketball) as well as the Giants and the Jets (football). In addition there’s the New Jersey Nets (basketball) and the New Jersey Devils (ice-hockey) who are at home in  East Rutherford. The Red Bulls are a good example of the rise of soccer, which has long enjoyed greater attention in other parts of the USA. Soccer has now moved up to fourth place in New York behind professional baseball, basketball and football. In the 2010 season, which lasted from March to November 2010, the Red Bulls had an average crowd of 18,441 whilst the Rangers ice-hockey team had 17,950. “Soccer is on the threshold of an explosion,” said Dietmar Beiersdorfer, the former Director of Soccer at Hamburg SV and a long time professional player in Germany, when talking to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Beiersdorfer is the person responsible for Red Bull’s soccer clubs.

Red Bulls New York and their new top star Thierry Henry (bottom row, second from left) before the early season friendly against Tottenham (1-2) in July 2010. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

The average crowd figure for the MLS has almost caught up with the one for the French Ligue 1. In attracting over 36,000 spectators to their games, Seattle Sounders had the highest average gate. Interest grew considerably after the FIFA World Cup in South America when the USA team, in a match that was widely followed in the United States, drew 1-1 in their opening game against England and went on to reach the last 16. The league’s financial situation has improved significantly. Many leading companies, which are looking to take advantage of the increasing advertising and image value of soccer, have been won over as sponsors. Continental AG is also one of the MLS partners (http://www.mlssoccer.com/sponsors) and has therefore attracted a lot of attention in the USA. Fifteen teams from the USA and one from Canada were involved in the championship in the past season. The intention now is to increase that number to 20 by 2012.

In future, this website www.contisoccerworld.com will provide you regularly with news and background stories about the Major League Soccer.