SBD/August 26, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Dempsey's Home Debut Brings Record Crowd; Questions Linger Around MLS Allocation

Dempsey says the Sounders "moved mountains" to get him to return to MLS
Last night's MLS Timbers-Sounders match at CenturyLink Field drew 67,385 fans, marking the "largest soccer crowd Seattle has ever seen" and the "second-largest attendance in MLS history for a game that wasn't part of an international doubleheader," according to Joshua Mayers of the SEATTLE TIMES. The match was the home debut of recently signed Sounders F Clint Demspey, and it also saw "one of the five largest crowds across the world over the weekend." Sounders MF Brad Evans said, "We’re always asked questions about those games that you remember. Obviously this will be one of them" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/26). SI.com's Grant Wahl writes, "Dempsey Mania has taken over Seattle, and yet the vibe is hardly just about the U.S. national team captain who signed here earlier this month." The city is "in love with the Sounders as a team." Attending a rivalry game in Seattle "doesn't just feel major league for the United States; it feels major league for any soccer game in any country in the world." Dempsey after the game said, "It's awesome to play here in front of 67,000. It's what you dream about as a kid" (SI.com, 8/26). Meanwhile, Dempsey was profiled on CBS' "Evening News" last night. CBS' Jeff Glor said the announcement by Dempsey that he was joining the Sounders "stunned the world of soccer." Dempsey said, "I thought I was going to be over there two more years but the opportunity came. The MLS and the Seattle Sounders really moved mountains to get me back" to the U.S. ("Evening News," CBS, 8/25). ESPN's Alexi Lalas in a pre-match interview asked Dempsey, "How do you respond to people that say that coming back to MLS in your prime is taking a step backwards in terms of your development or the challenge?" Dempsey answered, "I'm not really worried what people think. It's a decision I took very seriously … and I think it's the best decision for me and my family, and I'm excited about continuing the growth of the game here in MLS" ("Timbers-Sounders," ESPN2, 8/25).

TOP 10 SOCCER CROWDS BETWEEN AUG. 23-25
LEAGUE MATCH ATTENDANCE
Bundesliga Dortmund-Bremen 80,645
Bundesliga Bayern Munich-Nuremberg 71,000
MLS Timbers-Sounders 67,385
Bundesliga Hertha Berlin-Hamburg 63,574
EPL Newcastle-West Ham 49,662
Bundesliga Hannover-Schalke 49,000
Serie A Inter Milan-Genoa 42,797
EPL Aston Villa-Liverpool 42,098
La Liga Athletico Madrid-Rayo Vallecano 41,815
Eredivisie Feyenoord-NAC Breda 41,000

SOMETHING FISHY WITH ACQUISITION?
 In Portland, Geoffrey Arnold wrote Dempsey's signing was "hailed around the soccer world as a major coup for MLS, but the methods surrounding the acquisition has raised questions about the murkiness and secretive nature" of the league's acquisition rules. Questions also have "surfaced about the league's competitive balance." Dempsey is "likely the most important" player in MLS since David Beckham. Dempsey's signing "represents evidence that the league can attract world-class players in the prime of their careers." But the "manner in which the league acquired Dempsey, discreetly steered him to Seattle and then fumbled its attempt to explain the transaction process, hurt the league's credibility." Using a "strict interpretation of allocation rules," the Timbers "looked to have the first shot at signing Dempsey." Even if the Timbers "didn't want to pay or couldn't pay Dempsey the money he demanded," the team could have had "leverage in determining where he would land in MLS." It is "doubtful the Timbers would have allowed their archrivals to acquire Dempsey" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/25).

STATE OF THE PLAYERS' UNION: MLSPU Dir of Player Relations Eddie Pope said of DC United's possible new stadium, "I'd assume the most important thing for every single player who's ever played for that club, would be that ... DC United fans need to be taken care of." Pope said of one thing that needed to change since his playing days in MLS, "Getting that minimum salary up was, and still is, a major priority for us. From the first day I took this job, that was a priority for me, helping the guys on the bottom" (MLSSOCCER.com, 8/21).
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