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SBD/March 7, 2014/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The '14 MLS season, which starts on Saturday, could be the league's "most highly anticipated campaign since David Beckham’s arrival" in '07, according to Brian Lewis of the N.Y. POST. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has "reiterated the league’s goals of becoming one of the world’s elite leagues -- both on the field and in the boardroom -- within eight years," and between "rapid expansion and an infusion of star power, the league is moving in that direction." Just "how far does MLS have to go to catch the rest of the world’s best leagues" by '22? And "what does it have to do to get there?" The answer "is simple: follow the money." There are "plenty of well-heeled investors lining up to buy in." But while MLS "has turned a corner from being a shaky investment to a solid one, now the league needs to take the next step to being a lucrative one." Although MLS "has been solid at the gate ... television ratings are stagnant." With TV negotiations ongoing and Garber "acutely aware of the need for more revenue, he insists fixing the ratings woes can be done with two steps -- getting more consistent time slots and better marketing" (N.Y. POST, 3/7). BEINSPORTS.tv's Phil Schoen wrote with MLS' TV contracts up for renewal, the league "seems to be doing all it can to bulk up its value." New franchises are set for N.Y. and Orlando next year, with Miami and "another yet-to-be-determined franchise in the pipeline." A "bigger footprint and more big TV markets are an effort to improve miniscule television ratings." While MLS is "posting record numbers when it comes to butts in seats, that has not translated into butts on couches." The league also is "stepping in to shore up some of its existing sides," as "clearing up the Chivas USA fiasco eliminates embarrassments on the field and in the stands" (BEINSPORTS.tv, 3/5).
DREAMING BIG: SB NATION wrote the '14 MLS season "represents a harbinger of what's to come." With "stability no longer an issue, MLS is finally starting to dream big." This season "could well be remembered as one of the major turning points in the league's history." It also "promises to be the finest show that MLS has put on yet" (SBNATION.com, 3/6). SPORTSNET's James Sharman wrote MLS "has climbed enormous mountains" since the its early days, and "has plans to scale yet more heights." This "isn’t the finished product by a long way, and while MLS certainly has many faults, chances are if you tune into a match this season you’ll enjoy a good quality contest between two decent teams with a sprinkling of star power thrown in." MLS is "light years removed from the early days when the league was new and low on respect." Sharman: "Some people still haven’t come around. The haters gonna hate. But that’s OK: they don’t know what they’re missing" (SPORTSNET.ca, 3/6).
WORK STILL TO BE DONE: GOAL.com's Ives Galarcep writes, "It sure does seem like MLS is riding high, and in many ways it is," but "don’t pop the champagne yet because as the league prepares for its final year as a teenager, it still has some growing up to do." Consider that 13 of the league's 19 head coaches "have never coached a pro team other than the one they currently coach." The age range of 17-21 is one where MLS "still isn’t producing enough pro-ready prospects, or providing enough true development for them." Sounders F Clint Dempsey and Toronto FC MF Michael Bradley were "historic signings, but the type of elite-level foreign signings like David Beckham and Thierry Henry that once seemed likely to occur more often simply haven’t." This "could be addressed in a year, when Orlando City arrives" with AC Milan F Kaka, who team officials "are quietly confident will make his way to Disney World to play, and when NYC FC "shows up with the backing of the deep-pocketed owners of Manchester City" (GOAL.com, 3/7).
WORLD CUP CONNECTION: SI.com's Brian Straus noted MLS is "hitching its PR wagon to this summer's World Cup." The league's marketing material is "bathed in Brazilian yellow while three slogans set the stage for a 2014 season that’s about far more than the pursuit of an MLS Cup title." The league's new campaign, "For Club & Country," "highlights players’ dual loyalties." And "March to Brazil" targets a "summer climax, not December’s championship final." The "It All Starts Here" component "reminds us that coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team may rise or fall depending on the performance of his MLS charges." Only four of the 23 players who were on the U.S. squad for the '10 World Cup "were on MLS rosters." This May, that number "could more than triple" (SI.com, 3/5).
Braves President John Schuerholz on Thursday said he thinks the MLB replay reviews during Spring Training have "gone very well so far," according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Schuerholtz added the reviews have "calmed everybody's fears" of long delays and "unnatural breaks in the action." Four calls were "reviewed over the first two days of replay use this spring." According to MLB, total time between the call and the next pitch "averaged just under three minutes." It took an "average of nearly 38 seconds after calls for managers to initiate their challenges," and the reviews themselves "averaged 1 minute, 27 seconds." Schuerholz, who chairs MLB's replay committee, said that the league "expects that total review time can be between 60 and 90 seconds once the season begins." Schuerholz said of replay use in Spring Training games, "We're not using that direct connectivity to BAM or using their feeds ... so that's why it's going to go not quite as smoothly." Asked why reviews were not being handled out of N.Y. during the spring, Schuerholz said, "I don't think anybody is ready yet. We're going to need every day to get this thing aligned perfectly." Stark wrote the "biggest advantage of having calls reviewed in a temporary replay booth on site is that it gives umpires working spring training games an opportunity to get familiar with how the system works." Schuerholtz said that since those umpires will "serve as replay umpires at least twice during the season, it's important they get that experience" (ESPN.com, 3/6).
UNDER REVIEW: In L.A., Kevin Baxter notes both the use of instant replay and MLB's new rule "preventing catchers from blocking the plate" came into play in Thursday's Angels-Dodgers Spring Training game. After Angels CF Mike Trout's "one-out line drive squirted under a diving" Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig and "rolled to the center-field wall, Trout tried to circle the bases, only to arrive back home at the same time the ball did." Umpire Gerry Davis "called Trout out, sparking an immediate protest" from Angels manager Mike Scioscia. While determining that the catcher was "inadvertently drawn into the runner by [Dodgers LF] Hanley Ramirez's throw from left field -- which is legal -- they also checked the tag, which got Trout before he touched the plate." Scioscia said, "Procedurally, we're hopefully starting to understand this replay a little bit more. As it was, I didn't use a challenge because of the crew chief's ability to look at a play at the plate." The "official time of the review was 72 seconds" (L.A. TIMES, 3/7). The AP reported a "power outage got in the way of the only contested call" during Thursday's Phillies-Yankees game. Phillies 1B John Mayberry Jr. was "thrown out at third base in the seventh inning trying to stretch a double." Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg "wanted to challenge the ruling, but when third-base umpire Vic Carapazza was ready to go to replay, there were no television feeds available because of a momentary power outage at the ballpark" (AP, 3/6).
The AP's Doug Feinberg reports the WNBA and WNBPA Thursday night agreed to a new eight-year CBA, pending approval by the league BOG. The deal "allows both sides to opt out after the sixth season." The "biggest change in the deal is an increase by one in the team's maximum roster size to 12." Another change is that teams now can offer players a "time off bonus," meaning clubs will have "up to $50,000 to divide up among players who play less than three months overseas" (AP, 3/7).
ID, PLEASE: In Toronto, Doug Smith notes NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's reasoning for wanting to increase the league's minimum age to 20 from 19 "is hard to debate." Silver has indicated that the NBA "would be better served with older rookies whose bodies are a year more developed, who are presumably more mature as young men." He also contends that the NCAA "would be better served, competitively and in the area of marketing, by knowing that so-called 'student-athletes' were to spend two years at university rather than one." Smith asks, "At some point, wouldn't the players' association want to protect its current dues-paying members and want more responsible, professional grownup to join its ranks?" (TORONTO STAR, 3/7).
THE FLIGHT OF THE CONCORDE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Christian Sylt reported F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone recently "signaled the end of years of negotiations with F1 teams by saying the sport no longer needs the Concorde Agreement, the contract which has set its terms" since '81. The previous Concorde ran from '08-12. Since then, Ecclestone, F1's 11 teams and its governing body, the FIA, "have been in regular talks about a new agreement as all three parties have to sign it." The Concorde "committed the teams to race and governed all commercial aspects of the series from how much prize money the teams received to how many minutes of footage they can use on their websites" (WSJ.com, 3/6).
SLOW BUT STEADY: SNY's Jonas Schwartz said this has been a "buzz-inducing season ... for the NHL." Schwartz: "Normally, nobody cares about the NHL. But with the Stadium Series, the Olympics, (Blues RW and Olympic hero) T.J. Oshie and now the trade deadline, hockey has appeared on the back page twice this month." That is the "most buzz they've had in forever" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 3/6).