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Volume 24 No. 181

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The USMNT's 2-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday night was a "coming-out party" for F Christian Pulisic, who scored both goals in the matchup and showed fans he is the "future of American soccer," according to Mark Kiszla of the DENVER POST. The 18-year-old Pulisic is the "man for U.S. soccer, now and for the next decade." Kiszla: "We’ve never seen an American with more natural ability to score than Pulisic." All of the "hopes and dreams of Team USA now rest on the slender shoulders of a teenager"  (DENVER POST, 6/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Joe Lago wrote it is apparent now that this USMNT team "clearly belongs" to Pulisic. He "came through in the clutch like a team’s best player is supposed to do." The game was Pulisic's fourth straight with a goal (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/8). SI.com's Grant Wahl writes it is time to "strap yourself in," because "we’re experiencing one of the most exhilarating moments that can happen in sports: The emergence of the real thing, a young talent that gives you goosebumps when he’s gliding with the ball." Pulisic is a talent that "makes you wonder if his future even has any limits." While Pulisic is not yet on the level of Lionel Messi or Michael Jordan, he has become "appointment viewing, and not just for U.S. soccer fans but for general American sports fans as well" (SI.com, 6/9).

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT: In Denver, John Meyer notes Thursday night's match had "more than a thousand temporary seats added" to Dick's Sporting Goods Park, and the crowd of 19,188 "saw a game they won’t soon forget because of the excitement Pulisic has created with stellar play over the past year" (DENVER POST, 6/9). FS1's Alexi Lalas said USMNT coach Bruce Arena "has handed the keys to kingdom" to Pulisic, and "rightfully so." Lalas: "The hype is justified, it's okay to be excited about Christian Pulisic -- everybody is -- and he continues to live up to expectations" ("The Road to Russia," FS1, 6/8). In DC, Steven Goff writes it is not Pulisic's team yet, but with G Tim Howard and F Clint Dempsey well into their 30s and MF Michael Bradley nearing the crossroads, "that time is near" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/9). ESPN FC's Jason Davis wrote Pulisic "reinforced the consensus that he isn't just the team's future but its present" (ESPNFC.us, 6/8). CNN's Grez & Snell write Pulisic "stirs excitement in his homeland like never before" (CNN.com, 6/9).

MLS and Liga MX are "nearing an announcement of new competitive games against each other," according to sources cited by Grant Wahl of SI.com. One new annual tournament would "involve potentially four teams from each league in a competition" that would be like the now-defunct SuperLiga tournament that ran from '07-10. Another new annual game that is "set to be announced is a showdown between the MLS Cup champion and a Liga MX champion." Sources said that "there’s a small chance these games could start later this year, but it’s much more likely that they’ll begin" in '18 (SI.com, 6/8).

The players unions of the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB "aren’t sure when sports gambling will be legalized," but each league has had a "number of formal meetings in New York over the past year-and-a-half to discuss the potential ramifications" that such a move could present for their players, according to Albert Breer of THE MMQB. NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah said, “We’re collaborating on it. We might be open to changes that are coming because of (legalized sports gambling), but before we get to the revenue aspect of it, do we have the infrastructure in place to prevent any sort of shenanigans? That’s the issue.” Atallah said that the unions have "started looking at how legalized sports gambling and those associated issues are handled overseas in areas where it’s been legal for decades." They also are "monitoring legislation in New Jersey, which has been the primary battleground for legalized sports gambling." Breer noted these meetings over the past 18 months "have been attended by the executive directors of the four unions" and are "just another acknowledgment of what’s likely not far off" (MMQB.SI.com, 6/8). ESPN.com's David Purdum noted the four leagues themselves have been "staunch opponents of legal sports betting" for decades, "claiming it jeopardizes the integrity of the games." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, while discussing the Raiders' future move to Las Vegas, recently said that the league "remains opposed to expanding legal sports betting in the U.S." However, the NHL "has been quiet on the subject, while it prepares for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to take the ice." The NBA has "pivoted its position on sports betting altogether," with Commissioner Adam Silver "calling on Congress to create a federal framework and allow states to legalize sports betting." MLB is "aligning itself with the NBA" (ESPN.com, 6/8). 

Activision Blizzard is making a "major foray" into esports, a once-niche genre that is now "reaching a tipping point," according to Michal Lev-Ram of FORTUNE. Revenue from esports will approach $700M this year. Activision's Overwatch League launching later this year will "essentially control all the competing teams and the distribution of all the games." Activision "thinks that these opportunities, combined with sponsorships and advertising, not to mention Overwatch-branded merchandise like T-shirts and hats, could bring the company billions in annual revenue as the e‑sports audience grows." The company's acquisition of Major League Gaming "hasn’t yet resulted in new operating profits." but the pedigrees of CEO Bobby Kotick’s recent hires "hint at how eagerly he wants to establish the company as a mainstream entertainer." Former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein chairs Kotick’s esports division, while former Fox Sports Exec VP Pete Vlastelica is MLG CEO. The "Overwatch" title has "become Blizzard’s fastest-growing game to date," generating more than $1B in revenue and amassing 30 million players since its introduction just a year ago, showing "why it’s the game to which Kotick is harnessing his e‑sports ambitions." Kotick "hopes to make e‑sports more mainstream." One way he is "doing that: instituting teams that are city-based -- a first in professional e‑sports." Activision also "doesn’t have to deal with the legacy TV networks that have tied up traditional sports rights for years." Vlastelica said, “E‑sports is the first digital native sport. We’re not encumbered by the paid-TV ecosystem that keeps the content out of the hands of young people who, frankly, don’t watch TV" (FORTUNE, 6/15 issue).

PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua in a video released to its 28,000 members on Wednesday said that the organization has been "conducting studies for the last four years on whether to move the PGA Championship from August to May." Bevacqua said that he will "meet with his executive board later this month at Sunriver in Oregon, the site of the PGA Club Pro Championship, to give more of an update." He "repeated the motivation for moving the PGA, to avoid conflicts every four years with Olympic golf" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 6/8).

FAR EASTERN CONFERENCE? NBA 2K esports league Managing Dir Brendan Donohue said that the league has "no plans at this time to expand" its upcoming esports venture into the Chinese market. Donohue: "The NBA is not actively planning a separate esports league in China" (ESPN.com, 6/8). NBA China CEO David Shoemaker had said that the league is "looking into launching" a separate esports league for China in a "bid to tap into the world's second largest economy." He said that the NBA is "considering either a separate" esports league in China or "including Chinese teams in the U.S." (CNBC.com, 6/7).