Doug (fellow member of 214) and I went to the scrimmage. We got there 12 minutes into the first half and missed two of the four most important events of the day. Since I missed them, I recap quickly.
The First Seattle Wolves Goal.
Gareth Waite went down with a blow to the head. Word afterwords is that he was in the hospital with significant damage to the orbital area of the left eye. Gareth was one of the top 3 players in my mind so it was a shame that I didn't get to see him even play.
The Second Seattle Wolves Goal was a slow drifter that bounced over the head of the Super Search keeper.
Junior Garcia with a leg cramp/injury late in the second half. Without a doubt the favorite, and he went down late the exhibition was called shortly afterwords. Garcia clearly proved that he belongs at a level higher than the PDL. I expect him to at worst be in touch with the Whitecaps or Timbers if he doesn't make Sounders FC.
Oliver Wellman also looked very solid, and demonstrated an ability to play LB and RB in the wingback role and moved forward well enough to play a LDM or RDM (3-5-2). He may not have the bulk to play a traditional CDM in MLS.
Last in my personal top four today would have been Desmond Tachie. Ghanan by way of Vancouver he plied the Right mid role mainly in attack and placed some great crosses and might have been the fittest of the group. Tachie clearly belonged at the PDL level if not better.
Overall it was hard to judge the Super Search Finalists while they played a match against the Wolves. The Wolves had obviously played more together and practiced more together. One thing that was obvious is that Thiago Rivela clearly felt he belonged on the other team. He played with a chip that demonstrated itself in his passionate pursuit of the ball in the Super Search defensive third and he was aggressive when on ball as well. He was easily one of the best 6 players on the pitch.
The Super Search Final show airs shortly after the Super Bowl - make your friends and family watch. It is your duty as a soccer evangelist. You will also likely see the ECS as they had a decent contingent out chanting and waving a huge flag.
There is still a chance that HDNet and MLS reach an agreement, at least according to Mark Cuban's response to my email.
I understand with the current economic crisis and the rather poor ratings that MLS tends to get that it may not seem to make sense to carry Major League Soccer games at this time. There are certainly plenty of reasons that a station might consider it a challenge. I can not appeal to the direct numbers of why you should have your network continue its relationship.
But there are reasons why HDNet should remain involved.
First, MLS continues to expand and grow. With Seattle in the league for 2009 and Philly for 2010, and two more markets for 2011 it would seem likely that the sport is finally in the USA to stay. With greater penetration into top 25 TV markets, the overall ratings should continue to expand. In past seasons there was little to no reason for an American soccer fan to watch MLS as it did not have the penetration into enough of the top markets. That is changing.
Second, World Cup Qualifying final rounds are underway and Major League Soccer will be represented well on the US roster. This will increase the attention paid to the league in traditional media formats, and as a growth sport every single potential viewer/fan matters. Unlike the NBA, or NFL or MLB, MLS can not turn its back on a single potential fan, nor can its partner businesses. Attachment to the Confederations Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifying will help MLS continue its growth pattern, which like international soccer tends to cycle up in years with major competition.
Third, in the past the jersey sponsors for MLS tended to Xango, Herbalife and Amigo. Now MLS has inked sponsorships with major international companies with enormous clout like Volkswagen, Microsoft and Amway. MLS' business partnerships are growing and not diminishing, and HDNet has an opportunity to participate in that growth and affiliation with multi-billion dollar companies. All of the league's business partners grow when the stature of its affiliates grow.
Fourth, I am a fan and blogger. You should do it for me. Yes, just me. Ok, not just me, but for the millions of well connected and dedicated football fans around the world and North America. Football, futbol, soccer has as much of an online presence as any sport in the world, and deserves to have the HD experience in their homes. As a Seattle fan, I am 900 miles from the closest rivals. That is not a cheaply traveled distance. While I will have the fine work of BELO showing games either in HD or upconverted, the same is not true for any other team except for their rare appearances on ESPN. That is a hole in the market, and one that you could fill.
Again, the numbers are difficult, these times are difficult, but I'm betting that there are many in America who will return to their living rooms from the malls, who will commune with neighbors over games, rather than attend them live. HDNet can either capture that trend, or ignore it. I know what I would prefer.
I found Mr.Cuban's email address at GlennDavisSoccer.com and he replied with a short and sweet message that there is still a chance. Add to that chance people. More soccer is good, particularly if it is HD quality.