Wait, WHAT? The MLS edition!

Take a look at the “About Major League Soccer” list at the end of the article: MLS is expanding to Philadelphia and no one told me? They’re quadrilateraling and no one told me?!? (The WNBA really needs to get on the ball here!)

MLS already has 16 teams as of 2010 – the addition of Philly will re-balance the conferences at 8 apiece – and will add two more later, as will be announced either later this year or early next, which is insane. You might want to think about breaking them up into divisions within the conferences at this point, certainly once you hit 20.

So with Philly, Atlanta becomes the largest Nielsen market without an MLS team, and – ta da! – Atlanta is one of the teams on the short list of potential expansion candidates. (Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver are among the others? Is soccer THAT big in Canada?) Detroit is the largest 2000-definition metro area without an MLS team (followed by Atlanta) and is next on the list of Nielsen markets, but isn’t on the short list to get a team. Instead, it’s Miami (repeating a bad experience and leapfrogging fellow-Florida-bad-experiencer Tampa, along with Phoenix and the Twin Cities, on the Nielsen market list)… along with St. Louis and Portland, the #21 and #22 media markets respectively?!? It’s not even as small as #31-33 KC, Columbus and Salt Lake, but… they really are going for soccer markets, and I didn’t even think St. Louis was that big on soccer. Maybe they’ve seen Wizards viewership numbers.

St. Louis is #18 on the metro areas list but, in addition to all the ones above except Tampa, leapfrogs Cleveland (who pays attention to Columbus just like in hockey) and San Diego (weren’t they supposed to get Chivas USA at one point?), and Cleveland, Orlando, and Sacramento on the markets list (the latter two are stepbrothers to larger nearby markets everywhere except the NBA anyway – but then again, so is Portland). On the metro areas list Portland also leapfrogs Tampa and Pittsburgh (who’s right behind it on the markets list).

(Worth noting: Most of the cities on the list would also be in the Eastern Conference, necessitating Kansas City to move West. Portland and Vancouver are the only exceptions.)

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 6/28-29

All times PDT.

9-12 PM: Tennis, Wimbledon, 3rd round action (NBC). The reason why the 3rd round gets this spot and the 4th round doesn’t is because I actually have something to fill this spot tomorrow.

1-3:30 PM: Arena Football, Colorado @ Utah (ESPN). The playoffs are in full swing so the Arena League appears every week through ArenaBowl.

5-7 PM: IndyCar Racing, IndyCar 300 at Richmond (ESPN). Hey, NASCAR causes interference too often and this is the one sport I watch every time it’s on. If you think NASCAR is just a bunch of cars going around in circles, maybe the real problem is it’s too slow.

8-9 PM: US Olympic Trials, Track and Field (NBC). Same on both coasts so it interferes with the IndyCar on the East Coast.

9-2 AM: Boxing, Manny Pacquito v. David Diaz (PPV). Same on both coasts again, so it interferes with the IndyCar – just barely – on the East Coast.
9-11 AM: MLS Soccer, Los Angeles @ DC United (ABC). “Soccer is so boring, it’s just a bunch of passing a ball back and — OMG IT’S BECKHAM OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!!!!!11!!11!111!1!!!!eleven!”

12-3 PM: LPGA Golf, US Women’s Open, final round (NBC). It’s the Annika Sorenstam farewell tour! Those other golfers expected to pick up the slack? Who cares about them? No one cares about the male golfers not named Tiger.

Honorable Mention: 11:30-1:30 PM: UEFA Soccer, Euro 2008, final (ABC). Because Dad will kill me if I don’t mention this at least once. You could watch the soccer and switch to golf at 1:30, but then you only catch an hour and a half of golf. Wasn’t Euro 2004 mostly on pay-per-view? Now the final is airing on broadcast television and the US doesn’t even have a horse in the race anywhere! And last month the Champions League final was made into a fairly big deal on ESPN2!

(The really odd part? The only other game in the tournament on ABC was a quarterfinal last week. And ESPN2 showed one of the semifinals Thursday because of the US Women’s Open, whereas all the non-ABC quarterfinals are on regular ESPN. Huh?)

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, Chicago Cubs @ Chicago White Sox (ESPN). This is “ESPN Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell Part of AL/NL Showdown presented by State Farm”. No further comment needed.

8-9 PM: US Olympic Trials, Swimming (NBC). Same on both coasts again, but ironically, that means the Track and Field trials the previous hour interferes with baseball on the West Coast but not on the East Coast!

One last thing… Sports Watcher just might continue past August. I’m starting to get into a bit more of a groove. Stay tuned.

The final college football rankings of 2007 (and other musings)

I’ve kept track of who won my College Football Rankings for three years, counting this year. The first year, the title went to Texas, as my rankings correctly predicted the winner of the national title game. The second year, it went to Louisville as the Big East got disrespected.

This year, West Virginia’s beatdown of Oklahoma threatened to topple them, but for two out of three years, the BCS and my rankings agree on who is the true national champion: LSU.

Longtime readers know that I have, on occasion, remarked on the standing of professional sports leagues and their market penetration, this being an example. I’ve realized that I haven’t had any words on Seattle’s long-time-coming MLS team, which will result in an uneven distribution of teams between Eastern and Western conferences. Seattle bypassed Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, Phoenix, and former MLS home Tampa Bay to put the league’s 15th team in the #14 media market. But being a Seattleite myself, and especially being the son of a soccer fanatic, I’m actually a little surprised MLS didn’t come here sooner – this area is one of soccer’s few homes to truly devoted fans, and MLS is sure to carve a niche should the Sonics move. It’s like having a hockey team in Buffalo – there aren’t going to be a lot of people, but boy will they be devoted. The only possible objection I’d have is that MLS didn’t try to re-establish itself in the South, especially with the WNBA putting a team in Atlanta. But I’m sure they’ll do that in a matter of years to put the league at a nice, round 16 teams.

By the 2000 definition, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, and Miami are the only larger metro areas without an MLS team. I erred on my earlier post on the Atlanta WNBA team, where I said that Seattle had been the largest metro area with a WNBA team but no MLS team; not only does that honor also go to Detroit, but Detroit wasn’t even dethroned by Atlanta. Phoenix would have inherited that crown had I been right.

Sports Watcher for the weekend of 4/7-8

All times PDT.

12:30-3 PM: MLS Soccer, Colorado at DC United (ABC). Finally, the MLS season opener doesn’t compete with the Final Four pre-show. Of course, now it’s up against the first round of the Masters…

4-7 PM: College Hockey, Michigan State v. Boston College (ESPN). The third-biggest championship the NCAA administers. Of course, it’s light years behind even women’s college basketball and isn’t really that far from last place.

7-10 PM: Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 69 (PPV). I could write reams on why UFC is whipping boxing’s ass right now, but I’ll save them for a later date. (But a word of advice: If you want to become really mainstream and not elicit comparisons to illegal cagefighting or pro wrestling, dump the steel cage. I don’t know of any fighting organization of any kind that doesn’t use anything more than the classic ropes.)

11:30-4 PM: PGA Golf, The Masters Final Round (CBS). You know, if that Tiger Woods gets a few more major wins, maybe, one day, if he’s really lucky, he’ll be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, Boston @ Texas (ESPN). Even though Curt Schilling will be Boston’s starter, we’ll still be caught up in Dice-K mania.

Next weekend: Hot NHL playoff action! (cue crickets)