The best year for soccer in the US is always the one ahead of us in the first days of January. There's so much going on, it's hard not to be excited, even if the games have yet to begin.
1) The U-20's are Ready: U-20 coach Thomas Rongen took a look at lots and lots of talented teenagers before selecting his twenty-man roster for next week's U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament in Panama City. On the roster are Freddy Adu, New York's Jozy Altidore, Clifton, NJ's Danny Szetela, and Euro-based Nats Robbie Rogers (Heerenveen), Johann Smith (Bolton), and Preston Zimmerman (Hamburg). Missing from the squad are talented FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty, who didn't seem to meet Rongen's plans, and former Metro Michael Bradley, who wasn't released from Heerenveen. The Nats will play Haiti on Jan. 17th, Guatemala on Jan. 19th, and finish up with host Panama on Jan. 21st. The top two squads will qualify for the U-20 World Cup in Canada starting June 30th. USSoccer.com's Roster Spot video series took a great look inside the most recent U-20 camp, and listened in on Rongen discussing player strengths and weaknesses with assistant coaches Dave Dir and Brian Maissoneuve.
2) The Senior Team is Sweating: Interim coach Bob Bradley's camp is in full swing ahead of the Nats' January 20th match vs. Denmark at the HDC. USSoccer.com is doing another great job with a blog and podcasts from the US camp.
3) AEG Divests DC United: Uncle Phil is down to just three MLS club's after this morning's sale of the four-time MLS Cup champs to a group led by real estate magnate Victor MacFarlane. The new owners, "DC United Holdings" ponied up a record $33million for the franchise, which is hoping to build their own home and move out of RFK Stadium in the near future. The new owners, which include former Duke basketball stars Bryan Davis and Christian Laettner, will keep wisely keep DCU President Kevin Payne in place. The sale, the sixth in MLS since 2005, leaves the league closer to single-team ownership.
Current MLS ownership by club:
Chivas USA: Jorge Vergara/Antonio Cue
Colorado: Kroenke Sports Enterprises
Columbus: Hunt Sports Group
DC United: DC United Holdings
FC Dallas: Hunt Sports Group
Kansas City: OnGoal, LLC
Los Angeles: AEG
New England: The Kraft family
New York: Red Bull
Real Salt Lake: Dave Checketts (Sports Capital Partners)
Toronto FC: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment
For those counting at home, that's ten owners for thirteen clubs, a much, much better outlook than just a few seasons ago.
4) Drafty in Indy: MLS' 2007 draft will be held this Friday, and the mouse networks are stepping up to the plate with an hour of live, first-round coverage on ESPN2. Allen Hopkins will host as he did last year on FSC, and draft previews can be had on From the College to the Pros and 3rd Degree. Top Drawer Soccer has a diary from draft hopeful Greg Dalby.
5) Red Bull additions: BigAppleSoccer has reported that former US National Team and jersey boy Claudio Reyna may be coming home to play for New York. BBC Sport notes that Reyna may return stateside for "family reasons." While the oft-injured Reyna may not prosper on the unforgiving Giants Stadium turf, having that wealth of experience at d-mid would serve the Red Bulls well. Also, one-time Dutch national-team keeper Ronald Waterreus may be an imminent Red Bull signing. There's no denying that the 34-year old Reyna and the 37-year old Wattereus will bring some pedigree to the Red Bulls' roster, but one has to wonder if there are more "in-prime" players that Arena the Bruce will add to the Taurine Army. Stay tuned.
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