Pan-Pacific Championship Announced

Soccer officials from Australia, Japan and the United States joined together today in Hawaii to unveil the framework for the inaugural Pan-Pacific Championship, to be held in February of 2008.
The four-team event will take place at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu from February 20-23 and will feature the MLS champion Houston Dynamo, the "Crown Jewel of MLS" L.A. Galaxy, Gamba Osaka of Japan's J-League, and the champion of Australia's A-League, to be determined early next year.

"The event will provide the participating teams with high level competition, while enhancing each league's exposure throughout the world," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

Tournament Schedule:

Feb. 20, 2008
- LA Galaxy vs. Gamba Osaka (Game A)
- Houston Dynamo vs. A-League winner (Game B)

Feb. 23, 2008
- Final (Winner of Game A vs. Winner of Game B)

Russell Named Quakes Assistant

Former San Jose Earthquakes player Ian Russell has been named as an assistant coach for the reborn expansion club. The midfielder/defender who suited up 145 times over seven seasons for the Earthquakes between 2000-2006 will join Frank Yallop's coaching staff in the Bay Area. Russell, 32, played under Yallop for several years in San Jose and again briefly in 2007, coming out of retirement to suit up for the Los Angeles Galaxy three times before eventually being let go."It is great to have Ian Russell as an assistant coach especially because of the history that he has with the San Jose Earthquakes and his understanding of the game," said Yallop of his new assistant.

MLS Goes Wireless

Major League Soccer is in negotiations with the three top wireless providers in the country about possible sponsorships or content delivery deals, said commissioner Don Garber on Wednesday.
The league is talking to Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint Nextel, with hopes of signing a deal in about six months, right around the start of the 2008 season. The focus of such an agreement would be to increase exposure for the league and create additional revenue and Text-message score alerts and video clips of games could be part of the agreement.

"We're deeply engaged with all the carriers," said Garber at the Reuters Media Summit in New York. "We want to sign a deal that will provide us with the best level of exposure and revenue. We're in the process of evaluating our whole digital space."


Ngwenya's German Tryout

Houston Dynamo forward Joseph Ngwenya has flown to Germany to take part in a week-long tryout with 2nd Bundesliga side Alemannia Aachen. The 26-year-old native of Zimbabwe opted not to re-sign with the back-to-back MLS champs prior to leaving for his trial, but insists that he would like to return for another title run should things not work out in Deutschland.
"I always do a little training in Europe after the season and if an opportunity comes up, great," said Ngwenya. "But if not, I'll be back in orange next year. Either way, I hope this experience will help get me better as a player."

For their part, club officials in Houston say they would welcome him back with open arms.

"We want him back and we made that clear to him," said team chief operating officer Chris Canetti. "Our objective is to have him back with us."

Ngwenya was key in Houston's run to the Cup in '07, scoring seven goals and adding three assists in the regular season after being traded to Houston from the Columbus Crew. In the playoffs, he added two assists and scored the game tying goal in the MLS Cup final, shortly before Dwayne de Rosario put the Men in Orange ahead for good.

Nunez, Pavon Among the Waived

Major League Soccer has released the complete list of players waived ahead of Thursday's waiver draft, set to be conducted via conference call at 3:00 p.m. ET. Several recognizable names made the list, including Chivas USA's Ramon Nunez and the Los Angeles Galaxy's Carlos Pavon.
The expansion San Jose Earthquakes will be the first club given the option to pluck one of the players off of the list, with the remaining teams arranged in ascending order from the franchise with the worst finishing position in 2007 (Toronto FC) to the eventual champions (Houston Dynamo) with the 14th pick.

Here's a complete list of players available for selection in tomorrow's Waiver Draft.

Chivas USA: David Arvizu, Desmond Brooks, Carlos Llamosa, Rodrigo Lopez, Laurent Merlin, Justin Myers, Ramon Nunez, Orlando Perez, Eder Robles, Erasmo Solorzano

Colorado: Zach Thornton

Columbus: Ben Hunter

Dallas: Juan Botero

D.C. United: Shawn Crowe, Mira Mupier, Brad North, Kiki Willis

Houston: Kenneth Hoerner, Jordan James

Kansas City: Edson Edcock, Aaron John Godbolt, Willy Guadarrama, Chris Konopka

Los Angeles: Mike Caso, Lance Friesz, Carlos Pavon, Kyle Veris

New York: Blake Camp

New England: Bryan Byrne, Miguel Gonzalez, Marshall Leonard, Chris Loftus

Real Salt Lake: Chris Brown, Steven Curfman, Christian Jimenez, Jean-Martial Kipre, Jack Stewart

Toronto: Adam Braz, Maycoll Canizalez, Srdjan Djekanovic, David Guzman, Stephen Lumley, Cristian Nunez, Marco Reda

MLS-Heavy U-23 Roster Unveiled

U.S. U-23 head coach Peter Nowak has unveiled the 22 players who have been called into camp for training ahead of a two-game tour of China. The trip to Asia will serve as preparation for the 2008 CONCACAF Men's Under-23 Championship, to be held from March 11-23 in Carson, California, Tampa and Nashville. In that tournament, the two finalists will book their tickets to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.Eighteen of the 22 players named to the squad were culled from Major League Soccer rosters. They will gather in Carson on December 1st for a week of training before departing for China on December 8th. They will face off against the Chinese U-23s at Changsha He Long Sports Centre on December 13th and again three days later at the Yue Xiu Shan Stadium in Guangzhou.

"This is an excellent opportunity to begin preparing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing," Nowak said. "We will have the chance to get in a good week of training before playing two matches against a very good opponent. As we have seen in the past, the possibility of getting to travel and play in the host country before a tournament is especially valuable, so we are going to take full advantage of it."

Full roster by position:

Goalkeepers: Zac MacMath (Clearwater Chargers), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: Hunter Freeman (NY Red Bulls), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Jon Leathers (Furman University), Mike Randolph (LA Galaxy), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Tim Ward (Columbus Crew), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)

Midfielders: Arturo Alvarez (FC Dallas), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Michael Harrington (KC Wizards), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas)

Forwards: Josmer Altidore (NY Red Bulls), Adam Cristman (NE Revolution), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)

Red Bull Park Construction Begins... Again

Construction on the future home for the New York Red Bulls has begun once more, and hopefully will be more productive than the last go-round. After several cleanup and design issues slowed progress on the site to a near-halt, heavy equipment is set to roll again at Red Bull Park beginning next week.

The news comes two weeks after Red Bull bought out AEG's 50% share in the project and immediately cut out plans for a permament stage to be built into one side of the facility. Timeline for construction is 18-20 months, with hopes that the stadium will be opened sometime in Summer 2009.The final design (see rendering above) calls for 25,189 seats, 30 luxury suites and a translucent polycarbonate and aluminum roof that will cover every seat. The plan remains the focal point of a $1 billion development project across the Passaic River from Newark.

Interest in MLS High, Survey Says

A poll conducted by European Football Group, a market research company, found that interest levels in Major League Soccer are at an all-time high, at least among American soccer aficionados.

The question "How interested are you in Major League Soccer?" was asked of 1,000 soccer fans in the U.S. between the ages of 13-24, with 45% of female fans and 35% of male fans responding that they are very interested in the league. Another 43% of females and 41% of males said they had some interest in the league, while only 10% of males and 4% of females said they had no interest at all.

Seattle Tops 8,000 STHs

Without having named a single player to their roster - or even confirming what name the team will play under - the newest MLS expansion franchise in Seattle has already crossed over 8,000 season-ticket holders. They include Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Washington Governor Chrstine Gregoire, according to the Seattle Seahawks, who are assisting in MLS team operations.

The club is on pace to easily sell out Qwest Field by the time they take the field for their first game in early 2009. More than 3,000 people signed up on the day after the city was awarded the franchise and sales show no sign of slowing. They could very easily by in Toronto territory in terms of # of STHs - let's hope they can replicate the awesome atmosphere that can be had at BMO Field.


Beckham Scores, Galaxy Stumble

The Los Angeles Galaxy fell to defeat at the hands of Sydney FC on Monday night by a score of 5-3, despite a trademark free-kick goal from David Beckham in front of 80,295 at Telstra Stadium.

Though the match was billed as an exhibition, the A-League side clearly had something to prove. Midfielder Brendon Sanatalab collided with the English superstar near the half-hour mark, with Beckham coming out of the challenge gripping his left ankle. It was a scene reminiscent of Becks' injury-plagued summer, but fortunately he was able to continue.

"I was worried at first because I thought I'd twisted my ankle again and done the same injury as I'd done on the last day of the season with Real Madrid, but thankfully it wasn't as bad," Beckham told reporters after the game.

After giving up three unanswered first-half goals to their Australian competition, Los Angeles finally got on the board when Beckham lined up a classic free kick just before the halftime whistle. From 25 yards out, Becks bent the ball over the wall and into the upper left corner of the net to give the Galaxy some momentum heading into the locker rooms.
That was just about the only thing Los Angeles could celebrate on the night. Edson Buddle scored to start the second half to narrow the deficit to 3-2, but that was as close as the Galaxy would get. Landon Donovan had the final Los Angeles goal on the night.

The final postseason stop in the Galaxy's world tour will come on Saturday night when they visit the Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand. The team will then return home for some extended rest before returning to practice for the 2008 preseason.

Red Bulls Talk to Preki

The New York Red Bulls are leaving no stone unturned in their search for a new head coach, with their list of leading candidates apparently being every other current MLS head coach.

After buying out the remaining contract of Bruce Arena for $1.2 million, the club requested - and was initially denied - permission to speak to Chicago Fire coach Juan Carlos Osorio.
Now, the LA Times is reporting that Red Bull New York has also contacted Chivas USA head coach Preki to gauge his interest in the position, with the two parties meeting during MLS Cup 2007. The only two-time MVP in the history of the league, Preki was named 2007 MLS Coach of the Year after guiding Chivas to its best season ever (15-7-8), though they were eliminated in disappointing fashion in the first round of the playoffs.


Preston Burpo to San Jose

It looks like Frank Yallop has found his goalkeeper. The San Jose Earthquakes have announced a trade of their 2008 fourth-round draft pick (43rd overall) to Chivas USA in exchange for backup netminder Preston Burpo.Stuck behind #1 keeper Brad Guzan for most of 2007, Burpo did see significant time with the red-and-white in 2006, starting 19 games for the club. His record of 7-3-9 and GAA of 1.21 were respectable, but the 35-year-old eventually lost the starting job to Guzan, who has never looked back.

He started just three games for Chivas in 2007 while Guzan was away with the U.S. national team, going 1-1-1 with a 1.00 GAA.

There have been rumors of a possible transfer for Guzan to Arsenal of the English Premier League, but club officials must be confident enough that El Guzano will stick around next year to let their backup keeper go so easily.

While some people might not put much value in a fourth-round pick, it is worth remembering that Chivas' fourth-round selection in 2006 turned out to be the sleeper of the year. That year, Jonathan Bornstein was drafted by the team as the 37th overall pick and went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors as well as becoming a mainstay on the backline of the U.S. national team.

Preki & Co. will certainly be looking to duplicate those results with their new-found pick.

Sydney FC Targeting Mathis?

A blurb on Soccer365.com suggests that Sydney FC officials will be scouting Clint Mathis during the club's upcoming friendly with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Acquired just last week from Red Bull New York, the former U.S. MNT star made the trip Down Under with his new teammates and should see some action in Tuesday night's exhibition.
"I heard that he is interested in playing in the A-League, so we followed it up," Sydney coach John Kosmina said. "We've contacted Clint's agent, so we'll see how it goes on Tuesday."

In order for Cletus to join the club in a transfer, Sydney would have to drop one foreign player off of their current roster, as they are at the league maximum of four visa players for this season. But Sydney FC could use the help, as they currently occupy fifth place in the 8-team league, nine points adrift of leaders Central Coast Mariners FC.

Beckham, Galaxy Arrive in Australia

The Los Angeles Galaxy have touched down on Australian soil ahead of Tuesday's exhibition match with local club Sydney FC. David Beckham wasn't far behind, arriving over the weekend on a private jet from England after his country was bounced from Euro 2008 qualifying with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Croatia at Wembley Stadium.
Turning his attention back to club football for the time being, Beckham was put through the paces by new Galaxy head coach Ruud Gullit during a training on Monday morning at Telstra Stadium, with the midfielder clutching his troublesome left ankle several teams during the session. Gullit immediately attempted to quash any rumors about Beckham's fitness, saying it is his hope that #23 will play a full 90 minutes. It should be noted that Becks is required to play no less than 55 minutes in the match as part of the deal that the two teams brokered.

Gullit is looking forward to seeing his squad in action for the first time in person, telling reporters: "It's the first time for me to see where we can improve, for them to see what I expect from them and it's also good for us to get to know each other."

As was the case throughout much of the 2007 season, several Galaxy players may not be available or will be at less than 100% due to injuries.

Defenders Ty Harden and Abel Xavier and midfielder Kyle Martino won't even be making the trip Down Under. Harden and Martino both underwent hernia operations in Milwaukee just before Thanksgiving, while 'X' remains in Portugal to rehab a left knee injury.

Forward Alan Gordon and midfielder Quavas Kirk, while traveling with the team, are unlikely to see much action as Gordon has recently undergone surgery to correct a problem with his left foot that hampered him for much of the 2007 season. Kirk was also dogged by a bad case of plantar fasciitis in his left foot and will continue working with the team's medical staff to get healthy once more.

Keeping the list of no-shows going, Kelly Gray is scheduled to get married in Northern California on December 1st. Israel Sesay has already returned to his hometown of Gaithersburg, MD for the offseason and standout rookie defender Mike Randolph has been named to the U.S. U-23 provisional roster for their upcoming camp. If he is named in the squad, it would be his first career cap at any level with the United States National Team.

One player who did make the trip is Clint Mathis, recently acquired by Los Angeles for a third-round pick in the 2008 SuperDraft.

Some much needed time off is in the future for the Galaxy, but not until the club returns to American soil on December 3rd. Following Tuesday's exhibition with Sydney FC, the team will fly to New Zealand to take on the Wellington Phoenix this Saturday.

D.C. United Roster Woes

Having crashed out of the playoffs with a resounding thud for the second-straight season after securing the Supporters Shield, D.C. United could be facing serious problems in keeping several of their stars on the roster for 2008.
Media reports from Honduras indicated that recently crown MLS MVP and Newcomer of the Year Luciano Emilio was looking to leave the club in favor of a bigger paycheck elsewhere. But Steven Goff of the Washington Post says reports that these rumors have little substance to them. "The club exercised the option of his contract for 2008 and, unless a massive offer from overseas lands on Kevin Payne's desk, he's not going anywhere," writes Goff on his blog, Soccer Insider. It is understood that Emilio's agent, Alexander Solis, is trying to secure a massive raise for his client, who made $293,125 in guaranteed compensation in 2007. Any sort of increase would put him near the league maximum of $400,000 and closing in on Designated Player status.

Of course, United is saving their DP slot for the winter transfer window, when they can officially ink Juan Sebastian Veron to a deal. The 32-year-old Argentinean has been the target of D.C.'s interest for much of the year and would undoubtedly command DP money. Payne met with Veron in July to discuss a possible transfer, but the deal didn't happen then because Veron voiced his desire to stay with Estudiantes through Copa Sudamericana. Subsequently, Veron has been hampered by injury after returning from Copa America and played little part in the club's early exit from the competition at the hands of Lanus.Another player rumored to be contemplating an exit from the nation's capital is Christian Gomez. The 2006 MLS MVP is currently out of contract with the club and put off negotiations with United before this past season started, saying no new talks would be held until after the end of the season. Gomez's production slipped slightly in 2007, registering 10 goals and nine assists in 27 games (14 goals, 11 assists in 2006). He has expressed a desire to return home to Argentina to finish his career in the past, but is also being linked with a move to the Middle East, with the most likely option a free-spending team in Qatar.

The same goes for the league's all-time leading scorer, Jaime Moreno (112 goals). Despite a resurgence with Bolivia's national team, Moreno appeared to have lost a step in 2007. His seven goal total was down more than 50% from 2005, when he scored 16 times. Add to that the fact that more than half of his goals this year came from the penalty spot (four of seven). Qatar is also the most likely last stop for Moreno, who could be looking for one last payday in the twilight of his career.

With all the unrest in D.C., it's hard to see them securing a third-straight Supporters Shield in 2008, but if Emilio stays and Veron is brought in as expected, it may not matter if Gomez and/or Moreno are no longer with the team.


Real Madrid Chasing Jozy

Real Madrid is very interested in signing New York Red Bulls and U.S. U-20 forward Josmer Altidore, apparently so much so that the Spanish club has sent sporting director assistant Carlos Bucero to the Big Apple to pursue the teen phenom.
Altidore's agent, however, wasn't giving up any details. "We've heard of the interest and for any soccer player it is a thrill to be linked with Real Madrid, and Jozy's really happy about the news," agent Richard Motzkin told The Associated Press. "Jozy's happy with where he's at in this stage of his career with the Red Bulls, but we'll see what happens."

Jozy, who recently turned 18, was selected in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft as the 17th overall pick. After scoring three times in seven games for New York in his rookie season, Altidore became the youngest player to score in the MLS playoffs (16 years, 337 days) when he tallied New York's only goal in their semifinal loss to D.C. United.

This past season, Altidore found the back of the net nine times in 22 games, missing some action while away with the U-20 U.S. team at the World Cup in Canada. While there, he led the U.S. team in scoring with four goals. More recently, he received his first cap with the senior team on November 9th, coming on as a substitute late in the United States' 1-0 victory over host South Africa.

WC Security Concerns; Ex-Player Murdered

The murder of a former professional soccer player this past Friday has raised new concerns about South Africa's ability to provide adequate security for the 2010 World Cup.

Pieter Burgstaller, former keeper for Salzburg and an acquaintance of Franz Beckenbauer and German team manager Oliver Bierhoff, was shot and killed during a robbery on a golf course some 40 miles from Durban, the scene of today's World Cup qualifying draw.

The incident brings back into focus serious questions about the state of security in South Africa, with the high-crime rate being troubling for the event's organizers ever since the country was awarded the tournament.

"We won't be able to move so freely as we are used to at World Cup finals," said Bierhoff, who also admitted that his briefcase had been stolen while in Durban.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter spoke out against the murder, but immediately waved away any suggestion that the shooting was the result of thugs specifically targeting visitors for the event. "I just want to say how much we deplore that a tourist from Austria was shot dead yesterday on a golf course. We deplore that as we would deplore all death or casualties in any country.

"This tourist was not a member of the delegation coming for the draw and to make a parallel between FIFA's presence here and this death is not right," Blatter continued. "In a city of 3.5 million, some crimes will happen as they would in many other countries. On Friday evening in a tram station in Zurich, a young girl of 16 years old was shot. Crime is everywhere and Zurich is 10 times smaller than Durban."

Clavijo's Job Safe, For Now

The subject of intense scrutiny in his time at the helm of the Colorado Rapids, Fernando Clavijo has been given one more chance to get it right, as team officials confirmed that the Uruguayan head coach will return for the final year of his contract in '08.
Despite the club's failure to make the playoffs in 2007, Rapids Managing Director Jeff Plush said in his State of the Club address that owner Stan Kroenke believes in honoring contracts. "Fernando will be back for 2008. He has one more year left in his contract. We know that it is a controversial decision and that some people don't agree with it at all. We respect everyone's opinion on the subject, but at the end of the day, Mr. Kroenke believes in honoring the contracts that we sign, and he believes in honoring his word. I think there are some positives to be learned by that."

Some irate fans have even started up www.FireClavijo.com and are compiling a list of season-ticket holders who have had enough, calling them "People publicly wanting something more than mediocre coaching and a mediocre team."

Plush continued in his SotC address: "Clearly there is some work to do to recover some of our fan base that we may have lost with this decision. We will work diligently to do that and that work has already started. However, the reality is that this organization can win with this coaching staff and this current team."

The decision is clearly a surprising one, as even Plush agrees that 2007 was a miserable year for the club, apart from opening their new stadium, Dick's Sporting Goods Park. "We failed against every goal we put in front of ourselves from the team side this year. It is time for reflection and time for us to figure out how to improve in virtually every area on the team side. We cobbled together some points anyway this year, but it certainly wasn't with any real sense of purpose. There was no real system or a vision of what we want to be."

With all the unrest from Rapids fans, if the team flops coming out of the gates in 2008, I believe Clavijo will be looking for work before the All-Star Break.

U.S. Learns World Cup Draw

The United States, as well as 169 other countries, discovered on Sunday what they will be up against in attempting to return to the World Cup, as the Preliminary Draw was held today in the South African city of Durban.
Bob Bradley's boys will initially face the winner of a home-and-away series between Dominica (ranked 189th) and Barbados (ranked 124th) in June, with an eye on moving to the next stage. Another CONCACAF power, Mexico has drawn the winner of Belize - St. Kitts and Nevis, neither of which should provide much in the way of competition for El Tri. Canada already knows their opponent, as they will take on St. Vincent/Grenadines in their mission to qualify for the finals for only the second time in their history (Mexico '86).

"Certainly we know that Barbados would be the favorite to advance," said Bradley. "We know Barbados from having played them twice in the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. They are a team that typically is physically talented and are starting to have more players competing overseas. All the teams in CONCACAF continue to improve, making qualifying for the World Cup increasingly competitive."

In other regions making news, Australia was placed in a tough group with the likes of China and Iraq standing in the way of a return for the upstart Socceroos to the big stage. Also in the Asian region, the two Korean neighbors will square off in Group 3.

The most attention, however, was focused on the European draw, and it was rightfully so as some great matchups were produced. With only the nine group winners and the eight-best runners-up from each group moving on, several of the groups will likely feature the ousting of at least one world soccer power. Group 1 boasts the trio of Portugal, Sweden and Denmark; Group 5 has Spain, Turkey and Belgium; The Netherlands, Scotland and Norway have been placed in Group 9. But the loudest cheers from the hall came when Croatia rounded out Group 6, meaning they will be put up against England once more, giving the Three Lions a chance for vengeance after Croatia bounced them out of Euro 2008 earlier this week. Joining them will be two other tough opponents, Belgium and Ukraine.

Who has the hardest task in making the finals? Will the U.S. and Mexico run wild over all other CONCACAF competition on their way back to The Show? Is England doomed?


De La Hoya Interested in Dynamo

KHOU in Houston is reporting that the MLS Champion Dynamo are garnering interest from a group led by boxing superstar Oscar de la Hoya. Currently owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, word is that league officials are pressuring AEG to divest itself of one of the two teams still under its control, with the other being the Los Angeles Galaxy.Representatives of de la Hoya's Golden Boy Productions have been in town recently, making several trips to see the Men in Orange in action, and are apparently impressed with the fanbase and results the team has generated in two short years since moving from San Jose to the Space City. Add to that the emphasis by the league on getting minority and Hispanic owners involved and it sounds like this could be a perfect fit.

Earlier this year, AEG sold the Chicago Fire to Andell Holdings for a pricetag believed to be in the $30-35 million range. As long as Houston brass can hammer out a stadium deal in the near future, there's no reason to think the franchise is worth anything less than $40 million.

De la Hoya certainly has the scratch to pull the trigger on the deal, earning $43 million alone for his May loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. At 34 years old, the Golden Boy has totaled revenues of $612 million over his 18 career pay-per-view bouts.