Monthly Archives: July 2012

Why San Diego Is The Chris Wondolowski Of U.S. Soccer Cities

Watching the MLS All-Star game in the heart of the Gaslamp District – which for those playing the game at home is downtown San Diego – the question was asked why San Diego isn’t considered for any of the ‘showcase’ games of U.S. Soccer?

Surely a city that is the country’s eighth largest, has the country’s biggest youth soccer market and sits on the border of the soccer crazy nation of Mexico was worth a shot of hosting a game or two?

Soccer in this country is continuing to grow at a strong pace and a number of commentators have identified that non represented Major League Soccer markets such as San Diego are integral to the expansion of our leagues and the exposure of the sport in general. Take NASL Commissioner David Downs recent comments for example;

…In the U.S., nine of the top 25 markets don’t have any [pro] soccer at all. These are markets that could or would support soccer. M.L.S. is at the short-term limits of its capacity. There’s talk. Long term, it seems logical there’s opportunity to expand to some really attractive markets. San Diego, Sacramento, Phoenix, Cincinnati. Many places with populations in excess of two million. Our league conceivably could have 10 teams by 2013 or 12 by 2014, and maybe 20 long term…

Source: http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/q-and-a-n-a-s-l-commissioner-david-downs/  

Mr Downs sure wasn’t the first and definitely won’t be the last to acknowledge the potential of San Diego as a lucrative market for soccer $$$.

Now before I continue I don’t want you to be concerned. While it has all the pre-argument hallmarks of another “San Diego should have an MLS team blah, blah, blah” we are not going down the road of another blog post that sings the same old song to a tune played by the world’s smallest violin.

What we are trying to expose here is the lack of confidence in the city to showcase major soccer events (excluding junior competitions – shout out to the $25 million per year generating Surf Cup).

For story telling purposes let’s get some of the important facts out there;

  • San Diego is the number 4 TV market for MLS on ESPN in the country (behind only Portland, NY and Norfolk, VA)
  • According to Nielsen, San Diego was the top market for watching the USMNT games and delivered an astonishing 15.4 rating for the Ghana round of 16 game.
  • San Diego was selected as one of the host cities for the 2022 U.S. World Cup bid.
  • 72,000 people are registered to play soccer in San Diego.
  • Has one of the largest adult leagues (the San Diego County Soccer League has 5 full divisions with promotion and relegation)

So that’s some of the pros. But playing devil’s advocate on our own argument we should acknowledge two skeletons in our closet, you know, those two chances we got to prove we deserve world class soccer in San Diego.

1999 All-Star Game. San Diego was indeed the last non MLS city to host the All-Star game. All was going well, pre-sales were strong and organizers were expecting a large walk up crowd. The game was going to be shown on ABC but then a terrible accident involving one of the Kennedy clan happened, the game was bumped off the major network and the rest is history. 23,000 people at the 80,000 seat Qualcomm Stadium is not the best of advertisements for the local soccer market.

Real Madrid vs Chivas. 2011 saw the World Football Challenge come to San Diego. A real coup for the city but the event was poorly advertised, tickets were priced poorly and it all resulted in another black mark against the San Diego faithful.

The biggest argument against San Diego however is that of a non-existent soccer specific stadium.

One would be naïve to think this issue will be discussed seriously in the boardrooms of power (both MLS and the local Council) until the ongoing saga of the Chargers NFL future is put to bed. Furthermore, and I hate to break it to you kids, you only get an MLS franchise if you have a ton of cash and a nice shiny home to call your own.

The stadium is the key to soccer flourishing in the city and would fast become an icon of the future. It is a significantly less expensive option than the Chargers plan, would drive new revenue streams for the city and help drive stronger outcomes for the sport from the grassroots right up to whoever would be the team at the top of the local pyramid.

But until then I would encourage fans to rally around the teams that are already there fighting for your attention. San Diego is represented by three pro outdoor teams. The San Diego Flash and San Diego Boca, both of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and the San Diego Sea Lions (WPSL).

Both the Flash and Sea Lions had terrific seasons on the field and both fell agonizingly short of representing the city in a National Championship. Yet crowd numbers continue to be mired in the hundreds, not thousands and the awareness of these clubs is negligible.

On the eve of San Diego welcoming the 2012 National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) National Championships it’s time to ask ourselves why America’s Finest City is going through an identity crisis. It’s like Chris Wondolowski, scoring goals regularly and not getting the recognition he thoroughly deserves.

While the NPSL is the country’s fourth tier division, the quality is top draw. Not only did the U.S. Open Cup prove this with the Cinderella story of Cal FC, but also the fact that players from the San Diego Flash (under the guidance of former England International and Fox Soccer Lead Analyst, Warren Barton) have made the successful step up from NPSL to MLS. It was only last year that Flash player Ryan Guy signed a contract with the New England Revolution and two players from the recently completed 2012 campaign (Captain Adrian DuBois and midfielder Sergio Valle-Ortiz) had tryouts with the current MLS Western Conference leading San Jose Earthquakes.

So what is missing? That’s a difficult question to answer. But like all new franchises it takes time to build up the brand and the Flash are the ones leading the charge.

Not only are they hosting the NPSL Finals this weekend (July 27-29) but they are also rolling out a number of innovative programs tasked at growing the game at the grassroots and driving new collaborations with the youth soccer market. They also recently sent an expression of interest to David Downs of the NASL (yes, the same David Downs that mentioned San Diego as a potential market) with a view of joining the second tier of U.S. Soccer.

Couple this with their fan ownership model, their high profile partners (Barton, Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda and MLS starlet Temryss Lane) and the fact they are due to become publically traded soon, the future looks bright for San Diego pro soccer (www.sdspsoccermarketing.com).

The reality is that San Diego is a soccer city. However it’s a two way street, not only is it up to administrators, associations, promoters and local clubs to foster new relationships with the fans and thriving youth market but it’s also up to the fans to reciprocate their advances and support them before we run out of chances to reach our potential.

That can all start this weekend by heading up to North County (Del Norte High School) and watching the NPSL National Championships. Support the Flash in their endeavors to bring top quality soccer to San Diego and our chance to show the rest of the U.S. that we deserve more soccer events in the future.

It was rather fitting that Wondolowski scored yet again, and hopefully San Diego takes its chance to shine this week too. There is no doubt both deserve every success.

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NPSL Looks To Social Media To Broadcast Its National Championships To A Wider Audience

Soccer Support has just got its hands on the media advisory for this weekends National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) 2012 National Championships which is pasted below FYI.

The San Diego Flash (together with the San Diego Sports Commission) look like they are putting together an event with a strong social media focus. Ustream, Twitter and Facebook are being utilized to broadcast the championships to a national audience and it will be interesting to see the feedback on this weekends playoffs from fans and officials alike.

We wholeheartedly believe social media holds the keys to unlocking the potential for soccer in the U.S. and hope that fans across the country embrace the online platforms available to them and get involved with this years NPSL showcase which starts this Friday (July 27).

To follow all action of the NPSL National Championships being held in San Diego this weekend (July 27-29) check out;

Ustream access to all four Championship games: www.sdspsoccermarketing.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NPSLFinals_SD

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NPSLFinal4SD

The NPSL is the fourth tier on the U.S. soccer pyramid and has the potential to become a strong grassroots development league given its structure and geographical presence (49 teams across 19 states).

MEDIA ADVISORY – The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) National Championships 2012

Fast Facts:

  • The NPSL National Championships takes place on Friday July 27 – Sunday July 29, 2012.
  • The NPSL Championship weekend will be a ‘Final Four’ style, 3 day event.
  • The four participating teams are the winners of the four NPSL Conferences – Bay Area Ambassadors (West), FC Sonic (Northeast), Chattanooga FC (South) and the Madison 56ers (MidWest)
  • The NPSL consists of 49 teams nationwide across 4 conferences.
  • All matches will be held at Del Norte High School, 16601 Nighthawk Lane, San Diego, CA, 92127.  All matches will be held in San Diego, CA.
  • The 2012 Final Four is hosted by the San Diego Flash who play in the NPSL West-Southern Conference.

Official Media Events:

Pre-Finals Press Conference: Friday July 27, 10 AM PST – Venue TBC

Post Finals Press Conference: Sunday July 29, 2:30 PM PST @ Del Norte

Event Overview:

The NPSL National Championships sees the Conference Champions from each region – the Northeast region, Southeast region, Midwest region, and the West region – come together in San Diego to playoff for the right to play in the Championship game. Playoffs occur on the opening day, with the third place playoff occurring on Saturday July 28 and the deciding match scheduled for Sunday July 29.

Friday’s playoff games are decided by a random draw held before the tournament begins.

About The Host Club:

The San Diego Flash Soccer Club play in the Western Conference of the NPSL. The Flash were reformed as a club due to the importance of giving today’s young soccer players the experiences of watching professional soccer in person; in their hometown of San Diego.

The Flash has had a very successful return to professional soccer and has won the West-Southern Conference in both 2011 and 2012 with a combined record of 23-3-3. The club was also awarded the hosting rights of the 2012 NSPL Championship Weekend which was a terrific coup for both the club and the city of San Diego.

About The Host City:

San Diego is a great host city for the NPSL Finals;

  • It is the 2nd largest city in California; 8th largest in the U.S.
  • It has the #1 Youth Soccer market in the United States and;
  • San Diego sits on the border next to México; where Soccer is already the #1 sport.

The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round climate, natural deep-water harbor, extensive beaches, long association with the U.S. Navy, and recent emergence as a healthcare and biotechnology enclave.

Teams:

One team from each of the four NPSL geographic regions will gain a berth into the 2012 NPSL National Championships. These teams were decided this past weekend after the respective regional playoffs have occurred.

West – Bay Area Ambassadors from Hayward, California

Northeast – FC Sonic Lehigh Valley from Allentown, Pennsylvania

Midwest – Madison 56ers from Madison, Wisconsin

South – Chattanooga FC from Chattanooga, Tennessee

The teams that qualified and their path to San Diego can be found on an official bracket designed by the host club on their corporate website http://www.sdspsoccermarketing.com

Timeline of Events:

NB: A final itinerary will be available when all the Conference Champions have been decided

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Teams begin arriving in San Diego.

Friday, July 27, 2012

10am – Press Conference – @ Town & Country Hotel.

3pm – Playoffs Game 1. FC Sonic vs Madison 56ers

7pm – Playoffs Game 2. Bay Area Ambassadors vs Chattanooga FC

Saturday, July 28, 2012

3pm – San Diego Flash Exhibition Game

7pm – 3rd Place PlayOff Game (Loser of Game 1 Vs. Loser of Game 2)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

12pm – NPSL Championship Game (Winner of Game 1 Vs. Winner of Game 2)

2:30pm – Press Conference – Del Norte High School

NB: Itinerary will be updated daily and released to key stakeholders.

League Information:

The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), was founded in 2003 and is the highest ranking amateur soccer league in the United States.  The goal of the NPSL is to provide it’s clubs the opportunity to showcase and assist their players to progress onto the professional level, in turn giving fans affordable, high quality entertainment throughout the United States. The NPSL is sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) as an affiliate of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the ruling body for soccer in the United States and FIFA, the world’s ruling body for soccer.

Ticketing Information:

Tickets for the NPSL National Championships 2012 can be purchased online through Eventbrite.

http://npslfinal4sd.eventbrite.com/

Both 3 day passes and single game tickets are available.

Visitor Information:

For visiting fans, information on San Diego attractions, and the itinerary for official championship weekend events please visit www.sdspsoccermatketing.com

 

 

Volunteering…with benefits

We have mentioned in previous posts that we believe one of the major impediments to the growth of soccer in the U.S. is that of the costs to play. Talented kids have often fallen through the cracks due to the fees associated with the transition/progression from recreational to select soccer and especially those that come from low-socio economic areas.

If the sport is truly going to grow we must promote and develop our best prospects and find constructive ways to eliminate those barriers to entry that see many of those naturally gifted at sport move to Basketball, Baseball and (American) Football in their teens.

Clubs cost money to run and A LOT OF IT and like all organizations and businesses these costs flow down to the consumers/members.

This blog post will therefore look at two options we feel exist as alternatives to the traditional ways of running a community based club with all of the ideas leading to increased revenue for clubs, reduced fees for working families and opportunities to make clubs more efficient and in turn create new avenues for growth.

1.      Incentivizing volunteering at our grassroots soccer clubs.

What if the parents were rewarded for volunteering at their kids clubs through reduced fees or free equipment? Not only would clubs no longer struggle with finding volunteer coaches, board members etc but they would also create a new grassroots army that utilizes the skill and expertise of parents to drive new sponsorship, new members and best of all, more revenue.

Tim’s Dad is an accountant. Great – he will make a great Treasurer. Sarah’s Mum is an event planner. Great – she can organize the next fundraising event. The list goes on and on, and utilizing the undiscovered skills at the clubs disposal will lead to increased productivity and free up the club executive to work on future planning and revenue raising processes such as chasing new sponsors.

The potential for new identifying new revenue streams should far outweigh the concerns of giving reduced registration fees to its members and with volunteering rapidly changing in what is a very time poor environment this might go a long way in helping working families find that ideal work/life balance at the same time as playing an active role in their kids social development.

Alternatively how about clubs look at commissions for successful events? For example, what if a group of parents organized an open day in the local community and a percentage of the days profits made went directly to their children’s registration fees? All parties would benefit and the club would get more community exposure and the inherent benefits associated with it (eg more members, sponsors etc).

Failing a sustainable model that saw clubs unable to cover the discounts linked to club volunteerism what if the Associations or event Government stump up the cash as an option. Linking the program to healthy initiatives, social inclusion commitments or even parks and recreation budgets could lead to more kids playing sport outside rather than parents buying them FIFA for Xbox because it’s cheaper.

2.      Recruiting Underutilized Talent

It is important that clubs look to connect with professionals in the community that are either looking for work, are retired or are at college by offering them the opportunity to build a portfolio of work and body of credible experience.

Transitional Workers

Since the Global Financial Crisis hit the U.S. a number of able Americans were left without a job. The recovery has been slow and the market has just not bounced back as expected. People are looking to keep active and continue to seek a continued work history and a competitive edge when heading into future interviews.

Effectively helping both parties out and in some circumstances have individuals carving out their own employment path with a local soccer club.

Retirees

For all those that are currently running clubs, there are just as many that have run them in the past. We should look to activate retired and semi-retired skilled professionals (with transferrable skills to the day to day running of clubs) to provide mentoring support to clubs and volunteers. A former CEO using his/her business/boardroom skills to train the current executive, a former architect helping with the designs for a new equipment shed etc.

We should not discount what our older Americans have to offer in terms of experience, or their passion for giving back to the community.

College Students

Surely there are University students undertaking business, philanthropy, graphic design, audiovisual, and sports management degree options that would benefit from being exposed and challenged by the unique needs of grassroots soccer clubs. Every soccer club should leverage summer internship opportunities. Paying students $1,000 for 3 months of work which they can get credit for is a win-win for clubs especially if they are tasked with revenue raising projects.

As you can see there are a lot of opportunities out there for clubs to increase revenue while directly helping their members work towards reduced registration fees or even future job opportunities. Let’s continue to #GrowTheGame at the grassroots by looking outside the box and realizing the answers to growth are out there if people are willing to open themselves up to new ideas.