Soccer seems to be all the rage in North America this last week or two. I predict that the soccer fever sweeping across the U.S. will come to an end this Friday at noon (Eastern time) when FIFA will hold the drawing to pair teams together for the World Cup. The U.S., which ranks #14 in the world has been placed in the same pot as the rest of the minnows from Asia, New Zealand, and North & Central America. The pots, and more information can be seen here:
Pot 1 (seeds): South Africa, Germany, Brazil, Italy, Spain, England, Holland, Argentina.
Pot 2 (Asia, Oceania and North/Central America): Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Mexico, Honduras.
Pot 3 (Africa and South America): Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay.
Pot 4 (Europe): France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia.
I’ve never been a fan of the seeding in World Cup, but I can understand the financial incentives for FIFA to try and keep the “Big” teams in the tournament for as long as possible.
In another sign that soccer must be doing well in the U.S. (or possibly is funded by people who aren’t hit hard by the recession), the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league has announced a deal to build the first ever women’s only soccer specific stadium. The stadium, which be built near Atlanta in a partnership with Kennesaw State University, will hold around 8,000 spectators and is said to cost around $16.5 million. The stadium is scheduled to host only two teams, the Atlanta Beat (professional team) and the KSU Owls (amateur college team). For Major League Soccer (MLS), the premier professional soccer league in North America, soccer specific stadiums have proven to be very successful in increasing attendance at matches as well as helping teams become more profitable. Whether this is the right move or not for the WPS is uncertain, especially considering that this will only be the second year of the league’s existence after the first incarnation of women’s professional soccer in the U.S. failed only after a few years. It seems to be a big gamble, but it did pay off for the MLS who were building these stadiums back in the day when the league was only guaranteed two more years of financial backing from its investors. Since then the MLS has seen a real boom, expanding across North America. It’ll be curious to see how this stadium situation turns out for the Atlanta Beat, and whether they will start a building boom for soccer stadiums for other WPS franchises.