The Friday Five reveals its Christmas list for American soccer before shuffling off to open its presents and consume a hearty meal.
Christmas is all about giving unto others, right?
In that spirit, the Friday Five is putting its personal wishes to the side – though if you're willing to purchase that long-desired first-class trip around the world for the TFF, by all means – and focusing on the needs of the greater American soccer community.
2009 offered plenty of gifts for the American soccer fan, all things considered. World Cup qualification and a surprising run to the Confederations Cup final for the U.S. men's national team. The continued development of MLS on and off the field, with a special tip of the hat to the stellar expansion success in Seattle. The emergence of a special class of MLS rookies. The debut of WPS. The impressive dominance of the U.S. women's national team under Pia Sundhage. To cap it all off, Los Angeles finally managed to include David Beckham in a team that didn't stink.
Despite all of those positives, there is still room under the tree for a gift or two heading into 2010 and the Friday Five is more than willing to suggest a few possible options. If you have additional hopes and dreams, feel free to comment below.
1. Labor peace in MLS. Nothing is more important than finding some common ground between MLS and its Players Union. If there's one thing MLS can't afford, it's a lockout that impacts the start of its season. Fortunately for those of us who follow the league, both sides are well aware of that fact. Push the troubling rumblings from the Union and its players to the side for now and hope both sides strike the deal they need to strike as close to Jan. 31 as possible.
2. One potential star from the six young foreign players that inked MLS deals this week. Los Angeles signed three Brazilians on loan from Sao Paulo, while MLS is apparently in the process of distributing three young Colombians to teams across the league through the discovery process. If one of these players even approaches the impact Fredy Montero – admittedly a far more accomplished player upon his arrival than any of these prospects – made in his first season, MLS will continue to increase the level of play and keep its bottom line healthy by developing and selling foreign talent overseas.
3. An influx of younger talent in January's MLS SuperDraft. By most accounts, this year's crop won't match the bumper group that arrived on the scene this year. Even with that caveat in mind, there are some players in this class that can have an impact straight away. We'll know more after the SuperDraft Combine on Jan. 9-12 – I'll be there to run the rule over the chosen few and get a feel for the players I don't get to see much, if at all, during the college season – but the addition of a few more dependable players would only build on the base of youthful talent already in the fold.
4. Increased resources to develop refereeing at the ground level. MLS coaches, fans, front office staffers, media members and players scream incessantly about the need for better refereeing. If this season is any indication, the standard simply isn't where it needs to be, even if it may represent an improvement from years past. In order to cultivate better referees with more feel for the game, USSF needs to start at the grassroots level by spending the money to nurture new referees who have played the game at a decent level, identify talented prospects and push them through the system. By devoting more resources and instituting better development initiatives, the USSF can discover the next generation of referees and stock a league that will need a deeper referee pool as it continues to expand.
5. A unified second division. At this point, it doesn't particularly matter how USSF sorts out the mess between NASL and USL. Sure, the NASL has a point about its lack of autonomy and growth under the former USL leadership and the USL didn't do itself any favors with the shady circumstances surrounding its sale, but that is irrelevant right now. American soccer needs a reasonably stable second division in 2010; it's up to USSF to sort out the unholy disaster and get almost everyone on the same page sooner rather than later.
BONUS. A little help for WPS. It's a long, hard and necessary slog for women's professional soccer in the United States. Here's hoping the WPS can find a way to build on its opening season and figure out an approach to beat the odds and make the balance sheet work for the long-term.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for
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