Gold Cup 2019: USMNT vs Trinidad & Tobago

Saturday night the USMNT overcame their demons, crushing T&T 6-0 in Cleveland. The US men are leading the tournament in goal differential with +10, barely beating Mexico’s +9. Similarly to Guyana, this win has to be taken with a grain of salt; T&T consists of mostly USL Championship and USL League 1 players (read: lower leagues in the USA). Despite both teams being eliminated, I would not be shocked if Guyana beat T&T in the last group stage game. But that’s neither here nor there, on to the USMNT performance:

  • In the second half, Pulisic finally played like he was the best player on the field. He got a nice assist in the first half off of a cross into the box that Aaron Long headed in. Then Pulisic ripped up T&T in the second half for another assist and a goal. As he should. This guy is head and shoulders above everyone on T&T. Guyana was his first game since the Bundesliga season ended. Perhaps he is rounding into form.
  • Gyassi Zardes heard the haters after the Guyana team, so he silenced them in this one. Two goals and he really should have had a third. He’s still second choice behind Jozy but he has earned his keep. Also worth noting that he’s tied for the lead for goals in this tournament (3) …
  • Aaron Long didn’t just score once, he scored TWICE! The defender had himself a game on both sides of the ball.  He’s the sweeper of the backline and he’s a threat on set pieces. What more could you ask for?
  • Steffen made a few saves look easy despite their level of difficulty. The USMNT has often been blessed with stellar goalkeeping. Steffen will likely continue that trend as he moves to the Bundesliga next season.
  • Bradley quietly had a very solid night. His passing was on point as usual, and I don’t believe he had a single defensive mistake. As the defensive midfielder in a 6-0 win, not may people are going to point out his performance, in spite of how noteworthy it was.
  • McKennie had a similar game to his Guyana game, some incredible passing sequences, made his presence known physically, but struggled with his positioning at times. I had him higher on this list against Guyana, but that is because so many other players played worse against Guyana. Loved when he got in T&T’s face after one of them fouled Gyassi. I’ve said it before: he brings the intensity this team needs.
  • Lima had himself another strong outing. He got an assist on Gyassi’s first goal, and sporadically caused problems for T&T on the right hand side.
  • Boyd and Arriola both got themselves into dangerous positions, but mostly failed to find the back of the net. I think it is easy to say that both of them are locks as the starting wingers. Berhalter’s system is designed to get them into dangerous positions, and they’re following his instructions well. Just slightly improved finishing and these two will be the biggest story line of the tournament.
  • Zimmerman had another good performance at the back defensively, and continued to make line-splitting passes out of the back. I won’t have much more on Zimmerman until he gets tested by stronger competition.
  • Jordan Morris came on and changed this game with two assists. After the game against Guyana, I was afraid that we didn’t have many game-changers off of the bench. Morris, alleviated that fear a little tonight.
  • Jozy really didn’t do much in his 15 minute appearance. He’s still coming back from injury, so I don’t have huge expectations. I bet we see him off the bench again vs. Panama. No need to rush things.
  • Reggie Cannon filled in for Lima for the last few minutes of the game. A cameo where he provided one dangerous move, and did not make any defensive mistakes.
  • Ream was shaky again. I think he’s having fewer and fewer shaky moments, but it still feels like there’s a looming threat that he could cause a defensive collapse at any moment.

Last but not least,

  • Gregg Berhalter is getting the best out of his players. This is perhaps the most important note from this game. Players who played less-than-their-best against Guyana (most notably Zardes, and Pulisic) proved their worth against T&T. With every passing game, this team looks more and more like it is Berhalter’s team. This tournament is allowing Berhalter to get a lot of exposure with these players and it is allowing these players to immerse themselves in what Berhalter wants out of them.

The game against Guyana felt more like growing pains, tonight’s game against T&T felt more like a coming of age. Let’s hope that the next game against Panama feels like a coming out party.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Major League Soccer

First some basic facts about Major League Soccer (MLS), and then some reasons to watch MLS in 2019. Feel free to skip around as you see fit. Check here to see when each team plays their first game of the season.

The Basics

MLS is the top division of soccer in the United States. In general, MLS is caught at a nexus between the traditions/practices of other American sports leagues, most notably the NFL (Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, used to work in the NFL), and the traditions/practices of European Soccer (Premiere League, Bundesliga, La Liga, etc.). I’ll try to frame every aspect of the league through these two lenses.

Regular Season

MLS was founded in 1996 with 8 teams and has expanded to 24 teams in 2019, 21 American teams and 3 Canadian teams. Like other American sports, the league is divided into conferences: Eastern and Western. Each team will play teams of the same conference twice a season and teams of the opposite conference once a season. The regular season runs from March to October. This is in contrast to most soccer leagues in the world which run from August to May. The league claims that it could not run a “Winter Schedule” due to some cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Minneapolis, Denver, etc. whose matches might not be able to be played in the cold/snow (The league is well-off these days but not so well off to afford retractable roofs over stadiums).

Playoffs

Unlike European soccer, MLS has playoffs at the end of the season. In 2019, MLS will run playoffs mostly in October and November. The playoff format changes every couple of years as the league expands. In 2019, 7 teams from each conference will make the playoffs. The first place team of each conference receives a first round bye. 14/24 teams making the playoffs is quite a large percentage relative to other American sports. For reference, 12/32 NFL teams make the playoffs. The league claims to allow so many teams in the playoffs to keep games late in the season competitive. I believe this goal is accomplished as many teams are not mathematically eliminated until approximately September. Without the playoffs, teams at the bottom of the league would be playing for nothing for half of the season since there is no promotion/relegation (pro/rel).

Lack of Promotion and Relegation

For those that do not know, European soccer countries have a multi-tiered league system. For example, there are four professional leagues in England. At the end of the season, the three teams that finish last in the top league are relegated (think “re-leagued”) to the second league. Then the three best teams of the second league are promoted (self-explanatory) to the first division. In a promotion/relegation system, the teams at the bottom of the league are still playing competitively at the end of the season because they do not want to be relegated. Without getting too into, being relegated loses a team a lot of money commercially so players on relegated teams are playing for their jobs. There are many people in American soccer who believe MLS should change to a pro/rel system, but that’s a discussion for another time (I would really like to write on this at some point).

Single Entity

The biggest reason MLS won’t switch to a pro/rel system is that MLS is a single-entity league, similar to other American sports, but unlike European soccer. Off the field, this means that MLS often operates as one business. For example, the league negotiates the jersey deal with Adidas. In Europe, individual teams negotiate jersey deals with the company of their choice. On the field, it means that each team is given a similar level of resources every year to build their team.

Parity

Big European clubs like the Manchesters, Munichs, and Madrids of the world are able to use a lot more money to build their roster relative to their competitors at the bottom of their respective leagues. MLS teams are given a salary cap (better described as a salary budget) which they must adhere to. This salary budget acts as an equalizer to make more games competitive between teams across the league. Thus the drop off from the best MLS team to the worst is not as far as the drop-off from the best Premiere League team to the worst. People will often refer to this concept as “parity” in MLS: that any team has a legitimate chance of winning any game.

MLS Salary Budget

This equalizing factor, the MLS salary budget, is similar to the NFL’s salary cap but more flexible. NFL teams have a maximum they are allowed to spend and that line is a hard limit which cannot be surpassed. MLS teams have a few mechanisms which allow them to break that upper barrier.

Designated Players

The most famous of which is the Designated Player (DP). Originally referred to as the David Beckham rule, the DP rule allows each team to have 3 players (originally only 1 player) who do not count towards the salary cap. This allowed the LA Galaxy to pay Beckham more money that the entirety of the salary cap. There is no upward limit on how much a DP can be payed.

GAM and TAM

There are another four ways to pay players without hurting the salary cap. two of them are General Allocation Money and Targeted Allocation Money (GAM and TAM) which can pay part of a player’s salary, lessening that player’s cap hit. GAM can be used on players making less than the max salary charge ( ~$500,000; in general I’m simplifying these numbers) and TAM can be used on players making more than the max salary charge (Between $500,000 – $1,500,000). Any player making more than $1,500,000 must be a DP.

For example, if Player X is making $300,000 a team can used $100,000 in GAM to make that player’s cap hit $200,000. This is relatively straight forward. Teams can get really creative when they pay down a TAM-level player. For example, if Player Y is making $700,000 a team has to pay at least $200,000 with TAM in order to comply with roster rules. Alternatively, the team could use $400,000 in TAM to lower his cap hit to $300,000, saving $200,000 of cap space which can be used elsewhere on the roster. TAM is relatively new to the league and was introduced to fill the talent gap between DPs and the rest of MLS. The amount of TAM in the league has increased almost every year for the last few years.

Homegrowns and Generation Adidas

Outside of DPs, GAM, and TAM, MLS teams can sign Homegrown (HG) players and Generation Adidas (GA) players whose salaries will not count against the cap. HG players are players who came through an MLS academy. A player has to be in a teams academy for at least one year to be eligible for HG status. MLS academies were started 10 years ago and are just not starting to churn out pretty solid talent (Alphonso Davies just got traded to Bayern for $12 million, Tyler Adams just got traded to RB Leipzig for $3 million, Ballou-Tabla was traded to Barcelona for an undisclosed fee). GA players are high draft pick players that the league wants a team to sign and so the league signs the player before they get drafted. That sounds shadier than it is. GA players are pretty much HG players who didn’t come through an MLS academy but through a different academy. So rather than having a bidding war for these players, they come through the draft at an affordable price. Keeping these players’ salaries off of the cap encourages teams to develop domestic talent.

Why watch MLS?

While the quality of play in MLS is improving every year, and the injection of TAM has accelerated that process, the level of play is decidedly higher at big European clubs. However, if there is an MLS team in your market, you have more access to those games that European games. A drive to the local stadium costs a lot less than a flight to Madrid.

Supporting Local Soccer

The optimal scenario is that your local soccer club plays at a high level. If you want that to happen, then you need to support your local soccer club. The level of play in MLS won’t change if people do not support their local teams. Guaranteed it won’t happen overnight. MLS was essentially a semi-pro league when it formed in 1996, and 23 years later people are starting to compare it to some low-to-middle European leagues (Scottish Premiere League, English Championship, Scandinavian leagues). Who knows, maybe in another 20 years it could be on the level of a Serie A or Ligue 1. However, that does not happen if people do not support the league. Not to mention that your local team has a legit shot of winning the league due to the parity mentioned above.

Recognizable Names

The tired answer to “Why watch MLS?” is that they have old European stars that you might never see otherwise. While the league has had mild success shaking off the “retirement league” label, there are still some older European players coming over and they do help draw bigger crowds. Zlatan Ibrahimovic plays for the LA Galaxy, Wayne Rooney plays for DC United, Bacary Sagna plays for Montreal. Players with recognizable names do bring out bigger crowds. The hope is that those crowds stick around after the player leaves.

Young Exciting Players

Lastly, MLS is trying to rebrand itself as a selling league. A league where young players get to prove that they’re ready for bigger and better things. I already mentioned academy players who have moved on to Europe; MLS teams are also bringing in young Central and South American talent for < $10 million with the hopes to sell them for > $10 million. Miguel Almiron is the prototype of this. Atlanta United bought Almiron for $8 million and just sold him for $27 million. Similarly, Atlanta bought Barco for $15 million, RBNY bought Kaku for $7 million, NYCFC bought Medina for $4 million, etc. Now, instead of seeing old European players after their prime, you can see young North/South/Central American players before their prime. With the money teams get from selling these young players they can improve their club, their stadiums, their academies, etc. Then over time, the teams can buy players with bigger and bigger price tags.

Some might argue that “we shouldn’t be a selling league, we should be a buying league”. While this is preferable, the reality of it is that there are only 5 “buying” leagues in the world. And even in those leagues, there are really only 4-8 teams that are “buying” teams. After that top echelon of elite soccer teams, every team in the world is a selling team. The way you climb to that level is by producing and selling really good players. Look at Tottenham who recently started to compete with that upper echelon. They did that by selling Gareth Bale for $100 million dollars to Real Madrid. Then in 2018 they had like 10 players reach the World Cup semi-finals between the Belgium and England rosters.

Of course, it will take time for Alphoso Davies’ $12 million to turn into Bale’s $100 million, and it won’t happen at all if people don’t watch the league. So check out when you local clubs plays at the beginning of March, buy a scarf, and check your local TV listings.

Come back for more MLS and USMNT content!

Pride of the New York Red Bulls

The New York Red Bulls recently signed 2019 Super Draft pick Sean Nealis to a first team contract. Sean is the second “Sean” on the team (after Sean Davis), the 6th New Yorker on the team, and the 12th player from NY, NJ, or CT (including Ryan Meara, Evan Louro, Kyle Duncan, Tim Parker, Connor Lade, Omir Fernandez, Alex Muyl, Sean Davis, Ben Mines, Brian White, and Derrick Etienne Jr.). As I noted on twitter, you could make a semi-functional starting XI out of these 12 players (4-4-2):

White – Etienne

Mines – Davis – Fernandez – Muyl

Lade – Nealis – Parker – Duncan

Meara/Louro

(Meara and Louro are both Goalkeepers)

Fernandez is the only player here who is obviously out of position. Most prefer Etienne play on the wing, but he has spent time up top in the past, and I’m not sure if Ben Mines is comfortable playing on the left wing. But those are small quibbles you might see in any game-day roster. This would never be the first choice lineup, but I think this XI could play a US Open Cup game against a USL team. In that game, Parker, Meara, and Davis would easily be the best players on the field, Muyl, Etienne, White, Lade, and Duncan would all look comfortable. Fernandez and Nealis are more or less unknown quantities at this point so I won’t make any claims there. Point is, this team would be competitive. I think it goes without saying that they would struggle against most MLS teams.

Regardless, this got me wondering, “How many other MLS teams could make similar claims of showcasing local talent?” So I did some digging. Below you can find every other MLS team and how many players grew up near where that team is located. This is relatively loosely defined, since I’m counting NJ and CT for the New York Red Bulls I have to be lenient for teams like New England, Kansas City, Cincinnati, etc. who are all near state borders/cover multiple states.

 

Atlanta United – 5 (All Georgia)

Chicago Fire – 4 (All Illinois)

FC Cincinnati – 4 (1 Ohio, 3 Michigan)

Colorado Rapids –  6 (All Colorado)

Columbus Crew – 5 (4 Ohio, 1 Michigan)

FC Dallas – 8 (All Texas)

DC United – 7 (4 Maryland, 3 Virginia)

Houston Dynamo – 3 (All Texas)

LAFC – 3 (All Southern California)

LA Galaxy – 8 (All Southern California)

Minnesota United – 3 (2 Minnesota, 1 Wisconsin)

Montreal Impact – 9 (All Quebec)

New England Revolution – 6 (5 Massachusetts, 1 Rhode Island)

NYCFC – 4 (All New York)

RBNY – 12 (6 New York, 5 New Jersey, 1 Connecticut)

Orlando City SC – 2 (Both Florida)

Philadelphia Union – 7 (4 Pennsylvania, 2 Delaware, 1 New Jersey)

Portland Timbers – 2 (1 Oregon, 1 Washington)

Real Salt Lake – 2 (Both Utah)

San Jose Earthquakes – 7 (All Northern California)

Seattle Sounders – 3 (All Washington)

Sporting Kansas City – 3 (All Kansas)

Toronto FC – 10 (All Ontario)

Vancouver Whitecaps – 4 (All British Columbia)

 

The answer to my question seems to be no, but some teams do come close. Toronto came closest with 10, and Montreal is right behind them with 9. I also wasn’t simply counting any Homegrown player, as many Homegrown territories spread far enough away that those players are hardly “local talent”. For example, Real Salt Lake have more Homegrowns from Arizona than they do from Utah. Since the Arizona border is approximately 7.5 hours from Salt Lake City it’s hardly fair to call those players local. I also limited San Jose to Northern California and both LA teams to Southern California, which made a difference by 2 or 3 players in all cases. All Three Canadian teams have relatively large territories but restricting them to their nominal city and immediate suburbs didn’t make a difference in any case.

Additionally, I was counting more than just Homegrown players. I was also counting any player who grew up in the area. For example, Tim Parker grew up on Long Island, was drafted by Vancouver, and was then traded to RBNY. He still counts as a local guy. This boosted numbers across the board, not helping any one team more than the others.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to look at a European club for comparison. I chose Ajax since they are known for having one of the best academies in the world (not a direct correlation to showcasing local talent, but I digress). Since the Netherlands is a relatively small country, I counted any Dutch player as a “local” player (The Netherlands is smaller than most states in square miles). Ajax have 10 Dutch players on their roster. Of course there are more variables involved with Ajax’s roster, i.e. more money, higher level of competition, more global scouting network, etc. After seeing that statistic though, part of me wants to say “RBNY has the most local talent on their team relative to any club in the world!” but that’s definitely not true. Think of small teams that plays in Central America or the Carribean. They are likely only working with local talent.

Either way, it’s really cool that RBNY are able to play at such a high level in MLS and make their fans proud by playing local talent.

 

 

Gregg Berhalter’s 1st Game Reviewed

The day has finally arrived! After over a year of waiting the new, permanent USMNT head coach took charge of his first game. The Yanks played Panama in Glendale, Arizona on Sunday night where both teams were sporting B/C teams (At best both teams were only playing 2 starters).

Before we start, here are a few reasons this performance should be taken with a grain of salt: 1. These are not the most talented players in the US pool. 2. Most of these players are learning a new system 3. Few of these guys have played together for club or country (5 players made their debuts on Sunday night), 4. All of these guys are in preseason form, and 5. Panama played like trash. With that said, here are my notes from the game:

They looked like Columbus defensively, and that worked pretty well. That is, in defense, the team fell into a 4-4-2 with Djorde Mihailovic joining Zardes on that “2” line. Panama wasn’t much of a threat going forward so stopping them was not a hard test. Nonetheless, it is good that the US passed that test.

Offensively, the shape varied from Columbus. In Columbus, Trapp and Artur shared the responsibilities of a box-to-box midfielder and a defensive midfielder as they sat behind Higuain who was the pure creative midfielder. This was in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Trapp and Artur on the “2” line and Higuain at the center of the “3” line. For the US on Sunday, Bradley played as a pure defensive midfielder behind Mihailovic and Roldan who shared the responsibilities of a box-to-box midfielder and creative midfielder.  This created more of a 4-1-4-1 with Bradley as the “1” between the “4” lines and Roldan and Mihailovic as the two in the center of the midfield “4” line. This makes sense as Bradley is a more complete defensive midfielder than any player in camp was a creative midfielder.  Here’s some figures to demonstrate:

Columbus’ 4-2-3-1 (2018 roster names)

Steffen

Afful – Mensah – Abubakar – Valenzuela

Artur – Trapp

Santos – Higuain – Meram

Zardes

USMNT’s 4-1-4-1

Steffen

Lima – Zimmerman – Long – Lovitz

Bradley

Baird – Roldan – Mihailovic – Ebobisse

Zardes

Then in defense Mihailovic would join Zardes up top and Bradley would fill his spot of the “4” line to create a 4-4-2 block.

The offense was creating plenty of chances, but wasn’t putting them in the back of the net. In the first half the US created 8 solid scoring chances and only scored on one of them. The second half had another half dozen unfinished chances. Again, see the above caveats. Offense takes a lot of chemistry so I think that.

Michael Bradley had some nice line-splitting passes, and covered ground pretty well. In my opinion he’s a better passer than any other defensive midfielder in the player pool. Canouse and Adams are slightly better than him defensively, but Bradley’s endurance is starting to drop. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think Bradley should either be getting subbed-on, or subbed-off for any of his appearances. Use the other minutes at that position to groom his replacement. Berhalter did sub Bradley off for the last 7ish mins and brought on Trapp. I would have preferred Canouse but I won’t cry over a late sub in a friendly.

I appreciate that Long was the captain, not Bradley. First it’s a really bad look to give Bradley the armband; it says “this is more of the same” which is not the branding US Soccer is going for. Second, it would also look bad if Berhalter gives the arm band to any of his Columbus boys. Third, Long has an incredible soccer story going from 2016 USL Defender of the Year to 2018 MLS Defender of the Year in 2 years. I’m sure his journey has humbled him, and that he’ll never let his personality get in the way of the team.

The fullbacks got involved. Berhalter want’s his fullbacks to play as pseudo-central-midfielders/distributors. Very few teams in MLS use the fullback position in this way and its why Columbus’ fullbacks (Afful, and Valenzuela) are some of the best in the league. Lovitz and Lima both played that role well, Lima better than Lovitz.

Steffen was better than Johnson, but to be fair to Johnson it’s weird for a ‘keeper to get subbed on in the 75th minute. And Johnson had some nice distribution and didn’t let in any goals so he wasn’t terrible.

Ramirez put away the one opportunity that he got and had a nice turn-and-pass to Lletgett, meanwhile Zardes didn’t put away 5 or so chances he had. I think Ramirez is now officially higher on my striker depth chart than Zardes. But since Zardes knows Berhalter’s system well I wouldn’t be surprised if he keeps getting call-ups.

The wingers all looked more like Ethan Finaly, not Justin Meram (Finaly and Meram were Columbus’ wingers in 2015). Ebobisse, Baird, and Lewis played well. Arriola didn’t do much in his cameo. All of them stretched the field, finding that inside lane wherein Berhalter want’s his wingers to operate (Watch a 2015 Ethan Finaly highlight reel and you’ll see what I mean by “inside lane”, it right on the edge of the 18-yard-box). But rarely did any of them cut inside to create with the central midfielders like Meram would do for Columbus. Perhaps that is more due to a lack of space since there were two “attacking” midfielders (Mihailovic and Roldan) rather than one.

Both centerbacks were solid. Zimmerman had better passing but I think Long was stronger defensively. I wouldn’t be surprised if Berhalter goes with similar pairings going forward. That is, I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose one CB who’s a better passer and one who’s a better defender. However it was concerning how many passes we turned over in our own half. Perhaps that is due to having only Bradley in front of the defense rather than two players.

I’m low key in love with Djorde Mihailovic. Not only was his goal a welcome relief after a shaky start to the game, but he looked threatening in the final third all game. I hope the Chicago Fire play him higher up the field this season.

Roldan had a solid performance but I think he would have operated better deeper in the midfield, next to Bradley. Perhaps if Berhalter can find a creative midfielder capable of holding the load on their own than Roldan can slide back next to Bradley.

I look forward to see how this group performs against a sterner test next week against Costa Rica! Check back for more analysis then!

Sidenote: The stadium was practically empty (like 6,000 people in a 60,000 plus person stadium). There were complaints of expensive tickets (the cheapest tickets were $32, up in the nosebleeds). If I recall correctly, US Soccer talked about raising USMNT ticket prices last year in order to help raise funds for academies across the country making them cheaper for players (I have a distinct memory of this but cannot find the source so don’t quote me). In theory, this makes a lot of sense; take money from the people who are willing to spend it and use it to subsidize those that can’t afford to play the game. In practice, it means the USMNT plays in front of smaller crowds, which also probably means less revenue. This also does not bode well for the MLS Expansion hopeful in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s is worth noting that their USL stadium only seats 5,000 … perhaps that has something to do with the low attendance on Sunday. We’ll see what Saturday brings against Costa Rica in San Jose (19,000 capacity Avaya Stadium).

Profiling MLS Training Facilities

Continuing with my exploration of how MLS teams stack up against one another off-field, this piece is examining where each team spends most of its time: their training facilities. This is where teams practice the week and prepare for each game. Similar to my stadium article, I am going to group these training facilities into a loose ranking by tiers. For each training facility I include the “Name of Facility (Team) – Year it’s been in use by that team and how much it cost to build the facility or if it is leased”

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground (Atlanta United) – 2017

Estimated total investment: $60 Million

From Atlanta’s Website: “a 33-acre site featuring a 30,000 square- foot headquarter building and six full-size fields including three natural grass and three FieldTurf surfaces.

Additional highlights of the training ground include:

First team locker room with 22-foot ceilings and 14 elevated windows
Six Academy Locker Rooms
Full service kitchen and dining room with balcony access
Show pitch featuring a 2,500-seat stand and separate Pavilion for viewing
Sport science facilities including double height gym and two hydrotherapy plunge pools
Entrance artwork created by renowned South African artist Marco Cianfanelli”.

CIBC Fire Pitch (Chicago Fire) – 2015

Estimated total investment: $20 Million

From Chicago’s Website: “On Dec. 8, 2015, Chicago Fire Soccer Club Owner and Chairman Andrew Hauptman joined with team supporters, partners and city officials to officially open CIBC Fire Pitch (formerly The PrivateBank Fire Pitch), located adjacent to the Chicago River at Addison and Talman on the city’s northwest side. The 125,000-square-foot complex is the city’s premiere facility for year-round soccer and is open to the public and soccer players from across the region. The $20 million project features both indoor and outdoor fields, serves as an indoor practice site for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club first team and houses games for youth and adult recreational leagues”.

Obetz Practice Facility (Columbus Crew) – 1997

Estimated total investment: Leased

The Crew’s website doesn’t have a page describing their training facility. From what I gather, they practice in Obetz, Ohio at the EAS Training Center. There are two grass fields, a locker room, some offices, and a weight room. They do not own the land they play on and their lease runs out at the end of 2018. Rumor has it that the new Crew ownership wish to turn MAPFRE Stadium into the team’s training grounds once a new downtown stadium is built.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Complex (Colorado Rapids) – 2007

Estimated total investment: $130 million (Stadium included)

From Colorado’s Website: “consists of 24 full-size, fully-lit sports fields, including 22 natural grass and 2 synthetic turf fields” and it looks like they also have indoor meeting spaces as well”.

Loudon County Training Facility (DC United) – 2019-2020

Estimated total investment: The land costs $23 Million, the town is set to pay for $15 million in infrastructure but that’s mostly going to roads, parking lots etc. So with no official number we’re looking at something like $40+ Million (Pure conjecture, don’t quote me on that).

DC currently practice at some Auxiliary fields near RFK, but have plans to create a training facility in Northern Virginia where their new USL team will also play.

From Soccer Stadium Digest: “The project is slated for Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park, which would become the site of a complex that includes a stadium for Loudoun United FC–a new United USL club that has been announced as a 2019 expansion team. Along with four fields (two reserved for the team, two open to public use), the complex would include offices, a training facility, and a modular stadium with a capacity of 5,000 seats. As part of the plan, Loudoun County would lease the land to D.C. United and provide $15 million in financing on the facility, which would be paid back by United”.

Mercer Health Training Facility (FC Cincinnati) – 2019

Estimated total investment: $30 Million

From Cincinnati’s website: “the $30 million, 24-acre facility will include three full-size, lighted soccer fields – including two stabilized natural grass surfaces and one synthetic turf surface – as well as a goalkeeper-specific training area.

The MLS team will be housed in a 30,000 sq. ft., multilevel building abutting the fields, while the FCC Academy teams will utilize a separate 4,000 sq. ft. wing of the building. Additionally, there will be a 3,000 sq. ft. maintenance facility on the property”.

Toyota Soccer Center (FC Dallas) – 2005

Estimated total investment: $39 Million

From Dallas’ website: “Toyota Stadium also includes seventeen regulation sized soccer fields known as the Toyota Soccer Center which are utilized year-round on a daily basis”.

Houston Sports Park (Houston Dynamo) – 2011

Estimated total investment – Leased

From Houston’s website: “the permanent home and professional training center for the Dynamo first team and youth academy. The multi-field soccer facility is located off State Highway 288, approximately 10 miles south of the Dynamo’s new downtown stadium site … includes seven soccer fields, field lights, and parking”.

StubHub Center (Los Angeles Galaxy) – 2003

Estimated total investment – $150 Million (Stadium included)

From the StubHub Center website: “StubHub Center, home of the LA Galaxy … Managed by AEG Facilities, the $150 million, privately financed facility was developed by AEG on a 125-acre site on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) in Carson, California. StubHub Center features an 8,000-seat tennis stadium, a 30,000-seat stadium for soccer, football and other athletic competitions and outdoor concerts; a 2,000-seat facility for track & field and a 2,450-seat indoor Velodrome – the VELO Sports Center – for track cycling. StubHub Center is home to Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, the five-time MLS Cup Champions. StubHub Center is also home to the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) High-Performance Training Center, the national team training headquarters for the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) and EXOS, an international training center for elite and professional athletes”.

LAFC Training Facility (Los Angeles FC) – 2018

Estimated total investment: $30 Million

From Angels on Parade’s website: “The $30 million facility, which includes offices, training facilities, hydrotheraphy tubs and a lush field that matches the team’s grass at Banc of California Stadium, will be their permanent training home after playing at UCLA while construction was being completed.

In addition to the first team, LAFC’s academy will also be housed at the facility. The academy has been training at Cal State LA since its establishment in 2016″.

National Sports Center (Minnesota United) – 2017

Estimated total investment: Leased

Minnesota currently use the National Sports Center as their training facility and have plans to renovate part of it. From fiftyfiveone’s website: “there would be no physical build-out. Instead, the lower southeast corner of the Sports Hall,  a 10,000 sq. ft. area, would be totally renovated specifically for the team’s use. The remodel of the facility will also include a player lounge, new exercise equipment, weight rooms, an office, and a rehab/trainers area”. Strangely enough, this is the only one I’ve personally been to.

Centre Nutrilait (Montreal Impact) – 2016

Estimated total investment: $16 Million

From Montreal’s website: 2 grass fields, 2 turf fields, locker rooms, class/conference rooms, weight rooms, “relaxation rooms”, etc.

Red Bulls Training Facility (New York Red Bulls) – 2013

Estimated total investment: $6 Million (doesn’t include 2 additions made since 2013).

From New York’s website: “The 15-acre center features [four] fields – [three] grass, one turf … includes a lounge area, cafeteria, fully-loaded gym, locker rooms for both the Red Bulls and a visiting team, and offices for members of the coaching staff and front office. Additionally, one of the grass fields (the center field) has a heating system underneath it that allows the club to train even when it snows” (one grass field was added in 2017).

Etihad City Football Academy (New York City FC) – 2018

Estimated total investment: Truly can’t find anything, if I had to guess, I’d say $30 Million (Pure conjecture, don’t quote me on that).

From NYCFC’s website: “Performance areas include: post-exercise aquatic recovery area, gym, boot room, massage and medical treatment rooms, team meeting room, kit storage, laundry, showers and restrooms. The gym has been designed to be big enough to accommodate a full team pre-activation … The soccer pitch is usable all year-round due to undersoil heating capability. The pitch also includes a state-of-the-art camera analysis system that is used to record every training session and inform the coaches’ data analysis of player performance”.

Unnamed Facility (New England Revolution) – 2019

Estimated total investment: $35 Million

From MLSsoccer.com: “A first team and academy training facility on the broader Gillette Stadium property. Situated in the woods and adjacent to several wetlands, the Revs’ 30,000 foot-plus complex will cost $35 million and feature four fields – including a grass pitch the first team already utilizes”.

Osceola Heritage Park (Orlando City SC) – 2019

Estimated total investment: $12 million

From Orlando’s website: “20 acres, featuring four full-size grass fields, a fitness, training and recovery center, a film review room along with a players’ lounge and dining area. Two main locker rooms for City and Pride will be designed to be near replicas of the home locker room at Orlando City Stadium, helping players transition seamlessly from one home to the other. Additionally, the secured facility will have 30,000 square feet of office space for working staff and facilities to support media operations”. Until the opening of the facility, Orlando will continue to train at a leased facility.

Power Training Complex (Philadelphia Union) – 2016

Estimated total investment: Truly can’t find anything. If I had to guess I’d say $10 Million at most. (Pure conjecture, don’t quote me on that).

From the Union’s website: “… include[s] two regulation sized training fields of Bermuda grass and a state-of-the-art indoor facility … adjacent Talen Energy Stadium … The 16,500 square foot indoor facility includes a weight training area, physical therapy and sports science development area, nutrition center, locker rooms, state of the art video theatre and a players’ lounge. The Power Training Complex also houses the offices for Philadelphia Union coaches and support staff”.

adidas Timbers Training Facility (Portland Timbers) – 2012?

Estimated total investment: $6 Million

From Portland’s website: “The training center, located … approximately 10 minutes from Providence Park, includes a new natural-grass field … and a synthetic, FieldTurf field designated for public use … features a 6,000-square-foot indoor facility that includes locker rooms for the Timbers first team and development teams, fully equipped training and fitness areas, offices and a spacious lounge/common area for Timbers players.

Zion Bank Real Academy (Real Salt Lake) – 2017

Estimated total investment: $60 Million

From RSL’s website: “Located on a 132-acre plot … just 20 minutes west of Rio Tinto Stadium … also includes the 5,000-seat Zions Bank Stadium, home of the USL Real Monarchs … amenities include a total of 10 fields including the Stadium, with one each for … public use and a total of seven (7) regulation-size training fields. Four of the fields will be natural grass and outdoor, with the remaining three fields utilizing a state-of-the-art artificial surface … Two of the artificial fields will be housed in the Zions Bank Training Center‘s iconic 208,000 sq-ft. indoor structure, the largest pre-engineered freespan building in North America. Atop this building will be a solar panel array from Utah’s own Auric Solar, at roughly half the size of its Rio Tinto Stadium installation” and a high school for their academy players to attend.

Nutrilite Training Facility (San Jose Earthquakes) – 2010

Estimated total investment: “over $1 million”

From MLSsoccer.com: Built on the same site Avaya Stadium would later be built. “The Nutrilite Training Facility took four months to complete … It … is 72-yards x 115-yards. The square footage of the entire facility is 85-yards x 140-yards, including an area behind the goal for warming up and goalkeeper drills”. The above is from 2010 when the facility was first opened. It also says there is room to expand for more fields. A quick google maps search confirms that and that they have not added extra practice fields since 2010.

Starfire Sports (Seattle Sounders) – 2005 (since before they were in MLS)

Estimated total investment: Leased

From Seattle’s website: ” 54-acres of soccer heaven. The campus features twelve outdoor soccer fields, a 4,000-spectator capacity stadium, and an 85,000 square foot Athletic Center housing two premier indoor fields, locker rooms, restaurants, retail and athletic training” 13 fields, 8 of which are turf.

Pinnacle National Development Center (Sporting Kansas City) – 2018

Estimated total investment: $75 Million

From Pinnacle’s website: 5 soccer fields, three grass, two turf; A sports performance office including neuropsychology office, hyperbaric chambers, recovery room, massage suite and more; 12,870 square feet gym/workout room; a coaching education center; event spaces such as conference rooms, banquet halls, etc.

BMO Training Ground (Toronto FC) – 2012

Estimated total investment: $21 Million

From Toronto’s website: “14 Acres of land … BMO training ground represents a $21 Million investment made by Toronto FC and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment … includes three full size grass fields (two heated), four artificial fields, including two with air-supported bubbles for year-round use, and a 40,000 square foot field house that has locker rooms, training facilities and team offices. There is also a physiotherapy and rehabilitation area, private and cafeteria-style dining, and a video presentation centre”.

Whitecaps FC National Soccer Development Center (Vancouver Whitecaps FC) – 2017

Estimated total investment: $32.5 Million

From Vancouver’s website: “features a three-storey, 38,000 square feet state-of-the-art fieldhouse … five (three grass and two artificial turf fields) constructed, refurbished, and improved fields …The fieldhouse offers a number of exciting features including:

Two-story weight room with glass windows on one end and a fully-mirrored wall on the other, creating a stunning, panoramic view of the new grass fields and surrounding mountains.
Players’ lounge
Kitchen with individualized nutritional options for each player
A hydrotherapy-equipped sports science wing
A branch dedicated for UBC use
A specific entrance and workspace for media”.

Check out the rest of my series Profiling MLS Teams 2018