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

Advertisements

Profiling MLS Player Pipelines

Continuing my exploration of MLS team’s infrastructure behind-the-scenes, here I am trying to holistically look at the entire developmental pipeline for each MLS team, from the youngest academy team, to the oldest academy team, and on through USL club/reserve team to the first team. I include the latter aspect because there are already a handful of article ranking MLS academies online. I also wanted to do a seperate article on reserve teams for this series so I’m essentially combining the two ideas here.

For each team I am going to look at how many age groups their academy includes, how much money goes into their academy, whether they have a U-23 team (not usually considered an academy team) whether their reserve team is directly operated by the club or an affiliate club, how many academy players have signed for the first team (Homegrown Players), and how many academy players have been sold for a profit.

Atlanta United

Academy Levels: U12 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Atlanta United II

Homegrown Players: (4) George Bello*, Andrew Carleton*, Chris Goslin*, Lagos Kunga*

Homegrowns Sold: None

Chicago Fire

Academy Levels: U12 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Affiliated with Tulsa Roughnecks

Homegrown Players: (10) Grant Lillard, Djordie Mihailovic*, Drew Connor*, Joey Calistri*, Patrick Doody*, Colin Fernandez*, Chris Ritter, Harry Ship, Kellen Gulley, Victor Pineda

Homegrowns Sold: None

Columbus Crew

Academy Levels: U12 – U18

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Affiliated with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Homegrown Players: (2) Wil Trapp*, Alex Crognale*

Homegrowns Sold: None

Colorado Rapids

Academy Levels: U12 – U19

U-23 Team: None

USL Team: Affiliated with Colorado Switchbacks

Homegrown Players: (7) Davy Armstrong, Shane O’Neil, Kortne Ford*, Ricardo Perez*, Dillion Serna*, Sam Vines*, Cole Basset*

Homegrowns Sold: Shane O’Neil to Apollon Limassol (Belgium) for an undiscolsed fee.

DC United

Academy Levels: U12 – U18

U-23 Team: Yes

USL Team: affiliated with Richmond Kickers (Loudon County FC starts in 2019)

Homegrown Players: (8) Chris Durkin*, Ian Harkes*, Jalen Robinson*, Bill Hamid*, Andy Najar, Michael Seaton, Conor Shanosky, and Ethan White

Homegrowns Sold: Andy Najar to Anderlecht for $3 million, Michael Seaton traded to Portland for TAM and an INTL roster spot, Ethan White was traded to Philadelphia for another player

FC Cincinnati

Academy Levels: TBD

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: They were one as recently as this year

Homegrown Players: None

Homegrowns Sold: None

FC Dallas

Academy Levels: U12 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: A team is slated to play in the third division (USL League 1) in 2019

Homegrown Players: (23) Bryan Leyva, Ruben Luna, Moises Hernandez, Victor Ulloa*, Richard Sanchez, Bradlee Baladez, London Woodberry, Kellyn Acosta, Danny Garcia, Jesse Gonzalez*, Coy Craft, Jonathan Top, Alejandro Zendejas, Aaron Guillen, Paxton Pomykal*, Jesus Ferreira*, Bryan Reynolds*, Reggie Cannon*, Brandon Servania*, Kris Reaves*, Jordan Cano*, Chris Richards* and Thomas Roberts*.

Homegrowns Sold: Richard Sanchez to Tijuana for an undisclosed fee, Alejandro Zendejas to Chivas Guadalajara for ~ $500,000, Kellyn Acosta to Colorado for another player and allocation money.

Houston Dynamo

Academy Levels: U10 – U19

U-23 Team: Yes

USL Team: Rio Grand Valley FC

Homegrown Players: (9) Memo Rodriguez*, Christian Lucatero, Sebastian Ibeagha, Bradley Bourgeois, Tyler Deric*, Alex Dixon, Francisco Navas Cobo, Josue Soto, Bryan Salazar

Homegrowns Sold: None

Los Angeles Galaxy

Academy Levels: U12 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: LA Galaxy II (Los Dos)

Homegrown Players: (9) Efrain Alvarez*, Hugo Arellano*, Bradford Jameison IV*, Tristan Bowen, Gyasi Zardes, Jaime Villareal, Nathan Smith, Oscar Sorto, Raul Mendiola

Homegrowns Sold: Tristan Bowen to Chivas USA for an undisclosed fee, Gyasi Zardes traded to Columbus for another player

Los Angeles FC

Academy Levels: U12 – U14

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: affiliated with Orange County SC (ended at the end of 2018)

Homegrown Players: None

Homegrowns Sold: None

Minnesota United

Academy Levels: U13 – U15

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: affiliated with St. Louis FC (may switch to new D3 Madison team in 2019)

Homegrown Players: None

Homegrowns Sold: None

Montreal Impact

Academy Levels: U8 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Affiliated with Ottawa Fury

Homegrown Players: (13) Jason Beaulieu*, Louis Beland-Goyette*, David Choiniere*, Mattieu Choiniere*, Anthony Jackson-Hamel*, Thomas Meiller-Giguere*, James Pantemis*, Maxime Crepeau (GK)*, Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare, Zakaria Messoudi, Karl Ouimette, Ballou Jean-Ives Tabla, Maxim Tissot

Homegrowns Sold: Ballou Jean-Ives Tabla to Barcelona B for an undisclosed fee

New York Red Bulls

Academy Levels: U12 – U19

U-23 Team: Yes

USL Team: New York Red Bulls II

Homegrown Players: (17) Giorgi Chirgadze, Juan Agudelo, Matt Kassel, Sacir Hot, Connor Lade*, Santiago Castano, Amando Moreno, Matt Miazga, Sean Davis*, Tyler Adams*, Brandon Allen, Derrick Etienne Jr.*, Alex Muyl*, Mael Corboz, Scott Thomsen, Chris Thorsheim, Arun Basuljevic

Homegrowns Sold: Juan Agudelo was traded for a player, Matt Miazga to Chelsea for ~ $5 million, Tyler Adams to RB Leipzig for $3 + 33% of future sale

New York City FC

Academy Levels: U12 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: None

Homegrown Players: (2) James Sands*, Joe Scally*

Homegrowns Sold: None

New England Revolution

Academy Levels: U13 – U19

U-23 Team: Yes

USL Team: None in 2018, potentially with Hartford Athletic in 2019.

Homegrown Players: (4) Scott Caldwell*, Diego Fagundez*, Zachary Herivaux*, Isaac Angking*

Homegrowns Sold: None

Orlando City SC

Academy Levels: U12 – U18

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Orlando City B (USL League 1, 2019)

Homegrown Players: (1) Mason Stajduhar*

Homegrowns Sold: None

Philadelphia Union

Academy Levels: U12 – U19

U-23 Team: Reading United AC

USL Team: Bethlehem Steel

Homegrown Players: (9) Brendan Aaronson*, Anthony Fontana*, Derrick Jones*, Mark McKenzie*, Matt Real*, Auston Trusty*, Cristhian Hernandez, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Zach Pfeffer.

Homegrowns Sold: Zach Pfeffer was traded to Colorado for draft picks,

Portland Timbers

Academy Levels: U14 – U19

U-23 Team: Yes

USL Team: Timbers 2

Homegrown Players: (4) Marco Farfan*, Foster Langsdorf*, Steven Evans, Brent Richards

Homegrowns Sold: None

Real Salt Lake

Academy Levels: U16 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Real Monarchs

Homegrown Players: (15) Danilo Acosta*, Jordan Allen*, Corey Baird*, Justen Glad*, Jose Hernandez*, Aaron Herrera*, Brooks Lennon*, Sebastian Saucedo*, Eduardo Fernandez, Nico Muniz, Benjamin Lopez, Phanuel Kavita, Fito Ovalle, Ricardo Velazco, and Donny Toia

Homegrowns Sold: Eduardo Fernandez to Tigres UANL for an undisclosed fee

San Jose Earthquakes

Academy Levels: U12 – U 19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Affiliated with Reno 1868 FC

Homegrown Players: (5) Jacob Akanyirige*, Gilbert Fuetes*, Nick Lima*, JT Marcinkowski*, Tommy Thompson*

Homegrowns Sold: None

Seattle Sounders

Academy Levels: U15 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Seattle Sounders 2

Homegrown Players: (9) Victor Mansaray*, Jordan Morris*, Aaron Kovar*, Handwalla Bwana*, Henry Wingo*, Darwin Jones, Sean Okoli, Jordan Schweitzer, and DeAndre Yedlin.

Homegrowns Sold: Sean Okoli was traded to New England for draft picks, DeAndre Yedlin to Tottenham for ~ $3 million,

Sporting Kansas City

Academy Levels: U12 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Swope Park Rangers

Homegrown Players: (6) Erik Palmer-Brown, Jaylin Lindsey*, Gianluca Busio*, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal*, Daniel Salloi*

Homegrowns Sold: None

Toronto FC

Academy Levels: U13 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: TFC II

Homegrown Players: (19) Ayo Akinola*, Jay Chapman*, Aidan Daniels*, Marky Delgado*, Julian Dunn*, Liam Fraser*, Jordan Hamilton*, Ashtone Morgan*, Manuel Aparicio, Sergio Camargo, Oscar Cordon, Doneil Henry, Josh Janniere, Nicholas Lindsay, Keith Makubuya, Chris Mannella, Quillan Roberts, and Matt Stinson,

Homegrowns Sold: Doneil Henry sold to Apollon Limassol for an undisclosed fee, Josh Janniere traded to Colorado for draft picks.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Academy Levels: U15 – U19

U-23 Team: No

USL Team: Affiliated with Fresno FC

Homegrown Players: (12) Alphonso Davies, Theo Bair*, Michael Baldisimo*, Simon Colyn*, David Norman Jr.*, Russell Teibert*, Bryce Alderson, Marco Carducci, Kianz Froese, Ben McKendry, Ethen Sampson, and Brian Sylvestre

Homegrowns Sold: Alphonso Davies sold to Bayern Munich for ~ $12 million, and Kianz Froese to Fortuna Dusseldorf for an undisclosed fee

 

Check out the rest of my series Profiling MLS Teams 2018

Who is Building a Dynasty in MLS as of 2018?

A little over a year ago, I asked Extra Time Radio : “What past MLS teams constituted dynasties?” (56th minute of the linked podcast if you want to hear their discussion). The consensus was that the 1996 – 1999 DC United (3 MLS Cups, 2 Supporter’s Shields and 1 US Open Cup) and the 2010 – 2014 LA Galxy teams (3 MLS Cups, and 2 Supporter’s Shield) were definitely dynasties. Teams that come close were 2009-2016 Seattle Sounders (1 MLS Cup, 1 Supporter’s Shield and 4 US Open Cups), 1998-2000 Chicago Fire (1 MLS Cup, 2 US Open Cups), and the 2012 – 2017 Sporting Kansas City (1 MLS Cup, 3 US Open Cups).

Since then, whether a team is building a dynasty or not has been a recurrent discussion on the show. Here I am going to look at what teams have won trophies over the last few years and rank how close each team is to becoming an MLS Dynasty. My *loose* definition for an MLS Dynasty, based on the two examples given above, has six qualifications:

1. It spans 5 seasons (You could talk me into 4 being enough)

2. The team wins 1 trophy or more per year on average.

3. At least one of those trophies has to be MLS Cup.

4. The team has to win a trophy in a majority of their dynasty years.

5. The dynasty has to begin and end in years where the team won a trophy.

6. The team has a core set of key players that are present for most of the dynasty

This definition excludes the teams above that were close: 2009-2016 Seattle Sounders had 6 trophies over 8 years (Less than 1 trophy per year), 1998-2000 Chicago Fire had 3 trophies over 3 years (not long enough), and the 2012-2017 Sporting Kansas City had 4 trophies over 6 years (Less than 1 trophy per year). You’ll see below why I included the fourth and fifth criteria.

The sixth criteria comes from the ExtraTime Radio discussion. When one thinks of a dynasty, one usually thinks of certain figures who lead said dynasty. These can be a coach and/or a few players. If a team, somehow, met every other requirement while shipping big players in and out every year without a semblance of continuity, then perhaps they could still be considered a dynasty. But I highly doubt that would be possible. For example, the New England Patriots of the NFL, a league with massive year-to-year turnover, have had Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the center of their success.

A few more ground rules for the sake of this discussion:

  • Due to the 4/5 year requirement, I will only be looking as far back as 2015.
  • Only teams that have won trophies will even be mentioned.
  • Only MLS Cup, US Open Cup, Supporter’s Shield and the Canadian Championship are being considered as relevant trophies. If an MLS team were to win CONCACAF Champions League, that would also be considered. I am not counting what I’ll refer to as “Rivalry Trophies” such as The Cascadia Cup, the Atlantic Cup, etc. Some teams have more rivalries with trophies on the line than others and so it doesn’t seem fair to count those towards these rankings. Plus rivalries games tend to be a coin flip even if one team is having a bad year, so they aren’t a great indication of success. If someone can convince me otherwise I am open to listening to your argument.

Honorable Mentions

Vancouver Whitecaps (1 Canadian Championship in 2015), Portland Timbers (1 MLS Cup in 2015), Seattle Sounders (1 MLS Cup in 2016), FC Dallas (1 Supporter’s Shield and 1 US Open Cup both in 2016)

These teams have all won a trophy in the last four years, but their opportunities to add to the trophy case and create an argument for a dynasty have come and gone. I realize Seattle or Dallas could still win trophies next year and their 2016 trophies would still be within a four/five year times span. So let’s imagine either team were to win the 2019 treble (2019 MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, and US Open Cup). Then they would technically have 4 years where they won 4+ trophies, and at least one of the trophies would be MLS Cup, meeting my first three criteria set above. However, for a team to win 2 sets of trophies with a two year gap in the middle doesn’t feel like a dynasty. This is why I added the fourth criterion that a team has to win trophies in a majority of the years during their dynasty. Of course If they won any trophy in 2020 after getting the treble in 2019 then that’s a new discussion. However, if they did win 3 trophies in 2019 and 1 trophy in 2020, then the 2016 trophy probably shouldn’t be included in their years as a dynasty. That is, it seems deceptive to include the 2016 trophy and say “they won 5 trophies over the course of 5 years” when there were two trophy-less years. Dallas are in the same boat as Seattle here.

5. Sporting Kansas City (2 US Open Cups one in 2015 and one in 2017)

SKC were close to boosting their Dynasty status with an MLS Cup victory this year. Their 2015 US Open Cup victory will become more or less irrelevant come the start of next season. If SKC want their 2017 US Open Cup to be included in a dynasty they’ll need some silverware next year. Kansas City are usually in contention for a trophy or two so I think they have a chance to do so.

4. Houston Dynamo (1 US Open Cup in 2018)

At least Houston have the potential for consecutive trophy years. However, considering that Houston is currently the lowest spending team in the league, and this was their first trophy since 2007, I won’t be holding my breath. They only edge out SKC by winning a trophy this year rather than last year

3. New York Red Bulls (2 Supporter’s Shields one in 2018, one in 2015)

The Red Bulls are in a similar place to SKC, two recent non-MLS Cup trophies and just missing MLS Cup this year. They get the edge over SKC due to winning a trophy this year as opposed to last year. Of recent, the red side of New York have been Would-Be-Kings: losing in the US Open Cup Final in 2017 to Sporting Kansas City, losing in the playoffs last year on away goals to eventual champions Toronto FC, losing in the semi-final of CONCACAF Champions League against Chivas earlier in 2018, and losing the Eastern Conference Championship not long ago to Atlanta United. If the Red Bulls caught a few more lucky breaks they would be sitting on 4 more trophies over the last 2 years. Alas, the same could be said for many of these teams. Since the Red Bulls haven’t missed the playoffs since 2007, I suspect they have a decent chance to add to their trophy case next year.

2. Atlanta United (1 MLS Cup in 2018)

There’s definitely something special going on in Atlanta. The Five Stripes place higher than the previous teams ranked because they already have MLS Cup in their possession and that is the one essential trophy. While Atlanta’s spending suggests that they could have a dynasty in the making, Head Coach Tata Martino is leaving and it seems talisman Almiron may also leave this winter. Assuming the rumors of their respective departures are true, I am interested to see how the team replaces those two. If they nail those replacements, which seems likely, then they may have a dynasty-in-the-making. Atlanta are the only team that could really challenge this 6th criteria I added above. But even after losing Tata, Almiron, and Garza, the team still has key players like Martinez, (likely) Parkhurst, Nagbe, and Pirez on the books for next year. So they still have some level of continuity, and still meet the 6th criteria.

1. Tornto FC (1 MLS Cup, 1 Supporter’s Shield, 3 Canadian Championships since 2016)

As of 2018, Toronto are easily the closest team to a building an MLS Dynasty. Currently, Toronto have 5 trophies over the course of 3 years. While it is tempting to extend their dynasty backward/forward 2 years in order to meet the 5 year requirement it would violate the 5th criteria I included. It doesn’t really make sense to count a year at the beginning and/or end where a trophy was not won. Therefore, I would not call them a dynasty right now. Any trophy won in 2019 and/or 2020 would change that. I’m also not totally against a dynasty that lasts only 4 years. Toronto definitely meet the 6th criteria as Bradley, Jozy, and Giovinco were centerpieces of this team for the last 3 years.

There are those who would devalue the Canadian Championship because it is “easier to win” than the US Open Cup. I don’t like this argument but I have to admit there is some logic to it. In 2018, there were 20 MLS teams and 22 USL teams that competed for the US Open Cup. Meanwhile there were 3 MLS teams and 1 USL team that competed for the Canadian Championship. That’s a 1/42 chance of any team winning US Open Cup vs. a 1/4 chance of any team winning the Canadian Championship. That being said, a trophy is a trophy is a trophy. For now I weigh the Canadian Championship as much as the US Open Cup.

That’s all I have for now! Let me know if you have any questions about my definition/ranking. I am more than willing to have a nice, level-headed discussion about it 🙂

Who takes over after Brady?

I hate to break it to you Patriots fans, but Tom Brady can’t play forever. The legendary New England quarterback is in his 16th year in the league, and while he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, at age 39, you have to think he will be looking to hang up those cleats in the next 2-3 years.

Tom_Brady
Brady surpassed Peyton Manning’s record of 200 career wins this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

With Brady being the undisputed (or as close as you can ever get to undisputed in sports) best quarterback in the league, his eventual retirement will open the door for someone else to take that crown.

Brady represents the end of a very dominant era, where he and Peyton Manning rewrote the record books practically every year. They squared off in some of the most memorable games of the last decade and consistently drew in viewers whenever the two matched up. Manning is already gone and with Brady set to follow in the near future, who exactly will step up to fill the void.

It is kind of hard to say. The iconic 2004 draft class of quarterbacks featuring Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers likely still have a few more years in them. However, Rivers turned 35 today, Roethlisberger will be 35 in March and Eli Manning turns 36 in January. That group likely won’t be around for a whole lot longer to constitute an era or start an awe-inspiring rivalry. Most of their time in the league will be remembered as part of the legendary Brady-Peyton era.

Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers has an MVP award and a Super Bowl ring to his name since taking over for Brett Favre in Green Bay. (Wikimedia Commons)

You next look to Aaron Rodgers, who joined the league in 2005. Rodgers just turned 33 last week, so he might be able to hang around a little longer than the three I just mentioned. However, he might have already started showing signs of slowing down with his rocky start to 2016. I could see Rodgers having a three-year run as the unquestioned top signal-caller. He might be the best-suited to succeed Brady in the short term. Keep in mind that even though this is his 12th NFL season, Rodgers did not start his first three years in the league, so he might have a bit more left in the tank than we think.

After Rodgers, well I’m kind of stuck. Drew Brees is a Hall of Famer, but approaching 38, I’m not expecting him to take over. Carson Palmer is on his way out as well. As will Alex Smith.

There is an interesting crop of three quarterbacks that offer some intrigue. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton all bring a lot to the table. All three of them are 28 years old or younger, all three are rather mobile and all three have the ability to take over a football game.

The major knocks against Newton are his ball security and his completion percentage. For his career, Newton sits at around 59 percent through almost 6 seasons. While he may be a huge asset with his legs, he is prone to fumbling and trying to do too much with the ball, often leading to mistakes. Another big red flag is that despite tossing 35 touchdowns in 2015, it is the only season he has thrown more than 25 scores. This year, he has just 14 through 12 games. Those numbers don’t exactly scream elite.

Luck was named the heir apparent to the NFL quarterback throne around his junior year of college. He started with two solid campaigns, followed by an outstanding 2014, only to fall into a weird funk for the last year and a half. 2015 was a lost season for Luck as he only played 7 games and likely played all of them hurt. The big knock against him has to be his lackluster completion percentage, which is only fractionally better than Newton’s. He also has a tendency for interceptions, with 63 picks in 66 career games. Part of that is due to the amount of pressure he faces. Luck is the most sacked quarterback in the league despite missing a game already this year. Luck is actually trending up after the last few weeks we’ve seen him play. Even though he has a poor supporting cast, Luck has failed to live up to Manning-sized expectations laid on him back in 2012.

Russell_Wilson_with_Lombardi_Trophy
Wilson has already played in two Super Bowls, winning one. (Wikimedia Commons)

Then there is Wilson. He already has a Super Bowl ring. Point all you want to a great run game and defense, but that’s a good chunk of why Brady got his first three rings. Of these three, he seems the most poised to take the throne. Wilson has only 39 interceptions in 72 career games. He is closing in on his second consecutive 4,000-yard season and his career completion percentage is around 65 percent. However, when Wilson is off, he is really off. In Seattle’s three losses this year, he has thrown zero touchdowns, three picks and has a yards per attempt average under 6.5. If I had to pick someone long term when it comes to taking up the quarterback mantel, it would be Wilson. He already has that championship background and I could see him getting more.

And he might just have a West Coast rival to deal with as well. There are a number of intriguing young quaterbacks in the league right now in Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott. Long term, we might see a really fun rivalry between Prescott and Wentz, both being in the NFC East. However, there is one young quarterback that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Derek Carr
Carr was the fourth quarterback in the 2014 draft, but looks to be the best one selected that year. (Wikimedia Commons)

Derek Carr is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season. At only 25 years old, Carr has been lighting up NFL defenses all year long. He launched 32 touchdown passes a year ago, in just his second NFL season and threw for just shy of 4,000 yards. This year though, Carr is set to break that 4,000-yard mark and throw for close to 32 touchdowns again. What is more impressive though is the increased completion percentage and absence of turnovers. The young Raiders quarterback has only thrown five interceptions this year and raised his completion percentage four plus points to a healthy 65.5 percent. This is just one year for Carr, but based on the jump he has made in each of his first two seasons, I am beginning to think that this kid is for real.

I would be remiss not to mention Matt Ryan in this conversation. Ryan is in the midst of a career year at age 31. He is on pace to set career highs in completion percentage, passing touchdowns and yards per attempt as well as set a personal best for fewest interceptions thrown. If Carr is considered an MVP candidate, Ryan certainly has to be in the mix. He currently sits second in passing yards and passer rating, third in touchdowns, fourth in completion percentage and leads the league in yards per attempt. Given that he has a host of offensive weapons and a young offensive line, Ryan is set to play at a high level for the next several years. The tough thing is figuring out if 2016 is an anomaly based on his normal level of play or a sign of things to come. Also, if Brady hangs on for three more years, Ryan will already be 34 himself and running out of time to capture the league’s attention.

The world without Brady is kind of hazy and there is no telling if we will ever see the type of rivalry we saw between he and Manning. The league seems to be running out of elite quarterbacks, but we will have to wait and see who steps up to the plate in the next few years.

Chill on Dak Prescott

Everyone just relax. No seriously, take a deep breath and stop calling him the second coming of Tom Brady. The NFL world has exploded over the past month as Dak Prescott tortured NFL defenses during the preseason. His emergence in his first three preseason games was impressive, but not indicative of anything.

dak-prescott
Prescott is a fourth round pick from Mississippi State. (Wikimedia Commons)

To start with, it was three preseason games where he played about half of each one. None of these games count for anything. Prescott also played most of the second game against Miami’s backups on defense. Defenses aren’t sending full blitz packages, coverage schemes are still being implemented and top defensive stars likely aren’t even playing. So yes, while the performance was impressive, it has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Looking past that, Prescott was never going to touch the field in the regular season unless Tony Romo got injured. This was not a quarterback competition. Romo is in no danger of losing his starting job once he is fully healthy. One day we might see Prescott as the preferred starter under center, but it won’t be until Romo retires or leaves Dallas.

And even when we do see him play, we don’t have any guarantee that he will put up the same video game-like numbers we saw during the preseason. Odds are, he will be outplayed by his New York counterpart Eli Manning. Prescott’s sample size is tiny and that should be a red flag to anyone proclaiming him as the next great quarterback. This article I found today from CBS Sports is already calling Prescott a future Super Bowl-winning passer. He hasn’t played a snap of a regular season game yet!

And what even more people seem to forget is that this is Tony Romo we are talking about. The same guy who was an MVP candidate in 2014 and lead Dallas to the divisional round of the playoffs. You know, Romo, who has over 34,000 career passing yards and 247 career touchdown passes, both franchise records. This is the same team that Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach played for I will remind you. Tony Romo is right on the cusp of being a Hall of Famer. His numbers are better than those of Staubach and Aikman who are both in Canton. You don’t just kick your Pro Bowl quarterback to the curb because a rookie has a couple of impressive preseason games.

Tony_Romo
Romo is out several week with a broken bone in his back. (Wikimedia Commons)

This article is not just so I can hate on Dak Prescott. In fact, with the pieces that are around him, I do think Prescott has a bright future. He has shown flashes of brilliance, shows that he has most of the physical tools to play the position at a high level and he is on a team with a recipe for him to be successful. Between that stellar offensive line and fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, Prescott has some nice pieces to grow with and compliment him. Hopefully, by the time he takes over as the starter, (if we reach that point) the Cowboys will have found another receiver to either aid or replace Dez Bryant.

Prescott will be under center Sunday for Dallas as they take on the Giants. New York had the worst statistical defense in the league a year ago, so this might be the perfect way to east him into regular season football. But even if does have a great game against the Giants, let’s hold off on anointing him a Hall of Famer until maybe he finishes his first season in the pros.