Sunday, July 18, 2021

Lower.com Field, 1st TV Impressions

Since Columbus Crew's new Lower.com Field has hosted a couple games it feels like a good time to get out some impressions on how it looks and sounds watching at home.

1. Lighting

The overall feel of live sporting events is heavily influenced by the lighting. Old Crew Stadium was normally bright and sun-drenched during the day with evenings providing purplish/orange hues provided by often cloudy midwestern sunsets. This new Crew Stadium is more or less lighted like a closet. It's dark with sharp contrasts that LED lights give you. Contributing to this feeling are the gray seats and black roof.

2. Audience Noise

The sound emanating from this stadium couldn't be more different from what it was at the fairgrounds. Since it's a new place, there is energy to spare from the fans, but I couldn't help but think it sounded exactly like a Columbus Blue Jackets game. Fans stand and yell throughout the match. Any break, even if it starts in their own half, is cheered on like a hockey break. Paying close attention when the camera zoomed in on the fans (I felt) it looked like CBJ type crowd (there's a lot to that, but not getting into it). If that was what the team was going for, then they have succeeded early on. I don't think they will stick with the sport, however. So the Crew will have to cross that bridge later on. Engaged fan is a good thing, but it is jarring to a soccer fan how it's cheered on like it's another sport. I see it in Nashville as well. It was in Atlanta, but those crowds are quickly thinning for the reason I think it'll thin for Columbus and Nashville. The early adopters are "general sports fan" types. Eventually, MLS isn't meaty enough to hang on to them.

3. Fan Seating

The side facing the main stand camera makes the same mistake the old stadium made - They sit people right on the sideline in individual chairs, spaced out. Old Crew had sort of bar chairs, New Crew has really nice office chair-type seating. A good 10-20 feet behind them (and up) are the rest of the fans. It looks terrible. A lot of teams do it in MLS, it saps the energy out of the viewing experience. If you notice last night after the Darlington Nagbe goal, he charged over the side you can't really see on TV and started high-fiving the fans that were close to the pitch. It was great! but you don't get that on the regular camera and you could hardly see it when they did show it. The announcers talking about how great it was stung a little because it was invisible to the viewer.

4. Advertising

Columbus ordered the extra tall digital ad boards appearently. They are like a castle wall around the pitch. They are not alone in this regard. Teams all over the world of really bad solutions to getting as much advertising facing the camera as possible, but I normally se it in old stadiums. Some of them having Olympic tracks around the pitch. I don't get it here. You want the fans down there hootin' and a hollerin'. Not a wall of ads.

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That's it. My critical view of what I watched. The overall vibe is too many vodka Red Bulls INTENSE. Flashing lights, loud music, overbearing announcer, and to top it off a goddamn jackhammer. I mean, it's an NHL/Arena League Football experience - and fine in if you like that. 

My note to the Crew would be thus: It's working now. It's got the, what I would call, Arena District fans to go. But it won't last. They won't latch onto the sport. Same as Orlando, Atlanta, Montreal, San Jose, and soon-to-be Nashville and LAFC. Portland and Seattle work because they sold the sport first and their long history dating back to the old NASL did as well.


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Top 27 MLS Players (2021 so far)

The oldest running MLS player rating system (mine!) has been updated. Here are the top 27 players of the season so far (30% in). Orlando and New England are the two surprises of the season so far. Alex Roldan pops up in my analysis a lot when looking at top players.

Top 27
ScorePlayer NamePositionTeamWageBirthplaceAge
10.00Raúl RuidíazFWSEA$ 2,100,000PER30
9.72Javier HernándezFWLAG$ 6,000,000MEX33
8.98Cristian RoldanMF,FWSEA$ 881,542USA26
8.83Carles GilMFNER$ 2,769,667ESP28
8.57Alex RoldanDFSEA$ 93,581USA24
8.56Dániel SallóiFWSKC$ 456,667HUN24
8.41João Paulo MiorMFSEA$ 1,050,000BRA30
8.40Damir KreilachMFRSL$ 1,350,000CRO32
8.15Valentín CastellanosFWNYC$ 324,806ARG22
8.08NaniFW,MFORL$ 2,486,250POR34
8.02Jesús MedinaMF,FWNYC$ 1,170,833PAR24
7.98Jamiro MonteiroMFPHI$ 1,476,250CPV27
7.98Antonio CarlosDFORL$ 865,000BRA28
7.97Júnior UrsoMFORL$ 730,000BRA32
7.96Kyle SmithDFORL$ 118,660USA29
7.84Gianluca BusioMF,FWSKC$ 127,504USA19
7.80Brad SmithDFSEA$ 566,250AUS27
7.60Matt TurnerGKNER$ 375,000USA27
7.59Andrew FarrellDFNER$ 418,750USA29
7.58Keegan RosenberryDFCOL$ 298,750USA27
7.55Jakob GlesnesDFPHI$ 448,125NOR27
7.53Diego RubioFWCOL$ 629,583CHI28
7.50Brandon ByeDFNER$ 178,875USA25
7.49Yeimar Gómez AndradeDFSEA$ 387,000COL29
7.46Rubio RubinFWRSL$ 152,067USA25
7.45Jonathan BondGKLAG$ 501,875ENG28
7.44Tesho AkindeleFWORL$ 290,000CAN29

Saturday, June 19, 2021

ESPN's Euro 2020 Paying Off (MLS's slice getting smaller)


In 2016 ESPN paid $110 million for the rights to international European competition through 2022. That includes this year's European Championships as well as the Nations League tournament games. 

It's starting to look like a steal for the network as through the first 12 games it is nearly averaging 1 million viewers (934k) per match.

What does this look like compared to ESPN's deal with MLS? Well, ESPN and Fox pay a combined annual rights fee of $75 million for MLS and US national team (men and women) games. We don't know how much the NT games cost, but of the sake of argument let's say it is $25m per year. That leaves MLS getting an even $25m each from ESPN and Fox.

Back to the $110m for Euros. That's a six-year deal so it works out to be about 18m per year. Obviously, getting the Euro 2020 (played this year) is the tent pole event, but the Nations League games do ok in their own right. A best-guess estimate... I'd say half of that $110 million is for EURO 2020. We'll round out to $50m.

With that, we can conclude that both Fox and ESPN pay the same combined amount as ESPN alone pays for this year's Euro 2020 = $50 million.

If Euro 2020 continues at its pace of 900k viewers per game it will get close to 50 million viewers total (English language). Compare that to a combined total of 16 million viewers for all 80+ MLS games on cable in 2020.

Total Viewers, 2020
16 million: MLS (80+ games on cable)
45 million: Euro 2020 estimate (51 games)

Even if you add in the games MLS plays on traditional OTA TV it isn't getting close to what the Euro's does in a month of play.

Of course, there are other things to consider when considering what MLS provides to ESPN vs what MLS provides (year-to-year inventory, social metrics, etc). But this gives us an idea of what a slow sort of drip MLS is what is an ever-expanding, ever crowded soccer market in the United States.

Friday, June 11, 2021

How old are MLS logos?

With the leak of the new New England Revs logo, I decided to take a look at how old each brand logo was in MLS. Here are the results...

7.2 years: Average Age of an MLS logo

6.5: Median Age

11: MLS teams with a logo older than a decade

11: MLS teams with a logo less than 5 years old

16.5: Oldest logo, FC Dallas

Age - Team
16.5 - FC Dallas
15.5 - Real Salt Lake
14.5 - Toronto
14.5 - Colorado
13.5 - NY Red Bulls
13.5 - LA Galaxy
12.5 - Seattle Sounders
11.5 - Philadelphia
10.5 - Sporting KC
10.5 - Portland
10.5 - Vancouver
8.5 - Minnesota
7.5 - San Jose
6.5 - Orlando City
6.5 - New York City
5.5 - D.C. United
4.5 - Atlanta United
3.5 - LAFC
2.5 - Cincinnati
1.5 - Nashville
1.5 - Inter Miami
1.5 - Chicago
0.5 - New England
0.5 - Montréal
0.5 - Columbus
0.5 - Houston Dynamo
0.5 - Austin

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Best Defenders in MLS '21 (so far)

The top goal scorers/creators get a disproportionate amount of attention. It makes sense, as it's very easy to measure what their job is. For defenders? It's much less clear. So where is a good place to start? For me, the correct place to start is picking out as many skills a defender should have, measuring, then ranking. 

SKILLS
Tackling: % Won
Tackling vs Dribbles
Successful Pressures
Successful Pressures % Won
Blocked Passes
Interceptions
Completed Passes
Completed Passes %
Successful Dribbles
Successful Dribbles % 
Carries (Possession
Team Goals +/- per 90
xG +/- per 90

After deciding the above I ranked every player in MLS, took the avg of that and then teased out the Center, Right, and Left Backs.

Here are the best. The "Top 50" and "Top 100" is how many times they ranked there out of all MLS players.

CENTER BACKS

Top 50Top 100PlayerPositionTeamSALARY
59Andreu FontàsCBSporting KC$ 1,125,000
58Nouhou ToloCBSeattle$ 125,000
26Auston TrustyCBColorado Rapids$ 375,000
58BressanCBFC Dallas$ 536,000
35Jesús David Murillo LargachaCBLos Angeles FC$ 400,000
36Ilie SánchezCBSporting KC$ 1,000,000
25Rodrigo SchlegelCBOrlando City$ 120,000
26Antonio CarlosCBOrlando City$ 840,000
34Yeimar Gómez AndradeCBSeattle$ 300,000
26Jack ElliottCBPhiladelphia$ 325,000
46Miles RobinsonCBAtlanta Utd$ 650,000
46José Antonio Martínez GilCBFC Dallas$ 600,000
16Boniek GarcíaCBHouston Dynamo$ 81,375
13Brendan Hines-IkeCBD.C. United$ 240,000
13Bill TuilomaCBPortland Timbers$ 220,000
37James SandsCBNYCFC$ 150,000
27Eddie SeguraCBLos Angeles FC$ 200,000
25Rudy CamachoCBCF Montréal$ 800,000
12Alexander CallensCBNYCFC$ 700,000
34Danny WilsonCBColorado Rapids$ 275,000
13Xavier ArreagaCBSeattle$ 393,600

RIGHT BACKS

Top 50Top 100PlayerPositionTeamSALARY
67Olivier MbaizoRBPhiladelphia$ 89,513
16Alistair JohnstonRBNashville$ 73,079
28Brandon ByeRBNew England$ 170,000
57Kyle DuncanRBNY Red Bulls$ 93,581
36Boris SekulićRBChicago Fire$ 571,000
14Tristan BlackmonRBLos Angeles FC$ 193,000
24Harrison AffulRBColumbus Crew$ 335,000
25Richie LaryeaRBToronto FC$ 200,000
34Keegan RosenberryRBColorado Rapids$ 285,000
46Romain MétanireRBMinnesota Utd$ 600,000

LEFT BACKS

Top 50Top 100PlayerPositionTeamSALARY
56Diego PalaciosLBLos Angeles FC$ 432,000
58DeJuan JonesLBNew England$ 95,000
47Luís MartinsLBSporting KC$ 340,000
27George BelloLBAtlanta Utd$ 135,000
67Kai WagnerLBPhiladelphia$ 450,000
68Chase GasperLBMinnesota Utd$ 81,375
26Jorge VillafañaLBLA Galaxy$ 450,000
55Kyle SmithLBOrlando City$ 105,996
45Daniel LovitzLBNashville$ 385,000
56Claudio BravoLBPortland Timbers$ 300,000
36Julian AraujoLBLA Galaxy$ 140,000
57AuroLBToronto FC$ 360,000