Friday Kicks: Galaxy update & more

*Reporter Phil Collin has a Galaxy update before the team heads to Australia next week. Good to see Landon Donovan agreeing with me about the critical need for another striker.

Incidentally, only two Galaxy players will miss out on the trip to Oz (from a Galaxy press relesase):

The only Galaxy players that will not accompany the club to Australia are forward Tristan Bowen and defender Yohance Marshall, each of whom will be on international duty. On Sunday, Bowen will travel to Georgia with the U.S. Under-20 National Team for the Torneo de las Americas, where they will face Colombia and Mexico. Marshall will be in Martinique with the Trinidad & Tobago National Team for the finals of the Digicel Caribbean Cup, a qualifying tournament for next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

*Galaxy striker Edson Buddle lost out on the MLS MVP award today:

TORONTO (AP) — David Ferreira of FC Dallas has been voted the Most Valuable Player of Major League Soccer.

The Colombian playmaker beat out Edson Buddle of the Galaxy and Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes.

Ferreira played all but one minute this season, running the team from his attacking midfield role. The 31-year-old finished with eight goals and 13 assists.

The MVP award is voted on by players, coaches, GMs and media members. Ferreira earned 20 per cent of the votes.

Buddle received 18.3 percent of the vote to finish second in voting; Donovan finished fourth with 11.9 percent.

*Former Galaxy player Brian Mullan is making his sixth trip Sunday to the MLS Cup.

*UCSB is through to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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Galaxy’s Donovan back to Everton in the MLS offseason? Even he doesn’t know

i-115a608a53c976c222fb89601741be5b-LDGQ.jpgGQ LD: The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan is pictured Wednesday at GQ magazine’s 2010 ‘Men of the Year’ party (AP Photo).

Which is kind of weird because he said several weeks ago he was getting older and needed to rest his body after the rigors of the World Cup this year.

And now? Your guess is as good as Donovan’s apparently:

CARSON (AP) — The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan will consider over the next few weeks whether to play overseas on loan.

If he decides on it, said Donovan Thursday, he most likely would return to Everton in England’s Premier League.

Donovan spent 10 weeks on loan with Everton earlier this year. He finished with two goals and three assists in 13 games, including wins over Manchester United and Chelsea.

“My plan is to rest over the next few weeks and get in a mental place where I can make a
proper decision,” said Donovan, who played in 30 of the past 33 months, including all four of the United States’ games during the World Cup. “If you ask me today, I would say ‘no’ because my body is exhausted. If you ask me in two months, I would probably say ‘yeah’ because I’m excited again.”

When asked if there was only one place he would play on loan, Donovan replied with a smile, “I would say so, yeah.”

The four-year contract Donovan signed in December allows him to play on loan overseas.

Donovan, 28, said he will take his age into consideration when making his decision.

“I realize I have only so many more years to play and to have a real opportunity to do this,” he said, adding he will balance his desire to play overseas with the increasing demands soccer players face. “FIFA seems like they’re always trying to add games, tournaments and competitions. The way the game is now, it’s part of what we deal with. You hope that you don’t break down physically during the year and that you can play as much as you can. I’ve been fortunate to be relatively healthy.”

Donovan also has played in Germany. In 2009, he scored four goals in 11 games with Bayern Munich, and played between 1999-2001 and 2004 in Bayer Leverkusen’s system.

Donovan led Major League Soccer with a career-high 16 assists this season as the Galaxy won the Supporters’ Shield for finishing with the best overall record. The Galaxy lost in the Western Conference final to FC Dallas on Sunday night.

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Thursday Kicks: Mandela, Gauchos, Xolos & more

i-ec6396b17551cf0a3d062ff49c0b9a8c-mandelaus.jpgThe USMNT posed for a picture today with former South African President Nelson Mandela in the wake of their 1-0 victory over South Africa Wednesday and the caption to the picture helpfully tells us that one of the world’s most recognizable people is in the “second row fourth from right.” Wouldn’t want to get Mandela confused with the likes of Rolling Hills Estates’ Robbie Rogers (the young white guy fourth from top left) now would we? (AP Photo).

*UCSB plays their NCAA Tournament opener at 7 o’clock tonight at Harder Stadium.

*Galaxy and Chivas USA fans won’t see their teams play the Kansas City Wizards anymore. Brushing aside the last vestige of MLS tradition associated with the not quite legendary Urology Bowl – back when the old (Dallas) Burn used to play the (Kansas City) Wiz – the Wizards have rebranded themselves as Sporting Kansas City ahead of their move into their new stadium next season. Their new colors: Indigo and light blue.

*The Galaxy’s Tristan Bowen did a Q&A with U.S. Soccer ahead of his return to the U.S. Under-20 National Team this weekend.

*There was fallout from FIFA’s World Cup bidding scandal today:

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA suspended two executive committee members from voting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts on Thursday after completing a corruption investigation.

Soccer’s governing body also cleared Qatar and Spain-Portugal of vote-trading.

FIFA’s ethics panel banned Nigeria’s Amos Adamu from all soccer activity for three years for agreeing to take bribes from undercover reporters from the British Sunday Times who posed as lobbyists trying to buy votes.

Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, the president of Oceania’s confederation, was suspended for one year for breaching FIFA’s loyalty and confidentiality rules when he was secretly filmed in the undercover sting.

Four former FIFA executive committee members also were suspended based on allegations published by the newspaper.

“It is sad,” FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said. “It was not necessary what has
happened. The way FIFA and the ethics committee has reacted shows how important it is to show things are under control.”

The paper had video showing Adamu requesting $800,000 to build four artificial soccer fields in Nigeria, and for the money to be paid to him directly.

Temarii was filmed appearing to ask for $2.3 million to fund a soccer academy in Auckland, New Zealand.

With Adamu and Temarii suspended, 22 FIFA ruling committee members — instead of 24 — will vote in the World Cup secret ballots on Dec. 2 in Zurich.

The 2018 bid involves England, Russia and the joint bids of Belgium-Holland and
Spain-Portugal. The 2022 contest involves the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar.

The four former FIFA executive members were suspended for a total of 12 years. They reportedly told reporters how to bribe FIFA officials and how much to pay.

*LMU junior Roger Downes (San Clemente) was named the West Coast Conference Defender of the Year. Downes, who started all of LMU’s 20 games and was the team leader in minutes was the anchor of a defense that finished the regular season with the second-lowest goals-against-average in the WCC and the third-lowest season GAA in program history at 1.07.

*Finally, missing going to the HDC for games already now the MLS season is all but over? How about a little road trip to see the second division Mexican futbol playoffs in TJ?


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MLS update: the cup in Canada & more

i-33efe769b83442264cd2bbcead4b2ea5-RCMPcup.jpgRoyal Canadian Mounted Police officers carry the MLS Cup trophy Wednesday to kick off the countdown for Sunday’s championship game between FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids in Toronto (AP Photo).

*The Galaxy announced today their post-season friendly against the Newcastle Jets of the Australian A-League will air at 12:30 a.m. Saturday, November 27 on Fox Soccer Channel. A pre-game show begins at midnight.

From the Galaxy press release:

This is the Galaxy’s second trip to Australia in the last four years, with the club also playing Sydney FC in front of more than 80,000 fans at Telstra Stadium in November 2007.

This time around, they will face the 2008 Hyundai A-League Grand Final champion Newcastle Jets. The Jets, led by former England international forwards Michael Bridges and Francis Jeffers, sit in ninth place in the A-League with a 2-5-5 record for 11 points from their first 12 games of the season.

The Jets have allowed just 10 goals in 12 league games and earned their best result of the season on Saturday, a 3-1 win over second place Adelaide, which saw Australian forward Marko Jesic scored his first two goals of the season, with Jeffers setting up one in his debut for the club.

Incidentally, the Galaxy are right, Jeffers did play for England – once – in what was a largely disappointing pro career after he showed early promise with Everton that he never duplicated with Arsenal and a procession of other clubs.

*Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts today lost out on the MLS Save of the Year Award to Kasey Keller.

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An American soccer dream comes true

i-d6e5845063c40240ff03e3c3463e9033-juancelebrates.jpgDoes Juan Agudelo believe he scored for the U.S. on his debut in South Africa? By the look of this shot, barely (AP Photo).

Read the U.S.-South Africa game story here.

Incidentally, the game story doesn’t really do the goal justice.

Diskerud’s poise and patience in calmly supplying the assist was key, while Agudelo once again showed maturity beyond his years in putting away the goal.

The U.S. has players with years of pro experience incapable of making such a play, frankly.

Here’s the goal:

Notable: The U.S. starting lineup averaged just 10.5 caps per player.

Lineup: 18-Brad Guzan (capt.);13-Eric Lichaj, 21-Clarence Goodson (22-Gale Agbossoumonde, 87), 5-Tim Ream (6-Nat Borchers, 67), 12-Jonathan Bornstein (2-Jonathan Spector, 46); 15-Logan Pause, 16-Brian Carroll; 8-Robbie Rogers (17-Juan Agudelo, 61), 11-Eddie Gaven, 7-Alejandro Bedoya (14-Mikkel Diskerud, 79); 20-Robbie Findley (9-Teal Bunbury, 46)

Said Rolling Hills Estates’ Robbie Rogers (who perhaps had the best other U.S. chance on goal in another rather listless offensive performance from the Americans) on Facebook:

Squeezed it out! Awesome! Meeting Nelson Mandela tomorrow morning then heading home!

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FIFA evaluates World Cup bids

i-7fdcd955837de372d5a047458a68040d-fifalogo.jpgWith just over two weeks remaining before bids are awarded for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals.

To me it sounds essentially like a cover your ass kind of report when bids are rejected.

Incidentally, Lionel Messi weaved his way through four Brazilian defenders earlier today and scored in second half stoppage time as Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 in Qatar, in a showcase game meant to drum up support for the Middle East nation’s World Cup bid.

i-e206f60e40a757bdd25923bf6b1e0767-messidifferencemaker.jpgMaking a difference: Argentina’s Lionel Messi scores the winner against Brazil in Qatar today (AP Photo).

You can bet FIFA types saw the yahoo running across the field during the game and wondered about security precautions in the nation though. That’s not going to hurt the rival U.S. bid.

AP Writer Graham Dunbar has more on the FIFA report:

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA says the United States bid needs stronger guarantees of federal government support and Qatar’s desert heat could put players’ health at risk at a 2022 World Cup.

FIFA’s technical advisers provided reasons to reject all nine 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding projects in evaluation reports published Wednesday, 15 days before its executive committee chooses the two winners in a secret ballot.

The assessments are designed to highlight legal, commercial and organizational risks that soccer’s governing body could face in opting to entrust a bidder with the tournament that earns FIFA about 95 percent of its income every four years.

“We feel we have accomplished our work in the spirit of integrity, objectiveness and
transparency,” Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the Chilean who led the inspections, said in an
introduction to his team’s report.

The United States and Qatar are hoping for the 2022 World Cup, along with Australia, South Korea and Japan. Russia is up against England, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands for the 2018 tournament.

However, the 24-person executive body — and two members in particular — have more pressing World Cup issues.

FIFA published summaries of the technical reports as its ethics court sat for a third day to investigate allegations published by a British newspaper that voters and bidders have been corruptly trading votes behind the scenes.

The ethics panel will announce Thursday if Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti should be barred for allegedly offering their support for sale, and whether to exclude the Qatari and Spain-Portugal bids over allegations they broke FIFA rules by colluding to swap votes.

i-f14da454d7a127c23458cc115d412f03-blatter.jpgFIFA President Sepp Blatter, right, will lead an emergency executive session on Friday, perhaps with Adamu and Temarii reinstated, to consider how the ethics rulings affect the ballot on Dec. 2 in Zurich. Bid evaluations are also on the executive agenda.

The six-member technical panel aimed to highlight concerns after making four-day visits to each bid team between July and September.

The United States bid, seen as Qatar’s main rival in the 2022 contest, was marked as a
“medium” legal risk because “neither the government guarantees, the government declaration nor the government legal statement have been provided in compliance with FIFA’s requirements.”

David Downs, executive director of the American bid, said changes were made “given the unique nature of the law and governmental authority in the U.S. democracy.”

“We have been in conversations with FIFA about this and they are comfortable with the
situation,” Downs said in a statement.

Qatar’s report highlighted that the proposed 2022 finals would be played in June and July — “the two hottest months of the year in this region.” Average temperatures then are (106 degrees).

“The fact … has to be considered as a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators, and requires precautions to be taken,” the FIFA report said.

Qatar bid chief executive Hassan Al-Thawadi said the issue was being addressed through air-cooling systems lowering stadium temperatures to 81 degrees. Training camps and viewing zones where fans will gather to watch matches on giant screens also would be cooled.

The report picked out possible logistical challenges from having 10 of 12 proposed stadiums within a 19-mile radius.

“We are aware of the concerns expressed but we have ensured that all of them can be answered to the satisfaction of the global football family,” Al-Thawadi said in a statement.

In the 2018 contest, FIFA’s technical team had concerns with Russia’s ambitious project to build billions of dollars’ worth of new stadiums and infrastructure, coupled with its
“vastness and remoteness from other countries.”

The lack of high-speed rail links would “put pressure on the air traffic infrastructure” and
cause challenges in moving teams, officials and fans between matches.

“Any delay in the completion of the transport projects could impact on FIFA’s tournament operations,” the report said.

FIFA’s concerns appeared to be validated when Belgium’s national team was delayed arriving in Voronezh, where it plays Russia in a friendly on Wednesday. Fog in Voronezh forced the team’s flight to land in Moscow on Tuesday, and players spent the night there because no high-speed rail link connects the cities, which are 300 miles apart.

“Risks in the operational area that FIFA has flagged up in their bid evaluation report are
already being addressed and will all be solved well ahead of the 2018 World Cup,” Russia bid spokesman Andreas Herren said in a statement.

England, which has stressed it is ready now to stage the 2018 finals, was marked down for its provision of team hotels and training bases.

FIFA found fault in Spain-Portugal’s plans for security and along with the Belgium-Netherlands report, raised an old fear about co-hosting. The governing body has negative memories of its so-called “two of everything” tournament when Japan and South Korea staged the 2002 World Cup.

Japan and South Korea are bidding individually for 2022 and, along with Australia, pose
potential commercial problems for FIFA, which earned about $3.5 billion in television,
sponsorship and licensing deals from the recent World Cup in South Africa.

Playing in Asia meant “a risk of a reduction in TV income and, as a result, commercial revenue from Europe and the Americas. The income from Asia-Oceania would need to be increased substantially to offset the likelihood of loss of revenue,” FIFA said.

The inspection team of six FIFA-appointed officials was led by Mayne-Nicholls, the former president of Chile’s soccer federation, and included Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of South Africa’s organizing committee.

Their four-day visits were characterized by whistle-stop helicopter tours, formal dinners with political leaders and news conferences where questions from local media were not

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Dueling LA NFL stadiums to benefit soccer fans?

i-68300605dc75e7307d6fa5b1bbc45988-dntnstadium.jpgLA Live: World Cup soccer in downtown LA? It could happen.

Barely a month after the backers of the proposed city of Industry NFL stadium opened a soccer front with their publicly stated desire to attract World Cup games Anschutz Entertainment Group has released more details of their proposed downtown stadium (given a skeptical review for obvious reasons by our sister paper the San Gabriel Valley Tribune it should be noted).

This is all good for soccer fans since the downtown “72,000-seat facility would have the flexibility to expand to 76,250 for mega-events” such as the World Cup, observed SBJ.

Always fun to see dueling billionaires, of course, but from a soccer fans point of view the sport (and our viewing pleasure) can only win with either of these proposals if we no longer have to endure the obsolescent Rose Bowl or Coliseum for big games.

AEG, you would think has the soccer edge, given its ownership of the Galaxy and Home Depot Center.

And having visited Seattle again recently I love the idea of an urban soccer experience locally.

I have reservations about AEG’s ability to pull off an organic, authentic soccer experience given the unfettered artificiality of LA Live with its corporate, over-priced and generally soulless bars and restaurants.

Having wandered to Qwest Field and strolled past vendors allowed to set up shop outside to sell peanuts, popcorn and the like that spectators could actually take into the stadium I have this vision of AEG goons tracking down bacon-wrapped hot dog vendors on LA streets to ensure no lost concession sales inside.

Still, shiny new local stadiums built for pointy-ball football could benefit us fans of the real thing come the 2022 World Cup.

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U.S. – South Africa preview


Let’s play name the U.S. player: How many of these relatively unfamiliar faces do you recognize as the U.S. trains today in South Africa?. That’s soon to be former Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein up front and then? A full roster is at the link at the bottom of the post if that helps (AP Photo).

The friendly airs at 11 a.m. Wednesday on ESPN2 and Galavision: CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Mikkel Diskerud’s father is from Norway. His mother is from Arizona.

After playing for Norway’s Under-17 team, he switched to the U.S. Under-20s. And on Wednesday, he could make his U.S. national team debut in a year-ending exhibition against South Africa.

“I’m half-Norwegian. Maybe I’ve got some Viking skills,” Diskerud said as the young U.S. team practiced ahead of the match.

While the U.S. is making its fourth trip to South Africa in a three-year span to play in an
exhibition known as the “Nelson Mandela Challenge,” this American team looks much different from the others. It is missing most of its regulars, including Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and captain Carlos Bocanegra.

Instead, coach Bob Bradley selected a young roster than includes six players who have never played for the national team. Among them is Diskerud, a 20-year-old midfielder with Stabaek in Norway who was nicknamed “Mix” by his mother. His full name is Mikkel Morgenstar Palssonn Diskerud.

“When I was a little kid, I always ran around the house, and my mom said I was like a mixer,” Diskerud said. “When I was a kid, I was on a team called Frigg and there were two guys named Mikkel, so one had to get a nickname. I got Mix, and it stuck.”

As the U.S. prepares for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the start of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, Diskerud could be in the mix of a revamped American roster. Since the U.S. was eliminated by Ghana in the second round of the World Cup, Galaxy central defender Omar Gonzalez, Aston Villa right back Eric Lichaj, Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones and Dallas midfielder Brek Shea all have made their debuts.

i-2ef7ec153aa40e3e20c39aabf769816a-Agbossoumonde.jpgOther newcomers who could appear Wednesday for the first time are New York defender Tim Ream and forward Juan Agudelo, Estoril Praia defender Gale Agbossoumonde (right), Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury and Glasgow Celtic backup goalkeeper Dominic Cervi.

“Right now I’m focused on trying to contribute,” Diskerud said. “Hopefully I will continue to get more opportunities to be a part of this team.”

Diskerud took a traditional European route to a soccer career. He joined Stabaek’s youth program in 2005, played for the B team in the second division and made his first-team debut a year later. He made his Champions League debut in a qualifier at Tirana in July 2009.

“Since I was a little kid it was my dream,” he said. “You grow up watching the competition, and next thing you know you are on the field playing against some of the best players in the world. It’s nice to see how high the standard is and learn how to try and become a better player.”

He has seven goals in 47 appearances with Stabaek. The U.S. doesn’t have any proven
goal-scorers after Donovan and Dempsey.

“I try to read the game.” Diskerud said. “Growing up I looked up to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. He was a smart player and he was great at finding positions on the field.”

He appeared to waver at first on which national team to play for, appearing for the U.S. in one youth tournament, then switching to Norway, then scoring for the U.S. Under-20s against Egypt last year.

Just as for many players in the U.S. pool, soccer wasn’t his only sport growing up.

“I played any sports that involved a ball, like basketball, squash and golf,” he said. “I was
a pretty good basketball player, and at one point I had to make a choice.”

Midfield is the deepest position on the U.S. team, with Donovan, Dempsey and Michael Bradley holding down starting spots. There’s also Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu and Jones.

Agbossoumonde, who was born in Togo, also hopes to become a national team regular. He’s been a part of the U.S. youth program all along.

Given Oguchi Onyewu’s slow recovery from a knee injury, and the ages of Bocanegra (31), Jay DeMerit (31 on Dec. 4) and Clarence Goodson (28), there could be room for new central defenders.

Agbossoumonde rates his ability in the air as a strong point, and lists Spain and Barcelona defender Carles Puyol as a role model.

“He’s an animal on the field, and a very hardworking player,” Agbossoumonde said.

Agbossoumonde turns 19 Wednesday, so his debut could come as a birthday present.

“I have had good experiences with the U.S. youth national teams and the U.S. Soccer
Development Academy, which have helped me develop,” he said. “I hope to continue to improve and learn from the veteran players, and that could eventually lead to an opportunity to play with the full team.”

Gonzalez and Ream also will be given chances to earn center back spots during the next cycle.

“There are a lot of great up-and-coming defenders in the U.S. program,” Agbossoumonde said, “and I’m just hoping to prove that I deserve a chance to keep getting invited back.”

NOTES: Siphiwe Tshabalala’s shot for South Africa against Mexico in the World Cup opener is a finalist announced Tuesday for FIFA goal of the year.

Here’s the complete roster.

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FC Gold Pride folds, WPS now regional league

i-9b903fab84ab4a5363af217d14f87fe6-20080117_wps_medium.jpgThat means there is no chance of resurrecting the Sol in Southern California.

More details after the AP story:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The defending champion FC Gold Pride of Women’s Professional Soccer have folded after two years of operation.

The Bay Area team says it is disbanding because of slow ticket sales and costly cross-country travel. Its players become free agents Wednesday.

WPS chief executive Anne-Marie Eileraas says it is “disappointing” the club “did not find the level of support it aimed for in its market.”

The league will have six teams next season in Atlanta, Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia,
Washington and Western New York. A Chicago franchise is seeking investors and hopes to join the league for 2011. The deadline is Dec. 15.

A group of investors I had heard second hand were being headed up by former Sol Coach Abner Rogers – he didn’t return a call today – and trying to relocate FC Gold Pride to Titan Stadium on the campus of Cal State Fullerton were apparently unsuccessful in putting a deal together.

That’s not surprising given the state of the financial market, although the strategy was one way of avoiding an expansion fee, I suppose.

But it means WPS is little more than a 21st century version of the old six-team NHL – a Northeast league, with the exception of Atlanta.

“It doesn’t mean we’re abandoning that market,” said WPS spokesman Rob Penner of Southern California.

But it also means that for logistical reasons the Sol won’t return unless there’s at least one other West Coast team because of the traveling involved.

And don’t hold your breath for that to happen.

Abner called. He’s due to talk with the investors who were attempting to bring the Gold Pride/Sol to the OC later this week.

However, it doesn’t look good after the folding of the Gold Pride.

The WPS has significantly scaled back operations. It’s giving all the signs of an organization on life support complete with disconnected telephone lines.

The Sol isn’t a priority. Survival is.

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MLS Tuesday Kicks: Rosters expanded, reserve league returns, Galaxy place four on MLS Best XI

Nothing we didn’t really know. But at least I didn’t have to listen to MLS Commish Don Garber thanks to Associated Press Writer Nancy Armour:

Major League Soccer’s reserve league will return in 2011, another step in improving player

The reserve league will have a 10-game regular season and playoffs, giving young players match experience on a consistent basis. Most top European soccer leagues have similar systems.

“Our technical committee … it’s their strong view that we need to have a reserve division as an essential part of our player development ladder in the United States,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday in his annual state of the league address.

The reserve league was disbanded in 2008 after four seasons because of costs and logistics problems, but its return had been expected since Adidas extended its sponsorship deal this summer. The new eight-year deal, which begins next year and is worth more than $200 million, included a significant investment in youth development.

MLS and its teams are already devoting significant resources and attention to their
development academies, which groom high school-age players and have already produced first-team starters such as MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar. But it’s hard for most players to make the leap from high school or even college straight to an MLS game-day roster, and there is a fear future American stars are stagnating while they fight for playing time.

When the U.S. was eliminated in the group stage of the Under-20 World Cup last year, coach Thomas Rongen blamed part of his team’s erratic play on the lack of an MLS reserve league.

“We go from full-time residency to a black hole,” Rongen said then. “That’s the reason we are erratic from game to game. There’s no game sharpness, there’s no game fitness and no game rhythm. Because of the MLS dropping the reserve league the black hole will become deeper and darker.”

MLS rosters will expand from 26 to 30 players to accommodate the reserve division, with six spots designated for players 24 years old and younger. Development academy players will eligible to play on reserve league teams, as will players on tryouts with MLS franchises.

In other news:

*Garber said he expects changes to the current playoff format, including the
possibility that the MLS Cup could be held at the home of the highest-seeded team. The
championship game is currently held at a neutral site chosen months in advance, just like the Super Bowl.

This year’s MLS Cup, featuring FC Dallas and Colorado, will be played Sunday in Toronto.

*With expansion to Vancouver and Portland bringing the number of teams in the league
to 18 next season, Garber said MLS will consider doing away with conferences and going to the single-table format the top European leagues use. That will not, however, mean an end to playoffs, Garber said.

“We will never do away with playoffs,” Garber said. “There is absolutely no reason to do

*Garber continues to talk with New York City officials, the Wilpon family, the group
that owns the name of the Cosmos and other potential investors about adding a second franchise in New York, and hopes to have something done by 2013. (Montreal begins play in 2012.)

*This season’s Best XI are: goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (Galaxy); defenders Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), Omar Gonzalez (Galaxy); midfielders David Ferreira (FC Dallas), Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC), Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Landon Donovan (Galaxy); and forwards Edson Buddle (Galaxy) and Chris Wondolowski (San Jose

Here’s why Donovan is listed as a midfielder, straight from The Commish in today’s State of the League speech:

You probably noted that Landon (Donovan) is listed as a midfielder as opposed to the forward that he was listed on the ballot. Here’s the reason why. For obvious reasons, Landon has been an absolutely standout player this year, including leading the league in assists. He is a guy that clearly has earned the right to be considered one of the best players in our league not because of who he is or what he’s done for the national team, but for what he’s done in Major League Soccer (this season). He had 16 assists, and he finished in the top handful in MVP voting. Due to the large number of votes that he received and the fact that it was in the Galaxy lineup as a midfielder nearly twice as many times as he was a forward, he was included on the Best XI as a midfielder rather than as a third forward.

So our view is we need to do the right thing. It is certainly right to have Landon as a Best XI.

So what will it say about the above XI if Colorado wins MLS Cup Sunday?

Incidentally, the six additional roster spots are reserved for players 24 and under and they will not count against a team’s salary budget, which for 2011 will be $2.67 million per team.

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