What a calendar year 2014 was for American soccer fans and the league. There were many pluses and unfortunately, a couple negative moments too. We saw the emergence of Atlanta, New York City FC, Orlando City SC, LAFC and, potentially, Miami FC. The continued growth of the sport has been significant this year. However, with the good in the sport over here there's been some bad, and some notable retirements.
It's been no secret that the league has wanted to expand to 24 clubs for a while. The league did again promote a club from a lower league. Years ago, when Portland were brought in, the Timbers came up from the USLPRO League. The same thing was done with Orlando City Sc; they too came up from USLPRO. Orlando have already grabbed headlines by signing Kaka, who may be well past his prime but is still a big name. The MLS also has wanted a team in New York City proper and made a run at the new look NY Cosmos. But just like the classic Cosmos they don't play well with others and seem to hit stumbling blocks all the time. So the league paired up the NY Yankees with Manchester City to form a super club, as you're probably aware. So far NYCFC have signed Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, if he ever eventually comes over from his "loan", and former Barcelona striker David Villa. Atlanta, LAFC and Miami will all be added in a couple of years. NYCFC and Orlando are joining this year.
To bring in LAFC with their 22 owners (no joke) seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but we'll see. The league contracted the mess that was Chivas USA. While the club has never been run correctly, and a sore spot for the league, no fan base should lose its club. Chivas had great supporters when they showed up and a passionate setup. They will have to wait until 2017 to see LAFC come back, because LAFC has to have a football specific stadium, but NYCFC doesn't, for some unknown reason. NYCFC is playing at Yankee Stadium for three years - yes, football on a baseball diamond.
There was also the Jermaine Jones transfer to the MLS. He signed for New England Revolution, but after it was well known that he wanted to sign for the Chicago Fire. Apparently the league decided that there needed to be a blind draw and subsequently awarded him to New England. In no other league does the league decide where a player goes. The way players come into this league is very Mother Russia like, it's decided for them, not letting the players decide for themselves. This bugs the fans no end and makes the league look really bad, but that's the structure in place and we just have to deal with it.
Also this season, we saw DC United bounce back from one of the worst, if not the worst, seasons in MLS history. DC went from barely winning to being an unstoppable force. They added many players in the off season and Coach of the Year Ben Olsen, a club legend, went back to basics as he helped them into the play-offs. They were in the Supporter's Shield race until the end, and made it into the second round of the MLS Eastern Conference play-offs too. We also saw the Seattle Sounders win a 'double' by getting the US Open Cup, and the Supporters Shield, but lost in the Western Conference Finals to eventual champions LA Galaxy.
Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry, both legends in their home countries and in America, hung up their boots in the MLS. Henry might go back to Arsenal for one more spell, as suggested in the media, and wherever he goes he can hold his head up high knowing he's made a remarkable contribution to football in America. Landon and Thierry both were great stewards for the sport here in the States. Landon is the greatest American born player ever, and Thierry brought class on and off the pitch. Towards the end of Henry's career here he couldn't play as much, but when he did he was fantastic.
This was also the year where the media expanded their coverage even more in the States. A national soccer talk show made it into its second year, and more writers were brought in by secondary media. The mainstream media also paid attention for the first time to the fervour of football in the country. The World Cup brought bigger numbers to broadcasters and people flocked to matches for the first time. Also, the tinfoil element added their voice by flying a banner over the MLS Cup, to the amusement of many MLS fan boys (or Bot's as we are called).
Overall, it's been good year for football in America. If the powers in charge allow the growth to continue, the MLS is in for another great season next year.
By Stephen Brandt – Liverpool fan – @