XI Bold…and Not So Bold Soccer Predictions for the New Year

Peter Wilt Plays Nostradamus

Peter Wilt Plays Nostradamus

OK, you’re probably now starting to think that I’m a pretty lazy writer….yes, I’m going with a list column for the third straight week.  I’m following up the ever popular “Holiday Gift“and “Best Memories of the Year” columns with the ever popular “Predictions for the New Year” column.

Sorry.  It’s the holidays.  I’ve been busy with my indoor team winning two incredible overtime matches, celebrating the holidays and catching some fine cinema.  What can I say, except I promise a more in depth and insightful column next week that will focus on my experiences with the MLS Combine and SuperDraft.

Well, here goes my XI soccer predictions for 2010…aka XI educated (?) guesses:

I.  Collective Bargaining Agreement: I PREDICT that Major League Soccer will join their big American sports league brethren this year in experiencing a  work stoppage at the end of this month.  As reported in the Seattle Times last month, a pay increase isn’t the issue. Seattle Sounders FC player rep James Riley said the union wants the teams, not the League, to negotiate player contracts.  The union also wants more guaranteed contracts and free agency after contracts expire.  I’ll bolden my prediction by guessing that a CBA is not achieved until at least April, meaning that for the first time, MLS games will be missed due to a work stoppage. The fact that the differences are philosophical and not financial means this could be a long one.  It’s one thing to compromise on dollars, it’s another to compromise on philosophy.  I predict an eventual management “victory”, though truth be told, everyone will come out losers if my ugly prediction comes true.  I’ll save any detail or analysis for a future column when the CBA negotiations become a hot issue.

II.  MISL: I PREDICT the Milwaukee Wave will win the MISL Championship over the Baltimore Blast 15-8 in the final and too few people outside of Maryland and Southeastern Wisconsin will notice despite some incredible goals.

III.  WPS:  I PREDICT Los Angeles Sol over somebody else.  The best team in the League last year (yeah, i know, Cinderella won the title) are set to add three high draft picks next week to an already loaded roster.  This time they won’t lose Camille Abily for the playoffs, so while I think my Chicago Red Stars will be much improved over 2009, I’m going to predict LA wins it all in 2010.

IV.  USMNT in World Cup: I PREDICT the US will advance to the semi-finals and fall to Spain in Durban, South Africa in a rematch of the FIFA Confederations Cup Semi-Final last summer won by the US in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

V.  World Cup Winner: I PREDICT Spain will win the 2010 FIFA World Cup. And the USMNT will win the third place match. Hey, who’s going to remember if I pick the US to lose to Germany in the first knockout round?

VI.  USL1/NASL Solution: I honestly have NO idea.  I’LL PREDICT(guess) that the NASL will agree to pay a mid-six figure annual operational fee to USL and USL will agree to provide a list of services (i.e. hosting NASL’s combine, sharing FSC broadcast slots) and both parties will agree not to file any law suits.

VII.  D2 Winner: I PREDICT…the fans…and Montreal.

Which MLS coach will be the first to step aside in 2010?

Which MLS coach will be the first to step aside in 2010?

VIII.  1st MLS Coach Fired: Since we all left MLS a few years ago, my old Minnesota Thunder friends Manuel Lagos, Amos Magee and I have competed against each other each year by predicting outcomes of dozens of MLS categories including the somewhat morbid “1st Coach to be Fired in MLS”.  I don’t believe any of us has gotten one right yet.  To avoid upsetting someone I know, I PREDICT someone I don’t know…and neither does anyone else (right now anyways): Whoever coaches the New York Red Bulls.

IX.  MLS Supporters Shield: The combination of a potential work stoppage and a mid-season World Cup makes this prediction rather tricky.  Parity, for better and worse, continues in MLS, so I throw out the obvious bottom feeders and look for a non-World Cup difference maker.  For me, Guillermo Barros Schelotto continues to be the best player in the League regardless of 2010 South Africa travel plans.  I PREDICT he will be the difference maker this year giving Columbus the Supporters Shield again…if Schelotto does indeed sign with the Crew.  If not, I’ll predict Houston…or Seattle…or….

X.  MLS PFA Trophy: And I PREDICT the trophy for the best team in MLS from late October to late November will go to……drum roll please….the Seattle Sounders FC!!!! (2-0 over New England)

XI.  MLS Attendance Questions: Attendance questions on my mind and my guesses…I mean “predictions”:

Other sports have experienced a drop in attendance after work stoppages.  Uncertainty of playing games also makes it difficult to sell tickets to fans who are angry at players, management or both. Will the work stoppage affect interest in the League?  I PREDICT:  Yes.

Will the World Cup’s attention help or hurt MLS attendance?  I PREDICT:  Yes (hurt during WC and help afterward).

Will Seattle’s passion hold up like Toronto’s did as the novelty wears off?  I PREDICT:  Yes.

Will Chicago’s playoff sellouts translate into increased regular season attendance?  I PREDICT:  Not much.

Who will have a higher average home attendance this year in their new stadium Philadelphia Union or New York Red Bulls?  I PREDICT the Red Bulls will edge the Union, mainly due to Union Field’s limited capacity (18,500). I figure Red Bull Arena (capacity 25,000) will sell out half a dozen times or so for the home opener, the Red Bulls derbies with the Union and DC United (which I PREDICT will be among the very best American soccer stories in 2010) and the Galaxy game giving the Red Bulls an average attendance a little over 20,000.  The Union will use their early game(s) at Lincoln Financial Field to bump their average attendance over 18,500, but a work stoppage may take away that attendance benefit.

There they are.  Some bold, some conservative. What do you think?  Which of these predictions do you like?  Which ones do you think are absurd and why?  Let me know in the comments below.

Happy New Year to all!

Peter Wilt, the President and CEO of the Milwaukee Wave, writes for Pitch Invasion every Wednesday. Follow him every day @PeterWilt1 on Twitter.

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