New Year, Same Beautiful Game Part 2

And now, here are some things to look forward to in 2009 alongside some resolutions that have to be made:

9) Seattle will have many eyes on it come March 19, when Qwest Field hosts the New York Red Bulls in its first Major League Soccer game. Will Sounders fans replicate the passion of the last expansion team, Toronto FC?

8) Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) will look to last longer than the WUSA did. The league kicks off this spring, and claims to have a much more realistic business plan than the WUSA had. Only time will tell, but hopefully the league finds success.

7) The United States is still searching for its next go-to striker. The absence of Brian McBride has been felt of late, and Landon Donovan is better served as an attacking midfielder. Could Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu be the answer? Maurice Edu is also a player to watch. The former University of Maryland Terrapin is rock solid as a holding midfielder.

6) Major League Soccer has some more tough expansion decisions to make, including whether or not to give Miami another try through FC Barcelona’s supervision. St. Louis, Portland, Vancouver, and Atlanta are making strong pushes as well, and it will be interesting to see which cities get those last two spots before the expansion freeze.

5) With the transfer window soon opening, Major League Soccer should also make a push to go after some younger talent. Can an MLS team land a talented Designated Player in his prime? And what will happen to the Designated Player rule itself? It is up for revision at the end of the 2009 season. Next Year’s “State of the League” address by Commissioner Don Garber should be interesting.

4) The 2009 National Soccer Hall of Fame ballot is a blast from the (recent) past, with some major names contending to be turned into legends. Jeff Agoos, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Roy Lassiter and Peter Nowak are only a few of the greats on the list. It will be tough for Shannon MacMillan and Cindy Parlow, two great players on the women’s side, to crack the list. Here is the full list.

3) It is now or never for the Los Angeles Galaxy. The squad has now missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, and fans will not continue to put up with it. Having “Beckham’s Team” consistently at the basement of the league also hurts the image of Major League Soccer in the eyes of the casual fan. Bruce Arena and company must turn things around immediately.

2) It is that glorious time of the year again, when the United States and Mexico get to tango on February 11 in the most heated rivalry in North America. Credit must be given to the US Soccer Federation for putting the game in Columbus in order to make Mexico uncomfortable and produce a similar result to the ones obtained in 2001 and 2005.

1) What could possibly top the intensity of a USA-Mexico game, you ask? The US will have a serious tune-up for the World Cup when it plays in the 2009 Confederation’s Cup this summer. It’s been drawn into Group B with defending world champion Italy, South American champion Brazil, and African Champion Egypt. The rematch of the 2006 World Cup group stage with Italy will be exciting, but even making it out of the group will be an accomplishment.

As has been the trend for several years, the presence of soccer in the United States continued to grow in 2008, and 2009 will be an even more important year for Major League Soccer, US Soccer, and the women’s game. Here’s a toast: to success on and off the field for soccer in the US.

Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: