The editorial staff at MLSsoccer.com is looking back over the year with our "Best of 2010" awards, running Dec. 13 through Jan. 2. Each day we'll hand out an award from a variety of categories culled from the storylines of Major League Soccer and the North American soccer scene.
The US's headline-grabbing fortunes at the World Cup were clearly the Story of the Year in 2010.
For 20 years, soccer’s trajectory in this nation has been a slow curve, pointed upward to be sure, but generally moving at a marathoner’s pace rather than a sprinter’s.
Still, there have been a few moments of sharp acceleration: the 1994 World Cup, the founding of MLS in 1996, the US’s quarterfinals appearance in the 2002 World Cup, the signing of David Beckham in 2007. These all helped nudge the beautiful game further into the crowded North American sports landscape.
But nothing like what happened this past summer. The US national team’s passionate, made-for-Hollywood dramatics not only thrilled soccer fans from Boston to Bakersfield, but also grabbed the attention of casual sports fans—and even non-sports fans.
“The Goal,” as Landon Donovan’s last-minute strike against Algeria has come to be known in cyberspace, sparked raucous celebrations in sports bars across the land and inspired every journalist with a laptop—even the soccer haters—to gush about the Americans’ heart and resolve
Predictably, there were more than a few clichéd articles asking if the US’s performance and the attention it received means that soccer has made it in the US. Whatever.
What mattered to those of us already in the soccer world was that a few more hearts and minds in the mainstream media came to see what a grip this game already has on North America, from the US national team to MLS.
Watch MLSsoccer.com editors discuss the top Stories of the Year
Second Place: Designated Players
With a revamping of the DP rules under the new CBA, several clubs went out and put their money where their money was, particularly the New York Red Bulls. The Big Apple club signed two big names: Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez.
But other clubs got into the DP act, as well. Among others, the San Jose Earthquakes inked former FC Barcelona attacking midfielder Geovanni, the Seattle Sounders added Swiss World Cup star Blaise Nkufo, and the Chicago Fire snagged popular Mexican attacker Nery Castillo.
And the influx of marquee talent isn’t done. Sporting KC already has Mexican international Omar Bravo’s signature for 2011.
Third Place: New Collective Bargaining Agreement
The MLS season almost didn’t happen. Seriously. But with MLS’ first work stoppage looming, the league and union signed a new deal in March that let the season begin on time. It provided more money for the players and a kind of free agency in the form of the Re-Entry Process.