by Allison Andrews, USLFans.com reporter
The AGM would formally kick off on Friday afternoon as the opening luncheon was held in the Regency Ballroom at the Hyatt. I would share the table with new Timbers coach and GM Gavin Wilkinson and Timbers Director of Media Relations Brad Nicholson. Francisco Marcos led off the luncheon with recollections of how amazed he is that the league he founded as a small feeder league for the indoor MISL 20 years ago has survived and grown into well over 100 teams and has contributed so much to the growth of soccer in the US. Tim Holt once again led the proceedings from the podium, and keynote speaker Dr. Bill Sutton talked about the dynamics of how to market a team, with one of his main points being that "Every member of your organization is in sales".
But the highlight of the luncheon was undoubtedly the presence of English football legend Alan Shearer, who spoke briefly to the awestruck crowd, and some comments and laughs flew around a nearby table that after having Romario play in Miami last year, maybe Alan Shearer could be convinced to sign as well. Once again, a tradeshow took place in conjunction with the opening luncheon, with one of the displays being the new USL ball for 2007, which I am pleased to be able to present here for the first time. It's the new ball currently being used by England, Sweden, Norway, & Ireland, and will be used throughout the USL this season.
The 2006 Umbro USL Official Ball
Tim Holt speaks at the opening luncheon
Alan Shearer adresses the gathering
At the opening luncheon
The USL First Division meeting
Various seminars were on the schedule for the afternoon, and I attended the Website seminar and Newspaper / Media seminar. Not much to report from either that is important to anyone other than the USL teams, but the increasing capability for audio streaming games through websites was a hot topic in the Website seminary, and the importance of cookies and cakes for the media in getting good coverage was a point made by Laredo Heat GM J.J. Vela.
Later this afternoon was the First Division meeting, which is to me the most interesting meeting of the entire AGM (though the scheduling meeting is definitely the most intense). There's nothing from this meeting that I can report on other than the two new franchises that have already been announced in San Francisco and Cary, North Carolina, and to say that there are changes coming to the USL First Division for the 2007 season. Say tuned to this site and USLSoccer.com for the off-season announcements as the league makes them available.
Friday evening's feature event was the Hall of Fame Awards Dinner. Inducted on this night were Marcelo Balboa, Manny Lagos, and Julie Foudy as well as President's Selections Mike Cook (Oklahoma City Warriors), Steve Famiglietta (Albuquerque Outlaws), Saeed Kadkhodaian (Austin Sockadillos), Chris Melton (Amarillo Challengers), Greg Nichols (Garland Genesis) and David Swissler (Lubbock Lazers), who represent the USL (then SISL)'s original six teams. Builders being inducted were former USL PDL administrator Steve Clamp, Toronto Lynx owners Bruno and Nicole Hartrell, Fort Collins Force owner Amy Snider, New York Magic owner Lyndelle Phillips and the Ocean City Barons' Cliff Simmons. The Toronto Lynx, For Collins Force, New York Magic and Ocean City Barons were also inducted as 10 year clubs.
I shared a table with representatives from Crystal Palace Baltimore, FC Fredericksburg (VA) and the new Bermuda team (including former English Premier League player Shaun Goater), and after making the mistake of telling them that I have been to most of the USL First Division cities, was made to promise to make trips to Bermuda and Baltimore as well. That's what I get for opening my big mouth, but a trip to Bermuda for a USL game would be a great trip, though my main goals for travel for 2007 are going to be San Francisco, Cary, and Miami.
The Hall of Fame Awards Dinner also featured the team and individual awards for all of the various USL divisions, which as of the time of my posting this journal have not been announced yet, so I will add that information to this journal once the information has been announced by the league.
Tomorrow: The USL 20th Anniversary Event