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Soccer received a major boost with the release of the critically acclaimed film "Bend it like Beckham", an intelligent and insightful movie about culture clash in London focused on a young Indian woman's infatuation of the famous English player. Although much of the film dealt with cultural turmoil and women's emancipation, the soccer action was prominent, and the film was successful in the united States, providing the sport with some welcome exposure to a wide audience. On the media front, the wishes of US soccer fans were finally realized with the launch of Gol-TV on DISH Network, the first 24-hour soccer channel in the United States.
The United States received an unexpected surprise when Women's World Cup 2003 was moved from China because of the SARS epidemic, and awarded to the US. This caused a scramble as the USSF was forced to secure stadiums, arrange logistics and adjust the television package to accommodate the new locations, and fit the games into the already crowded fall sports schedule. But it would be an unexpected chance for many of the heralded veterans of the US National Team to play before the home crowd one last time in a major event.
The women's soccer landscape had changed greatly in the four years since the last Cup. Great strides had been made in the women's game in many countries, and the US no longer stood head and shoulders over the rest of the world. In fact, the US was not even the unanimous favorite anymore, despite being named the #1 team in FIFA's first ever women's national team list (They would eventually lose that spot). Germany, Norway and China would be formidable opponents. Brazil was now in the top ten. Mexico, Great Britain, Japan and North Korea had made great progress in strengthening their teams as the sport became more widely established in their countries.
Six venues were selected for WWC'03: Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA; Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia; Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, RFK Stadium in Washington, Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, OH; and PGE Park in Portland. All stadiums would have fields meeting FIFA standards. The United States would visit each of those fields if they made it to the final four. All matches would be scheduled in doubleheaders. The Draw was tough for the US - matching them against Sweden, Nigeria and North Korea. The US would travel more than any other country in their pool play, while China was safely ensconced on the West Coast. Although there would only be 18 games televised as opposed to 32 during the 1999 Cup, time slots were better, despite the glut of other major sports taking place at the same time.
The United States was again favored by many, but not by everybody. So much progress was made throughout the world that several other countries could now challenge the US to the claim of being best. Germany, China, Norway and Sweden were powerhouses to be reckoned with, and the United States had been placed in the toughest pool of the tournament. But the team was an impressive combination of legendary veterans and talented newcomers. Five players had also played on the 1991 team that had won the first Cup: Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Brandy Chastain. The first four of those were now in their 4th World Cup tournament. All the Americans save 1 were stars in the Women's United Soccer Association, as were many of the top stars for the other teams. Coach Heinrichs had endeavored to produce a squad which combined the players' strength, and athleticism with versatility and flexibility. The team could overpower opponents, but also have many options to deal with any situation. The forward line would be headed by Mia Hamm, Aly Wagner and Abby Wambach with Julie Foudy, Tiffany Roberts and Kristine Lilly at midfield. Kate Sobrero, Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain and Danielle Slaton headed the defensive corps, with Briana Scurry regaining her starting spot in goal.
The United States was in Group A with Sweden, Nigeria and North Korea. Heinrich utilized what was called their "Viking Lineup" - Abby Wambach and Cindy Parlow up front, and Shannon Boxx anchoring the midfield. They opened on September 21 at RFK Stadium in Washington against Sweden, and were in fine form as they took away a 3-2 victory. Mia Hamm passed through Malin Anderssen's legs to Kristine Lilly for the first goal, and Cindy Parlow extended the lead six minutes later. Late in the 2nd half, with the score 2-1, Shannon Boxx headed in the third goal for the Americans who cruised to victory.
The USA expected a physical game against Nigeria, and they got it. Nigeria committed 24 fouls, but no amount of rough play would stop the Americans. Hamm shone with two goals, as they cruised to a 5-0 shutout. Mia Hamm sat out the final game of pool play, but that hardly slowed the team. Cat Reddick scored a pair, and Brianna Scurry made two fantastic saves on Yun Pyul Hui and Yun In Sil to save the shutout for this 3-0 win. The decision to sit Hamm was questionable. It was intended to preserve her for the knockout matches, but the change in routine took her out of her rhythm for the rest of the tournament. But with Abby Wambach playing so well, and such a deep bench, it appeared to be a risk worth taking.
Abby Wambach continued her dominating performance against Norway in the Quarterfinal, held at Foxboro Stadium on October 1. With the US out shooting Norway in the quarterfinals 14-3, she scored the lone goal in a match that was not nearly as close as the scoresheet would indicate. The day of reckoning came with the semi-final match against Germany. The Viking Lineup's physical, aerial approach collided with the solid wall of the German defensive line, headed by Hingst and Minnert, who wouldn't budge. Even worse, the defensive line stumbled allowing an early goal by Garefrekes. The US kept up the attack, but had no alternative moves. They made the same runs and attacks, and Germany made the save blocks and saves. With time running out, the US defensive line collapsed, allowing two goals to score just before stoppage time in the second half. Within the blink of an eye, the US was eliminated, and by an embarrassing 3-0 shutout. It was a crushing disappointment, a shocking end to a series that had been shaping up to be one of their best World Cup runs ever.
The Final was an exciting, close match between Germany and Sweden. Held at Carson, CA at the new Home Depot Center on October 12, this was a great defensive battle. Ljungberg opened the scoring in the 41st minute to put Sweden ahead. Germany equalized five minutes later, and they battled on in a stalemate until the 8th minute of overtime when Kunzer broke through to land the winning goal, and give Germany their first Women's World Cup triumph. Six days later, the United States salvaged a little pride when they defeated Canada 3-1 in the third-place game. This disappointing run would be the last World Cup for many of the veterans, who planned to retire after the 2004 Olympics. The games were considered a major success. The crowds were somewhat smaller, but this was understandable given the short time the US had to pull the event together. It was gratifying to notice that this time around people were no longer talking about the atmosphere, the big crowds, etc., but were talking about the games, the skills, the players and tactics. For Heinrich & Company, it was time to begin the daunting task of preparing for the transition to the new generation.
Major League Soccer began the year still feeling the afterglow of the USA's impressive run in World Cup 2002, with several prominent players being eyed by major foreign clubs. Perhaps the most prominent loss was Tim Howard, signed by Manchester United, who promptly turned in several standout performances during ManU's tour of the US during the summer, and quickly became one of the top goalkeepers in the Premiership. On the investment front, the Dallas Burn finally got an investor-operator, falling under the umbrella of the Hunt Sports Group. The Los Angeles Galaxy opened their new stadium, the Home Depot Center, to raves from all concerned.
The MLS officially entered into a strategic partnership with U. S. Club Soccer, which designated USCS as the "official Grassroots Partner of MLS" for the next two seasons. The partnership would promote joint programs on player development, coaching clinics and player clinics. This supplemented partnerships already extent between MLS and the US Youth Soccer and AYSO. MLS's television exposure reached new heights this season. Fox Sports International signed on with a game of the week / highlights show package. HDTV launched its own game of the week series, giving US soccer fans their first high-definition viewing experiences. ESPN was no longer involved, but ESPN2 had 25 games on schedule, with ABC showing the home opener, all-star game and MLS Cup 2003. On another front, collective bargaining commenced after the establishment of the MLS Players' Union.
Dallas Burn moved out of the Cotton Bowl to the new Dragon Stadium at Carroll High School in Southlake, 10 miles north of Fort Worth. Despite expanding the 1-year old stadium to 12,000 seats and enjoying state of the art facilities. the stadium was too far for most fans, and the fans were disliked by most residents. After one season of dismal attendance, the Burn returned to the Cotton Bowl, by which time a deal had been secured for construction of a new soccer-specific stadium to be built in the suburb of Frisco.
2003 represented a changing of the guard as many of the World Cup veterans and others who had taken to soccer during the NASL heyday, retired and were replaced by a new generation dominated by products of the P-40 and other player development programs. The first fruits of this crop had acquitted themselves well in the U-20 and Olympic championships and were finally making their mark in the big league. Columbus dropped Robert Warzcycha, Dante Washington and John Harkes. Kansas City dropped Peter Vermes, Mike Burns and Matt McKeon. Alexi Lalas was let go by the Galaxy. The MetroStars made major changes, dropping Marcelo Balboa, Ted Chronopoulos, and Leo Krupnik, while Tab Ramos retired. Mamadou Diallo, former scoring great went overseas to Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia. Former National Team goalkeeper Juergen Sommer was waived by New England, Colorado's Carlos Valderrama left Longtimers Roy Lassiter, Todd Yeagley, Mike Lapper and Matt McKeon also departed. Robert Nowak retired rather than accept a trade to New England.
Major trades ensued as well: Los Angeles acquired the rights to Alex Pena Chacon from New England for Matt Reis and the 19th pick in the Superdraft. Kansas City picked up Josh Wolff in another major trade. Hristo Stoichkov went from the MetroStars to D. C. United. In a major player swap, Eddie Pope, Richie Williams, and Jaime Moreno moved North from D. C. United to the MetroStars with Mike Petke going south. A longtime American abroad, Earnie Stewart came home to join the league. Frankie Hedjuk also returned from abroad to take up with the Crew.
One happy note was the failure of the bittersweet post WC 2002 predictions to come true regarding player movement: an expected stream of players moving from MLS overseas. Brian McBride was loaned to Everton of the English Premiership, but most of the traffic was actually coming the other way, with the return of Frankie Hedjuk and Joe-Max Moore leading the way. MLS was able to resign Josh Wolff, Brian McBride, and Landon Donovan, retaining three of the most desirable players from the Cup, and finally secured the services of long time National Team stalwart Earnie Stewart. Tim Howard did go to England, but landing a starting role with the vaunted Manchester United was a tribute to the league's ability to develop world class talent. The willingness of other stars to remain with (or return to) MLS spoke highly of the league's increasing stature and prestige.
The Superdraft was very deep with talent this year, although fewer of the players were blue chip prospects. By the date of the draft, MLS had signed 11 players to Project 40 contracts, with more likely. With teams having finally completed the process of incorporating players from former Tampa Bay and Miami teams into their rosters, new spots were very tight. The number of developmental roster spots was raised from 4 to 6 this year, and now 2nd year players were eligible for such contracts. Some hope for newcomers was evident - with budgets tight, teams would be looking to unload overpaid veterans for new inexpensive talent. Also, the agreement establishing the farm system arrangement between MLS and USL expired, meaning no player movement between the two leagues except through free agency and waivers. No USL players would be available in the draft. MLS and NSCAA entered into a partnership which resulted in the return of the MLS SuperDraft to the NSCAA convention. This was a positive move, serving as it did to bridge the gap between youth/college soccer and the professional ranks at the top of the soccer pyramid.
In the draft, the MetroStars drafted four Project-40 players: Ricardo Clark, Mike Magee, Eddie Gaven and Jacob LeBlanc. D. C. United got three: Alecko Eskandarian (the #1 pick overall), David Stokes and Brian Carroll. San Jose nabbed Arturo Alvarez and Dallas got Jason Thompson. Overall, Los Angeles, Dallas and Los Angeles appeared to have gained the most from their picks. Chicago surprised many by taking Nate Jaqua, a project 40 player who had helped the U-23 team to 2nd place at the Yale do Tejo tournament in Portugal earlier in the year. The Fire followed with Damani Ralph of Connecticut.
A lot was expected from Columbus and Los Angeles, both of whom would return many of their key players. New England was expected to challenge for the Eastern title, with a strong returning crew buttressed by the returning Joe-Max Moore. But the MetroStars looked as if they would finally be assembling a team with more than ephemeral staying power, and might finally make their move towards a good playoff run. Things were a little less clear in the West where wholesale roster changes were taking place. Kansas City let go several veterans, but with Nick Garcia, Preki and Diego Gutierrez on the lines, the Wizards were not to be underrated. A close race was expected in this division. Many pundits dismissed San Jose and Colorado this season, given their past performances and the uncertain status of some of their mainstays, but as the season unfolded, these two teams surpassed everybody's expectations.
This was a year for comebacks and collapses in a league ridden with parity. Despite the surprises and disappointments (most teams defied expectations either for good or ill), there was not a great margin between the best and worst teams, and everyone was in the race for much of the season. Chicago entered the season with some trepidation - major turnovers had left it with the youngest roster in the league. But they discovered a goal mine in Damani Ralph, who led the Fire to the division title by a comfortable margin. New England had their usual strong start, terrible summer and quick catch-up spree at the end, but had to settle for 2nd place. The MetroStars were far happier with their climb into third. But Columbus fell well short of expectations, coming in well below .500. In the West, San Jose got off to a fast start and never looked back as they won the west by a wide margin. Colorado and Kansas City duked it out for second place. The other big disappointment was the total collapse of the Dallas Burn. Ironically, for many teams, their season performance was not all that critical, given that 8 of 10 teams still made the playoffs.
The playoff format was revamped this year to bring it more in line with FIFA norms. The first two rounds would be two-leg series with teams advancing on goals aggregate. MLS CUP 2003 would be a single match, as before. In the Eastern Conference, D. C. United and Chicago were matched up, as were the Revolution and MetroStars. Both New England and Chicago opened on the road, and scored the crucial first goals before the 20th minute. This game them a psychological advantage. United was desperate to catch up late in the first game, and committed too many players to the attack, allowing Razov to find the goal, and lead the Fire back home with a two goal advantage going into the other leg. The MetroStars out shot the Revolution, and got more corner kicks, but the Revolution were the ones to find the net. They too came home with a 2-0 advantage. Amado Guevara converted a penalty kick to tie game two 1-1, but they still could not figure out how they were going to score, so the Revolution took the series 3-1 on goals.
The best opening series was in the west where the Earthquakes, having dropped the first game 2-0, had come home only to give up two more goals in the first 13 minutes of Game 2. But in one of the most amazing rallies in league history, the Quakes scored five straight goals to take the game 5-2, and take the series 5-4. Kansas City and Colorado battled to a 1-1 draw in their first match, and on the 2nd leg, Kansas City found the net twice to advance. The Fire and New England fought an endless stalemate in the Eastern final, which was finally broken by Chris Armas's overtime goal in the 101st minute to give the Fire a ticket to the final. The Earthquakes repeated their western miracles as they twice came back from 1 goal deficits to defeat Kansas City 3-2 to gain a berth in the MLS Cup.
MLS Cup 2003 provided one thing dear to the heart of administrators and advertisers - goals. The San Jose Earthquake's 4-2 win over the Chicago Fire a study in contrasts - Landon Donovan vs. Ante Razov, Pat Onstead vs. Zach Thorton. Onstead and Thornton were virtually unstoppable. Razov & Company peppered the goal with 22 shots, but only landed one of them - an awkward-angle shot from Beasley that went to the near post beyond Onstead. Despite numerous runs by Ralph, Razov and Williams through the defensive line, nothing would get through. The Earthquakes took the lead six minutes into the game and never let it go. The Quakes were out shot 10-5 in the first half, yet led 2-0, courtesy of goals by Ronnie Ekelund and Landon Donovan. Beasley's goal came early in the second half, but Mulrooney chased down a long ball from Brian Mullen and found the net. An own goal cut the lead to one, and Donovan put the game away with a cutback run to send in a near-post-cross from Dwayne DeRosario for the final goal. The Earthquakes took the Cup 4-2. An amazing end to the season for the Earthquakes, who had limped into the playoffs on the tail of a four game season-sending losing streak.
Attendance was down slightly this year, to an average of 14,898 per game. But this was still substantially better than the league managed for many of their earlier seasons, and showed that 2002 was not a fluke. Late in the year, a decision on expansion was tentatively made, with new investors being awarded franchises in Cleveland and San Diego, the latter owned by Chivas of the Mexican League. Ultimately this announcement turned out to be premature, and the awards collapsed. Expansion would not finally be inaugurated until 2004.
Dallas regretted its ill-conceived move to the suburbs - the stadium was small and the field lumpy. the fans didn't want to drive the distance and the neighborhood was not excited about the team's presence. Having learned their lesson, the team moved back to the Cotton Bowl for 2004 while their new stadium was constructed. But the season was a good one - skills, attacking strategies, and burgeoning waves of new talent made for exciting games. A major coup after the end of the season was the announced signing of Freddy Adu, the 13 year old wunderkind who had starred in the U-17 World Cup. He would lace up for D. C. United in 2004. In a long overdue move, MLS began the first stage of negotiations with the new MLS Players Union towards the league's first collective bargaining agreement.
Official 2003 MLS Season Stats
Official MLS History Archives
Final 2003 Major League Soccer Standings GP W L D GF GA Pts Eastern Division Chicago Fire 30 15 7 8 53 43 53 New England Revolution 30 12 9 9 55 47 45 MetroStars 30 11 10 9 40 40 42 D. C. United 30 10 11 9 38 36 39 Columbus Crew 30 10 12 8 44 44 38 Western Division San Jose Earthquakes 30 14 7 9 45 35 51 Colorado Rapids 30 11 10 9 48 44 42 Kansas City Wizards 30 11 10 9 48 44 42 Los Angeles Galaxy 30 9 12 9 35 35 36 Dallas Burn 30 6 16 5 35 64 23 Quarterfinals: New England defeated MetroStars 2-0, 1-1 Chicago defeated D. C. United 2-0, 2-0 San Jose defeated Los Angeles 0-2, 5-2 Kansas City defeated Colorado 1-1, 2-0 Semi-finals: Chicago defeated New England 1-0 San Jose defeated Kansas City 3-2 MLS CUP 2003: San Jose defeated Chicago 4-2 LEADING SCORERS GP G A Pts Preki, Kansas City 30 12 17 41 Carlos Ruiz, Los Angeles 26 15 5 35 Taylor Twellman, New England 22 15 4 34 Ante Razov, Chicago 25 14 6 34 John Spencer, Colorado 27 14 5 33 Landon Donovan, San Jose 22 12 6 30 Mark Chung, Colorado 29 11 6 28 Damani Ralph, Chicago 25 11 6 28 Brian McBride, Columbus 24 12 3 27 Pat Noonan, New England 28 10 7 27 Edson Buddle, Columbus 21 10 4 24 Brian Mullan, San Jose 30 6 9 21 DaMarcus Beasley, Chicago 22 7 5 19 Marco Etchevarry, San Jose 25 6 7 19 Clint Mathis, MetroStars 22 9 1 19 GOALKEEPING LEADERS (Minimum 1200 minutes) MIN SHTS SVS C/P GA GAA Record SO Jonny Walker, MetroStars 1325 69 55 44 14 0.95 4-5-5 4 Pat Onstead, San Jose 2510 132 103 117 29 1.04 14-5-8 9 Nick Rimando, D. C. United 2318 129 100 71 29 1.13 10-9-6 7 Kevin Hartman, Los Angeles 2796 184 149 81 35 1.13 9-12-9 3 Zach Thornton, Chicago 2728 160 123 82 37 1.22 15-6-8 8 Tim Howard, MetroStars 1222 92 74 65 18 1.33 6-3-4 3 Adin Brown, New England 2347 132 95 115 37 1.42 11-6-8 4 Tony Meola, Kansas City 2789 165 121 82 44 1.42 11-10-9 4 Jon Busch, Columbus 2194 139 104 88 35 1.44 9-8-6 4 Scott Garlick, Colorado 2346 121 83 97 38 1.46 11-10-5 9
All-Star Game: For the first time, a MLS all-star team took on a visiting team - Guadalajara of Mexico. The game was held August 2, 2004 at Hope Depot stadium in Carson, CA. The youth movement extended here, as the young stars predominated: Taylor Twellman, Carlos Ruiz, Landon Donovan, Da Marcus Beasley, Carlos Boconegra, Clint Mathis, Tim Howard. Before a sellout crowd of 27,000, the US shook off a sluggish start to come alive in the 2nd half to pull out a 3-1 victory. Scoring for the US: Ante Razov, Carlos Ruiz and DaMarcus Beasley.
MLS Award Winners: Most Valuable Player: Preki, Kansas City Wizards Goal of the Year:: Damani Ralph, Chicago Fire Coach of the Year: Dave Sarachan, Chicago Fire Goalkeeper of the Year: Pat Onstead, San Jose Earthquakes Defender of the Year: Carlos Boconegra, Chicago Fire Rookie of the Year: Damani Ralph, Chicago Fire Scoring Champion: Preki, Kansas City Play of the Year: Carlos Ruiz, Los Angeles Galaxy Supporters' Shield Award: Chicago Fire Golden Boot Award: Carlos Ruiz (Los Angeles) and Taylor Twellman (New England) Fair Play Award: Brian McBride, Columbus Crew Referee of the Year: Brian Hall Humanitarian of the Year: Ben Olsen, D. C. United Comeback Player of the Year: Chris Armas, Chicago Fire Trainer of the Year: Jason Matthews, Chicago Fire Commissioner's Award: Ivan Gazidis Executive of the Year: Doug Hamilton, Los Angeles Galaxy Pepsi Best 11: G - Pat Onstad, San Jose Earthquakes D - Carlos Boconegra, Chicago Fire D - Eddie Pope, MetroStars D - Ryan Nelsen, D. C. United M - Mark Chung, Colorado Rapids M - Chris Armas, Chicago Fire M - Preki, Kansas City Wizards M - DaMarcus Beasley, Chicago Fire M - Landon Donovan, San Jose Earthquakes F - John Spencer, Colorado Rapids F - Ante Razov, Chicago Fire
The WUSA prepared for their 3rd season with the shadow of Womens World Cup 2003 looming. The Cup offered an unprecedented showcase to display the talent that had found their ways to the American shores, and the league looked for ways to promote the Cup and the league in tandem. It was expected that over 50 players from the league would be participating, including most of the biggest names.
Meanwhile, the league continued to struggle to maintain their finances and expand their television contract to two networks, recruit new sponsors and develop a collective bargaining agreement with the players. The TV contract was expanded to include ESPN2 for key games while PAX-TV continued with their weekly Saturday matches. The roster size was cut from 18 to 16 "active" players to reduce expenses. The league finally reached a collective bargaining agreement with the players, which included pay cuts for the top players; the new salary cap was $60,000 per player and $595,750 per team. Average salaries fell from $46,631 to $37,234. The salary cap as a result fell to less than 800,000. The WUSA continued to be the world's only fully professional women's soccer league, and after Fulham dropped to semi-pro status, there were no teams outside of the WUSA to retain professional status.
Several international stars were let go, in anticipation of these call-ups, including Philadelphia's Zhao Lihong of China, as well as Atlanta's Sun Wen and Washington's Pu Wei. Liu Ailing retired, and Liping Wang and Gao Hong were not re-signed, leaving just two of last year's nine Chinese stars remaining. Several new players from abroad were signed including Germany's Conny Pohlers (Atlanta) and Sandra Minnert (Washington. Cheryl Salisbury and Joanne Peters came up from Australia to join New York, and fellow Aussie Kelly Golebiowski joined Washington. Maribel Dominguez of Mexico came up from the W-League (as did Salisbury and Golebiowski) to play for Atlanta.
The WUSA draft was deep and full of talent. San Diego snagged National Team vet Aly Wagner from Santa Clara, New York got Christie Welch from Penn State, Philadelphia got Hope Solo from Washington, and Carolina drafted Breanna Boyd of Nebraska. Interestingly enough, no first round draft choice hailed from North Carolina. It was expected that despite the loss of several major international stars, the young talent coming in would help the league to continue to improve its overall quality of performance as it had done since the league's inception.
Perhaps the biggest question mark this season would be how the absence of major players during the run up to the Women's World Cup would affect the squads during their extended absences. Carolina had torn apart their roster despite winning the Founder's Cup, and made major changes designed to bolster their defense. Washington, who had also made enormous strides last season was expected to do well, having added depth to their already strong squad. Atlanta was perhaps the most improved squad, having added W-League MVP Mariel Dominguez to their already strong offensive line. Philadelphia was also expected to make a run for gold. The Charge, with their depth on both offense and defense were not as vulnerable to world cup preparations as many other teams. A strong draft and the acquisitions of Melanie Hoffman from Germany and Pavlina Scansa from the Czech Republic certainly wouldn't hurt. Only New York looked completely out of it. Having made few worthwhile changes, the Power were expected to again being up the rear.
All bets were off once the season started. After some early round jockeying for position, the race turned quite unpredictable. Washington Freedom exemplified this. Showing sudden strength, they would suddenly skid, recoup, then fall flat again before finishing up in a frustrating fourth place. The league did eventually sort itself into the haves and have-nots, with a notable gap separating the closely bunched playoff contenders and the similarly closely spaced also-rans. But what was unexpected was the makeup of these two camps. Boston and Atlanta fought to the end for the league title with Boston finally winning by a game. San Diego tied with Washington for third, winning via the tie breaker rules. Carolina and Philadelphia were the unexpected disappointments, while New York rose from the cellar to eke out a respectable (for them) 5th place finish.
Then the real surprise. In the playoffs, The Freedom battled the Breakers into overtime and penalty kicks, and prevailed 3-1, knocking off the #1 team. Atlanta had an easier time of it in eliminating San Diego, setting up a Founders Cup III match-up between the only two teams ever to lose in the Founder's Cup.
The Cup itself was largely Abby Wambach's game. Abby got things going with a sharp head shot into goal in the 7th minute to give Washington the lead and leading the charge as the Freedom put up strong charges against the implacable Beat defensive line. Charmaine Hooper equalized for Atlanta in stoppage play, taking a penalty shot after Jacqui Little tripped Leslie Gaston as she was taking aim on the Freedom goal. In the second half, Mexican star Maribel Dominguez came on for Atlanta, and their offense came to life and took the initiative during the second half. Things looked well in hand for the Beat as they launched drive after drive, with Brianna Scurry easily parrying the Freedom attacks. Into overtime the match went and finally Abby Wambach broke away and closed in on the Atlanta goal, with Nancy Augustnyak hot on her heels. Augustyniak dove on Wambach just as she reached the semicircle. Wambach needless to say did not keep possession of the ball, but Augustyniak didn't get it either, so the red card came out. Mia Hamm's free kick struck the crossbar and fell into Scurry's hands. The Beat pushed forward aggressively, but were not one player short. Dominguez lost the ball to Zinny at midfield. After some quick passing, Wambach and Hamm were racing to the Atlanta posts, while Jacqui Little passed on to Meier. Meier crossed to Wambach who slid and knocked the ball into the net to give Washington the Cup.
Unfortunately, despite the exciting season, attendance remained flat (total attendance 560,009, for an average of 6,667 per game, a 4.3% drop), and television ratings were still very low. The finances were in dire straits, and with the failure to secure new investment, the WUSA stunned the soccer world in the fall when it announced that operations would cease. This was highly unfortunate, the announcement coming just before the start of the Women's World Cup. It had been hoped the WWC would provide a needed spark of interest that could improve the WUSA's fortunes, but they simply could not hold out any longer. There was a glimmer of hope however, the league was merely going into mothballs while it worked on a plan to secure additional investors. That way it could eventually re-launch in a couple of years. Meanwhile the plan was for a limited tournament to take place in the summers of 2004 and 2005 between players representing some of the WUSA teams, to keep interest alive until such time as the league could be relaunched.
Final 2003 Women's United Soccer Association Standings 2003 GP W L D GF GA PTS Boston Breakers 21 10 4 7 33 29 37 Atlanta Beat 21 9 4 8 34 19 35 San Diego Spirit 21 8 6 7 27 26 31 Washington Freedom 21 9 8 4 40 31 31 New York Power 21 7 9 5 33 43 26 San Jose CyberRays 21 7 10 4 23 30 25 Carolina Courage 21 7 10 4 31 33 25 Philadelphia Charge 21 5 11 5 30 40 20 Semifinals: Washington defeated Boston 0-0 (3-1 PK) Atlanta defeated San Diego, 2-1 FOUNDER’S CUP: Washington defeated Atlanta 2-1 LEADING SCORERS: GP G A Pts Mia Hamm, Washington 19 11 11 33 Abby Wambach, Washington 18 13 7 33 Marinette Pichon, Philadelphia 18 14 3 31 Danny Mellgren, Boston 20 14 2 30 Charmaine Hooper, Atlanta 21 11 7 29 Maren Meinert, Boston 21 9 10 28 Julie Fleeting, San Diego 18 11 4 26 Birgit Prinz, Carolina 20 11 3 25 Danielle Fotopoulos, Carolina 12 7 6 20 Maribel Dominguez, Atlanta 18 7 4 18 LEADING GOALKEEPERS: GP GA GAA TBA WUSA Award Winners: Most Valuable Player: Maren Minert, Boston Breakers Defensive Player of the Year: Joy Fawcett, San Diego Spirit Goalkeeper of the Year: Brianna Scurry, Atlanta Beat Coach of the Year: Pia Sundbage, Boston Breakers Rookie of the Year: Christie Latham, San Diego Spirit Referee of the Year: Terry Vaughn Humanitarian Award: Jenny Benson, Philadelphia Charge Team Community Service Award: San Jose CyberRays Team Fair Play Award: Philadelphia Charge Executive of the Year: Joe Cummings, Boston Breakers WUSA Global 11: G - Briana Scurry, Atlanta D - Joy Fawcett, San Diego D - Jen Grubb, Washington D - Sharolta Nonen, Atlanta M - Shannon Boxx, New York M - Mia Hamm, Washington M - Kristine Lilly, Boston M - Homare Sawa, Atlanta F - Maren Meinert, Boston F - Dagny Mellgren, Boston F - Abby Wambach, Washington
The player agreement between MLS and USL expired, ending USL's role as a developmental league. The most immediate effect was the lack of USL players in the MLS draft. The D3Pro League was renamed the Pro Select League, but lost several western teams, shrinking to 13 teams. Those other teams left to help form the new Men's Premier Soccer League which launched this spring. The PDL expanded to its largest size yet, and the A-League contracted somewhat to consolidate its strengths. The league brought its point system in line with the world, adopting 3 points for a win, 1 for a loss and 0 for a draw.
Final 2003 USL standings and playoff results
Final 2003 W-League standings and playoff results
The defunct Milwaukee Rampage were replaced by the MISL's Milwaukee Wave who joined the circuit as Milwaukee Wave United. The Syracuse Salty Dogs were added as an expansion team. Seattle and El Paso made risky moves, jumping to large football stadiums, as the A-League endeavored to resolve some stadium issues in various cities. The Sounders had drawn 25,000 fans to a game in 2002, the first game ever played at the new Seahawks Stadium and they didn't mind getting away from the atrocious Astroturf field at Memorial Stadium. Several teams were sharing stadia with minor league baseball franchises, but Rochester began construction on their new 17,500 seat PaeTec Park, which they expected to sell out.
Some major players made their way down from MLS this season. Jamar Beasley, DeMarcus's older brother, signed with the Charleston Battery, longtime Nat Roy Lassiter signed with the newly renamed Virginia Mariners, MISL indoor scoring leader Dino Delevski signed with Milwaukee Wave United, and Rochester signed Mac Cozier. Danny Jackson, late of NCAA Champ North Carolina landed a spot with the Seattle Sounders.
The big winner of 2003 was the Montreal Impact, who came out on top of the Northeast division after a season-long three way battle with Rochester and Pittsburgh. Throughout the league, there was remarkably little change in the standings as compared with 2002. The strong remained strong and the weak didn't progress. But there were close and exciting races in all divisions. the new Milwaukee franchise picked up where the Rampage left off, to beast Minnesota by a single point, whole Charleston and Seattle repeated their triumphs of a year ago. The one big success story was the remarkable turnaround of the Virginia Beach Mariners, who were clearly reinvigorated by their new ownership.
The playoffs were closely fought. Charleston put an end to Virginia Beach's comeback, and Rochester reclaimed the initiative with an upset series win over Montreal. Minnesota lost to Milwaukee 1-0 but then defeated them 2-0 in the 2nd leg to win on goal aggregate. Seattle played Vancouver through two draws before dispatching them 6-5 on penalty kicks. In the championship match, the Charleston Battery finally claimed their first title. The Battery had been the league's most successful team for the past six seasons, with regular season prowess and strong rosters, as well as notable success in the U. S. Open Cup, but always faltered in the playoffs. But with the addition of ex-MLS talent, including Ted Chronopoulos and Josh Henderson of the Richmond Kickers, the Battery was unstoppable this season, and finally won the gold.
Despite the slight loss of franchises, the A-League attendance jumped to 887,191 fans for an average of 3,335 per game, up from 3,034 in 2002. This was the result primarily of the continued support from Rochester (10,100 fans per game), and the amazing growth of attendance in Montreal and Portland. And the future looked very promising. Montreal was poised for even more growth in 2004, Syracuse debuted as the 3rd best drawing team in the league (nearly 7,000 fans per game), and a high degree of interest was greeting the expansion clubs planned for Puerto Rico and Edmonton. Add to this the expected opening of a 17,000 seat soccer-specific stadium in Rochester (which is expected to play to sellout crowds once it opens). It appeared the A-League was finally ready for sustained growth. The only source of concern was the continuing troubles of some weaker teams (Pittsburgh in fact was relegated to the PSL after the season).
Final A-League Standings, 2003 Before the season, Syracuse and Milwaukee Wave United were added. Hampton Roads became Virginia Beach. During the season, Calgary was taken over by the league and renamed Team Calgary. GP W L D GF GA Pts EASTERN CONFERENCE Northeast Division Montreal Impact 28 16 6 6 40 21 54 Rochester Raging Rhinos 28 15 7 6 55 36 51 Pittsburgh Riverhounds 28 15 9 4 50 41 49 Syracuse Salty Dogs 28 11 12 5 42 38 38 Toronto Lynx 28 11 13 4 29 38 37 Southeast Division Charleston Battery 28 15 6 7 41 27 52 Virginia Beach Mariners 28 14 9 5 51 34 47 Richmond Kickers 28 12 9 7 41 32 43 Charlotte Eagles 28 6 15 7 29 59 25 Atlanta Silverbacks 28 4 17 7 27 48 19 WESTERN CONFERENCE Central Division Milwaukee Wave United 28 18 10 0 61 32 54 Minnesota Thunder 28 17 9 2 44 28 53 El Paso Patriots 28 9 16 3 33 48 30 Cincinnati Riverhawks 28 9 19 0 38 62 24 Indiana Blast 28 3 23 2 28 67 11 Pacific Division Seattle Sounders 28 16 7 5 45 24 53 Vancouver Whitecaps 28 15 6 7 45 24 52 Portland Timbers 28 15 11 2 39 33 47 Calgary Storm 28 4 21 3 16 62 15 Division Finals: Rochester defeated Montreal 2-1, 0-0 Charleston defeated Virginia Beach 0-1, 4-1 Minnesota defeated Milwaukee 0-1, 2-0 Seattle defeated Vancouver 0-0, 1-1 (6-5 PK) Conference Finals: Minnesota defeated Seattle 1-0, 1-0 Charleston defeated Rochester 1-0, 0-0 CHAMPIONSHIP: Charleston defeated Minnesota 3-0 After the season, Pittsburgh and Charlotte were demoted to the PSL. El Paso and Indiana were demoted to the PDL. Cincinnati and Calgary folded. Leading Scorers: GP G A PTS Thiago Martins, Pittsburgh 25 22 7 51 Doug Miller, Rochester 28 17 4 38 Dante Washington, Virg Bch 26 18 1 37 Greg Howes, Milwaukee 28 11 12 34 Todd Dusosky, Milwaukee 26 11 7 29 Richard Aguilera, Virg. Bch 26 10 9 29 Kevin Jeffrey, Richmond 27 10 9 29 Josh Henderson, Charleston 20 10 5 25 Byron Alvarez, Portland 21 12 1 25 McKinley Tennyson, Portland 27 11 3 25 Lourencio Andrade, El Paso 20 9 4 22 Dino Delevski, Milwaukee 23 8 6 22 Goalkeeping Leaders: (Min 1000 minutes) GP MIN GA GAA Greg Sutton, Montreal 26 2463 20 0.73 Rich Cullen, Seattle 19 1814 15 0.74 Michael Franks, Vancouver 22 2111 18 0.77 Dusty Huddock, Charleston 23 2083 20 0.86 Josh Saunders, Portland 16 1493 15 0.90 Joseph Warren, Minnesota 25 2318 25 0.97 Ronnie Pascale, Richmond 24 2261 28 1.11 Billy Andracki, Rochester 26 2457 34 1.25 Jim Larkin, Milwaukee 20 1710 24 1.26 Joseph Larson, Virginia Beach 18 1695 24 1.27 A-League Award Winners: Most Valuable Player: Thiago Martins, Pittsburgh Riverhounds Goalkeeper of the Year: Greg Sutton, Montreal Impact Defender of the Year: Gabe Gervais, Montreal Impact Rookie of the Year: David Testo, Richmond Kickers Coach of the Year: Bob Lilley, Montreal Impact All A-League Team: G - Greg Sutton, Montreal Impact D - Gabe Gervais, Montreal Impact D - Danny Jackson, Seattle Sounders D - John Wilson, Charleston Battery M - Roland Aguilera, Virginia Beach Mariners M - Marco Fernuzzi, Richmond Kickers M - Andrew Gregor, Seattle Sounders M - Ricardo Villar, Pittsburgh Riverhounds F - Thiago Martins, Pittsburgh Riverhounds F - Doug Miller, Rochester Ragin' Rhinos F - Dante Washington, Virginia Beach Mariners
This was a crisis year for the 3rd division. A long simmering dispute among clubs and league management led to the wholesale defection of west coast teams from the league, who formed their own independent circuit, the Men's Professional Soccer League. USL renamed their 3rd division entity the Pro Select League and reorganized all the teams into four regional alignments of three teams each. Although the league was greatly reduced in size, what remained were the strongest clubs, many with a long history of success in league and postseason play. Seven of the teams had reached the final at least once.
With such a strong lineup, 2003 proved to be an exciting, competitive season. There were some surprises in the east. New Hampshire had a renaissance, going from 4-13 to 11-7 and capturing the Northern Region title. Carolina returned to their championship form of old, with the best regular season performance in the league, at 14-2. Utah and Long Island repeated their divisional titles of 2002.
The playoffs were another surprise, as three of the divisional champs were knocked out in the two leg regional finals. Only Utah passed onto the semifinals, after stunning upsets by Westchester, Wilmington and New Jersey. Wilmington extended their comeback by defeating Utah in the semifinals, becoming the first team to reach the finals twice in the past six years. Westchester battled New Jersey to a 3-3 tie before finally prevailing in penalty kicks.
The championship was played before a rain-drenched crowd of 4,000, where the Westchester Flames and Wilmington Hammerheads in a great match-up. Deadlocked at 1-1, the two teams battled into double overtime, when finally Junior Karate passed to Joey Johnson for the game winner.
The season wasn't over for Wilmington however. The Hammerheads were in the midst of an amazing run in the U. S. open Cup. Wilmington defeated the Bradenton Academics of the PDL2-1, and followed with an upset over the A-League's Atlanta Silverbacks. In their fourth round match, Wilmington pulled off the shocker of the tournament when they defeated the MLS's Dallas Burn to advance to the quarterfinals. Alas, the run came to an end there, as they held the strong D. C. United squad scoreless for 30 minutes and fought gamely on before finally succumbing 1-0.
Attendance was down markedly, due primarily to the loss of the west coast teams to the MPSL. Total attendance was 120,847 for the season, a substantial drop explained by the loss of several teams to the MPSL. But per game average attendance was up substantially to 999 per game.
Final 2003 Pro Select League Standings GP W L D GF GA Pts Northern Region New Hampshire Phantoms 20 11 7 2 32 22 35 Westchester Flames 20 11 9 0 36 40 33 Western Mass. Pioneers 20 8 11 1 43 35 25 Atlantic Region Long Island Rough Riders 20 13 4 3 41 21 42 New Jersey Stallions 20 9 9 2 36 32 29 New York Freedoms (-1) 20 8 6 6 30 28 29 Reading Rage 20 5 15 0 24 59 15 Southern Region Carolina Dynamo 20 14 2 4 45 16 46 Wilmington Hammerheads 20 11 6 3 43 33 36 North. Virginia Royals (-1) 20 6 13 1 20 34 18 Western Region Utah Blitzz 20 12 5 3 46 20 39 California Gold 20 11 6 3 39 30 36 San Diego Gauchos 20 3 16 1 19 49 10 Regional Finals Westchester defeated New Hampshire, 3-0, 2-3 Wilmington defeated Carolina 1-1 (2 OT), 2-0 Utah defeated California 1-0 New Jersey defeated Long Island 0-0 (5-4 PK) Semi-finals: Westchester defeated New Jersey 3-3 (3-0 PK) Wilmington defeated Utah 2-1 CHAMPIONSHIP: Wilmington defeated Westchester 2-1 (2 OT) After the season, Reading, New Jersey and Carolina were demoted to the PDL. New York folded. Top Scorers: GP G A Pts Rob Jachym, Western Mass 20 14 6 34 Anthony Bussard, California 18 12 3 27 Julio Cesar Dos Santos, New York 20 11 2 24 Bjorn Hansen, New Hampshire 17 9 5 23 Derrick Etienne, Long Island 18 10 3 23 Evaud Thompson, Westchester 17 10 2 22 Todd (TJ) Rolfing, Carolina 13 9 2 20 Abiodun (Mike) Adeyemi, Carolina 17 9 2 20 Glenn Murray, Wilmington 17 7 6 20 Federico Molinari, Western Mass 20 7 5 19 Leading Goalkeepers: (Min 900 minutes) GP Min G GAA Chad Sackett, Utah 17 1300 10 0.69 Chris Robinson, Carolina 19 1796 16 0.81 Billy Gatti, Long Island 18 1737 16 0.83 William Platz, Wilmington 12 1015 10 0.89 Nathaniel Tickner, New York 15 1495 16 0.96 Carlos Debrito, New Jersey 12 1163 19 1.47 Mark Torguson, California 17 1589 26 1.47 Matt Henson, Northern Virginia 18 1659 31 1.68 Daniel Pires, Western Mass 13 1143 22 1.73 Sherwood, Greg, Reading 12 953 26 2.46 Most Valuable Player: Rob Jachym, Western Mass Pioneers Goalkeeper of the Year: Chad Sackett, Utah Blitzz Defender of the Year: David Palmer, Carolina Dynamo Rookie of the Year: Anthony Bussard, California Gold Coach of the Year: Joe Brown, Carolina Dynamo
There were some surprises in the conference finals, with Orange County upsetting Fresno in the West, and Cape Cod knocking off Vermont in the East. Chicago surged as expected, eliminating Mid-Michigan and Memphis defeating New Orleans. In the semi-finals, experience prevailed as Cape Cod defeated Memphis 4-0 and Chicago beat Orange County 3-1. In the final, Cape Cod got the crown, knocking off Chicago 2-0. Attendance was up to 211,489, or 526 fans per game.
Final 2003 PDL standings and playoff results
Most Valuable Player: Tomas Baltner, Des Moines Top Scorer: Bo Vukovic, Vermont; Joseph Ngwenya, Cape Cod Goalkeeper of the Year: John O'Hara, Richmond Defender of the Year: Jose Luis Delgadillo, Fresno Rookie of the Year: Eric Vasquez, Central Florida Coach of the Year: Kenny Farrell, New Orleans
The W-League retrenched somewhat this year, retaining its divisional layout, but dropping ten of its weaker teams to continue as a 25-team circuit. A new franchise, the Columbus Shooting Stars was added. In the regular season, New Jersey Stallions and the Hampton Road Piranhas enjoyed resurgences, capturing their divisional titles, while the Boston Renegades continued their dominance in the North. Chicago Cobras won their division almost by default - all they had to do was maintain their form; both teams who finished ahead of them in 2002 had folded. Vancouver underwent a name change, but maintained their hold in the far west.
The playoffs produced some surprises, what with Boston getting bounced out in the first round, and New Jersey and Vancouver losing in the semifinals. It clearly was risky to win a division title this year. Except if one was Chicago or Hampton Roads. In the championship match, Hampton Roads concluded an undefeated season by knocking off Chicago in a nail-biter of a 1-0 victory. Despite many shots from both sides, the game went into extra time without a score until finally Janet Davis sent a shot off the goalpost right to Nigerian National Mercy Akide who landed the goal to give the Piranhas their first league championship.
Attendance in the W-League totaled 84,235 for a 398 per game average, a noticeable drop from last season. There was speculation on what impact the demise of the WUSA would have on the W-League, and it was expected that even if new teams didn't sprout up in old WUSA cities, then a substantial number of players would make their way over to continue their careers.
2003 W-League Final League Standings and Playoff ResultsBefore the season, Columbus was added. Vancouver became the Whitecaps Women. GP W L D GF GA BP Pts EASTERN CONFERENCE Northeast Division New Jersey Lady Stallions 14 11 3 0 36 11 33 Long Island Lady Riders 14 9 5 0 35 21 27 New Jersey Wildcats 14 7 7 0 29 20 21 New York Magic 14 7 7 0 33 25 21 South Jersey Banshees (-3) 14 1 13 0 8 48 0 Northern Division Boston Renegades 14 13 0 1 60 5 40 Ottawa Fury 14 11 2 1 61 9 34 Toronto Inferno 14 6 7 1 32 31 19 New Hampshire Lady Phantoms 14 3 11 0 21 53 9 Rochester Ravens 14 0 13 1 4 96 1 CENTRAL CONFERENCE Atlantic Division Hampton Roads Piranhas 12 12 0 0 33 5 36 Charlotte Lady Eagles 12 9 3 0 35 11 27 Northern Virginia Majestics 12 5 7 0 16 21 15 Asheville Splash 12 3 9 0 14 24 9 Greensboro Twisters 12 2 10 0 8 34 6 Midwest Division Chicago Cobras 12 10 1 1 33 8 31 Northern Kentucky TC Stars 12 5 5 2 16 21 17 Columbus Lady Shooting Stars 12 4 5 3 11 15 15 Cincinnati Ladyhawks 12 4 7 1 12 17 13 Windy City Bluez 12 3 8 1 18 29 10 WESTERN CONFERENCE Vancouver Whitecaps Women 12 10 1 1 51 10 31 Seattle Sounders Women 12 8 3 1 35 8 25 Denver Lady Cougars 12 6 4 2 36 24 20 Arizona Heatwave 12 6 6 0 21 24 18 Fort Collins Force 12 3 8 1 16 39 10 Mile High Mustangs 12 0 11 1 5 62 1 Conference Semi-Finals Charlotte defeated Northern Virginia, 4-1 Chicago defeated Northern Kentucky, 9-1 Ottawa defeated Boston, 3-2 New Jersey defeated Long Island, 4-2 Quarterfinals: Chicago defeated Charlotte 3-1 Ottawa defeated New Jersey, 4-2 Seattle defeated Vancouver, 2-2 (3-1 PK) Semifinals: Hampton Roads defeated Seattle, 4-1 Chicago defeated Ottawa, 3-0 3rd Place: Seattle defeated Ottawa, 4-1 CHAMPIONSHIP: Hampton Roads defeated Chicago, 1-0 After the season, Northern Kentucky folded. Leading Scorers: GP G A Pts Jeanette Akerlund, Ottawa 14 14 4 32 Kelly Parker, Ottawa 14 13 6 32 Carrie Kveton, Boston 14 13 6 31 Phebe Trotman, Vancouver 11 13 2 28 Jessica Reifer, New York 10 10 4 24 Noel Meeke, New York 13 10 2 23 Mary Everett, Denver 11 10 2 22 Carolyn Theurer, Denver 12 8 6 22 Stacey Stocco, Boston 14 8 5 21 Mercy Akide, Hampton Roads 14 8 3 18 Amy Vermuelen, Ottawa 14 8 3 19 Leading Goalkeepers: (Min 750 minutes) GP MIN GA GAA Meredith Flaherty, Hampton Roads 10 794 2 0.23 Taryn Swiatek, Ottawa 10 875 4 0.41 Meghan Frye, Boston 12 1051 5 0.43 Molly Schneider, Chicago 11 855 6 0.63 Shannon O'Brien-Monti, Chicago 10 804 6 0.67 Meghan Miller, Seattle 9 804 5 0.69 Erin McLeod, Vancouver 7 650 5 0.69 Allison Vespa, New Jersey W 6 557 5 0.81 Emily Haynam, Columbus 9 822 9 0.99 Sarah Allen, New Jersey LS 11 1004 11 0.99 W-League Award Winners: Most Valuable Player: Phebe Trotman, Vancouver Goalkeeper (all-star team): Meredith Flaherty, Hampton Roads Rookie of the Year: Stacy Stocco, Boston Defender of the Year: Fanta Cooper, Chicago Coach of the Year: Mike Nesci, Chicago
The Super Y League continued to grow in 2003, with an ever-increasing number of clubs becoming affiliated Major League Soccer, USL and the W-League, as well as the Major Indoor Soccer League. One of their most famous graduates was Freddy Adu, the 13 year old phenom who was getting attention at the national level through his exploits on the U-17 and U-20 national teams.
The Super-Y league was finally awarded the ability to conduct official Olympic Development Program events. From now on the Super Y finals would be an official scouting event. The league developed its ODP identification system and laid the groundwork for their first regional identification weekends to take place in early 2004. The league also began to encourage its clubs to establish senior clubs in the PDL and W-league to allow their players to continue their development into college.
The Men's premier Soccer League was formed in the aftermath of a dispute between the west coast teams of USL's D3Pro league and the league administration. Long-simmering frustrations led the Northern Nevada Aces, Arizona Sahuaros and Chico Rooks to leave USL's organization. They were joined by three new teams to form the new MPSL, which was dedicated to provide quality competition in a regional setting. The first season came off successfully, with plans for expansion in 2004. Two of the former USL teams found their form and performed strongly, but the expansion Utah Salt Ratz surprised everybody by besting the competition and winning the MPSL's first regular season championship. Arizona and Utah prevailed in the playoff semifinals, but in the final it was experience over newcomer bravado, and the veteran Suaharos defeated Utah Salt Ratz in a closely fought game, 2-1.
2003 MPSL league StandingsGP W L D GF GA Pts Utah Salt Ratz 15 12 3 0 44 19 36 Chico Rooks 14 11 3 0 34 17 33 Arizona Suaharos 15 8 6 1 30 22 25 Northern Nevada Aces 15 4 8 3 20 30 15 Tucson Tiburons 15 4 10 1 16 36 13 Las Vegas Strikers 15 2 10 3 23 40 9 Semifinals: Arizona defeated Chico, 1-0 Utah defeated Northern Nevada, 9-0 FINAL: Arizona defeated Utah 2-1 Top scorers: Goals KC Nordfors, Utah 13 Pio Paul, Chico 8 Luiz Araujo, Arizona 6 Adam Acosta, Utah 6 Jesus Ruiz, Arizona 5 Manoe Coelho, Arizona 5 Bret Shimizu, Utah 5 Arturo Barragan, Chico 5 Most Valuable Player: KC Nordfors, Utah MPSL All-Star Team: G Dominic Jakubek, Chico D Shawn Watson, Arizona D Ryan Hansen, Utah D Brandon Kaplan, Chico M Jacob Huber, Utah M Joao Macedo, Chico M Carlos Campos, Northern Nevada F Luis Araujo, Arizona F Manuel Coelho, Arizona F Arturo Barragan, Chico
The World Indoor Soccer League was folded into the Major Indoor Soccer League this year. It was not much of a merger, rather, the San Diego Sockers, Dallas Sidekicks and St. Louis Steamers moved over to the MISL, and the remaining teams, along with the WISL league itself folded outright. St. Louis sat out the 2002-03 season to reorganize, while the other two teams started play in 2002-03. Each goal was one point regardless of what part of the field it was scored from. Cleveland revived a traditional nickname, becoming the new Cleveland Force, reviving memories from the original MISL glory days. The dormant Detroit and Toronto teams were folded. The schedule was cut back slightly, to 38 games, to reduce some of the schedule congestion which produced a large number of poorly attended midweek games. In a welcome move, the MISL officially joined the United States Soccer Federation, receiving sanctioning as the official professional indoor soccer league of the USA. The MISL also signed a two year broadcast deal with Fox Sports World, which featured a "game of the week" telecast every Friday during the season.
With eight teams participating, the league was split back into two divisions. The Philadelphia Kixx came roaring out of the starting gate winning their first 15 home games, a franchise record. The Kixx went on to win the Eastern division crown with a 24-12 record. In the west, the Milwaukee Wave were simply unstoppable, surging ahead to finish a league best 28-9 for the Western title. Cleveland and Kansas City finished second in their respective divisions, while the newly joined Sockers and Sidekicks struggled as they adjusted to the new style of play and rebuilt their rosters, finishing 3rd and last in the west. Harrisburg finished their second consecutive season in the cellar and after the season, announced they were taking a year off to recoup.
In the playoffs, Baltimore and Kansas City advanced to the conference finals. Baltimore upset Philadelphia in a close match to take the Eastern Division title, and Milwaukee defeated Kansas City in a nail-biter to take the West. The championship series matched up two teams used to taking it all, and the series was close. Baltimore took the first game 19-12, but the Wave rebounded, to take the next two games, 15-12 and 13-12 to take the league championship.
Attendance was up slightly, to 783,289 for an average of 5,440 per game. Dallas made an impressive debut, at 7,840 per game. On March 23, the legendary Tatu played in his final game before nearly 9,000 enthusiastic Dallas fans. After the season, the league implements some rule changes, borrowed from the WISL and original MISL, including the elimination of 2 and 3 point goals. From now on, each goal would be 1 point.
Final MISL 2002-2003 Standings Before the season, San Diego and Dallas joined from the defunct WISL. Cleveland was renamed the Force. GP W L PCT GB GF GA Eastern Division Philadelphia Kixx 38 24 12 .667 -- 406 367 Cleveland Force 38 19 17 .528 5.00 388 428 Baltimore Blast 38 18 18 .500 6.00 394 395 Harrisburg Heat 38 15 21 .417 9.00 423 460 Western Division Milwaukee Wave 38 28 9 .778 -- 505 317 Kansas City Comets 38 17 19 .472 11.00 495 473 San Diego Sockers 38 14 22 .389 14.00 361 448 Dallas Sidekicks 38 9 27 .250 19.00 342 427 Conference semi-finals: Baltimore defeated Cleveland, 16-13. Kansas City defeated San Diego, 13-11. Conference finals: Milwaukee defeated Kansas City 20-19 Baltimore defeated Philadelphia, 8-6. FINALS: Baltimore defeated Milwaukee, 12-19, 15-12, 13-12. After the season, Harrisburg went inactive for the 2003-04 season. Leading scorers: GP 3PG 2PG AST PTS Dino Delevski, Kansas City 32 8 42 32 140 Carlos Farias, San Diego 35 9 28 28 111 Gregory Howes, Milwaukee 36 4 37 16 102 Joe Reininger, Milwaukee 32 8 27 22 100 Nino DaSilva, Kansas City 33 4 33 16 94 Todd Dusosky, Milwaukee 35 2 21 42 90 David Bascome, Harrisburg 36 2 38 8 90 Ato Leone, Harrisburg 36 1 27 30 87 David Doyle, Dallas 35 6 23 21 85 Giuliano Oliviero, Cleveland 36 1 31 16 81 Denison Cabral, Baltimore 36 3 25 16 72 Genoni Martinez, Harrisburg 35 6 20 19 77 Nate Houser, Kansas City 34 2 25 16 72 Marco Coria, Harrisburg 34 2 18 30 72 Chris Stathopoulos, Cleveland 36 0 27 17 71 Leading Goalkeepers: (min. 1140 minutes) GPI MIN SF SV 3PG 2PG PTS W L AVG Victor Nogueira, Milwaukee 28 1699:35 440 340 12 88 212 25 3 7.48 Peter Pappas, Philadelphia 30 1703:26 483 349 14 120 282 18 9 9.93 Scott Hileman, Baltimore 21 1242:19 378 278 13 87 213 10 11 10.29 Sagu, Dallas 32 1770:01 534 387 17 130 311 7 23 10.54 Doug Petras, Harrisburg 16 970:46 319 236 7 76 173 7 7 10.69 Nick Vorberg, San Diego 25 1374:05 427 310 11 106 245 9 15 10.70 Paolo Ceccarelli, Kansas City 31 1813:40 683 518 14 151 344 17 11 11:38 Jim Lakin, Cleveland 35 2021:41 713 527 18 168 390 19 16 11.57
All-Star Game: On March 9, 2003, the West defeated the East 20-13 before a crowd of 8,429 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Scoring Summary: 1st quarter: Zotinca, (West) 11:14 (3 pt); Ball (East) 11:38 (2 pt); Develski (West) 12:31 (2 pt). 2nd quarter: Wakefield (East) 1:35 (2 pt); To. Dususky (West) 8:19 (2 pt). 3rd quarter: Delevski (West) 2:58 (2 pt); Wakefield (East) 8:08 (2 pt); Ackah (West) 8:44 (3 pt). 4th quarter: Morris (East) 3:15 (2 pt); Martinez (East) 6:50 (2 pt); Martinez (East) 9:48 (3 pt); Delevski (West) 13:01 (3 pt); To. Dusosky (West) 14:48 (2 pt); Da Silva (West) 14:56 (3 pt). MVP: Dino Delevski, Kansas City.
Most Valuable Player: Dino Delevski, Kansas City Comets Goalkeeper of the Year: Victor Nogueira, Milwaukee Wave Coach of the Year: Keith Tozer, Milwaukee Wave Defender of the Year: Genoni Martinez, Harrisburg Heat Rookie of the Year: P. J. Wakefield, Baltimore Blast First All-MISL Team: F - Joe Reininger, Milwaukee Wave F - Greg Howes, Milwaukee Wave F - Dino Delevski, Kansas City Comets D - Sean Bowers, Baltimore Blast D - Genoni Martinez, Harrisburg Heat G - Victor Nogueira, Milwaukee Wave
ChampionsWorld, a marketing firm created by former MetroStars GM Charlie Stillitano set out to revive this tradition in 2003 and succeeded admirably. Stillitano knew from his years of experience that the many varied soccer constituencies in the United States would come out in droves for "big events", and what better event to attract them than to bring six of the biggest clubs in the world over for a series of matches in major cities across the country? He signed up an attractive set of teams: Manchester United (England), Celtic (Scotland), Boca Juniors (Argentina), Barcelona (Spain), Juventus (Italy), Club America (Mexico), A. C. Milan (Italy). This would be somewhat different than the historical tours: Each team would play 1-4 matches against each other, not against MLS teams or all-star squads. And they would be forced to bring their full rosters, not a couple stars with the second string. Games would be held New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, Cleveland, Boston and Washington. The fan response was overwhelming, with some games selling out within hours. One sour note occurred in mid-June when Manu's star David Beckham was sold to Real Madrid, but that didn't stop the enthusiasm; people came to see the teams, not the stars.
Manchester United dominated the games, shutting out Celtic 4-0 in Seattle and Club America 3-1 at the Rose Bowl. The match against Juventus at Giants Stadium was a homecoming for former MetroStars goalkeeper Tim Howard. He shone in the 4-1 victory to the cheers of his former fans. ManU completed their sweep at Philadelphia, where, in the first sporting event ever held at new Lincoln Financial Field, they flattened Barcelona 3-1. In other action, Barcelona battled Juventus to a 2-2 draw at Foxboro and defeated A. C. Milan 2-0 in Washington, and Celtic edged past Boca Juniors before a slight crowd of 20,000+ at Cleveland.
All in all, over 368,000 fans turned out for the tour, proving once again that US fans will come out for a big event. It also pointed out a dilemma facing US Soccer and Major league Soccer: There is strong support for many famous clubs due to the easily availability of quality soccer matches on television. But this does not translate into support for MLS, a major priority for growing the game domestically. As Paul Gardner pointed out, this is not necessarily due to lack of quality in MLS which by 2003 had attained a respectable competitive level, as illustrated by its increasing role as a breeding ground for the burgeoning new talent making its way to overseas leagues. It is rather due to a lack of adequate promotion, and efforts to integrate MLS into the local communities and into the hearts of the average US soccer fan. The MLS lost a major opportunity by failing to organize such a tour on their own, and much work remained to be done to turn some of the "big event" fans into regular connoisseurs of the homegrown game.
Championsworld Series: July 22, 2003 through August 3, 2003:
7/22/03 Manchester United 4, Celtic 0 (at Seattle; att: 66,772) 7/25/03 Celtic 1, Boca Juniors 0 (at Cleveland; att: 20,842) 7/27/03 Barcelona 2, Juventus 2 (at Foxboro, MA; att: 30,192) 7/27/03 Manchester United 3, Club America 1 (at Los Angeles; att: 57,365) 7/30/03 Barcelona 2, A. C. Milan 0 (at Washington; att: 45,864) 7/31/03 Manchester United 4, Juventus 1 (at East Rutherford, NJ; att: 79,005) 8/3/03 Manchester United 3, Barcelona 1 (at Philadelphia; att: 68,396) (concurrent match: Italian Super-Cup) 8/3/03 AC Milan 5, Juventus 3 (at East Rutherford, NJ; att: 54,128)
Although the World Cup qualifying rounds were more than a year off, the US had a full plate this year, with the Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup on tap, to say nothing of the U-17 and U-20 World Youth Championships.
In December 2002, Bruce Arena signed a new four year contract to head the Senior team. Arena was something of an anomaly among coaches of top National programs: a coach with long tenure. The revolving door was par for the course under most programs; not a single coach from the 1998 World Cup was coaching the same team in 1992. Arena, who's tenure was almost 4 years, seemed assured of coaching through the 2006 world cup, barring disaster on the field. Curt Onalfo, retired MLS veteran was signed on as an assistant coach.
With eighteen months to go before start of WC 2006 qualifications, Arena had plenty of time to experiment. It would be particularly important to get things right from the start: with the new qualification format, all CONCACAF teams would go through three rounds of qualifying games with the top 12 teams being seeded and matched up against the other 23 teams. Of course for the US, the first round should be easy, but there were no guarantees. First challenge: the Confederations Cup in France in June. The team laid out a series of friendlies thru the winter and spring, to give Arena the opportunity to try various lineups and continue the process of developing new talent to take over the key starting positions as the old guard retirements continued.
The Senior team started off with a convincing 4-0 beating of Canada on January 18. This game clearly showed the increasing superiority of the US squad and the lagging fortunes of Canada, who fielded a very young team. The US was without their top European-based stars, but still had the advantage. Carlos Boconegra, Clint Mathis, Chris Klein and Steve Ralston all found the net. This was followed by a 1-0 loss to a tough Argentina and a close 2-1 win over Jamaica in early February. The US had a two-game winning streak against Argentina broken with this match, but such a streak would have been unthinkable even a decade ago, although this fact was tempered by the fact that Argentina's squad consisted mostly of youngsters with little international experience.
Throughout the spring, the US continued to display some tentativeness. The scoresheet looked fairly good -- a 2-0 shutout of Venezuela, a 0-0 draw against Mexico before a huge crowd of almost 70,000 in Houston, and wins over Wales and New Zealand. But the victories were not exactly against powerhouses, and a home draw against Mexico was a far cry from the triumph in the 2002 World Cup. But it was adequate experience for the US to get prepared for their return to the Confederations Cup in mid-June (see "confederations Cup" entry below).
After their humbling performance at the Confederations Cup, the US returned to Columbus OH, to take a 2-0 victory in a friendly with Paraguay before heading off to final preparations for the CONCACAF Gold Cup (see separate entry below)
The CONCACAF semifinal loss was a major disappointment despite the US victory in the 3rd place game. The team took the rest of the year off as Coach Arena began to make plans for assembling the new team that would begin World Cup qualifications in 2004.
The US soccer community mourned the loss of former U-23 and Portland men's and women's coach Clive Charles, to prostate cancer. Charles, who had originally come over from England to play in the NASL, had built up both the men's and women's teams at Portland State into national powerhouses and led the U-23/Olympic team to Australia where they turned in the best Olympic performance ever by an American team.
2003 Totals: 10W, 2D, 4L` Jul 26 03 W 3-2 Costa Rica n/a Miami, FL, USA (GC ’03) Bocanegra (29), Stewart (56), Convey (67) Jul 23 03 L 1-2 Brazil 35,211 Miami, FL, USA (GC ’03) Boconegra (62) Jul 19 03 W 5-0 Cuba 15,627 Foxboro, MA, USA (GC ’03) Donovan (22, 26, 55, 76), Ralston (42) Jul 14 03 W 2-0 Martinique 8,780 Foxboro, MA, USA (GC ’03) McBride (39,43) Jul 12 03 W 2-0 El Salvador 33,652 Foxboro, MA, USA (GC ’03) Lewis (28), McBride (76) Jul 06 03 W 2-0 Paraguay 14,103 Columbus, OH, USA Donovan (12), Stewart (95) Jun 23 03 D 0-0 Cameroon 19,206 Lyon, France (Conf. Cup) Jun 21 03 L 0-1 Brazil n/a Lyon, France (Conf. Cup) Jun 19 03 L 1-2 Turkey 16,944 St. Etienne, France (Conf. Cup) Beasley (36) Jun 08 03 W 2-1 New Zealand 9,116 Richmond, VA, USA Klein (20), Kirovski (65) May 26 03 W 2-0 Wales 12,282 San Jose, CA, USA Donovan (41-pk), Lewis (59) May 08 03 D 0-0 Mexico 69,582 Houston, TX, USA Mar 29 03 W 2-0 Venezuela 17,819 Seattle, WA, USA Kirovski (53), Donovan (77) Feb 12 03 W 2-1 Jamaica 27,000 Kingston, Jamaica Bocanegra (11), Klein (12); Jamaica: Lowe (52) Feb 08 03 L 0-1 Argentina 27,196 Miami, FL, USA Jan 18 03 W 4-0 Canada 6,549 Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA Bocanegra (6), Mathis (30), Klein (31), Ralston (61)
Hamm, Foudy and Lilly were given some time off in January, leaving the youngsters to represent the nation against Japan and in the Four Nations Tournament in China early in February. The results showed some work to be done with the newer players; they were held to a scoreless draw by Japan, and had decidedly mixed results at China, with a convincing 3-1 win over Norway followed by a 2-0 loss to China and a 1-0 win over Germany. But it was enough for the US to win the tournament, and these games were as much focused on player development as on winning and the experience was valuable. A February match against Iceland gave the US a 1-0 victory after which WUSA training camps opened and the team took a rest until the Algarve Cup.
Algarve was a critical place for players to show their stuff, after which Heinrich would narrow the player pool for matches later in the spring. Inconsistencies abounded, but the wins came when it mattered. Tentative offense, but strong defense left this series a low-scoring affair, but a win against Norway offset the disappointing draws with Canada and Sweden. The reinvigorated Americans were relentless in their March 20 match against China, shutting them out 2-0 and winning the Cup narrowest of margins. If the US could master the top two threats, then prospects for WWC'03 certainly looked good. But it would be close.
The US received a major surprise when the World Cup was taken away from China due to the continuing SARS outbreak and awarded to the United States. While the USSF scrambled to organize the tournament, the team continued to hone their skills and integrate the younger generation into the lineup with the veterans.
After Algarve, the heat of competition eased somewhat and the US cruised to victory in their remaining friendlies with convincing wins over Canada, Ireland and England and a close 1-0 win over the rapidly rising Brazil on June 13. With training done and the roster set, the players dispersed to finish their WUSA campaigns. After WUSA concluded, the US team regrouped for final practice and a couple of friendlies before prepping for the World Cup. They gained two easy victories in those friendlies, beating Costa Rica 5-0 on Sept. 1 and Mexico by the same score six days later.
The World Cup was an exhilarating experience, tempered by the disappointment of the loss in the semifinals to a spirited Germany. After a friendly against Italy in late October, which ended in a 2-2 draw, the US took an extended break, and was inactive until well into 2004.
2003 Totals: 16W, 4D, 2L Oct 22 03 D 2-2 Italy 18,276 Kansas City, USA O.G., MacMillan (60) Oct 11 03 W 3-1 Canada 25,253 Carson, CA, USA (WWC’03) Lilly (22), Boxx (51), Milbrett (80) Oct 05 03 L 0-3 Germany 27,623 Portland, OR, USA (WWC’03) Oct 01 03 W 1-0 Norway 25,106 Foxboro, MA, USA (WWC’03) Wambach (24) US : Wambach (pk) 17, Reddick 48, 66 Sep 28 03 W 3-0 North Korea 22,828 Columbus, OH, USA (WWC ’03) Wambach (17-pk), Reddick (48, 66) Sep 25 03 W 5-0 Nigeria 31,553 Philadelphia, PA, USA (WWC ’03) Hamm (6-pk,12), Parlow (12), Wambach (65), Foudy (85-pk) Sep 21 03 W 3-1 Sweden n/a Washington, DC, USA (WWC’03) Lilly (27), Barlow (36), Boxx (78) Sep 07 03 W 5-0 Mexico 13,510 San Jose, CA, USA Boxx (10), Foudy (25), Chastain(55-pk), Hamm(63-pk), Wagner(85-pk) Sep 01 03 W 5-0 Costa Rica 12,349 Los Angeles, CA, USA Wagner (17), Wambach (41), Boxx (53), Parlow (57), Hamm (82) Jul 13 03 W 1-0 Brazil 15,074 New Orleans, LA, USA Milbrett (90) Jun 14 03 W 5-0 Ireland 19,584 Salt Lake City, UT, USA O’Reilly (2), Foudy (12), Wambach (21, 42), Hamm (79) May 17 03 W 6-0 England 12,102 Birmingham, AL, USA Hamm (30), Parlow (42, 45, 50, 55), Milbrett (68) Apr 26 03 W 6-1 Canada 5,693 Washington, DC, USA MacMillan (16, 55, 78, 79), Lilly (33), Foudy (41) Mar 20 03 W 2-0 China 1,000 Vila R. San Antonio, Portugal(AC’03) MacMillan (52), Hamm (56) Mar 18 03 D 1-1 Sweden 300 Vila R. San Antonio, Portugal(AC’03) Wagner (18) Mar 16 03 W 1-0 Norway 300 Ferreiras, Portugal (AC ’03) MacMillan (4) Mar 14 03 D 1-1 Canada n/a Olhao, Portugal (AC ’03) Wagner (85) Feb 16 03 W 1-0 Iceland 3,170 Charleston, SC, USA Hamm (3) Jan 29 03 W 1-0 Germany 5,000 Shanghai, China Hawkins (18) Jan 26 03 L 0-2 China 40,000 Wuhan, China Jan 23 03 W 3-1 Norway 27,000 Zhejiang, China Bryan (24), Milbrett (64), O'Reilly (87) Jan 12 03 D 0-0 Japan 5,099 San Diego, CA, USA
The United States roster was concentrated with younger stars, including Tim Howard, Carlos Boconegra, Steve Cherundolo, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey, Landon Donovan, Taylor Twellman and Clint Mathis, along with a few veterans such as Earnie Stewart, Eddie Lewis and Chris Armas, who was looking for a comeback.
The US was in Group B, along with Cameroon, Turkey and Brazil. Group A boasted Japan, new Zealand, France and Colombia. Bruce Arena was concentrating on rebuilding the defense which was a liability during WC 2002, and was only partly successful. With Eddie Pope aged 33, and Tony Sanneh's back problems continuing, Arena gave generous time to all seven defenders. But there was still work to be done. Despite career enhancing performances by Carlos Boconegra and Steve Cherundolo, the Cup was a rough ride for the Americans.
The Americans launched their quest at St. Etienne France on June 19 against Turkey. They were frequently overmatched by a young Turkey laden with reservists and never really got into the game, losing 2-1. The defense jelled somewhat against Brazil and they held possession well, but without Reyna and O'Brien, the Midfield was a muddle, and they but failed to create scoring opportunities. Brazil out shot the US 13-6 as they squeaked out a 1-0 victory. With nothing left to lose, the US made a decent showing against Cameroon, battling to a scoreless draw, and followed with a solid performance in their 3-2 win over Costa Rica in the 3rd place game. Boconegra, Stewart and Convey scored for the US. Cameroon went on to lose to France in the final on June 29. Overall, it was a disappointing experience but it was not indicative of the abilities of a US squad at full strength. The top-tier players were being saved for the CONCACAF Gold Cup that was rapidly approaching.
The USA breezed through group play, with 2-0 shutouts over El Salvador on July 12 and Martinique on July 14, both games held in Foxboro. Martinique, although little known is a semi-powerhouse in the Caribbean group. Brian McBride was in fine form with an impressive header into the net for the first score, and followed this by taking Mulrooney's cross to shoot in the second goal four minutes later. This was enough to move the team into the quarterfinals against lowly Cuba, who felt the fury of their northern neighbor, bowing 5-0. This time Landon Donovan was the star, scoring four goals, after giving the Cubans fits with his relentless pursuit of the ball.
The US was up against Brazil in the semifinals. Prospects for victory looked good since the Brazilian team consisted mostly of young reserves. But Brain McBride was at the losing end of a "skull and face smack" which sent him off in the 24th minute. This took out much of the fire of the US attack, and it was not until the 62nd minute that Carlos Boconegra opened the scoring. After that, the Americans ran out of gas, and Brazil scored with 1 minute to go before stoppage time, and then scored again off a penalty kick ten minutes into overtime. A frustrating elimination when victory was so close. But the US salvaged a little pride against Costa Rica in the battle for third place. This game pitted Costa Rica coach Steve Sampson and Bruce Arena against each other for the first time since the 1989 NCAA championships at where a 1-01 tie led to them sharing the national collegiate title. This time, Arena emerged victorious as the US edged out a 3-2 victory. Mexico defeated Brazil 1-0 for the Gold Cup trophy.
The World Youth (U-20) Championships were delayed for several months because of the unrest in Iraq, but the games finally took place in November in Abu Dhabi. This would be a key test for the American program - the first U-20 championship to feature players developed under the auspices of the new US Player development Program. With an impressive young roster, including several players already starring in Major league Soccer, the Americans were expected to do well.
The USA was placed in Group F with Germany, Paraguay and South Korea. They got off to a great start with an easy 3-1 win over Paraguay. This was followed by a 3-1 loss to Germany which marked Freddy Adu's debut with the U-20 team. Freddy's performance earned him a starting spot for the final game of pool play. By this time the US had already advanced to the round of 16 and the Koreans were already out, so it was not a fun game. Korea was content to kill the clock, and once made 22 passes without crossing midfield, leading to an early exit by many fans. The US won 2-0.
The US entered into the Round of 16 matched up against Ivory Coast and once again was in fine form as they romped 2-0, with goals by Mapp and E. Johnson. But a strong and determined Argentina was too much for them in the quarterfinals. Convey gave the US the lead as he opened scoring in the 59th minute, and the two continued to battle fruitlessly. But as the US tired out, Argentina scored in the last minute before stoppage time and landed the game winning goal ten minutes into overtime. Yet another bitter pill for the US, a lead blown in the last minute and a tournament elimination. But the team was only one minute away from making the semi-finals, and they finished with their best showing since 1989. Brazil defeated Spain 1-0 in the final.
The United States lineup featured Freddy Adu, the 13 year old phenomenon who had astonished pundits wherever he played, and Freddy did not disappoint, scoring two goals in the Americans first game against South Korea. The US trounced the Koreans 6-1, and only an own goal prevented a shutout. Adu scored again three days later, on August 17, as the US defeated Sierra Leone. This was enough to advance them to the quarterfinals. For the third game, the US had no pressure to win, and also a very strong opponent, Spain who shut them out 2-0. For the 2nd straight cup the US advanced out of pool play. But they were matched up against Brazil in the quarterfinals, and the dream ended quickly, as Brazil shut them out 3-0, bringing their run to an abrupt end. Brazil defeated Spain 1-0 in the championship game. The US had advanced to the final four in 1999, and perhaps would have this time if they hadn't been up against the wall so quickly. But the performance did show that some work was still to be done to bring the US national program to the next level. The young stars were the future, and the U-17 fortunes would play a major rule in those of the senior team in coming years.
In the semi-finals, the Chicago Fire defeated Los Angeles 3-2 and the MetroStars defeated D. C. United 2-1. On October 15, 2003 at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, 5,183 fans turned out to watch the Chicago Fire defeat the MetroStars 1-0 in a closely matched contest. The Fire won the $100,000 purse while the MetroStars took $50,000. The game was watched nationally on Fox Sports World. Damani Ralph took a pass from Evan Whitfield for the lone score. This was the eighth Open Cup title to go to a Chicago-Based team, and the third for the Fire. Chicago Sparta won titles in 1938 and 1940, the Vikings took it in 1946, the Falcons in 1953, and the A.A.C. Eagles in 1990.
A major entry into the field was Brian McBride who was loaned to Everton and immediately made an impact.
One sign of the rise of the American player was the increasing number of young US prospects being snapped up by English clubs. An impressive array of 17 and 18 year olds were being signed by top Premiership clubs. people such as Kenny Cooper and Jonathan Spector (Manchester United), Zak Whitbread (Liverpool), Frank Siemek & Danny Karbassiyoon (Arsenal), and Tom Parratt (Birmingham). Meanwhile, Brian McBride made an impact while on loan to Everton, and Tim Howard cemented his spot as the #1 keeper for Manchester United. Bobby Convey joined Kasey Keller at Tottenham Hotspur. Claudio Reyna continued his record setting career in European top level competition as he was transferred for $3,900,000 to Manchester City for his 10th season. Meanwhile, Conor Casey developed into an important scorer for Karlsruhe in the German 2nd Division. Steve Cherundolo continued his strong performance in his sixth season with Hannover in the Bundesliga. Kasey Keller (Tottenham) and Brad Friedel (Blackburn) continued to shine in the Premiership. Other players making significant contributions overseas included Greg Vanney with Bastia (French Ligue 1), Eddie Lewis (Preston North End), Marcus Hahneman (Reading, in Div. 2), Wade Barrett (Aarhus), Daniel Hernandez (Nexaca), and Gregg Berhalter (Ernergie Cottbus, Bundesliga 2).
One of the biggest announcements on the Tour front was the agreement to bring Manchester United over for a four city tour of MLS venues against major international clubs in 2003. This would be Manchester United's first visit to the US since the early 1980s, and revive what was one of the best series during the heyday of the tours back in the early 1950s. As in past seasons, several MLS teams played international tours in such countries as South Africa, Portugal and Brazil as part of their spring training regimen. Nexaca and another Mexican team also barnstormed across the US played against teams of USL's Premier Development League.
The College lost the services of two esteemed veterans when Jim Lennox retired after 27 seasons at Hartwick State and Fred Schmalz retired from Evansville, being one of three NCAA coaches whose careers spanned five decades. That left Greg Myers at Navy the sole active coach with that honor.NCAA Division I Men's tournament: In the quarterfinals, Maryland defeated Saint Louis 4-2, St. John's defeated Creighton 3-2, Santa Clara defeated Michigan 3-1 and Indiana defeated UCLA 2-1. In the semifinals, St. John's defeated Maryland 1-0 and Indiana defeated Santa Clara 1-0. In the championship game, held on December 14, 2003, Indiana defeated St. John's 2-1.
Final Men's Division 1 NSCAA Coaches' Poll: 1. Indiana 2. St. John's (NY) 3. Maryland 4. Santa Clara 5. UCLA 6. St. Louis 7. Michigan 8. Notre Dame 9. Creighton 10. Coastal Carolina Final Women's Division 1 NSCAA Coaches' Poll: 1. North Carolina 2. UCLA 3. Santa Clara 4. Portland 5. Notre Dame 6. Florida State 7. Penn State 8. Florida 9. West Virginia 10. Virginia Men's Division 1 NSCAA All-Americans (1st team): G - Will Hesner, Wake Forest D - Leonard Griffin, UCLA D - Trevor McEachron, Old Dominion D - Chris Wingert, St. John's M - Scott Buete, Maryland M - Sumed Ibrahim, Maryland M - C. J. Klass, Washington F - Adam Crew, Brown F - Ned Grabavoy, Indiana F - Vedad Ibisevic, Saint Louis F - Joseph Ngwenya, Coastal Carolina Women's Division 1 NSCAA All-Americans (1st team): G - Leisha Alicia, Illinois D - Keeley Dowling, Tennessee D - Nandi Pryce, UCLA D - Catherine Reddick, North Carolina M - Becky Sauberon, Virginia M - Joanna Lohman, Penn State M - Sarah Rahko, Boston College M - Lisa Stoia, West Virginia F - Iris Mora, UCLA F - Lindsay Tarpley, North Carolina F - Amy Warner, Notre Dame F - Tiffany Weiner, Penn State Men's National Award Winners: Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy: Chris Wingert, St. John's NSCAA Coach of the Year (Division 1): Jerry Yeagley, Indiana Women's National Award Winners: Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy: Catherine Reddick, North Carolina NSCAA Coach of the Year (Division 1): Anson Dorrance, North Carolina
Women's Premier Soccer League: Utah Spiders defeated the California Storm for the league championship. Standings | StatsUS Open Cup Championship: Chicago Fire (MLS)defeated the MetroStars (MLS) 1-0 before 5,183 fans on October 16, 2003, at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.
CONCACAF Champions Cup 2003: First Round (March): Columbus Crew defeated Arabe Unido (Panama) 1-2, 3-0. Los Angeles Galaxy defeated Montagua (Honduras) 2-2, 1-0. Municipal (Guatemala) defeated San Jose Earthquakes 4-2, 1-2 (5-4 aggregate). Alajuela (Costa Rica) defeated New England Revolution 4-0, 1-3 (5-3 aggregate). In the quarterfinals, Nexaca (Mexico) defeated Los Angeles Galaxy 4-1, 2-1. Morelia (Mexico) defeated Columbus 6-0, 0-2. In the finals, Toluca (Mexico) defeated Morelia (Mexico) 3-3, 2-1.
CONCACAF U-20 Championship: The USA defeated Haiti 3-0 and El Salvador 2-0 before losing to Canada 2-3. This qualified them for the U-20 World Cup.
CONCACAF U-17 Championship:The USA cruised in the final round, defeating Jamaica 3-0 and Guatemala 3-0 and drawing 1-1 with El Salvador, to quality for the U-17 World Cup.US Youth Soccer NATIONAL SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Hall of Fame: In 2003, the US Soccer Hall of Fame held a special NASL induction ceremony. Players inducted: Carlos Alberto, Paul Child, Karl-Heinz Granitza, Bob Lenarduzzi, Arnie Mausser, Patrick "Ace" Ntsoelengoe, Alan Willey, and Bruce Wilson Builders inducted: Ahmet Ertegun, Neshui Ertegun, Ted Howard, Joe Robbie, Elizabeth Robbie, Steve Ross, Lee Stern and Clive Toye. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Hall of Fame inducted Steve Negoesco (San Francisco). The National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA) Hall of Fame inducted Mike Allen and Joseph Machnik, and enshrined Major Clay Morris. The American Youth Soccer Organization inducted Mary Harvey, Steve Kerinshak, and Sal Pantezzi.Honda Award (Player of the Year): Landon Donovan
Last update: May 31, 2010
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