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Soccer Watch Top 10s

By Nick Barbaro, Fri., Jan. 3, 2014

1) The Austin Aztex started the year by having three players from the 2012 roster – Kekuta Manneh, Blake Smith, and Dillon Powers – selected in the first 11 picks of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft – unheard of for a first-year, fourth-division team. (All three made significant contributions in their rookie seasons.)

2) What Do You Do for an Encore? The Aztex followed up their successful debut season by sweeping through the PDL playoffs, winning the championship in August, at home, in front of a record crowd at House Park, then sweeping the league awards as well, including PDL Organization of the Year, Coach of the Year to Paul Dalglish, and league MVP to Dripping Springs native Kris Tyrpak.

3) Orlando City SC was confirmed in December as MLS' 21st team, to start playing in 2015 – just four years after they moved away from Austin.

4) No Respect From the NCAA Both the UT women and the St. Edward's men got passed over by NCAA tournament selection committees, despite solid records, while the St. Ed's women got sent on the road despite being undefeated and sixth-ranked, and made it as far as the Elite 8.

5) Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete in a major American team sport, when he took the field for the L.A. Galaxy, coming out of a brief retirement that coincided with his coming out.

6) Trouble in Brazil? The Confedera­tions Cup erupted into huge riots in all of Brazil's biggest cities, protesting stadium construction costs, a bus fare hike, and various other civic infrastructure that's having a hard time keeping up with Brazil's rapid development. Later in the year, a crane collapse damaged a section of a stadium in São Paulo and killed two workers, and organizers announced that at least three of the World Cup stadiums won't be ready by deadline.

7) TV Shakeup Fox Soccer is gone, with the new Fox Sports 1 picking up some of the slack; NBC took over the rights to the English Premier League, and are showing all 380 games in the season across their various networks; Al Jazeera's BeIN Sport picked up several other European leagues, plus the U.S. team's road games in World Cup qualifying.

8) Deutschland über alles Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund crushed Spain's best, Barcelona and Real Madrid, in the Champions League semifinals, as the German Bundesliga laid claim to having become the top league in the world.

9) U.S. Dominates CONCACAF The U.S. men came back from an opening-game loss in World Cup qualifying to finish comfortably atop the group, beat Mexico soundly, raise their world ranking to 14th, and finish 2013 with a best-ever 16-4-3 record.

10) Group of Death The World Cup draw announced in December put the United States in with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana – two of the top five teams in the world, plus the African power that's knocked the U.S. out of the last two WCs. National team coach Jürgen Klinsmann and his team put a good face on it, noting that it's largely their own presence that makes this a group of death. It's June 12-July 13 in Brazil.

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