‘Soccer Watch’ picks for the Top 10 soccer stories of the year:
1) Beckhamania! The $250,000,000 man was a PR bonanza for Major League Soccer not just in the U.S. but around the world. Maybe next year he’ll even play.
2) England fails to qualify for Euro 2008. On paper, they’re still one of the best teams in the world. On the pitch, they struggle to beat Andorra.
3) Dynamo dynasty? Houston won its second straight MLS title and had some international success, as well. If this very likable team stays together, it could easily make it three.
4) We’re No. 1! Longhorn women got their first top ranking ever and, for the second straight year, won the Big 12 tournament and advanced to the NCAA third round.
5) St. Edward’s can play a little, too. The Hilltopper women flirted with high national rankings all year, while the men came within a game of an NCAA bid, as well.
6) Bye bye, Austin Lightning; hello, Austin Stampede. New management for Austin’s Premier Development League franchise had big plans for 2007 that got washed away in the heavy spring rains. Now they’ve dissolved the Lightning altogether and will be reborn in 2008 as Austin FC, aka the Austin Stampede. One of the first orders of business: a real home stadium.
7) Bob Bradley takes over the U.S. Men’s National Team. After a months-long search, the head job went to the obvious choice after all. He’s delivered so far, and it doesn’t hurt that his son’s a 20-year-old, world-class striker.
8) Germany wins Women’s World Cup – again. They don’t have the charm of Brazil, or even the U.S., but they make everyone they play look totally useless. Six games, no goals allowed. Hope Solo and the U.S. goalie controversy deserve mention, too.
9) Milan and Kakà win it all. Led by their consensus world player of the year, the Italian club won the Champions League and the Club World Cup – so what if they’re in the bottom half in Italy?
10) Italian fan violence continues. Policeman killed by fans; fan killed by policeman; team official kicked to death on the field; English fans stabbed outside the stadium … the list goes on.
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