Top 10 Soccer Stories of 2010
1) VUVUZELAS Need I say more?
2) AFRICA FEELS THE LOVE After all the fears going in – about stadiums and services and safety and crime – the continent's first shot at the world's biggest event came off nearly perfect. From Nelson Mandela's smiling presence to the play (if not always success) of the African teams, African football earned a lot of respect this summer. The sport's ruling body, less so: After FIFA refused to give referees any goal-line help, several egregious (and preventable) referee errors cropped up (FIFA fail No. 1). (A moment of silence for Paul the Octopus, R.I.P. October.)
3) SPAIN"S GOOD GUYS FINISH FIRST On the field, the action wasn't always beautiful, but Spain was, almost throughout. Even the lamentable Dutch thuggery in the final couldn't derail the Spaniards' fluid short-passing game. It was a pleasure to see the championship go to one of the most attractive teams in the tournament, not just the most efficient.
4) RUSSIA AND QATAR WIN WC BIDS Qatar? Seriously? Despite fantastic artists' renderings of soccer palaces and entire cities rising from the desert and islands rising from the gulf, skeptics remain. FIFA President Sepp Blatter didn't help matters: When asked, for instance, what gay fans should do about homosexuality being illegal in the emirate, he replied, "I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities." (FIFA fail No. 2.)
5) U.S. WOMEN TAKE THE LONG WAY TO GERMANY The top-ranked Americans were the last team to qualify for the 2011 Women's World Cup, losing to Mexico – for the first time ever – in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament and having to beat Italy in a playoff to get in.
6) JANUARY WAS DEFINITELY THE CRUELEST MONTH On Jan. 8, Angolan separatists machine-gunned a bus carrying the Togo national team to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. Three of the entourage were killed, and two players were among the wounded. Togo pulled out of the tournament and were subsequently banned from the following two tournaments (FIFA fail No. 3)... Four days later came the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, where the national soccer federation building was one of those which collapsed, killing 30 to 50 people with ties to Haitian football, including players, coaches, referees, and medical staff.
7) HIGH EXPECTATIONS IN MILAN Inter Milan capped its most successful season ever (Italian league title, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa, UEFA Champions League) by winning the world championship at the FIFA Club World Cup in December – and promptly fired head coach Rafael Benítez (his second firing in six months; Liverpool canned him in June).
8) AUSTIN AZTEX, WE HARDLY KNEW YE After a remarkable turnaround on the field in their second season and despite a steadily growing attendance and fan base, the Aztex bailed for Orlando, Fla., soon after their season ended in the fall. Ouch.
9) The ST. EDWARD'S WOMEN went where no Hilltoppers had gone before – to a 17-2-2 season, two NCAA tournament wins, and within one goal of the Division II Final Four.
10) LOCAL GIRLS WIN NATIONAL TITLE The Austin Lonestars 91 Red won the under-19 national championship in July – the first national title for the Lonestars, and the first girls' title ever for a team from South Texas.