Category Archive: World Cup 2010

Did the World Cup cause MLS attendance to increase? Not yet

I wondered if the MLS was experiencing a post-World Cup bounce in attendance. Answer: not yet.

I looked at attendance figures from the 7 games since the World Cup ended and compared them to averages in those stadiums. I found that attendance was down slightly, about 500 fewer people per game…

It’s interesting to look at the two teams that hosted 2 home games – DC and Columbus (CMB). Both teams had higher attendance in the 2nd game since the World Cup. Perhaps there is some lag, and potentially we won’t see the peak of post-World Cup attendance for some time.

Or, it could be visitor draw. If teams hosted lousy opponents, it could be skewing results.

I pulled the average visitor attendance to normalize my comparison. Surprisingly, DC United draws the most fans as the visiting team (despite their 3 measly wins).

I normalized the figures for visitor draw, and found little difference in results. Attendance is down by about 3k fans, or about 400 per game – a slightly smaller gap than before, but still no sign of a post-World Cup bounce.

However, looking at DC and Columbus, the previously observed deltas are now even bigger. Also, the three largest gains (DC, CMH, DAL) are all on last days of the observation period. So perhaps it’s too early. I’ll check in on this again in a month or so to see if the bounce ever materialized.

Soccer:Suarez handball = American Football:? (answer: pass interference)

I wanted to get this up earlier, but between ramping up in a new job, a terrible cold, and a family wedding, I didn’t have the time. Hopefully those distractions are behind me.

The Luis Suarez handball during the Uruguay-Ghana soccer game of the quarterfinals of the World Cup certainly rocked the sport. If you didn’t see it, Suarez prevented a sure goal by using his hands – causing a penalty. He was sent off the pitch, but Ghana missed its penalty shot, and Uruguay ended up winning the game.

Soccer purists considered the handball unconscionable. After other handball controversies including France’s Thierry Henry’s which helped the team beat Ireland to qualify for the World Cup, this handball was the last straw. Some critics called for FIFA to change the rules to allow referees to award goals in similar situations.

But as for American observers, there wasn’t a similar uproar. Suarez used his hands and suffered the consequences – a red card and penalty kick. The sport already has rules to handle that exact situation, so no other intervention is necessary.

I haven’t heard this mentioned in the media, but the most obvious comparison in American-centered sports is pass interference in football. A sure-catch in the endzone can be broken up by an ugly foul by a defender. The penalty: the ball at the 1 yard line. The probability of scoring a TD from the 1-yard line in 1 play is around 65%.

Let’s compare the worst-case scenario in football to the Suarez situation: A team is down by 4 with one second remaining. The quarterback throws a perfect pass to the wide open receiver in the end zone, only the laggard defender makes an ugly, pass-interfering play. The fans boo, but the only recourse is 1 play from the 1-yard line to win the game and a 65% chance of converting.

For Ghana, with almost no time left in the game, they had about 70% chance of converting the penalty, and failed. There was no recourse.

For Americans, the handball was par for the course. In fact, some even praised Suarez’s move for doing whatever it takes to win. And if it were a pass interference in a big game, fans would do the same.

photo by: bi-s-co

Making the World Cup final more interesting

I will definitely be watching the World Cup final on Sunday, but it just got more interesting to me. Wikipedia has the info on the “Unofficial Football World Champions” (UFWC), a boxing-style recognition of who’s the best soccer team in the world, and The Netherlands currently holds the title. Not only is the World Cup at stake, but also the UFWC.

The UFWC works like this: The team that holds the title successfully defends it if it wins or ties an international match. If it loses, the victor gets the title of UFWC. How is the original title-holder decided? By going back to the first international soccer match where a team won (England over Scotland in 1873).

Interestingly, the US has held the title twice, most recently by beating Portugal in the US Cup in 1992. They defended the title versus Italy 3 days later, but in the following game versus Australia (not part of the US Cup), they surrendered the title to Australia. The US could have captured the crown again during the friendly versus The Netherlands earlier this year, but lost 2-1.

After the World Cup, I will be marking my calendar for future matches with the UFWC at stake.

Follow all my World Cup statistical analysis here.

World Cup Fantasy League Update

With only 3 soccer  games remaining, let’s check in on the World Cup Fantasy League Standings:

Pick the winner (Yahoo):

1. CarrieB – 82 points

2. Sam – 80 points

3. Justin – 50 points

4. Kip – 2 points

It’s a very close match, with just 2 points separating Carrie and me. There are still 32 points up for grabs as well. Justin forgot to make some selections in the knockout round, setting him back in the competition. Kip hasn’t made a selection since day 1.

Carrie really has had some great selections, including picking both Spain and Germany on Saturday. Germany was a 41% underdog in Yahoo selections, but pulled through.

FIFA league (select individual players):

1. Sam – 403 points

2. Go Home! Brasil – 381 points

3. Acid Baggs – 332 points

“Go Home! Brasil” started out in the lead by far. However, the team loaded with Brazilian players is now in trouble. The team has a lot of salary cap locked into players that are no longer in the tournament, and with transfers limited in the final rounds, they may not have enough to catch me.

I too had a lot of Brazilian players, but I had a more balanced team that could survive no matter which team was knocked out. I also did not fill my entire roster with stars, but instead left a few inexpensive players from Honduras and New Zealand on the bench. For instance, since you can only play 1 keeper but have 3 roster spots, it’s silly to load up on 3 expensive keepers. It has proved to be effective so far.

I’ll be sure to update on the final standings.

The World Cup – now more popular than the NHL

Ratings for this years World Cup have been among the strongest ever in the United States. Fans flocked to their televisions to watch both the US – England match and the US – Slovakia match (even though it was shown at 7am PDT).

The US – England match is one of the highest rated matches ever, and certainly the highest group-stage match ever shown on American television. The US – Slovenia match wasn’t too shabby either. It had slightly fewer viewers than the US – Italy match in 2006, but that one was shown on ABC in the afternoon versus the early morning weekday match on ESPN.

Even compared to “American” sports, soccer is doing quite well.

The US – England match outdrew the Stanley Cup Finals. Even Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, which drew one of the highest ratings ever with 8.9 million viewers, was still much lower than US soccer. And it was shown in primetime.

The NBA and MLB have some breathing room – both are in the high teens as far as viewership. But when the World Cup Finals reaches it’s conclusion, my money is on the World Cup being competitive with their ratings. The finals went from 6 million viewers in 2002 (4 AM PDT game) to 12 million in 2006 (afternoon game). The World Cup Final on an afternoon in mid-July could add another 6 million to 2006’s total, putting it in the company of truly American sports. Look out.

Follow all my World Cup statistical analysis here.

Who will be awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups?

Even though the 2010 World Cup hasn’t even kicked off yet, speculation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cups continues to build. The Goldman Sachs World Cup and economics report had some great thoughts and analysis into the minds of FIFA, the powerful players behind the scenes, and the game itself.

Here are my predictions and rationale for who will be awarded the future tournaments:

2018: Russia

  • It’s widely believed that European country will win the 2018 bid. This narrows the competition to England, Russia, Spain/Portugal, and Belgium/Netherlands
  • I believe FIFA will favor individual bids versus joint bids (eliminates Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands)
  • It could go either way between England and Russia. However, FIFA has a lot more to gain by putting the tournament in Russia versus England. England is already 100% saturated as far as soccer goes. Soccer has plenty of room to grow in Russia. While FIFA has already taken some major risks by putting the tournament in South America and Brazil, Russia is less risky than those choices, and FIFA can put the tournament in a very stable country in 2022… which leads to:

2022: USA

  • Since 2018 is in Europe, 2022 will be outside of Europe, which limits the competition to Japan, Korea, Australia, and Qatar
  • Japan and Korea hosted just 8 years ago (20 years ago by the time the tournament rolls around). Plus, soccer remains a secondary sport despite the 2002 tournament in Japan, and Korea remains an unstable region. There’s no way FIFA will put the tournament back there. Strike them both.
  • I think the Dubai crisis signals a giant red flag for Qatar. Will the government there get the financing to build the necessary stadia and infrastructure in time for 2022? Will the country experience a similar fate to Dubai in the meantime? Not to mention other Mid-East unrest. Qatar is out.
  • I think Australia could be a solid option for FIFA. Australia was one of the last large countries to have a major soccer league, and soccer is beginning to flourish there. Hosting the World Cup would only reinforce this. And, Australia has already proved that it can host major events, like the 2000 Olympics. However, FIFA has other motives. I believe they will put the 2026 tournament in China or India. So, they’ll want to spread out the tournament in 2022 and not have it so close. That makes the US the target.
  • Ignoring my process of elimination method, the US makes a great choice on its own merits. Soccer continues to grow in America and could be a boon for world soccer. The infrastructure is already built, and although the US hosted the tournament in 1994 (which seems like not that long ago), it will mark 28 years since last hosting the World Cup. Mexico previously hosted tournaments 16 years apart (1970 & 1986) and Germany hosted 32 years apart (1974 and 2006), so it’s not a big stretch for the US. Not to mention money. FIFA will need a small army of dump trucks to carry away the fortunes that a US World Cup could produce from ticket sales and TV deals alone.

So it’s Russia/USA in 2018/2022. If I’m wrong, my second guess is England/Australia. We’ll see in December.

Follow all my World Cup statistical analysis here.

Goldman Sachs publishes World Cup economics report

Just finished reading Goldman Sachs’s World Cup economics report. It’s a great read for soccer fans and economists alike.


  • The report features odds of winning the tournament and reaching the semifinals using a proprietary model. I will definitely incorporate this into my Fantasy League projections.
  • An overview of Euro 2012 and speculation into who will be awarded the hosting responsibility for World Cups in 2018 and 2022 included great analysis. I agree with many of their findings. I sure am hoping for World Cup soccer in Seattle in 2022.
  • The team-by-team analysis into all 32 World Cup teams was complete and in-depth. However, I got bored by Cameroon.

Follow all my World Cup statistical analysis here.

Join my World Cup fantasy league

Fantasy World Cup is quite fun. I played for the first time in 2006 and found it helped me follow the games that I didn’t care too much about (similar to baseball and football). Who knew I would be screaming for Podolski in a the 3rd game for the Germans.

I have set up 2 fantasy leagues for readers of my blog – a hardcore, salary cap game sponsored by FIFA, and the less-intense Yahoo pick-em game.

FIFA Salary cap game: go to and sign up for an account. Pick your team, then join my league: 397875-94141 .

Yahoo pick-em: Go to and click on World Cup 2010. Create a set of picks, and then join my group: ID# 22281 password: pnw . Note – you just have to pick the wins/ties. You don’t have to predict the score (seems futile to me).

If you can’t figure out how to join, leave a comment here and I’ll email you.

Follow all my World Cup statistical analysis here.

What to make of last minute additions to / subtractions from World Cup rosters

For the US, it was Brian Ching. For England, it was Theo Walcott. World Cup teams are releasing their final 23-man rosters for next week’s kickoff, and there’s plenty of controversy about who’s being left off (and on) the list.

But does it matter that Robbie Findley was put on the US’s roster over Brian Ching? I looked at the 2006 World Cup rosters for all 32 teams to find which players didn’t play a minute of their team’s 3 group stage matches (excludes keepers, which each team carries 3 but usually only plays 1).

All teams except Spain left at least 1 position player on the bench, and Spain was different because they had clinched advancement and were able to rest players in the final match of the opening round. Expanding this analysis to future rounds came to similar conclusions: only 5 additional players saw action in round 2, 3 in round 3, and none after that (excluding the 3rd place game). Clearly, the last man added to the team is not a critical selection.

But what about these particular last men added? Will they play? It’s difficult to know which was the last player added – that 23rd man – for each team because coaches don’t rank their players. However, from expert rankings, we can surmise that Findley was the last guy for the US this year. For England, Forward Shawn Wright-Phillips was probably the last man to make the squad.

To answer this question, I looked by position at the probability of playing in the first rounds of the 2006 World Cup…

Forwards were the most likely to play, with 90% of roster spots seeing some playing time in the opening round of 2006. Defenders were much less likely, at 78%, and backup goalies are merely spectators, with over half of all keepers not seeing any action.

So, for forwards Findley and Wright-Phillips, there’s a great chance they’ll play, which is good news for them. And, the head coaches will find out if their selections (and omissions) were wise after all.

Follow all my World Cup statistical analysis here.

David Beckham’s 1998 World Cup red card vs. Argentina

Somehow, I completely forgot that David Beckham was sent off in the 1998 World Cup round of 16 match versus Argentina. I don’t know whether it was because Beckham still hadn’t reached his pinnacle of stardom at that point, or if I am just forgetful. But seeing the foul is shocking…

How could Beckham be so stupid. It was a cheap shot and a low-class move. England lost that game on penalty kicks.

As for this year’s World Cup, England is better off without Beckham.

Wayne Rooney had a similar incident in the 2006 World Cup.

When will these players learn?

Follow all my World Cup statistical analysis here.

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