Tim Leiweke

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U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame ballot revealed, including Beckham

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CHICAGO (AP) David Beckham, the English midfielder who brought increased visibility to American soccer and won a pair of Major League Soccer titles while playing for the LA Galaxy from 2007-12, is among 12 first-time candidates on the 33-player ballot for the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Defender Steve Cherundolo, midfielder Pablo Mastroeni and forward Brian Ching, key parts of the U.S. national team, also are new candidates on the ballot announced Wednesday. Other first-timers include defenders Chris Albright, Danny Califf and Tina Frimpong Ellertson; goalkeepers Joe Cannon and Kevin Hartman, and midfielders Amado Guevara, Eddie Gaven and Leslie Osborne.

Defender Chris Armas and midfielder Jason Kreis, currently Orlando’s coach, are in their final year of eligibility. Former midfielder Ben Olsen, now D.C. United’s coach, is among the holdovers.

Other men on the ballot include goalkeeper Pat Onstad; defenders Gregg Berhalter, Frankie Hejduk and Tony Sanneh; midfielders Chris Klein, Eddie Lewis and Steve Ralston; and forwards Jeff Cunningham, Clint Mathis, Jaime Moreno, Ante Razov, Taylor Twellman and Josh Wolff.

Women on the ballot include goalkeeper Briana Scurry; defenders Kate Sobrero Markgraf and Heather Mitts; midfielder Aly Wagner; and forward Tiffeny Milbrett.

Voting will take place among men’s and women’s national team coaches, Major League Soccer and National Women’s Soccer league management, U.S. Soccer Federation leadership, Hall of Famers and media. Each voter can list up to 10 players, and a player must appear on at least 66.7 percent of ballots to earn election.

Among those on the builder ballot are former USSF President Bob Contiguglia; referee Esse Baharmast; coaches Gene Chyzowych, Eddie Firmani, Gordon Jago and Joe Machnik; and administrators Richard Groff, Tim Leiweke, Francisco Marcos and Kevin Payne.

The 15-player veteran ballot, voted on only by Hall of Famers, has George Best, Chico Borja, Mike Burns, John Doyle, Marco Etcheverry, Linda Hamilton, Mary Harvey, Chris Henderson, Dominic Kinnear, Shep Messing, Cindy Parlow, Tiffany Roberts, Mike Sorber, Tisha Venturini-Hoch and Roy Wegerle.

The hall’s building in Oneonta, New York, closed in 2010. A new facility in Frisco, Texas, is under construction and slated to open in 2018.

Leiweke: “Unrealistic” demands threaten Beckham’s Miami stadium

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638 days — that’s how long it’s been since Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber and global superstar David Beckham stood on a stage in Miami and announced the latter had exercised his option to purchase an MLS franchise, which he intended to one day bring to South Florida.

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Checking in on Beckham’s Miami project 638 days later, they’re, essentially, right where they were back on Feb. 5, 2014: without a guaranteed place in the league because a suitable stadium deal continues to allude the Miami Beckham United investment group.

Beckham and Co. made the wisest possible decision in bringing aboard former LA Galaxy and Toronto FC parent company head honcho Tim Leiweke, who’s already been plenty busy trying to broker a stadium deal on a patch of land next to Marlins Park, home of Miami’s Major League Baseball team.

Leiweke spoke to the Miami Herald editorial board on Thursday and shed some brutally honest light on the situation at hand — quotes from the Miami Herald:

“They know what we’re doing and unfortunately they’ve let that create an absolutely unrealistic conversation. They can absolutely blow this deal up, and they probably will blow this deal up. We’re willing to overpay. We just don’t want to be the stupidest guys on the face of the earth.”

He faulted Miami Beckham United mostly for the team’s problems, saying “this has not been the smartest negotiation I’ve been a part of.”

“If we don’t have a deal by that MLS board meeting it’s up to the commissioner and the board to decide what happens to this option. But I am worried. It’s been a long time since this has been discussed and we’ve been unable to come to them with a viable plan that works. If at the end of the day, whether it be the politics or the greed of the situation we’re facing makes this unable to happen … then I’ll let the commissioner decide. But I don’t like those odds and it makes me very nervous about MLS in Miami.”

This is a pretty smart — if not extremely obvious — play from Leiweke and Co., as going public with the above comments accomplishes two things: 1) it buys them additional time and good will, now with Leiweke on board, from MLS executives and Garber, which it now sounds like they sorely need; 2) it really turns up the pressure on the folks holding onto the pieces of land for “unrealistic” sums of money.

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Time is undoubtedly running out on Beckham’s attempt to bring MLS back to Miami, with 23 franchises currently already in existence or officially admitted to the league with stadium deals in place and/or in progress (Atlanta, Minnesota and Los Angeles). Sacramento remains ready to build a brand new stadium the second MLS says “jump,” while the city of San Antonio announced on Wednesday a plan for stadium expansion and a pathway to bring a fourth MLS team to the state of Texas.

Influential CEO Tim Leiweke to leave Toronto FC, MLSE

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After rumors about his future, the President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment will leave the company.

On Thursday MLSE confirmed that Tim Lieweke, the former President and CEO of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, will step down by June 2015 and will continue his role between now and then until a successor is found.

Leiweke, 57, has played a prominent role in the development of Major League Soccer and was pivotal in the LA Galaxy’s rise as a superpower in North America.

He arrived in Toronto back in June 2013 but will now be stepping away from the emerging MLS club as he aims to run his own business after 30 years as a sports executive.

In a statement released on MLSE’s website, Leiweke had the following to say.

“It’s an honor to lead MLSE, a world-class organization in a city and country so passionate about sports. But with new opportunities on the horizon it is time for me to transitions from sports and entertainment executive to entrepreneur,” Leiweke said. “Right now my total focus is here at MLSE and I look forward to working with the board and MLSE team to continue strengthening our franchises while ensuring a smooth transition to a new leader.”

Leiweke’s strong links with the soccer world has helped turn Toronto FC into one of the most talked about franchises in MLS, as they’ve acquired the likes of Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe over the past six months. The club is going places with plans for stadium expansion, a talented squad in place and a young, ambitious head coach in charge in Ryan Nelsen, but losing Leiweke will be a big blow for TFC. His name resonates strongly in soccer circles in North America and further afield, helping to grow their brand beyond the shores of Lake Ontario.

Under his stewardship MLSE pumped plenty of money into TFC and now only time will tell if the new man in charge is set to do the same. With Leiweke moving on, the search for his succesoer at MLSE has already begun.

Tim Leiweke denies reports that he’s stepping down in Toronto

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Mike Halford over at Pro Hockey Talk has the write-up of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke skipping Toronto “soon” after just one year on the job. MLSE is the group that operates Toronto FC, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors.

Leiweke (pictured far left) is denying it. Elliot Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada is the source for the news, and that man is extremely-connected. So something crazy had to go down for Friedmann to report the story.

Leiweke previously spent 17 years working with Philip Anschutz in Los Angeles, where he built the Los Angeles Galaxy and helped lure David Beckham to Major League Soccer.

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He made waves upon arriving in Toronto, saying “I happen to think the fans of the Toronto football club deserve that kind of player if you can find them. I’ve been told by the [MLSE] board and the owners if we find the right guy, we’ll be all in.”

Under Leiweke, TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko brought in several high profile signings, including Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley. Leiweke also shepherded the BMO Field expansion and has arguably been a massive asset for Toronto.

From PHT:

Leiweke, 57, became the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in June of last year, after serving in the same position of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which owns the Los Angeles Kings.

Leiweke talked a big game upon taking the MLSE gig and rubbed some people the wrong way. After saying he wanted to be a “hero” in Toronto (adding he already had a Stanley Cup parade route planned), the Toronto Star called his comments “laughable,” adding that “in the cultivation of executive arrogance, the new guy in town is intent on scaling new heights.”

Something to monitor as things move forward. As mentioned, Friedman is a respected reporter worth trusting, but so is Cathal Kelly (who published Leiweke’s denial). Something could be amiss here.

THE most important MLS offseason story was …

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On a radio interview Wednesday night, Houston-based soccer media do-all Glenn Davis asked what I believed to be the most important MLS offseason story.

Immediately springing to mind: Michael Bradley landing in MLS, at Toronto. (This was, remember, before Thursday’s big news of Chivas USA’s purchase.)

On Bradley and TFC: It’s not just the individual player – although I believe Bradley, as much as any high-scoring striker or world class goalkeeper, is the kind of figure who will help build a log of “Ws” and a winning mentality. His signing (along with two other high profile additions around Exhibition Place, most prominently English international Jermain Defoe) goes to the bigger picture around TFC, symbolic of Tim Leiweke’s make-good on promises to build a winner around BMO Field.

TFC will make the playoffs this year. For the first time. Write it down. And that is a big story in MLS.

The big story effect expands when we consider the implication of another U.S. international in his prime climbing aboard the Good Ship MLS, just as Clint Dempsey did last summer. We’ve certainly talked those through.

But this is live radio – a.k.a. talking off the talk your head. So I immediately began wondering aloud whether, in the big, big, big picture, David Beckham and his MLS expansion efforts in South Florida are a bigger deal in this ongoing off-season?

After all, there is very little that isn’t possible when Beckham and his A-list of media, cultural and financial influencers get involved.

Finally, Davis (the other Davis, that is, Glenn) chimed in. He wondered if the agreements between MLS and USL Pro, which integrates Major League Soccer’s Reserve League teams into the USL Pro schedule and facilitates affiliations for some MLS teams, will have far reaching impact.