What are the stories we'll be tracking off the field in 2013?
Yesterday we took a look at the top five storylines on the field, but as we all know, the on-field action only tells half the story of a soccer club. Now let's look at the top five off-field storylines in 2013.
5. Will the stadium naming rights be sold?
I think it ended up really being a non-story, but Pizza Hut Park became FC Dallas Stadium a year ago, and while the club did get the vital jersey sponsorship done, the stadium remains without a sponsor. I'd heard rumblings that a deal was close before the whole Doug Quinn situation, but who knows where that situation is right now. I don't think a stadium sponsorship deal is as important as a jersey sponsorship, especially with the brand value FC Dallas gets from having their name on events like the FCS Championship game and major concerts, but you'd hope they can add a sponsor to the stadium before the year is over.
4. Will attendance keep rising?
Attendance was up for the third straight year in 2012, bringing FC Dallas to a level that hasn't been seen since 2007 before the bottom fell out. Getting the numbers back to where they were previously has been a huge accomplishment that deserves a ton of praise, but now the question becomes whether attendance will rise to near middle of the pack MLS numbers. If FCD can sustain the same 10% raise in 2013 that they had in 2012, the average will be right up there with a lot of teams in the league. With two home games against LA as well as the home opener, July 4 and the Houston home game, you've got to think it's definitely a possibility.
3. Does the supporter culture keep improving?
Between the Dallas Football Elite, Inferno and Dallas Beer Guardians, the numbers of full season ticket holder supporters section types are reaching the many hundreds. The atmosphere at FC Dallas Stadium in 2012 was better than any year out of the last five and subsequently the number of seats in the Budweiser Beer Garden is being doubled in 2013. Will the rest of the crowd catch on and join in some of the chants? Let's hope so.
2. What of the Doug Quinn situation?
It's very dangerous to speculate at all on this situation, and everyone is just in wait and see mode to find out how the court proceedings shake out. If Quinn, currently on leave, does end up departing the organization, it's a major hole. Despite any personal issues, it's important to note that Quinn has done an incredibly good job putting a strong executive staff in place while raising attendance and signing a shirt sponsor.
1. How will Schellas Hyndman's legacy be seen?
2013 will be Schellas Hyndman's fifth full season at the helm on World Cup Way, the second-longest tenure in franchise history behind only Dave Dir. In four full seasons, FCD has made the playoffs twice and missed the playoffs twice, making a US Open semifinal appearance in 2011. Of course, the biggest thing Hyndman has done here is win the club it's first Western Conference Championship while taking the club to it's first MLS Cup appearance.
He's instilled a signature style here in Dallas, but the fact is that the club has been on the decline on the field since that sad night in Toronto. The problems can certainly be partly understood as talisman David Ferreira missed 15 months with injury, but the CONCACAF Champions League disaster coupled with wild card round exit in 2011 and missed playoffs in 2012 means the pressure is on.
2013 will go a long way to showing whether the fluke was 2010 or 2011/2012.