Tim Howard is coming back to MLS. The United States goalkeeper has signed with the Colorado Rapids and, come July, will once again be a part of the league where he got his start as a 19-year-old.
The MLS (and world) that Howard returns to is nothing like the one he left, though. It might as well be a whole other world.
When Howard made his MLS debut – August 18, 1998
★ The Chicago Fire were in their expansion season, and won MLS Cup.
★ The Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion were still MLS clubs.
★ FC Dallas were called the Dallas Burn, the San Jose Earthquakes (or is it the Houston Dynamo?) were called the San Jose Clash and Sporting Kansas City were called the Kansas City Wizards.
★ Roy Lassiter was D.C. United’s starting striker. His son, Ariel, now plays for the LA Galaxy.
★ The Fire led MLS in attendance, averaging 17,886 per game.
★ Zinedine Zidane won the Ballon d’Or.
★ "The Boy is Mine" by Brandy and Monica was the No. 1 song in the U.S.
★ Bill Clinton had just given grand jury testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
★ Pokemon Red and Blue games were a month away from being released in North America.
★ Puppies were the best.
★ Howard played for the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, becuse they still existed and that was somehow considered an acceptable club name.
Nearly five years later, Howard was ready to move on from MLS. And it was going to be for Manchester United, where he immediately walked in and became the team’s starter. But before he did, he had to play his last match for the Metrostars.
When Howard played his last MLS match – July 12, 2003
★ The Fire won the Supporters’ Shield, but the Earthquakes (yes, they had become the Earthquakes) won MLS Cup.
★ The Mutiny and Fusion had folded.
★ The Dallas Burn were, well, still the Dallas Burn. The same was true for the Kansas City Wizards.
★ Preki won the MLS MVP and Carlos Ruiz the Golden Boot.
★ The LA Galaxy led MLS in attendance with 21,983 per game. No one else in MLS averaged above 17,000.
★ Pavel Nedved won the Ballon d’Or.
★ "21 Questions" by 50 Cent, featuring Nate Dogg was the No. 1 song in the U.S.
★ Beyonce had just released her first solo album, "Dangerously in Love."
★ The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie starring Johnny Depp was the highest grossing movie in the U.S.
★ Puppies were still the best.
★ Howard played for the Metrostars (no longer New York/New Jersey), becuse they still existed and that was somehow considered an acceptable club name.
So the world has changed a lot since Howard last played in MLS. He joined a 12-team league, left a 10-team league an now returns to a 20-team league intent on growing to 24 teams. When Howard made his debut, there wasn’t a single soccer-specific stadium, and there were only two when he signed with Manchester United. Now there are 14 such stadiums and work has begun on two more. The team leading MLS in attendance averages 44,247 per game and 16 teams average more fans per game than the No. 2 team did in 2003.
Not everything has changed, though. Beyonce is still making fire music, "21 Questions" is still one of the best love songs of all-time and puppies are still the best.