Soccer in America
As it's Thanksgiving I'm going to dedicate a little time to football in America, I'm even for this day only going to indulge my American readers by calling it soccer.
After knocking Chicago Fire
out of the semi-final of the MLS Cup, Real (Re-ale) Salt Lake again made a mockery of the competition by beating David Beckham's LA Galaxy on penalties in the final last weekend. I have never seen the MLS' flagship game get so much media attention
outside of the States, obviously due to Beckham's appearance. I for one was hoping that for Becks' benefit and to quieten those that scoff at his time in the US, he would collect his 3rd league title in 3 countries (only ever achieved by one Briton, Trevor Steven) but it wasn't to be as the hardworking Salt Lake took the game to pk's (as is the American's want for abbreviations) and despite Beckham converting Galaxy's first penalty, they lost 5-4 and it was Real's captain and their very own Becks, Kyle Beckerman (who looks like he needs a good wash) who lifted the trophy. This after they finished the 30-game regular season with the 8th 'best record' or in fact the 7th worst!
Meanwhile a few weeks back the Columbus Crew who won the western conference ended the regular season with the most points (as they did last term) and collected the Supporters Shield, the kind of thing you might buy for a tenner from your local cobblers. I'm all for a bit of play-off action but I actually like to see the best team win, and I'm unconvinced Real Salt Lake were.
Back to Beckham, after battling through the game with a badly bruised ankle and pain killing injections, those airheads on the west coast might finally stop booing the best player they are ever likely to see in their shirt. He's had to put up with some ridiculous mocking for wanting to prolong his international career by playing for AC Milan. After all, it is not unusual for MLS players to go on loan during their off-season. As an example Chicago Fire's talisman Cuauhtemoc Blanco has rejoined Mexican second-division Veracruz in order to get fit for the world cup and is widely expected to return to the windy city for the 2010 season.
Tuesday night Chicago Fire parted company with head coach Denis Hamlett
, who'd been with the coaching staff since their inaugural season in 1998. Yesterday was the MLS 'Super Draft
,' American's of course have to insert the words 'super' or 'world' into anything that is a little important to them and drafts are something that everyone except Americans fail to understand but Illinois native and ex-Fulham striker Brian McBride resigned for the Fire and ex-Arsenal youth player Steve Zakuani
was the draft's first pick you'll be enlightened to know.Philadelphia Union
, the MLS' 16th team basically picked the majority of their squad at the draft. They will start next season in the eastern conference with their very own 18,500 capacity stadium
based right alongside the Delaware River between the cities of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. Polish ex-Fire manager Piotr Nowak
looks like a good choice as Union's first head coach. Two further teams Vancouver Whitecaps
and Portland Timbers
will be added in 2011. After that, it is likely that Montreal will become the 3rd Canadian team and nineteenth franchise with according to this week's media
potentially David Beckham selecting and investing in a 20th team.
Two questions then. Does this spread the thin line of soccer talent too finely and where an earth will Beckham set up his franchise, which is expected to cost a cool $40m? There has been some talk into the 20th franchise being in Europe, I can't see it and to me the south-east of America looks ripe for a MLS team, I can see Becks and of course Mrs Becks all over Miami personally.
Also this week it was announced that below the MLS, the second tier of soccer in North America will splinter into two leagues from one. The reincarnation of the NASL
seems a strange title to me, but in an effort to squeeze every ounce out of a publicity and marketing effort that is what the owners of the nine teams have done.
Six of those nine teams have come from the United Soccer League
(USL) including Tango Man's previously 2nd division Crystal Palarse Baltimore
. Who knows where this leaves the USL, which in my mind was always a badly organized and collective riff raff of what basically amounted to local teams, including the financially restrained Bermuda Hogges
. Meanwhile the USL have reacted strongly
to the defection of it's teams, including the reformed Tampa Bay Rowdies (I used to have one of their shirts) who had previously committed to the USL before joining the NASL earlier this week.
An interesting time for soccer in America then. The MLS has had a slow but steady growth but attendances were down
this past season and could have been worse if it wasn't for the very well supported new boys Seattle Sounders
, who averaged a very impressive 30,897. The Beckham factor may be losing it's appeal as both Galaxy's home and away crowds were down by over 20%. Certainly the game needs more heroes and they are hard to come by, particularly as the sports media has no interest in creating any.
Personally I like the fact the league is getting bigger, I reckon it gives the MLS more credibility but maybe interest in the game is waning and soccer in the US has reached it's zenith and there is simply no more room for it to grow. Sports fans have no understanding of second divisions either, it is all minor leagues or kids stuff to them and I really can't see the NASL gaining any momentum as it just looks like nine grown men with inflated egos.
I hope soccer not only survives in America but flourishes, and if England can't win the bid 2018 world cup, then let America have it, that will certainly be a stimulus package that everyone from Main St to Wall St can buy into.