The more things change, the more they stay the same. A lame cliché I know, but quite fitting for the final week of the MLS off-season before teams must have their salary caps in order. Or tell the league office they won’t be able to do that by Monday. You know, either way. Whatever you need to do. It’s a rule, but don’t worry so much about following it. Whatever you need to do.
Such is life in corporate America. Don’t like a rule? Change it. Create a new rule. Create whatever you think you need to protect those profits. They are not Monsanto. Millions are not sick or dead from the products sold by MLS. But lately, it seems MLS might be manufacturing growth. Like a genetically modified seed, you have to wonder about the environmental cost.
After the jump, a week of focus on the altered DNA of MLS.
Philadelphia became the well-deserved recipient of the 16th MLS franchise yesterday, signaling the unrelenting belief of league officials that league’s footprint is more important than that of the players. I wrote about this back in July 2007 when the Earthquakes returned, breaking down the MLS Layercake. I posited we wouldn’t be talking about expansion again until 2010, but then Seattle came on line for 2009. Now we have Philly for the 2010 season. And maybe St. Louis is next if they can keep it in their pants. So dejected the city is after the latest snub, now they’re wondering if they are too white?
Will we ever get to a point in America where attention can be paid to diversity without a white person feeling neglected? Maybe it is a fair question, but MLS has just begun to cast its eyes and spread its marketing dollars outside the suburbs; this should be applauded not questioned. If that is the reason why St. Louis doesn’t get a team – I don’t believe it is – so be it. Just as old technology or industry becomes obsolete with the invention of the new, maybe so goes the soccer mom. I say good riddance, but that’s not to say St. Louis won’t be the next team. I think they will be over Miami or even my hometown of Atlanta, neither of which have proved they are terribly good hosts to professional sports.
It’s not just new teams, player shopping, trading, buying, and signings are at an all-time high. It may be that this is the real first year of a new MLS. It may be like this every year moving forward as purse strings loosen, but look at Soccer America’s breakdown (subscription required) of team rosters and it’s clear this year will be a new-look MLS. DC has 14 players gone from last year’s roster. Red Bull, 12. Galaxy, 11. Chicago is the only established team to let less than 5 players go in one way or another. Even the expansion Earthquakes let 2 guys go. And these numbers may very well grow larger come Monday. The jerseys will have new names but will it make the game stronger? To be determined, but considering there wasn’t one amazing team last season this movement has to be a welcome sign. Also to be determined, whether team marketing maneuvers increase beyond things like the Wizards recent addition of a free bus from downtown Kansas City to their stadium if you have at least 50 people. That should really get ‘em out in droves.
the cups overflow; everybody get sick
I didn’t read a single positive thing about the Pan Pacific Championship. Only a few reporters even traveled out to Hawaii. Grahame Jones sums it up the best. I’m guess I’m an idiot for thinking it could be special. I get sucked in everytime.
A few weeks ago I spoke to a documentary filmmaker about the deep soccer history in Hawaii. The cover photo was of a snowy Mauna Kea. I could have used the same photo here, because well, the tournament was cold, no make that frigid. Everything from the play on the field to the promotion and coverage of the event was poor. I can’t imagine Hawaii getting this tournament again. That is if it happens anywhere.
I’d think it sad if not for new tournaments (I can’t say “championships”) occurring seemingly every week. Inevitably a fair number of people come out to criticize them while full starting line-ups often don’t come out. With the lack of searing attention on MLS, why not make sure when they do step out into the spotlight that they do it right? Important first impressions are still being made for MLS and everyone would be wiser to heed that adolescent advice about how if you can’t do something right, don’t do it at all.
Jones quoted MLS Commissioner as saying, “We want to see it continue. For now we’ll take a deep breath and think about what would happen if we had more time to plan.”
Deep Breath? The time for a deep breath was before diving in without looking. It’s hard to take a deep breath after you drown. At best there is a sigh from those on the shore, the MLS fan wanting something, anything to connect to fans that doesn’t involve the Mexican national team.
This off-season has seen MLS spreading its seed thin, but the crop has been improved. Has it added enough super power on the fields to make it balance out? We’ll see. You can’t win them all, not yet anyway - this is no NFL - and everybody needs to learn a hard lesson now and again, but continuing to create new, mediocre products is potentially dangerous. Kind of like a turf field on knees. Turf in Hawaii, well that makes even less sense.
The whole weekend championship thing is just getting away from anything that feels organic. Besides the international cross-marketing, these cups and championships that are simultaneously the glory and bane of the global soccer world are only good when there is real rivalry between teams, something MLS might be able to development down the road, but which at present feels more manufactured than natural. Let it grow; stop picking new fights that seem destined for loses.
A few final notes:
Two writers, Michael Lewis and Ives Galarcep, traveled to Austria to cover Red Bull training camp. That’s great to see. The Colorado Rapids left Thursday for London and a stint at Arsenal. A few teams are in South America. At least one writer should go with every team. What a great chance to look at a team’s, a sport’s, a nation’s culture. But of course, most teams won’t have writers in tow. Maybe they are all waiting for one of those 4 charter flights that teams can petition the league for this season?
Really Yahoo? As if one article wasn’t enough to squeeze from the bile that was their list of “20 best players in MLS.” Now Rogers gives a rebuttal to his critics. More reporting from a worthy voice like Rogers should be warranted. New t-shirt: “I went to Hawaii and all I got was two news pieces published. Yahoo!”
Kenny Deuchar from Scottish Premier League club Gretna is 27, talented, and headed to Salt Lake. Might he be the first quality UK resident to move to MLS in the prime of his career? Let me get this straight: Deucher comes here, but Americans of his quality go over there to lesser leagues than Deuchar left? Either he’s lost it on the field (his production did drop along with first team playing time the last season or two) or Americans may not want to go play in third-tier European leagues. Whatever you need to do, I guess.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Mexico’s Olympic qualifying tune-up against Australia in Oakland is sold out. This is American Soccer.
Banner photo of a Greenpeace crop circle created in protest of agricultural giant Monsanto. photo from Greenpeace.com.