Summoning the spirit of the late John McLaughlin....TOPIC ONE!
Here’s the thing about the North American Soccer League. You can’t assume anyone is dead until Chris Hardwick officially runs the “In Memoriam” roll for the character on “Talking Dead.” For all we know, the Cosmos and The Miami FC are simply hiding under a dumpster. I certainly haven’t come to praise the NASL, but I can’t bury them yet, either. Hopefully soon.
You know when MLS will really, truly have made it? When they move a team from a good market just to make more money. Wait, no, that’s horrible. When fans of other teams stop cheering on rivals in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The best thing about the UEFA Champions League is English fans mocking English teams. If Elizabeth I did as poorly against Spanish opponents as Manchester United, the map of the world would look very different.
The political map. Comparatively few mountain ranges and oceans would have changed. You never know, maybe.
The English fan structure is a beautifully Hobbesian war of all against all. There is always some recent embarrassment that fans can use as a cudgel against their neighbor. It doesn’t hurt in the slightest that Manchester United and Jose Mourinho make such deserving targets. I don’t know how you’d live that down – hope one of your rival goalkeepers gets nutmegged twice by Leo Messi, or something.
But meanwhile, here we are actually upset that the Seattle Sounders won’t be named Lords of the North, at least not this year.
We MLS fans (offer not available in Washington state) should be relieved, if not overjoyed! Can you imagine if the Sounders won? Type in about twelve or fifteen numbers onto a calculator or keyboard at random. Put an “A.D.” after it. That would be the year Seattle fans would have stopped rubbing it in our faces.
I know this, because if the Galaxy happen to be the first to win the new Champions Cup format, I plan to act precisely this way. Drew Carey and Joe Roth could bequeath the Sounders to my children, and I’d still boo them.
And we are far from out of the woods here, folks. Sure, it will probably be a Superclasico CCL, because that would make the most money and guys, it’s CONCACAF, how big a picture do I have to draw here? (Also Chivas and America might be better teams and win fair and square, but there’s no percentage in admitting that.) But what if.
Toronto…well, Montreal and Vancouver fans will have to repurpose their bomb shelters to hide out. But the fallout in the United States might theoretically be survivable. American MLS fans could treat a TFC fan the way Manchester United treats the Lisbon Lions – yeah, Celtic won the European Cup first, but the first ENGLISH team etc. etc.
I worry, though. Toronto plays in the same league, unlike Celtic and Manchester United, and as we all know their fan base isn’t shy about asserting their opinions.
Red Bulls fans, though. Years of frustration have turned the ordinarily sweet and well-natured Tri-State sports fan and molded him and her into a creature of malevolence and terror. Between club and country, the 2018 New York Red Bull fan is probably the angriest person alive.
To go from there, to Champions of North America? I don’t know if you want to give that toddler any sugar, ma’am.
On the other hand – I think that’s something like four other hands I’ve gotten to on this tangent – MLS could certainly use the prestige. Because it looks like the World Cup is going to Morocco.
TOPIC TWO - IT LOOKS LIKE THE WORLD CUP IS GOING TO MOROCCO!
Or if it isn’t, it should be.
This is from this extremely interesting article in The Breaker, posted in the wake of Vancouver, British Columbia rejecting the opportunity to host men’s World Cup games. Come to find out that Minneapolis and Chicago (home of US Soccer!) have send in their RSVFU’s to FIFA as well. Los Angeles was going to be on this list, until they relented at the last second – presumably because they would have been a favorite to host the final.
FIFA has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. All FIFA has to do is settle for something less than everything not nailed down.
I wasn’t wrong about the men’s World Cup being good for what ails American soccer. Canadian soccer wouldn’t exactly have suffered either. But we are citizens and human beings, and we can’t ask our fellow citizens and human beings to pay for our vices. Eventually someone in one of the twenty or thirty host cities will want to build a school or repair a pothole or something.
World Cups used to benefit both the sport and the larger public…at least between 1978 and 2006. Before then, it was often as not used as a prop to put a smiley face on dictatorships. And since then, big sports tournaments have taken much and left nothing but unused or unusable facilities. This year, of course, we're back to propping up dictatorships.
The formal bid submission, as of this writing, now has twenty-three cities.
On the bright side, Austin will be able to host World Cup games in their new stadium – what? They weren’t included? How peculiar!
No, neither was Columbus.
In case you would like to incautiously speculate: Cincinnati, Nashville and Miami were included. Detroit and Sacramento were not. I’m as surprised to see Miami there as you are. Baltimore is the other current non-MLS city on the list.
In the United States. I don’t think Guadalajara would be a terribly receptive MLS market.
Oh. So the Open Cup schedule came out, and it naturally includes the reigning PDL champions, the Charlotte Eagles.
Who, unfortunately, discriminate.
Here’s why I bring this up. The Eagles and Seahorses have been at this for a while, scorin’ goals and savin’ souls.
But they will not sign an openly gay player. And there’s no real reason to believe they would sign an openly Muslim, Jewish, atheist or agnostic player.
And, of course, in 2016 the Eagles told the Guardian straight up that they would not consider signing an openly gay player.
The MAI statement explicitly states sexual activity outside a monogamous, heterosexual marriage is wrong. And players are expected to subscribe to it.
As an organization, as a club, they must abide by their doctrine, Stewart says, but “we can still demonstrate that we care about people who don’t subscribe to that.”
So an openly gay or bisexual player would be forbidden from entering the Charlotte fold. “Their proclamation is clearly contradictory to both social progress and the use of sport to teach inclusivity and corporation among diverse people,” says Eric Anderson, an international expert in sporting and sexual cultures, who wrote the book In "The Game: Gay Athletes and the Cult of Masculinity."
The Eagles and the Seahorses have been bouncing around the PDL and its equivalents since the 1990’s. That was before any of us were even born. Kenn Tomasch told me, and the rest of the online universe via Twitter, that the Eagles were a pro team until 2015.
Let’s assume that how Mission Athletes International runs its teams is legal under American law. It almost certainly is, thanks to that same First Amendment that gives bloggers the right to say any crap on the Internet they please.
But as lgbt.soccer points out, they might run afoul of FIFA regulations. And, unusually for FIFA, these particular regulations are fairly unambiguous. FIFA gave the stink-eye for poppies in England, Wales and Scotland, a political message roughly as controversial as “spay or neuter your pets.”
So it isn’t just that MAI’s anti-gay message crosses the line – even something as innocuous as “Jesus is Just Alright With Me” would, according to FIFA commandments.
American teams aren’t exempt from this. An amateur team tried to stump for Mitt Romney in 2012 with their shirt sponsorship, and it was shot down quicker than the Red Baron shot down Snoopy behind enemy lines.
It’s probably a coincidence, but both the Seahorses and Eagles changed their logos earlier this month, emphasizing MAI more…and seriously de-emphasizing the Christian cross.
The letter of FIFA law would probably still exclude the Charlotte Eagles – but it would also have historically excluded the Old Firm, or Hakoah FC. Club logos in Israel, shockingly enough, lean heavily on stars of David. And however awkward it would be for an openly gay player to try out for the Charlotte Eagles, it would be much more difficult for that player at, say, Al-Hilal Saudi.
Long, perhaps too long, story short – USL and the USSF should strongly suggest to MAI that it’s time to take their ministry beyond the borders of organized league soccer. MAI might sue, and they might win. But God knows the USSF has gone to court over dumber things.
TOPIC FOUR - THE MOST DIFFICULT BALLOT IN NATIONAL SOCCER HALL OF FAME HISTORY!
The 2018 National Soccer Hall of Fame Player Ballot. I have my own opinions, which I will share after I turn in the ballot. But! The poll function allows you, yes you, to register your voice! Which I might ignore, but might not!
Except you only have twenty choices here, and there are thirty names on the ballot.
So here's what we will do. Brad Friedel is IN, folks. Carlos Bocanegra too, probably. And Tiffeny Milbrett should be. I'm not going to bother giving you the option there.
I'm going to pre-emptively take off some names, too. Stuart Holden would have been a Hall of Fame player if it weren't for injuries. There's nothing I can do about that. Lori Lindsey does not have the resume - not when Milbrett is still on the ballot. And I don't know whatever became of Chris Klein.
Oh. Thierry Henry did not do enough in MLS, nor obviously for the US national team, to justify inclusion. You may of course choose to believe and express otherwise.
It breaks my heart to leave off Kevin Hartman, but here's a great article about him and the academy he's running these days.
Here's the bio guide, presumably compiled by the great Roger Allaway (who ought to get a Colin Jose Award sooner rather than later).