LASTISH MINUTE EDIT - didn't want to trash the US stuff, but skip to the bottom for today's wonderful news!
ONE YEAR AGO THIS WEEK I read this terrific article on repressed memories.
Damned if I can find the link, though.
Hi, everyone! First order of business is to congratulate the San Jose Earthquakes for what looks like a terrific coaching hire. I think fans and foes alike would agree that the Quakes have been deep into rigor mortis for far too long. So long, in fact, that you worry this is, at best, a stop on Miguel Almeyda's redemption tour. Or at worst, a sign of another coach that used to reliably win but lost it all of a sudden.
I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but I'm sure if I put some thought to this matter today, October 10, I will find some.
The Earthquakes have been too small a club for too long. I say this not as a friend, but even better – as an enemy. I love the Earthquakes-Galaxy rivalry, God help me, I love it so. It's Evil vs. Good, although according to rational standards the initials should PROBABLY be reversed. It's the most intense rivalry yet unsullied by some corporate trophy. Unless you count the MLS Cup as a trophy, something San Jose will get to lord over the Galaxy forever. That, and the Cup they won in our house.
When the Galaxy are more Mets than Yankees, and the Earthquakes are the Mudville Nine (two red cards) – it hurts my tiny little heart. So it makes me happy to see a team, at its lowest point, finds the resources to hire a coach that will address their biggest problems.
Yup. Love it when teams hire the right coach.
They don't, you know, take forever with it.
Fine, we'll address the elephant in the – what's this? A crazy league merger idea just for hits that only a hack desperate to fill space would bite at? Let's delve into this like it actually might happen!
Retuers via ESPN doggedly recorded what Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla was pitching:
"If we can make a World Cup then we can make a North American league or a North American Cup. The main idea is that we have to grow together to compete. If not, there is only going to be the rich guys in Europe and the rest of the world."
Just in case you thought the Campeones Cup was going away, and just in case you thought the three 2026 World Cup hosts don't wish they could mail Central America and the Caribbean to the Pacific to join OFC.
Let's take Bonilla at his word, and assume this isn't simply adding a couple of more teams to the Campeones Cup. We have to be talking about a single North American championship, and one that eclipses or replaces the existing league titles. MLS Cup and Liga MX will have to mean as much as MLS Western and Eastern Conference titles do today. That's not going to be an easy sell, psychologically. Liga MX teams wouldn't want to cede prestige to Yankee upstarts, and MLS would be looking at no domestic champions for maybe years at a time.
Once pride is overcome, the road map to a single unified title is surprisingly easy. There is little to no precedent for this in world soccer, of course. But the entire American sports landscape today revolves around this very concept. Major League Baseball shows exactly how simple this would be, at least logistically.
For most of Earth's history, the World Series was contested between two leagues that did not meet, apart from the championship and the All-Star Game. Except for a few extra games in October, the National League carried on as it always had, and the American League followed suit. It seems vastly more likely the two leagues would adopt this model than the NFL model, where two leagues were much more thoroughly integrated under one brand and one schedule.
I'm sure somewhere, someone has drawn up elaborate plans to re-arrange Mexican, Canadian and American teams into a promotion and relegation ladder. Let us roll our eyes condescendingly, and return to reality.
There actually is one logistical problem. The American League and National League play roughly – okay, exactly – the same time of year. Either MLS is going to have to play in December, January and February, or Liga MX will have to ditch its split seasons and play in June while giving up the winter months.
I don't think there's a way around this, at least not while pretending it’s something worthy of the name of championship. Playing for a title while one team is in the middle of its next season is unfair, and a little headache-inducing. One team can't be in midseason form with the other either freshly returning from its off-season, or at the end of the season/two-season long haul. The two leagues will literally have to get their acts together.
Keeping the leagues separate, joining "merely" to contest the title, also solves the other potential logistical nightmare. Liga MX has a bunch of teams stronger, deeper, better supported, and superior in nearly every metric to MLS teams…but they don't have twenty-eight or thirty of them. If Liga MX is leery about letting small teams with small facilities into the top division, imagine how enthusiastic MLS would be about scheduling teams that average less than half their worst team's attendance. MLS only has a couple of teams averaging less than 15,000, and nobody thinks any of the upcoming expansion teams will draw below that number. Ascenso has a couple averaging over 10,000.
Under the American baseball format, whether or not Mexico will ever have more than twenty teams averaging 15,000 attendance is, well, nobody's problem. Mexico won't even have to get rid of promotion and relegation if they don't want to, although current signs show that Liga MX would be perfectly happy if that happened.
One assumes also that Club Tijuana would not hold a veto over a potential MLS expansion into San Diego.
So it's not a crazy idea, and it's not an unworkable idea. It's more likely to happen than the European Super League.
Okay, two and a half pages out of that. Is that enough? Or should I wait until after the Colombia game just in case something important happens?
Spoiler: I waited. Fun! Entertaining! Imagine what we could do with a coach!
Yeah, I got my hopes up that we would actually win, let alone get a point. Sometimes the Reality Fish hits us upside the head.
What I didn't expect were several instances of "Gee, isn't this sport wonderful and fun and beautiful and worth watching for its own sake?" Let alone during a USMNT game. Let alone FROM the USMNT, although we must freely admit they were upstaged by James.
I hate fall FIFA dates, but this one helped a great deal. We didn't learn much of nothin', and we wouldn't have even if we had named a coach. It's simply too early. There are simply too many new players to integrate. There was no way to win the World Cup this week, no way to qualify for the World Cup. Hell, it would even be difficult to fail to qualify again this week, short of hiring me to coach and play keeper.
Pretty plays, for the love of God. This game passed the Galeano test. That's not going to help us qualify, either, obviously, but we're still a fan base that needs jazzing up in the worst way. The prospect of this being a fun and enjoyable journey with cool young players doing exciting things is something we'd have sold souls for. Not our own, necessarily, but we'd have sold others that weren't being used. College football boosters, Cristiano Ronaldo's public relations team, that sort of thing.
Was the Colombia game enough to forget what happened a year ago? I don't know, what happened a year ago?
Oh, right. Grant Wahl broke the Precourt story. I wonder what's been going on with that?
Just kidding. Literally as I type this, rumors have tsunamied that the evil men who want to convert the First Team into Austin FC have been thwarted. As you may or may not care, I believe that the soul of the league is at stake here, but also the wiser business path. I consider the franchise blackmail game that the NFL plays to be sinister and ultimately self-destructive.
As Terry Pratchett reminded us, evil contains the seeds of its own destruction. Unless that was Neal Gaiman's line. It was in "Good Omens." Maybe they got it from somewhere else. I should look it up someday.
The math that drives franchise relocation is that casual fans watching television, and ads, are more valuable than fans who attend games. I think that's sloppy math, but I also think the NFL believes it wholeheartedly. So as long as nationwide interest stays constant, and the individual owners can sucker cities into competing against each other – well, why not move.
The premise is, of course, that hardcore fan attendance is not by itself a driver of casual fan interest. There's a reason pro teams put city names on the shirts in the first place – to tap into civic loyalty. Whether the NFL is correct in its devilish calculations, though, is not quite the point. Nobody really thinks MLS is popular enough to alienate thousands of fans at a time. Especially thousands of fans who were fairly instrumental in helping the league last this long.
Maybe, for the NFL, adding more teams won't increase revenue enough to justify reducing payouts from 1/32 to 1/36 or whatever. I do not believe that's true for MLS, not by a long shot, now while the sort of cities NFL holds hostage are the ones most enthusiastic for MLS. Atlanta, to pick a painfully obvious example, brought in enough revenue to justify the extra piece of the pie. So will Cincinnati. So will Nashville.
And so will Austin, one day. I say this as the crank who sees forty teams as workable (not counting Liga MX teams), but of course put teams in Austin and San Antonio, Sacramento and St. Louis, wherever. Sports is not a zero-sum game off the field.
Well, Miki Turner is running with the story, and he's a damn bright guy who is in the know about such things. If this IS a hoax, then pre-emptive congratulations, you got a LOT of dolphins in that tuna net.
"What I’ve been told is that the deal to keep the team in Columbus is “largely done.” Precourt will be awarded a team in Austin. The Columbus Crew will remain where they are under new ownership. What wasn’t quite clear was how this will be effected. The information I was told is that the Columbus will get an “expansion” team, but will keep their name, players and identity and will play in 2019. Which doesn’t sound like an expansion team, but we’ll have to wait for an update."
Leave it to MLS to try the "Shakespeare's plays were not written by Shakespeare, but by somebody else with the same name" joke in real life.
Or as Pete Townshend would have put it, "Meet the new Crew! Same as the old Crew!"
The "same team, better owner" slogans write themselves. Or would, if the new owner wasn't the corporate criminal who made the Cleveland Browns what they are today. But if you didn't want to support corporate criminals, why are you a sports fan in the first place?
The other reason to revel in the Crew being saved, even if you did buy Austin FC season tickets, is the Modell Law. Take tax money? Then you can’t leave without trying to find a local buyer first. Your state should pass one. Pass two, in case the first one runs out of batteries. We'll never know if a Modell Law would have saved the original Cleveland Browns or the Brooklyn Dodgers or the original Baltimore Orioles (who ended up becoming the Yankees, and have been changing the world in hellish ways ever since). We do know it saved the Crew. It won't save a team that doesn't have a considerable amount of local support, but teams that don't have that shouldn't be saved.
The #SaveTheCrew movement showed the Modell Law could stop both league and owner, and give power back to fans. This is – what's the cliché I'm after – a game-changer.
Well, it's more of a game-keeper. Oh, that word means something else.
#SaveTheCrew might have changed the direction of pro sports. No more, or at least much fewer, shakedowns of gullible cities and counties. No more exploitation, no more ripoffs, no more Los Angeles Chargers.
Real-time update – to me, not you, by the time you read this you will know everything that's happened, which says something about modern communication that would make Marshall McLuhan sound like Marshall Mathers – announcement coming at 5:00 Eastern, just under an hour away. Paul Kennedy of Soccer America says done deal. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine posted a clip of Toto's "Africa" with the Save the Crew hashtag. Still not voting for him, but thumbs up for not using Weezer.
I'm not going to lie, folks. I thought it was over for me and MLS, and I thought the USMNT was going to be a tedious slog. I have more hope today than I've had for almost exactly a year. I love American soccer. Thank you so much, #SaveTheCrew.