Date:Saturday June 13 2009
Manchester City fan, severedgein gives us his thoughts about the North American 'Major Soccer League'.
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I think it was Tudor or Doody who pm'd me a while ago and asked me my opinion on America's footy, MLS.While my response to him was short and sweet, I don't think I quite captured my complete disillusion with the league I should by all rights be most intrigued by and/or in love with.
First of all, I think it's painfully obvious to the world that the US football team is not a world power. We may have crept into the top 20 teams on occasion, but our match with Germany a couple World Cups ago was probably the high point for US football for the foreseeable future. While it's not that we lack decent players, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard come to mind, its that our league, MLS, is one of the worst run leagues in the world at the moment.
MLS coverage on ESPN
The main and most condemning problem with MLS is the salary cap. While promoting equality, it automatically sends all top US players overseas to make their fortune and a real name for themselves. The result is that the best players in our league are all over 30 years old, many of whom are even 35 years old or better. This has enabled a competition among all the teams, and really there are no guaranteed MLS Cup winners every year. Even the famous LA Galaxy have severe consistency problems (not unlike MCFC's...) due to the salary cap basically limiting their key players to Beckham and Donovan. Better run clubs have MAYBE one well known player, to US football supporters that is.
Second main issue is the stage upon which MLS is forced to try to play a game not suited to American mentality. By this I am referring to the way that MLS must share space with the NFL. Not only are MLS teams forced to share stadiums with NFL teams, they are also forced to share the same nauseating broadcasting mould that has been built over the past 50 years of NFL reign.
The commentary is far too talkative, most of it simply taking up space with useless comments about the 'coaches' playing history or whether or not Beckham should have been allowed to leave for Milan in the first place. This is because in the NFL there are 30 seconds between everything that is actually interesting, so they HAVE to talk about nothing constantly to keep people's attention. Also, ESPN is the only HD channel covering what amounts to two matches a week, while at the same time distracting viewers with SSN-esque scroll at the bottom and overly busy score/time graphics.
Lastly there are the inevitable cut-a-ways to the 3rd sportscaster on the sideline, a la NFL, trying to interview the 'coach' as he's trying to get the team's head into the match that's about to start, or worse distracting the players before they head onto the pitch (which are almost ALWAYS undersized due to the location where they play).
There is ONE decent thing that has come from American coverage, and that is this nifty gizmo that allows them to take the picture from the camera's perspective and distort it in a manner that allows people to see player positioning from another angle. While it's surely cheaper to put multiple cameras around the pitch, this nifty computer enhancement will likely gain some fans in the US who, even with the advent of HD televisions, don't seem to grasp dimensions very well and need computer generated lines in addition to the painted lines on a field to decide where a player fell down or to see infinitely useless telemetry showing how far apart two NASCAR drivers are.
Back to the stadiums, a match I watched last week was played in the outfield of a baseball field, which was ALSO housed in an NFL stadium... the width of the pitch was reduced to all of 60yards I believe, and that was still only leaving about 2 yards of space between the touchline and the pitcher's mound. Purpose built stadiums are badly lacking for a sport that simply doesn't share the same special requirements as other national sports.
Also, US players just aren't that good... With very little money to be made within a 400 mile radius of one's home town, many athletes choose to follow 'American football' as the path to their dreams. There are no football academies in the US, though there are hundreds of universities that are willing to give you a scholarship if they think you're the next Joe Montana/Dan Marino. Scouts are everywhere looking for the next baseball pitching star. I personally know a 14 year old who's got university scouts following his every move. There simply isn't a road to development for natural footy players. The true talent is mostly Hispanic immigrants/descent, but due to racial divide they are rarely tapped for their talent unless there's money to be made.
This lack of talent in US football leads to something worse, a lack of discipline. It's not unusual to see an MLS game have at least 5 yellows and one red. There is very little respect from American players for the referees, the most respect comes from players who've played abroad or come from another country to play here. There's far too much brutish attitude in US soccer, its the same in the WPS (Women's Professional Soccer) which recently saw one of the best Brazilian female football players take a broken ankle from a pissed off captain.
Another thing I've noticed, and I hope none of them take it personally, NONE of the keepers are even close to world class. Not. One. Tim Howard is the best American keeper, and he was poached to the PL.
Lastly, and this is not a knock against South American football, but even though our biggest following is of Hispanic descent, a great number of American's are redneck, immigrant hating, NFL loving retards. Any atmosphere that is seen as more fiesta than tailgate party is immediately going to be dismissed. The constant noise from air horns, sombrero's, the endless drumming, and the confetti is a huge turnoff to not only the above mentioned populace, but to fans of the premier league as well. The PL, while lively nonetheless, promotes the MATCH that's going on, not the drunken party in the stands. It's done not just at the event, but on television as well, with light commentary about the MATCH and no other distractions like I described for MLS coverage.
I wish more leagues would model their own on the PL model that's made it the most successful league in the world. I don't know that the MLS can even begin to accomplish that, but with better stadiums, more emphasis on the game, and either raising or eliminating the salary cap; I believe they can take a step in the right direction for the sake of American footy.
Date:Saturday June 13 2009
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