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Found 4 results

  1. It didn’t take long for the anti-MLS forces on Social Media to sharpen their knives following the United States failure to qualify for Russia 2018. In fairness, it doesn’t take much for those knives to get sharpened by that bunch, as MLS is seen as an enemy to the game by those with short memories. This is not to suggest that MLS is perfect, but the idea that the league – a league that is commanding massive expansion fees across the USA and exposing the joys of following club soccer week in and week out to hundreds of thousands of new Americans every day—is the reason the US failed to qualify is, to be diplomatic, simplistic. To be less diplomatic, it’s absurd. A few key points: First, and this is key, IT’S NOT THE JOB OF A PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE TO BUILD A NATIONAL TEAM. It’s the job of a professional team to grow professional soccer culture in its markets (the clubs) and to entertain its customers (its fans). By doing that it can help national teams, but it cannot be its primary focus. Second, if MLS is the problem how do you wrap your head around idea that MLS players played significant roles for countries that did qualify. Hell, Roman Torres and Alberth Elis scored the goals that sent their country’s to the World Cup. If you’re willing to look beyond the moment, you’ll also see that MLS has helped drive an increase in the American talent pool, which, in turn, has allowed the US to go to seven straight World Cups. Third, there is no evidence that the structure of the league – i.e. the lack of promotion and relegation – has anything to do with anything. The argument that not having the threat of relegation somehow makes players soft ignores how few players on relegation teams play significant roles on more successful national teams. In fact, what would likely happen is that players would become less likely to commit to international football if they were consistently needing to fight to keep their team up. Fans romanticise the idea that players are going to prioritize playing for the flag, but the reality is fans aren’t paying the player’s mortgages. The clubs they play for are and those clubs are – and should be – the player’s No 1 concern. This is an idea that Canadian readers will be familiar with as it’s something players here have long battled with. As said above, this is not to say that MLS can’t make some changes – changes that could benefit the league, as well as, indirectly, the national teams. The one area that the MLS-bashers may have a point on is the lack of competition that currently exists for playing time among the national team players. There is also an argument to be made about MLS coaches not giving young domestic players an opportunity to break through into the first team. The solution to these issues might be counterintuitive and, on the surface, contradicting. There is no doubt that older, American players are a premium in MLS. Because of international roster restrictions, an American (or Canadian in Canada) that can do a job is incredibly value. That leads to them likely being overvalued in salary and, in turn, more likely to get playing time. So, get rid of international restrictions altogether. By removing the artificial restraints you will force domestic players to step up their game and earn their spot. That would address the complacency complaint that anti-MLS voices have. As an aside, it would also address Canadians complaints about the domestic status of Canadian players on American teams. The law MLS cites when it refuses to acknowledge Canadians as domestics league-wide only requires that all internationals be treated equally. Eliminating international restrictions accomplishes that. Such a measure would likely cost a few domestic players their jobs, but the majority of roster spots would remain American (and maybe a more reasonable amount would become Canadian). It’s just easier and a better fit for domestic players to play domestically the world over. Now, it’s more likely MLS goes the other way and becomes more protectionist, but that would be a mistake. The issue of getting more chances for younger players is difficult without getting into quotas again. As outlined above, quotas could have a detrimental impact on development, so MLS would need to think long and hard before taking that step. The solution here could be cap relief. Since the salary cap isn’t going anywhere, why not make any academy produced player cap exempt for the duration of his contract? Yes, that would potentially give an advantage to clubs with big academies, but there comes a point where protecting parity becomes, well, parody. If Salt Lake City can have one of the best academies in MLS, which it does, there is no excuse for any club that doesn’t follow suit. Incentivy them to make it so. Make no mistake, MLS is largely a strawman in this discussion. But, there are a few small things that could be done that would benefit both the league and the national teams attached to the league.
  2. It didn’t take long for the anti-MLS forces on Social Media to sharpen their knives following the United States failure to qualify for Russia 2018. In fairness, it doesn’t take much for those knives to get sharpened by that bunch, as MLS is seen as an enemy to the game by those with short memories. This is not to suggest that MLS is perfect, but the idea that the league – a league that is commanding massive expansion fees across the USA and exposing the joys of following club soccer week in and week out to hundreds of thousands of new Americans every day—is the reason the US failed to qualify is, to be diplomatic, simplistic. To be less diplomatic, it’s absurd. A few key points: First, and this is key, IT’S NOT THE JOB OF A PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE TO BUILD A NATIONAL TEAM. It’s the job of a professional team to grow professional soccer culture in its markets (the clubs) and to entertain its customers (its fans). By doing that it can help national teams, but it cannot be its primary focus. Second, if MLS is the problem how do you wrap your head around idea that MLS players played significant roles for countries that did qualify. Hell, Roman Torres and Alberth Elis scored the goals that sent their country’s to the World Cup. If you’re willing to look beyond the moment, you’ll also see that MLS has helped drive an increase in the American talent pool, which, in turn, has allowed the US to go to seven straight World Cups. Third, there is no evidence that the structure of the league – i.e. the lack of promotion and relegation – has anything to do with anything. The argument that not having the threat of relegation somehow makes players soft ignores how few players on relegation teams play significant roles on more successful national teams. In fact, what would likely happen is that players would become less likely to commit to international football if they were consistently needing to fight to keep their team up. Fans romanticise the idea that players are going to prioritize playing for the flag, but the reality is fans aren’t paying the player’s mortgages. The clubs they play for are and those clubs are – and should be – the player’s No 1 concern. This is an idea that Canadian readers will be familiar with as it’s something players here have long battled with. As said above, this is not to say that MLS can’t make some changes – changes that could benefit the league, as well as, indirectly, the national teams. The one area that the MLS-bashers may have a point on is the lack of competition that currently exists for playing time among the national team players. There is also an argument to be made about MLS coaches not giving young domestic players an opportunity to break through into the first team. The solution to these issues might be counterintuitive and, on the surface, contradicting. There is no doubt that older, American players are a premium in MLS. Because of international roster restrictions, an American (or Canadian in Canada) that can do a job is incredibly value. That leads to them likely being overvalued in salary and, in turn, more likely to get playing time. So, get rid of international restrictions altogether. By removing the artificial restraints you will force domestic players to step up their game and earn their spot. That would address the complacency complaint that anti-MLS voices have. As an aside, it would also address Canadians complaints about the domestic status of Canadian players on American teams. The law MLS cites when it refuses to acknowledge Canadians as domestics league-wide only requires that all internationals be treated equally. Eliminating international restrictions accomplishes that. Such a measure would likely cost a few domestic players their jobs, but the majority of roster spots would remain American (and maybe a more reasonable amount would become Canadian). It’s just easier and a better fit for domestic players to play domestically the world over. Now, it’s more likely MLS goes the other way and becomes more protectionist, but that would be a mistake. The issue of getting more chances for younger players is difficult without getting into quotas again. As outlined above, quotas could have a detrimental impact on development, so MLS would need to think long and hard before taking that step. The solution here could be cap relief. Since the salary cap isn’t going anywhere, why not make any academy produced player cap exempt for the duration of his contract? Yes, that would potentially give an advantage to clubs with big academies, but there comes a point where protecting parity becomes, well, parody. If Salt Lake City can have one of the best academies in MLS, which it does, there is no excuse for any club that doesn’t follow suit. Incentivy them to make it so. Make no mistake, MLS is largely a strawman in this discussion. But, there are a few small things that could be done that would benefit both the league and the national teams attached to the league. View full record
  3. For those with a sense of history, the bookending of the start and finish of the United States’ consecutive men’s World Cup appearance streak was fitting. It started from Trinidad. It ended there too. However, in the time between Paul Caligiuri’s “goal heard round the world (or at least in very specific parts of a largely indifferent at the time America)” and last night’s capitulation to a clearly inferior T&T side, so much has changed that the two events may as well have happened in different worlds. Then the USA was a scrappy group of underdogs that hadn’t been to a World Cup in the modern era. They had no pro league and the 1994 World Cup had not yet been awarded to the USA. Hell, Canada was better than the US back then. But that started to change that day. Over the next two decades the US established itself as a consistent World Cup maker and solid middle power. Famous wins came – Spain in the Confederations Cup, Mexico in the Round of 16 in 2002 – and what was largely a niche sports product became decidedly mainstream, at least when talking about every four years. If you had been around prior to 1990, that rise was remarkable. If you came after, it was still impressive, but also frustrating. The United States is not used to being a middle power in sport. It’s not something that sits well with Americans, who want to be at the top of the world in everything that they do. And they have reason to want that and to believe it possible. The USA is rich – spectacularly rich – both literally and in human resources. The country has amazing infrastructure that is the envy of more established football cultures. Those factors really should be enough to overcome the fact that the sport was not part of the country’s soul, like it is in much of the world. But, it didn’t. After a solid upward trajectory that ended with a missed Torsten Frings handball that, if called, would have sent the US to a World Cup semi-final, things just kind of stagnated at a men’s national team level. There had been positive changes – MLS improved greatly, attendance at games massively increased and the women’s side of the game boomed – but there were still issues that were clear to anyone who was paying attention. There was fractures in the youth systems, professional teams were sacrificing young domestic talent to bring in big, foreign names, too much of development was left to an inadequate NCAA system and, it appeared that profits – especially as it relates to pat-to-play -- were being prioritized over true technical work. As with anything, the solution to those issues is not simple, but it starts with recognizing that there is a problem. After a slip back to the pack in 2006, people were starting to have those hard conversations. It may not have reached a critical mass, but influential voices were starting to make themselves heard towards the latter part of the last decade. And then Landon scored. The last minute Landon Donovan winning goal over Algeria became the true “goal heard around the world” of US soccer. It happened not with a few football geeks watching, but with a nation of soccer bros cheering it on from packed pubs around the United States. Donovan’s goal is, without a doubt, the single most memorable moment in modern American soccer history. It also might have been a little bit of unfortunate glory. It changed the narrative from “what are we doing wrong” to “we believe that we will win.” The evidence didn’t back up the latter belief. In hindsight, the USA’s 2010 World Cup is completely uninspiring. A point was saved against England because of a bizarre keeping error, two goals were allowed against unfancied Slovenia and it took 91 minutes to find a goal against an Algerian team that finished bottom of the group. The US was two minutes from going home. As it was, they were home a few days after the exhilaration of Donovan’s goal, with Ghana finishing off a mediocre 1-1-2 World Cup for the USA. But, the thousands of new fans that came into the fold that day don’t remember the fits and starts versus Slovenia and didn’t care about the systemic issues were there to see if you looked hard enough. They just saw the goal. And they were ready to see more. So, seven more years have passed and the same issues that were there in the 89th minute versus Algeria remain. They’re just seven years deeper and more difficult to address. As many have pointed out those seven years are black hole in US development, with very few players developed during that time having a significant role in the current side. Again, this take, like any, is overly simple. However, the narrative matters and American fans, observers and influencers are operating under a much different narrative today. This time Landon wasn’t there to save the day and the next Landon won’t have an opportunity to do it on the biggest stage for another five years. Believing that they will win is no longer going to cut it. It’s time for USA soccer to start working towards that.
  4. For those with a sense of history, the bookending of the start and finish of the United States’ consecutive men’s World Cup appearance streak was fitting. It started from Trinidad. It ended there too. However, in the time between Paul Caligiuri’s “goal heard round the world (or at least in very specific parts of a largely indifferent at the time America)” and last night’s capitulation to a clearly inferior T&T side, so much has changed that the two events may as well have happened in different worlds. Then the USA was a scrappy group of underdogs that hadn’t been to a World Cup in the modern era. They had no pro league and the 1994 World Cup had not yet been awarded to the USA. Hell, Canada was better than the US back then. But that started to change that day. Over the next two decades the US established itself as a consistent World Cup maker and solid middle power. Famous wins came – Spain in the Confederations Cup, Mexico in the Round of 16 in 2002 – and what was largely a niche sports product became decidedly mainstream, at least when talking about every four years. If you had been around prior to 1990, that rise was remarkable. If you came after, it was still impressive, but also frustrating. The United States is not used to being a middle power in sport. It’s not something that sits well with Americans, who want to be at the top of the world in everything that they do. And they have reason to want that and to believe it possible. The USA is rich – spectacularly rich – both literally and in human resources. The country has amazing infrastructure that is the envy of more established football cultures. Those factors really should be enough to overcome the fact that the sport was not part of the country’s soul, like it is in much of the world. But, it didn’t. After a solid upward trajectory that ended with a missed Torsten Frings handball that, if called, would have sent the US to a World Cup semi-final, things just kind of stagnated at a men’s national team level. There had been positive changes – MLS improved greatly, attendance at games massively increased and the women’s side of the game boomed – but there were still issues that were clear to anyone who was paying attention. There was fractures in the youth systems, professional teams were sacrificing young domestic talent to bring in big, foreign names, too much of development was left to an inadequate NCAA system and, it appeared that profits – especially as it relates to pat-to-play -- were being prioritized over true technical work. As with anything, the solution to those issues is not simple, but it starts with recognizing that there is a problem. After a slip back to the pack in 2006, people were starting to have those hard conversations. It may not have reached a critical mass, but influential voices were starting to make themselves heard towards the latter part of the last decade. And then Landon scored. The last minute Landon Donovan winning goal over Algeria became the true “goal heard around the world” of US soccer. It happened not with a few football geeks watching, but with a nation of soccer bros cheering it on from packed pubs around the United States. Donovan’s goal is, without a doubt, the single most memorable moment in modern American soccer history. It also might have been a little bit of unfortunate glory. It changed the narrative from “what are we doing wrong” to “we believe that we will win.” The evidence didn’t back up the latter belief. In hindsight, the USA’s 2010 World Cup is completely uninspiring. A point was saved against England because of a bizarre keeping error, two goals were allowed against unfancied Slovenia and it took 91 minutes to find a goal against an Algerian team that finished bottom of the group. The US was two minutes from going home. As it was, they were home a few days after the exhilaration of Donovan’s goal, with Ghana finishing off a mediocre 1-1-2 World Cup for the USA. But, the thousands of new fans that came into the fold that day don’t remember the fits and starts versus Slovenia and didn’t care about the systemic issues were there to see if you looked hard enough. They just saw the goal. And they were ready to see more. So, seven more years have passed and the same issues that were there in the 89th minute versus Algeria remain. They’re just seven years deeper and more difficult to address. As many have pointed out those seven years are black hole in US development, with very few players developed during that time having a significant role in the current side. Again, this take, like any, is overly simple. However, the narrative matters and American fans, observers and influencers are operating under a much different narrative today. This time Landon wasn’t there to save the day and the next Landon won’t have an opportunity to do it on the biggest stage for another five years. Believing that they will win is no longer going to cut it. It’s time for USA soccer to start working towards that. View full record
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