Soccer for the U.S. Sports Fan - American Rules
As 2018 World Cup qualifiers get going again Thursday, March 23rd through Tuesday, March 28th, most of the world's professional soccer leagues will be on hiatus until at least Saturday, April 1st. None of the elite leagues from Europe, South America or Liga MX are playing during these Qualifiers, from Thursday to Tuesday.
Expansion teams don't tend to make the playoffs. If you trace the modern history of professional sports in the U.S., you'd be hard-pressed to find any team making the playoffs in their first year of existence. Winning the title as an expansion team would seem near impossible. Yet, after three weeks of the 2017 Major League Soccer season, expansion pro sports franchise, Atlanta United FC, looks like a serious championship contender.
If it does happen, if MLS overtakes Liga MX, the change may endure. Once MLS moves up the ladder of 'world league status', it might not be falling back down anytime in the near future.
It would be a 'watershed' moment for MLS to pass its nemesis, that holds not only the popularity card, but also the 'talent' card.
Prologue: This year's CONCACAF Champions League could have partnered better and promoted better with MLS to have Thursday's FC Dallas game be played prior to the re-start of the NBA season.
|Vancouver Whitecaps part owner & former 2-time NBA MVP/8-time All-Star.|
Last night, while channel flipping during the primetime hours, I came across the FIFA 17 Ultimate Team Championship Series regional final on ESPN2. I found out the promotion with EA Sports has 1.
This past Sunday's titillating Super Bowl underscores what Soccer in the U.S. is missing. The entertainment value was remarkable. Even without a rooting interest for millions of fans, American football is the sport that comes through under pressure. This past Super Bowl proved once again that football understands American sports fans expectations.
You know the overweight guy that falls asleep in the bleachers and the sports broadcasters can't help themselves, showing him for a few seconds, usually surrounded by nobody...it's an awkward moment. That awkwardness feels the same watching fans picking their noses or eating too much. It's like an invasion of privacy on fans who are simply choosing how to spend their leisure time.
|USMNT's Graham Zusi, at World Cup 2014 |
The soccer world seems a little shaken up after last week's declaration by FIFA's Marco Van Basten, head of the Technical Development department, who said he is overseeing possible rules changes for offsides, amount of playing time, substitutions, how fouls are handled and deciding tie games.
ESPN's report on FIFA considering a change to how soccer may settle tie games for World Cup 2026 is a bit of a game-changer. The rules change would attempt to manage the additional groupings formed from the increase of 16 more countries competing.
Within hours of San Diego losing its American football Chargers, the commissioner of MLS was professing his admiration for San Diego as a destination soccer city metro area. Don Garber, MLS commissioner, has said the same of St. Louis, too, stating that sports teams that leave their hometowns create a vacuum and MLS has a better chance to succeed in those places.
It's hard to believe that not too long ago, there weren't two point conversions in the NFL or three-point shots in the NBA.
As sports fans in the U.S., we have gotten used to our sports evolving. In recent years, each of our major sports have consistently looked for ways to streamline and make their sports better games to watch and fairer to the players playing them.
|Carlos Tevez of the Shangai Shenhua |
After reading the latest from the New York Times on China's plans for improving as a soccer nation and competing globally for world status, it's safe to say that China is one more thorn in the side of MLS's challenge to become recognized as a soccer super power.
When it can, MLS is showing the world that it will do as it pleases for its own league, regardless of FIFA suggested protocol. In the few areas that FIFA does not control about leagues, MLS is blazing an independent path from the status quo of the other major world soccer leagues.
For example, there are other leagues in the world with playoffs after the regular season; Liga MX from Mexico is a prominent country/league to use them.
|Toronto FC fans bundled up at MLS Cup 2016 |
Saturday's MLS Cup should never be forgotten. It should be about lessons to learn for how MLS must take responsibility and leadership on making changes to its game going forward.
The better team didn't win the Cup, but that's why they play the games.
What earned Landon Donovan his nickname of 'Legend' wasn't his time in the Premier League or Bundesliga. Leagues in which he became one of just a few Americans to have scored goals. And, although he is the all-time leader in goals scored for the USMNT, I'd have to say that his accomplishments as an all-time great with the team is not his most noteworthy achievement.