Thursday, September 07, 2006

In Limbo: I'm So Bored With the U.S.A.

by Tim Froh

It's just one of those days. I think you know what I'm talking about. Those days where you just don't feel like doing what you're supposed to be doing. In my case, it's not so much a matter of not working, but a matter of not knowing what to write about on this week's edition of In Limbo. Honestly, I don't feel all that compelled to write even more about MLS' constant transfer issues, the sale of the Kansas City Wizards, or anything MLS related for that matter. I hope some will forgive me for not caring as much as I used to, especially now that I have no team to cheer for.

I will say this though: being a neutral observer of MLS has allowed me to realize what a complete bore 90% of the season is if you don't care about any of the teams. How can I get excited when, in the middle of August, the best teams slump, the worst teams start winning, and thus, not only does the quality of play decrease dramatically, but the mediocrity of the league becomes so blatantly clear? Seeing Real Salt Lake beat "the class of the league," D.C. United one week, then lose to New York Red Bull 6-0 only a few weeks later, is systematic of the problem.

One could go on all day diagnosing MLS' myriad ills, but that would be to completely miss the point. The fact is that MLS, a league of only 12 teams, plays far too many games with far too little at stake. The only teams that currently seem to care are those that are still hovering around the drop zone: Salt Lake, LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire, and New York Red Bull. This, of course, could change in a few weeks, with the result that either no team or every team, cares.

This is not to say that MLS is any different from many leagues across the world. Indeed, leagues across the world experience periods of complete indifference from their teams, particularly those that feel there is nothing left to play for. Of course, with such enormous fanbases, many of these teams ultimately are compelled to play, if only for their fans. With an average attendance hovering around fifteen thousand, MLS can't claim such sizable fanbases, critical attention from the media, or ardent soccer culture. Instead, we're left to contend with teams playing in a league that pays someone like Kansas City forward Eddie Johnson over $800,000, while D.C. United goalkeeper Troy Perkins (an All-Star game starter no less) works two jobs just to make ends meet. How can you get excited about a meaningless game against Real Salt Lake in August when you know you're getting paid relatively nothing for it?

With no excitement in the summer, it's nice to know that at least fans can get excited about those first and last few months when teams care. Perhaps the conclusion is to cut the summer, play in Spring and Fall, and shorten the season dramatically. With thirteen teams in the league next year, why not move to single table (God forbid, I know), with each team playing the other twice? That's twenty-four games, a perfect number of matches for a league with such a small number of teams. Perhaps this is too simple though. Maybe it won't make the league the kind of money that thirty-two games would (and you can bet the MLS office doesn't want to lose that July 4th home date), but it certainly would make things a little more interesting for the fans. Hell, it might actually make me want to write something interesting.

Comments on "In Limbo: I'm So Bored With the U.S.A."


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:38 PM, September 07, 2006) : 

amen, bro. this is the biggest problem with mls - too many meaningless games. bill gaudette, according to reports, makes $11,700 per year. what motivation does he have to work hard? getting cut would be beneficial for him. almost any job pays more than that.

a "beckham rule" won't fix this. pay these guys enough so they won't want to get released and make the games more meaningful. less teams in the playoffs might be a good start.


Blogger scaryice said ... (11:55 PM, September 07, 2006) : 

It's actually more meaningful than it was when 8/10 teams made the playoffs. Bruce Arena was about 100% right in his comments to Jack Bell a few years ago.

I always defended the 8 teams in the playoffs, just because I like the tradition of having the same number every single year of the league's existence. But recently I've decided that only 6 teams would be better. 6/13 sounds great for next year.


Blogger ERic said ... (9:13 AM, September 08, 2006) : 

In the MLS survey they posted last week(?), my answer to the 'If you had a million dollars out of nowhere, and were league commissioner, where would you spend it?' was PAY THE BOTTOM TIER PLAYERS MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!! But I don't think that was one of the options.


Blogger scaryice said ... (10:50 PM, September 08, 2006) : 

That would be nice, but it really wouldn't affect anything.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:47 PM, September 14, 2006) : 

You know whats the real problem with "soccer" in the US? The fact you guys, even supporters treat it as a second teir sporr, with no respect for the real game.

Firstly, why do you persist with calling you'r sport (for fans of the game) soccer? Its football. The game you call football there doesnt even use the feet.

In Australia, the sports governing body has changed its name to get ride of the name 'soccer' and use its real term 'FOOTBALL'. This has revitalised the sport in this country, and has strengthened its supporter base, and given it self the respect it deserves.

Now football games attract large numbers at the games, and TV audiences have increased drametically. From less than 10,000 a game a few years ago, to 40,000 at one game just last week.


Blogger scaryice said ... (1:49 AM, September 15, 2006) : 

1. Soccer is a British term that's short for "association football." So we're already calling it football.

2. Football got its name not because of the use of feet, but rather because it is played on foot (as opposed to horseback).

3. Changing the name had nothing to do with the rise of interest in Australia. The successful World Cup qualification can take credit for that. Changing the name here would change absolutely nothing.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:54 PM, October 04, 2006) : 

Calling it soccer is completely irrelevant to any of the real issues faced by American soccer/football.

We'll stop calling it soccer, when the Italians stop calling it calcio. Deal?


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