IS MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY?

The MLS has done the hard yards. In one of the few places on earth where far too few were supposed to give a hoot about soccer, 20 years of labor has brought the sport, which the rest of the world has long been gaga over, to the verge of credibility in the US. After decades of mouthful upon mouthful of humble pie, North American soccer investors are under the impression their bet might just be about to pay off. Those who’ve toiled behind the US soccer bandwagon want to believe the sport’s professional circumstances at last bask beneath a fresh, positive light.

Delve beyond the rhetoric and the swagger and focus on what can be measured, weighed and accounted for and the MLS’s place within the scheme of things remains as precarious as ever. The MLS continues to cherry pick the data and information it uses to publically justify the value of the league and the projected growth of North American soccer. The inconvenient information it is all too happy to omit, consciously or otherwise, will in time undermine the worth and integrity of their brand.

Soccer here and everywhere else on the planet is first and foremost a business and as such is bound to the same economic influences as any other enterprise who exchanges goods and/or services for the coin of the realm. The continued portrayal of popular opinion as fact is a sure fire way to rack and ruin. The rapid fire growth of soccer in the region is a fairytale with a nightmare ending for North American soccer supporters.

This is where US professional soccer lives:
International soccer and the BIG 4 of US sports are two separate markets. Each is a behemoth within the sports entertainment industry and each controls their own destiny separate from the other. In contrast, the MLS has long been a minnow on both the domestic and international sports entertainment scene and continues to struggle in several critical areas when compared to its better supported antagonists. (more…)

PICK YOUR POISON

New World soccer appears to have chosen to see out its current course to its ultimate conclusion. Whether or not soccer in nations like the US and Australia will succeed or fail is uncertain. It will either be nothing but gravy for New World soccer or there’ll be quite the mess to clean up. What is known, given enough time, it will do one or the other. As things stand, New World soccer’s future is a zero-sum game.

The prevalence of success indicators will be undeniable. The dissenters will be struck dumb by the abundance. Packed domestic soccer stadiums will litter the land, conveyor belts will spill out locally grown players of a world class caliber, truckloads of cash from an array of sources and sustained international success will be dumped at New World soccer’s feet. The tilt of the scales of soccer affluence in the New World’s favor will be blatant.

If the alternative should arise, and soccer in the US and Australia fails to deliver on the hype, the bubble will burst and take a huge swath of professional men’s soccer in the New World out with it. Soccer organizations will spend more than they can afford to build a brand unable to garner a level of interest profitable enough to keep the doors open and the lights on. The expectations will outweigh the reality and the rush for the door by club owners and investors will undermine New World soccer’s true value. Only the maddest and most devoted will go anywhere near the remnants with a barge pole. (more…)

“WHAT WOULD PEP GUARDIOLA DO?”

In New World soccer, we tend to ask ourselves a derivative of this question whenever doubts are raised about the coaching standards on the domestic front. We have long suffered beneath the stigma of a severe and sustained inferiority complex in terms of the perceived standard of New World coaches when compared to their Old World compatriots. For all the help it’s been.

It’s all well and good to seek out sage advice when confronted by complicated challenges. It’s another matter all together to accept their counsel as doctrine. Some lucky bastard manages to navigate his team’s way to an Old World trophy or two and the subsequent public adulation showered upon him for his undeniable tactical nous sparks the next global emulation soccer machine into life. Before the ref has exhaled the fourth blast of the whistle at game’s end, the search for soccer’s finest coaching counterfeiters capable of an affordable forgery of the latest Old World masterpiece has already begun with gusto.

Pick your Maestro. From Señor Guardiola back, soccer’s history has been defined by a lineage of tactical genius. All undeniably brilliant in their own right, however before they stormed the ramparts where soccer’s most cherished artifacts are housed, and led their band of merry men off to happily ever after with the spoils of war clasped firm in their clutches, there’s a couple of chapters most tend to skim over. (more…)

BIASES IN NEW WORLD SOCCER

A little old lady toddles into her doctor’s office and takes a seat.
“What seems to be troubling you madam?” her doctor asks.
“It’s a little embarrassing,” the little old lady admits, “I’m suffering with chronic flatulence.”
“I see,” says her doctor. “And when did this begin?”
“It’s been a little over a week. Fortunately, so far, they’ve been silent and odorless.”
The doctor looks down and begins to scribble on his prescription pad as he asks, “And it’s chronic?”
“That’s right,” the little old lady confirms.
“In fact, I’ve released some pressure, shall we say, several times since I entered your office and at least twice more whilst in the waiting room, unbeknownst to anyone.”
The doctor finishes his scribble on his prescription pad, tears off the top sheet and hands it across the desk to the little old lady.
“This ought to do the trick,” he says. “Be sure to schedule another appointment with my receptionist before you leave to come back in a week’s time so we can check on your progress. And make sure you take the prescription in its entirety.”
The little old lady folds the prescription in half and slides it into her handbag before she rises out of the chair.
“Yes doctor. Thank you doctor,” she replies.
The doctor smiles in response and the little old lady leaves his office.

A week later the little old lady returns for her scheduled follow-up appointment. She settles into the chair opposite the desk to her doctor and clutches her handbag in her lap.
“How did you respond to the medication I prescribed?” the doctor asks.
“Terrible!” the little old lady  says.
“Terrible? How so?” her doctor asks.
“It’s gotten worse!” the little old lady says. “The flatulence is as bad as ever, and to make matters worse, since I began taking the medication you prescribed, they’ve developed a ghastly odor!”
“Excellent,” the doctor says as he begins to scribble on a fresh sheet of his prescription pad. The little old lady almost topples out of her chair.
“Excellent? How can you say such a thing?” she asks.
“Well, we’ve taken care of whatever was the matter with your sinuses.” the doctor says as he hands the little old lady her latest prescription. “Now, let’s see what we can do about your hearing.”

Just like the flatulent little old lady, we believe what we believe because we think we are right. Even when the outcomes of ourbeliefs deliver results contradictory to our expectations. These beliefs are known as biases; and soccer, along with the vast majority of every aspect of our existence, is riddled with them. (more…)

THE OLD WORLD LAND GRAB

The single, greatest incentive for New World soccer to seize control of its direction and exert the maximum possible level of influence on the sport at a global level into the future is relevance. If the Old World mega-clubs continue to have their way, New World soccer domestic leagues are about to run out of it. The grandest and most prestigious Old World soccer clubs have already begun to establish their brands throughout the New World and more plan to follow in their wake. Their intent is occupation, not cooperation. Old World soccer has never had the influence over established and potential New World soccer fans as it enjoys today. Far from an accident, it is a determined strategy on the Old World’s part to profit from an underutilized market. The good news is, this concerted push on the part of the Old World big dogs into New World stomping grounds across the globe suggests there’s room within the New World entertainment industry for soccer to thrive. Whether the space exists for New World and Old World cohabitation is far less certain.

Each summer these Old World juggernauts pounce upon the opportunity to parade their expensive stable of thoroughbreds before the New World in a comprehensive publicity campaign. Veiled behind the guise of a series of exhibition matches, their explicit intent is to expand the profile of their Old World brands before the impressionable, dare I say hungry, soccer minds of the New World. They claim to come in peace but their designs are far from philanthropic. Their goal is to identify and plunder New World resources–athletes and audiences.

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MONEY DOESN’T NECESSARILY CHANGE EVERYTHING FOR THE BETTER

Not as far as New World soccer is concerned at any rate. “If only we had more money…” is a commonly uttered lamentation among New World soccer speculators. The crux of their argument being, with a boatload of extra cash to splash about, New World domestic soccer franchises could lure the finest Old World players to run roughshod in front of New World audiences, rather than in their own Old World backyards. With all the shiniest new bells and whistles chromed to the hilt and granted license to run amuck in the New World’s domestic leagues, soccer would have to blow up within their borders. With the pick of the athletic crop in their own backyard, folk in the New World would feel compelled to flock in unprecedented numbers to support the world game, at the expense of the established sports of their native lands. The sports media would trample over one another to throw copious quantities of cash at New World soccer for the rights to broadcast the finest soccer played anywhere on the globe to this newly acquired audience. With other potential sponsorship providers hot on their heels to write unhealthily fat checks in exchange for affiliation. The premise appears tight in theory. Unfortunately, in practice, there’s more holes in this particular line of thought than the average kitchen colander. (more…)

THE OLD WORLD – NEW WORLD SOCCER DIVIDE

The core of the first team of the club he’d signed for were expatriated Scots. Most had played professionally at respectable levels in their homeland before an invitation to chase the ball over the pond in sunnier climates tempted them abroad. Some had played in Ranger, Celtic derbies in Scotland’s top flight. It was common knowledge at the club but the players involved never saw fit to broach the subject, at least publically at any rate. Granite tough, skillful and canny, what had been lost with age they’d replaced with nous. They’d take turns to see who could make the young charges look the silliest.

When in possession, a veteran would toe poke the ball into any youngster foolish enough to attempt to relinquish him of it. The ball would ricochet with sufficient force back off of their hapless adversary for the Scotsman to retrieve and repeat the act, whenever appropriate, until the rookie would come to expect it. Given enough time, as the senior of the pair recoiled his leg to smack the ball into his youthful opponent once more, the defender’s self-preservation instinct would kick in. (more…)

THE BEST OF INTENTIONS

Suppose for a moment, soccer was your business. You’re the one behind the controls of soccer in your New World country. Your vision and decisions would mould the beautiful game’s future within your nation’s borders. Given the current state of soccer in your country, domestically and internationally, would you echo the sentiments and prevalent trains of thought that have brought New World soccer to its current location? When your trusted counsel remained adamant that the adopted practices of Old World soccer’s superpowers was the most feasible way forward for your  New World nation’s efforts, would you accept their word on face value? In the educated and well-informed opinion of your brains trust, “New World soccer’s transformation into a dominant domestic and international force” was “strictly a matter of time.” Would you accept their prediction as conclusive or would you feel inclined to demand more than that?

“Exactly how much time are we talking here?”

Not all that unreasonable an inquiry to make for someone in your position. They’ve had over 30 years of soccer experience to accrue the data to make such predictions. All the Old World soccer mysteries of consequence have been solved. The Old World nations who establish the benchmarks of excellence to which the rest of the world aspire, and the relative location of New World soccer nations in comparison, is all laid out in black and white. Every single nation on the planet is fully aware of their position on the soccer hierarchy and equally conscious of the passage of time it has taken them to reach their current locale. Most New World nations are quick to point out the improvements they’ve made to the sport within their borders. The unfortunate fact they are somewhat more reluctant to air is the familiarity of their position on the soccer pecking order relative to those Old World nations they have spent over a generation trying to usurp. (more…)