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Most Likely to Sink: Can David Beckham Save Major League Soccer?

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There is quite a hullabaloo this week about David Beckham finally arriving in Los Angeles to begin his massively hyped career with the Galaxy of Major League Soccer. This has led to the discussion of many ideas, among them whether Beckham can save MLS and if MLS is even worth saving. Lets go after these one at a time, shall we?

Can David Beckham save Major League Soccer?

There is certainly a chance, if for no other reason than "stranger things have happened." Though there really is no such thing as a "savior" (as Roger Clemens is so perfectly illustrating this year with the Yankees).

David Beckham (or DB, as I'll call him, so I don't have to keep typing his name) is not unlike his wife, the former Posh Spice. By that I mean, of course, that they both may still be easy on the eyes, and a major crowd favorite because of it, but the "relevant" stage of their careers is long since gone. DB is more of a big name than he is a big talent. When he was in his early to mid twenties, DB was quite the player, chock full of talent and devoid of team player-ness. Though as we all know, here in America, nobody gives a crap about petty details like that.

But now, DB is 32. He isn't incredibly fast. Or agile. Which are usually skills that highly touted soccer players have. About the only thing DB still has is his right foot, which isn't much, but is still more than many other players. Any time LA has a free kick, Davey will be all over it.

Fortunately for DB (and the Galaxy), his actual appeal seems to have nothing to do with his physical prowess on the soccer pitch. I don't need to go into specific details, but when a middle-aged reporter's wife turns into a giggling middle-schooler when her husband tells her about his interview with Beckham, one can only imagine how the rest of the female population is responding. Probably the same way the male population would be responding to Victoria Beckham arriving – if she weren't shaped like a twig these days.

That said, I don't expect Beckham's play to be any sort of sudden cure for a middling Galaxy team (3-5-4 currently, and not playing particularly consistent ball). Nor do I think that Galaxy GM Alexei Lalas is anything short of loony when he says that Beckham could be "bigger than Pele" for soccer in the U.S.

Beckham coming to play MLS is just a very small step that doesn't begin cover the dozens of other internationally known players who won't come play here, or (even worse) the dozens of U.S. players who would rather play in Europe. Beckham would need to be much bigger than Pele to dent those problems. And even then, truly international competitions like the World Cup and Olympics will still be more diverse, competitive, and exciting.

Of course, all of that is a secondary concern to the bigger question: Is Major League Soccer even worth saving?

Obviously, MLS, just like any other sports league, is a business. Due to that fact, the logical conclusion would be "if MLS is making money and producing a profit, then it is successful." However, the more I looked into things, the more reasons I found to doubt the league's financial success, to ignore the league. Here is a "what I found in 15 minutes" list of what's wrong:

  1. The league plays its games from April to October. Seven months. So that's two months of being overshadowed by baseball, hockey, and basketball, followed by three months of competing with baseball, then two months of competing with the NFL and baseball. That doesn't seem particularly ideal for succeeding at taking fans away from more popular ways to spend their money.
  2. If that weren't bad enough, the MLS only plays games on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday (plus one Wednesday per month). Perhaps because of such scheduling genius, you have Beckham's LA Galaxy, who haven't played in a week and wont play again for three more weeks.
  3. The league's highest scoring team, the Kansas City Wizards, have scored four goals in their last five games. The second highest scoring (and overall best) team, Houston, has had 9 of their 17 games end in either 1-0 or 0-0 games.

All that sure sounds weird – games three days a week for seven months? That's like taking the NFL, doubling the schedule, and only letting the special teams play. And the results would probably be equally worthless.

That third point is, I think, one of the biggest parts of the overall problem – just shy of 1/3 of all MLS games this season have ended in either 1-0 or 0-0 scores. Think about it. That means that if you go to an MLS game, you've got at least a 33% chance of seeing damn near nothing happen all game. I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like how I want to spend any day of the week, let alone a Saturday or Sunday.

A big problem with MLS is what used to be wrong with the NHL – it isn't the low number of goals that makes it dull, it's the low number of goal opportunities that does it. Players aren't just not scoring, they're not even close to scoring for most of the game. In some ways, that fact is understandable.

In hockey, players are covering a surface that is roughly 8,000 square feet, and they do it in 30 to 90 second shifts and spurts over the course of 60 minutes of actual game time. In soccer, they play on a surface that is roughly 8,000 square yards, and they do it almost constantly over the course of a 90 minute game.

I've seen hockey players be completely gassed at the end of a game, so I can only imagine soccer players, who are likely not going all out, because they know how dead they'll be at the end if they don't. I expect this creates a lot of time where players aren't giving their physical all for the sake of surviving the whole game. Healthy and safe, yes, interesting to watch, no.

That said, European leagues follow pretty much the same rules and have significantly more scoring (and scoring chances) in their matches, so "this is a physically hard sport" may not cover the MLS's behinds.

So where does that all leave us? Can David Beckham save the MLS? No, of course he can't, not by himself. Nor can he even in the more broad "image of the sport" sense – unless you count an improvement from 0 to 0.5 progress. Is the MLS worth saving? The excitement surrounding the Olympics and the World Cup show that soccer fandom is there to be had, but I don't know if the powers that be in the league will find the right way to attract it. David Beckhams right foot (and wife) certainly aren't it.

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About Geeves the Butler

  • Unak78

    On the USL:

    MLS was created because FIFA guaranteed the US the World Cup on the condition that they established a Premier Division league. USL among other leagues (including MISL) attempted to use thier existing status to get this designation. (look up US Soccer pyramid in Wiki).

    The problem is that when FIFA indicated premier league designation it wants more than a 50 team league in smaller markets playing in 5000 seat stadiums. Ideally FIFA frowns on leagues with more than 18 teams. In the end FIFA gave the designation to the startup MLS for a number of reasons, and designated the USL to division 1 and division 2 status. In the end it was FIFA’s call, and IMO the right call. MLS has been growing by slow baby steps. Many misconstrue Beckham’s signing as a sign of desperation on behalf of the league while forgetting that the building of the Home Depot Center made that signing possible. As well the subsequent building of soccer specific stadiums will be known, by those who do the research into the MLS’s finances (like the WallStreet Journal did), as the true savior of the MLS. And this happened years ago as a true desperation move by then owner of Columbus Crew Lamar Hunt, when the team was in jeapardy of not having a venue to play in. 24 million dollars later you have the first SSS and the MLS was saved.

  • Unak78

    This is where poor research gets you. The MLS doesn’t need saving. When 7 MLS teams already have full ownership of thier own facilities with 4 more coming within the year, HELLO, SAVED! They can make money on the non-soccer related revenue alone, concerts etc. You think that smart businessment would be willing to plop down 70mill of personal money (LA’s was 150 mil) if they didn’t understand that the MLS business model was fullproof regardless of whether or not it ever became “mainstream”.

    But besides that MLS averaged aroun 17000 per game in attendance which put them in the top 10 of all soccer leagues in the world. And pretty close to NBA and NHL numbers. BTW for those who don’t know, no soccer league in the world fills NFL sized stadiums by the way. (only 8 home dates helps in the NFL’s case) Yet market value is determined by numerous other factors like merchandising, stadium revenue (not just the gate) and factors such as whether the team owns its own stadium, something many NHL teams envy.

    Like it or not the MLS isn’t going to fold like the NASL because the current MLS leadership are running it more like a franchised business more than a league. Beckham is here bc it takes more than a good business model to raise awareness in mainstream media, but there is a good article in the WallStreet Journal outlining the facts in my post. Look it up.

  • true, my Sounders beat Chivas 3-1 a couple of weeks ago.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Especially since USL teams are kicking some serious MLS ass in the US Open Cup this year…!

  • good point about the USL!

  • Dr Dreadful

    It has previously occurred to me to wonder why MLS was even created. It seemed a bit superfluous when there was already a perfectly healthy and functioning soccer league in place – the USL. All the MLS money could have been invested there, raising the profile of the established clubs – some of whom, notably the Sounders and the Whitecaps, were holdovers from the old NASL – and enabling them to strengthen their squads and improve their facilities.

    Could’ve gotten yourselves a ten-year head start on where you are now…

    I think, though, that MLS is in some ways just one more manifestation of America’s fascination with the New – as witness the constant drive for new cars, new houses, new office buildings. Anything dating back more than 30 years seems to be considered old…

  • Dr., true, Man U could’nt beat an egg back then. Exactly. Preston, you betcha, just pre-season, and neither team was at full strength (Sounders are in season and could wear down key players). But it was entertaining. the winning goal was unusual. Headed twice off the crossbar then headed to the left foot of a forward in posititon to fire in a goal. Such friendly type matches are good for both teams and fun.

    Yes, FIFA will protect from bastardization. Basically, it comes down to outthinking the question by USA Soccer executive posse.

    Hotspurs…. Yeah, I should of had the ‘s in there to make it a posessive or something….I just love that team name though….

  • Dr Dreadful

    Douglas, nice result for the Sounders. Preston are a good solid team… although since it was a pre-season game for them they were probably experimenting and/or taking it a bit easy.

    If memory serves, the Manchester United of 1982 would have had a hard time beating an egg.

    Soccer in the US has a rosy future, especially if the women’s national team keeps enjoying the success it has thus far. I don’t see Americanization as too much of a threat: FIFA won’t stand for it and players nurtured on an unrecognized/bastardized form of the game wouldn’t thrive if they had to struggle to adapt their game for international competition playing the ‘proper’ version.

    On a point of order, it’s ‘Tottenham Hotspur’ (singular), usually shortened to ‘Spurs’ (plural). Confusing, huh?

  • Chris, my local Seattle Sounders (USL, or Div. 2 USA Futbol) just defeated Preston North End the other night. Mainly local players, ownership and coaching runs the Sounders. Back in NASL glory days the Sounders defeated Man. U., well 1982….things were different then…

    My point of view comes from the field. I have definately served more time than you on the field. Club, college and USA professional. Nuf said there. So that is what that blather is about…

    As far as USA catching up with the intensity of Premier League….no one can do that…that would take at least 25 years in this country. Premier League is the bomb of professional soccer. No arguement there.

    The point of it all is soccer taking off as a vialble, self sustaining sport in this country…
    It should be able to and produce some quality in time. If they do it right and not destroy it with “Americanization”.

    I still have my Tottenham Hotspurs pennant from 1967. I have never been to your side of the pond. Due to my location in the USA, it came to me…

    Anyway, later on dude….

  • Actually, that photo is quite recent and, apart from a few minor ailments, I seem to be aging fairly well, so far. I’ll probably drop dead next week now, lol! But yes, I was indeed standing on the terraces that year and many since, although there are no terraces anymore unfortunately…

  • Dr Dreadful

    Chris claims to be: a life long Manchester United fan who stood on the terraces at Old Trafford from 1963 onwards

    Wouldn’t you have been about one in 1963? (Unless your photo is misleadingly old, you don’t look that decrepit!) In which case, you wouldn’t have been standing on the actual terraces so much as your Dad’s shoulders…

  • Douglas, you sure know a lot about me, have we met?

    I’m not sure how much football you’ve played but as a still playing old school left winger and a life long Manchester United fan who stood on the terraces at Old Trafford from 1963 onwards, I don’t think I need football lessons from you, thanks all the same.

    Nor do I accept that you could outsmoke me in any meaning of the phrase; you sure talk a big game without actually knowing anything, I just hope your skills are better than your blarney.

    I think I’ll put my faith in the Old Trafford faithful; we know all too well the strengths and weaknesses of Becks and don’t need to pretend that he’s good at everything. Ronaldo is far better at everything that Becks can do, in addition to having several other skills that Becks could only dream of.

    It’s typical of American football to spend $250 million on someone in their last days, as compared to United, who’ve just spent $60 million buying two of the hottest young prospects in the whole world of football.

    As to football culture, you appear to want me to believe that the handful of teams that make up the two MLS conferences generate the same intensity of rivalry, culture and identity as the English Premiership.

    You’re probably too stubborn to accept the bald assertion that it simply ain’t so, Joe, so I’ll invite you to consider the implications of having, in a country the size of a medium US state, in just one county, my own dear Lancashire, within a distance of a mere thirty miles we have United, the scum that is Manchester City lol, deadly rivals Liverpool, the poodles of Everton plus Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers, to say nothing of the other clubs from the lower divisions such as Oldham, Rochdale, Bury et cetera.

    The ties that bind, the social, cultural, religious and aspirational impulses bound up in a very localized sense of identity forge a very heady brew that you will be very fortunate to see develop in the USA.

    Don’t get me wrong, I really hope something like that can develop as part of your footballing culture, but it is a long way from happening yet, neither in football nor any of your currently more popular sports. Now don’t be a surly girly, try and respond in the spirit in which you’re being addressed…

  • Chris Rose, you are so lame. Studs, cleats, so what!? Depends on the playing surface when you get to the match. Suree I have lengthy studs for a muddy pitch, molded studs for according conditions.

    Smoke your ass? Means I can outplay you any day of the week in soccer/football. Smoke? Hey, you are talking to someone in Seattle. That is part of the culture here. You have been outsmoked twice.

    My point of view is from not the armchair goalkeeper, but from someone who has and idea what it is like to play against such playing style. Beckham gets around opponents more than you think. You stand on the pitch and try to stop him. You can’t.

    Anyway, your blather is just that, Chris Rose… The culture of sports, etc. We know that just fine. It is not limited to just soccer/football. It applies to any sport, anywhere…

  • Aah, Temple, as droll as ever. When you septics start to understand the culture of banter that goes with football, maybe you’ll really start to understand the game properly. Now go remove that large church spire from your, er, temple!

    Douglas, yeah, whatever. If Beckham can make it in central midfield, that must surely say more about the level of football played in the USA than his ability, given that nobody has played him there ever since he first started.

    I think it more likely that you could smoke some grass than smoke my ass and it would be more enjoyable, but whatever turns you on.

    Cleats, or studs as they are more commonly known aren’t pulled on, they’re screwed in, so when you’ve figured out how to wear football boots, go buy a transatlantic airticket and we can get this party started!

    Oh yeah, Beckham, in European terms, is too slow to go around people and not very good at holding up the ball, which is another reason he was bought/dropped so much. Are you sure you know how to play or is it just that at your age he looks quick to you? 😉

    It’s quite rare these days to have serious football rioting in England but it’s certainly true that the level of passionate intensity and the importance of the game to people’s identity is much stronger here.

    It’s partly to do with the comparative proximity of the main clubs to each other and the much higher population density we have and consequent importance of the clubs as part of one’s identity that makes the game so vital over here.

  • Chris, true, Beckham’s worth may be questioned by the armchair fan. But probably not so much if you talk to players and coaches. Here in the USA he has a clean slate to work with. And a captive audience in the players around him.

    Yup, you got it, put the guy in at center mid-field. Let it happen. Sure, in Europe there may be some question to his use. But not here in the USA. He certainly won’t hurt the game. I see it well since his tactic in play is something I am familier with from midfield, wing and sometimes defense positions.

    Futbol, Soccer. Both terms are used world wide. It just has become words to identify with a culture. USA football or international futbol. Fine, either will do. Depends what country you are in.

    Chris, your snide tone has been objected to. But don’t worry. Meet you on the field. I know that my creaky 49 year old body in need of a strong cup of coffee (Starbucks after this comment) can SMOKE YOUR ASS on the field, right now. Let me pull on my cleats and grab the ball and lets go to the field and net and start talking.

    funny you mention Beckham’s inability to go around some defenders. One thing I have learned about such players of Beckham’s style is guys like Beckham JUST GO AROUND YOU. Nothing fancy like a stop, turn and fancy footwork to beat a defender. Guys like Beckham just get moving and go around you without question. It is fustrating to come across those guys. All you can do is channel them towards a different part of the field. Tough to strip the ball from unless you hunt in pairs.

    OK, soccer, futbol (pick one)…All I can say is the game has picked up some gusto in this country. It hasn’t gotten to the point of traveling to opponent game sites and turning over cars and setting stuff on fire but won’t that be ‘charming’, Chris…


  • Hey Chris you just called every American commenting here a loser. Since you delete “moron” and countless other tiny things but ignore and foster greater insults yourself, can you self-edit yourself here please?

    By the fuck way when the league is called Major League Soccer it’s a bit fucking difficult to refer to it as football in writing or speaking or Morse fucking code. Despite whatever attitude you care to bring to the table about nomenclature, it’s more than obvious if there’s already another sport called football here in America that you need a different name for a different sport.

    I thought that was easy understand but you’re dense on the matter.

    I made a special effort to rush home and watch the Beckham match and enjoyed the half I was able to see. I am disgusted by American radio talk show hosts who trip over themselves to disparage the sport of soccer – but your attitude disgusts me equally.

    Way to win over fans, even if success for the sport in America isn’t your thing, baby.

    I could temper the above with a little cute aside but fuck that.

    – Temple

  • Oh yeah, and another thing, it’s FOOTBALL not soccer. Only total losers call it that so every time you use the word, the rest of the planet just thinks LOSER! LOSER! LOSER!

  • douglas, your fanboy enthusiasm for Becks is charming but a little misplaced. He is very good, excellent even, at two things; he can make great crosses into the penalty area, either in free play or from corners, to provide team mates with scoring opportunities and scoring from free kicks, which is essentially the same skill when you think about it.

    However, he has always wanted to play in central midfield, where none of the teams he’s played for have used him, which shows a certain misjudgement about his abilities.

    Moreoever, he can’t go past an opponent with any regularity, he doesn’t always track back to help in defence and can’t head the ball.

    He is not, by any means, the complete footballer, just a good one who covers up his limitations well. Manchester United were right to sell him when they did as he had been out of form for months and was too distracted from football; he was terrible for England in the last World Cup and rightly dropped; he was only average for Real Madrid until the final third of last season when he made a determined and successful effort to work harder for the team, which eventually earned him a more or less deserved return to an uncertain English national team.

    He’s a lovely bloke and naturally modest but let’s not get carried away here…

  • oh geez, here I am again as you color commentator on this Beckham thread. Along with Dr. Dreadful.

    Beckhams debut which was just aired finishing minutes ago was brilliant! Even if he had no injury I would have waited till the last 15 minutes to put him in the game. He got a few touches of the ball, passed a beautiful feed down the right wing with his famous long placement kicks. Got a nice chip down the center to the forward moving on goal also. Solid Chealsea defense stopped that. Good match. Chelsea had the most English style. They are tough suckers. Those English can be like playing against a steel pipe. Eastern European nations also…

    We finished off with a Beckham corner kick just before the final seconds. Decent kick, better than a few of the wasted corner kicks I saw earlier in the match. The script was well written, and even I got a rush as he started warming up on the sidelines…

    I was watching Beckham’s field movement away from the ball. ONce his teammates catch up to what is happening, the Galaxy could become elite. They do have American talent that could use some evolving.

    Landon Donavan? Oh, I saw that he is originally from B.C., Canada…there is the Cascadia connection…It was a solid match by both sides. Chelsea put together a classic english goal. Just somehow manuvered that ball into position and gets an impossible to stop grounder bouncing off the post and in. So the winning goal was a good one to watch over and over on replay. But ESPN did not have a behind the goal camera so the single camera trying to follow the quick ball movement of the Chelsea goal(told ya it was very British)created some wobbly effect. I could have used a rack shot from behind the goal for the best view of that shot….

    Over the past few days I have seen about 4 games that all are USA soccer rooted (MLSallstarVancouverPortlandU-20ChileArgentinzaBeckhamdebut). And every match was somewhat entertaining with high profile observance on the world scene (Even the USL is worth a tad’s notice).

    OK, this is as cool USA professional soccer league stuff has ever been since the 70s and the NASL. Ther is a film called “Once In A Lifetime” documentary about the NY Cosmos. Very endearing.

    OK, now I will try to get myself off this thread but this USA soccer stuff is authentically the real deal in social phenom type stuff. I don’t impress easily. But this is the real deal.

    we’ll see, but do support it, people. Soccer is so huge a deal that it is something that the USA cannot quash in it’s seemingly overall negativity. Soccer is a big deal as the world’s sport. The USA cannot stop that sort of force. It will infiltrate. In 1951 the USA Soccer team beat Team England in the upset of the year!


  • OK, one more time as this Galaxy/Chelsea match is getting underway. Here is my final analysis for this thread:

    David Beckham is the best possible person in the world to get for the sake of USA soccer. LA will serve as the harbinger as the NY Cosmos did in the ’70s. The quality of soccer of the NASL was no joke business. Definately best in the world on certain given nights…

    Beckham is a much more brilliant player than given credit for. People are always looking at fancy footwork or quickness or whatever bell and whistle to claim ‘world’s best’.

    Beckham’s brilliance cannot be always credited statistically. Very English. Ever notice that he is the one that can make the play happen? His contribution occurs before a goal or assist credit is handed out. Oh, then notice how he grabs occasional crucial stats (game winning goal) with that deceptive right leg drilling one in from the perimeter of the goal box. Very exciting.

    Point being, he and his Galaxy teammates can play a very smart style soccer and give this country a good look at something good. The Galaxy can be his canvas (a proper situation allows for no coach/player conflict. It works together). It will all take care of itself after that. The USA (notice how i don’t say “America” since it is kinda arrogant for the States to be hogging the title from all South, Central and North American land masses) has all the tools, Beckham might be the one that knows how to use them…

    OK, we’ll just see how it goes….

  • DR.!! I’m chiming back in and getting back on subject of the article.. So far Beckham has been a boon to soccer in the USA. WOW!

    Yesterday I had on TV the MLS All-Stars vs. Celtic. Not a bad match. Celtic showed more savvy and control, but the MLS looked good and scored with some nice quick play at the right time. 2-0 final, MLS

    But I gave up on that game and switched to my local sports cable channel and watched a crucial USL match, Portland vs. Vancouver. Good match. Well played. Looked a bit better than MLS matches I have seen. the announcers definately talked up the fact of Seattle, Portland, Vancouver regions produce great players.

    Then I turn to the CBC and watched that crazy U-20 World Cup match between Argentina and Chile. Good match, the kids played well, but Arg. popped in 3 goals. Then the game ends and the scuffling begins and the Chile players are out of control some crying and repenting their souls for the loss, then police come on the field….

    I remember seeing a German soccer match on TV in the 70s. I can’t spell it, Boon-dush-leeg-a??? Anyway the exciting match finishes and fans spread onto the field and start agitating a bit becoming more unruly. But those Germans… Within minutes 3 military copters fly into the stadium and land on the field. Talk about crowd control!

    The point of all this is that Beckhams rock star appeal (Victoria Adams-Beckham sure strengthens the mix) is putting the subject of soccer beyond the sports fan arena. This is part of what weaves it into the national fabric.

    As for play, I would put him in at center-midfielder and let him use his years of experience on such top levels to direct an attractive style of soccer to the USA pitch. Keeping the team settled on the field and guiding on field movement. Attractive soccer people will watch. And drilling in a goal to the top right corner of the net from 25 yards out is way cool to see…

    OH also get this as another example of this sudden surge of soccer awareness we are experiencing in the USA. I was watching an actress hyping a new movie on Conan O’Brien the other night. She was a young american who described a character in the film as a nun with a demeanor of “she could chip a corner kick in for a goal” while making the curving sweeping motion with her arm. I GOT THAT ONE HONEY!!! WOW, TOO COOL TO HEAR SOME GAL SAY THAT!!! I’LL GO SEE THE MOVIE JUST FOR THAT STATEMENT ON A TALK SHOW! Then she mentioned something about testicles later on in the interview. Can’t remember her name, it had a bunch of letters in her last name that are not easy to pronounce.

    OTHER THAN THAT!!!!! The USA Women’s team is the world’s elite. We are the (name your soccer power) of women’s soccer to the world. Other than sport, soccer is a statement to powerhood of women worldwide. Sports+social politics? It is the worlds game. Have any nations started a war over the game lately????

    OK, I’m outa here until I think of some more soccer chatter cuz I am damn addicted to the game and it is actually being spoken about in my damn country as some sort of big deal. Good job, David. Just go out and play an attractive game and things will be alright. You know there is lots of money in this country when the product sells….


  • Dr., good chatting. OK, you may have noticed that I am some american with a passionate opinion about soccer. Yes, the Cascadia region of North America (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia) do produce many players seen professionally, from such a small population base, compared to the NorthEast or something…and some of us crave the game.

    Anyway, hail Beckham! (oh yeah, thats what this threadis about!) As an experieced player he would be most effective guiding creative play on the field.

    Catch you on the next Beckham (or any soccer issue i can loudly blather) thread!


  • STM

    DD writes: “And then there’s rugby league, which is the result of a social experiment to see what would happen if you took the laws of rugby, gave them to the TUC to rewrite and added a brass band.”

    Lol. Well, that bit’s true.

    I can’t totally agree with you on the other premise though … explain its popularity in Oz (where it’s not not just among GPS boys), New Zealand and South Africa – most certainly three places NOT populated by upper-class twits.

    I must admit though, there are a few Hughe Fotheringale-Smythes doing their hair out in the pommy backline.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Good chat, Douglas, and interesting to hear about the soccer scene in the PNW. Just time for a quick answer to your question, as I’m going out of state and probably won’t be back to BC until Tuesday…

    Harry Redknapp – one of the last remaining ‘characters’ of old-school English football – is currently the boss at Portsmouth, and is doing quite well with them. They’ve finished in the top half of the Premiership the last two seasons, despite being a lot of people’s top candidates for relegation.


  • Oh yes, Brazil vs. Netherlands was a quarter final match. But after seeing that match up listed, I knew to record it because it was going to be the best match of the Cup series.

    Brazil takes 2-0 lead and holds it then Netherlands struggles back and wins very late in the game with that blazing penalty kick from about 20 yards out skimming the wall beating the keeper. It was a dramma all the way thru only decided near the closing of the final curtain. Things kept happening that would blow my mind (no, i was not smoking anything! high on soccer). Great match.

    burp….pour me another one….bartender, can you switch the TV to Roller Derby…urp

  • Dr. D, oh yes, I worshipped Chelsea in the early 70s. One thing that raised the talent of youth soccer in our area during my time was the influx of British immigrants to the Seattle area. Working for Boeing Aircraft was a lot better deal than what Great Britain had to offer to aeronautical engineers. And Boeing was hiring. The British are coming. Boeing is to Seattle what the auto industry is to Detroit. They employ the region. So anyway, from coaching to referees, kids of engineer’s etc…a stylized play of soccer was adopted.

    geez Dr. D. what did I tell you? sipping tea and talking futbol. The old NASL was actually quaility soccer. The Seattle Sounders avg. 24,000 a game (played at the old Kingdome). Harry Redknap (who does he manage in the Premier league?) was a Sounder for many years. Very good right leg chip from wing to center. Another favorite all-time match is NY Cosmos vs. Seattle Sounders for the NASL champioship 1977?, played in Portland OR. NY wins, 2-1. great match. a header from about 12 yards out by I wanna say Pele latein the 2nd half decided the mathc. It was heavy evenly played the whole game. I was there behind the south field net.

    aaageez…talkin’ soccer. I love it actually. Been catching a lot of the U-20 World Cup held in Canada on the CBC. Some good stuff. But you can tell they are young. Yer lucky if one team can hold posession for 30 seconds…


  • Dr. Dreadful.

    Yes! the way i saw the Leeds/Chelsea match here in the USA was via ABCs ‘Wide World of Sports” They would cover the FA Final every year.

    Scrimmage? Soccer… How I gathered up so many hours? OK, this goes back to elementary school in Bellevue WA, USA. Home of the nation’s strongest most developed youth soccer talent pool at the time. Imagine everyday we get about an hour of ‘recess’. What us kids would do is at the beginning of the school year is pick teams. We would keep the same teams until picking new teams after returning to school from Holiday break.

    So, the bell rings for morning recess on Monday. Everyone runs out to the soccer field, takes their position and play starts. This happening within a minute of the bell ringing. Everyone out on the field is from one of many quality teams they play on in league. Each game was one school week long. We tallied up the score on friday. So, say a 7-5 win this week for one team. So, say 3rd – 6th grade is 4 years. Times 180 hours of quality play per school year.

    All kids were quality players, most of which obtained a soccer career in college, professional or coaching after public school days ended. Our recess teams could beat most any team in our age group in the USA. I am not kidding. There was no team from anywhere in the USA that could challenge us. This is 1965-70. Even nowadays (if you could move these players forward in time) we could have given teams a run for the money.

    And then there was league play besides. So practice, games, a mid week scrimmage against the team you shared a practice field with or whatever…That would occupy about 4 month a season. Unless you made tournament. Add another month.

    It adds up.

    Trivia. The Seattle Sounders of the USL (Div. 2, USA), Porland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps are at the top of the division, carrying a large percentage of regional players. Last night the Sounders beat Chivas FC of the MLS 3-1 in tournament play.

    blah blah bloo blah…shop talk….

    STM. Yes, currently in world soccer there are too many draws. I dislike very much the tie-breaker methods used. I remember my first state championship game when I was in 5th grade. Draw in regular time. And after 2 15 minute overtimes. Flip a coin? No. We were declared winners because we had more corner kicks. That shows more offensive threat than the other team.

    Anyway. The tie breaker and need for it will change in up coming years internationally.


  • Dr Dreadful

    Fie, Stan! You know as well as I do that English rugby is a game for overgrown upper-class twits with ears like a pair of woks and noses that look as if they’ve lost a fight with a rolling pin, singing lengthy and ribald songs on buses about blokes called Sir Jasper and young ladies who are (typically very recently) no longer virginal. The object of the game is to locate the remaining brain cell of each of the players and squash it into oblivion where it belongs.

    And then there’s rugby league, which is the result of a social experiment to see what would happen if you took the laws of rugby, gave them to the TUC to rewrite and added a brass band.

  • STM

    No Doc, can’t agree … the problem with soccer in the modern era is that there are too many draws. After 90 minutes plus extra time of two groups of blokes booting a bag of wind endlessly up and down a field, too many big games are decided on penalty shoot-outs, which are just as anti-climactic as the Man Ewe victory over Palace in that replay.

    It is the reason I’ve lost interest over the years, and why my faith in the oval-ball game (see, never mentioned the name!) has been cemented – because it’s more of a spectacle.

    Now, especially with the Webb-Ellis trophy up for grabs this year and your mob the incumbents, you must learn the rules (laws, actually) DD, as it’s an Englishman’s other game!

  • Dr Dreadful

    Douglas – yes, the 1970 Cup Final finished 2-2 and went to a replay, which Chelsea won 2-1. Quite a feat as Leeds, managed by the legendary Don Revie, were becoming the team of the age.

    Scrimmages? What version of football were you playing?!

    I think the Holland-Brazil game you have in mind was the quarter-final of the ’98 World Cup in France. I was in a play at the time and managed to catch the last half-hour in the pub after rehearsal. Yes, it was a great match, as I recall.

    I think the greatest game I ever watched was the 1990 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Crystal Palace. Palace went into the tie as massive underdogs, having been pounded 9-0 at Anfield in a league game earlier in the season. Liverpool were in the twilight of their dominance of the English game. They won the league that season – the last time they have done so to date – and were expected to brush Palace aside. The first half went pretty much as predicted and Liverpool took a 1-0 lead into the interval. But Palace came out after the break and played out of their skins. Control of the game swung one way and then the other and at full-time the score stood at 3-3. Palace then squeezed a goal early in extra-time and held on for an unlikely victory.

    The final against Manchester United was almost as good a game, ending 3-3. The Palace fairytale ended when United won the anticlimactic replay by a single goal.

    A few games like that, and MLS will be sitting pretty.

  • Dr Dreadful!!!! You know it! Peter Bonetti!!!! My hero! That dude changed my life as goalkeeper was my starting position. That FA Cup final (didn’t it have to be played twice to break the tie?) was so exciting. I was maybe 12 at the time.

    Nicolas! I agree. We do have some great talent in this country, we just don’t have a good, creative player strategy. But I do have some ideas for onfield play that would make the USA a tough team to beat. What can I say? By the time I was in 7th grade I had already gathered over 1000 hours of playing time in games and scrimmages. So, you know, definately have some ideas.

    And you are right. Sometimes a 0-0 game can keep you on the edge of your seat for the full 90 minutes. 3-2 is usually a great match. Same as 21-14 in USA Football. What is all this fuss about scoring? None of those arguements hold water.

    I remember during World Cup ’94 (is that right?) a match of the Netherlands vs. Brasil that was one of the most exciting games of any sport I have ever seen. 3-2 final score. I recorded it and to this day I still pull the tape out and watch it occasionally. It was that good. I mean, it had me on the edge of the seat to the final whistle. It was as cool as, say in the ’72 Olympics when Olga Korbut did that backflip off the uneven bars or Dave Wottle running the 800 meters. It was that good. Oh, don’t forget about that Leeds/Chelsea match mentioned above.

    Anyway, it is the world’s sport. We have the ability to be great, so it should happen in time.


  • Dr Dreadful

    Good gracious, Douglas… Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti, eh? That’s going back a ways.

    The Chelsea-Leeds Cup Final in 1970 is a bit before my time – I was three, and preoccupied with adjusting to the presence of my new baby brother (who, ironically, grew up to support Chelsea)! But Bonetti is a legend. It was his misfortune to be a contemporary of Gordon Banks, Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton, or he would certainly have won many more England caps than he did. I believe the old bugger is still on the coaching staff at Stamford Bridge – goodness knows what all those foreign players make of him.

    I agree that MLS doesn’t need to be going overboard on the foreigners. The massive influx of overseas stars is hurting the English game because they limit opportunities for up-and-coming homegrown talent; which in turn hurts the national team. But you do need some sort of foreign injection (and Beckham is a great start), or the game here is never going to improve. It’s like expecting to become fluent in French without listening to any native French speakers.

    There’s another reason why soccer (for men) is not as popular here. Americans love to win, and consequently they have a tendency to pretend that the sports they’re not the best at don’t exist.

    So you need to stoke patriotic pride: get the national team to a point where it can compete on equal terms with Europe’s and South America’s best – and that means not fixating on the endless silly friendlies against the likes of Guatemala and Kuwait. And for crying out loud, play your home games at places like Giants Stadium, Soldier Field or the Rose Bowl, not some godforsaken backwoods college field in rural Texas.

  • nicolas

    i am not MLS-bashing, i do not hate the game. i do not want to see 9-8 games.

    i actually DO know landon donovan (i am reasonably familiar with the bigger name players). that just adds to my bigger point that there already ARE a number of top-notch players in the MLS and it still exists way down the food chain of the average American’s sports consciousness.

    i do not want to see the game change, i lived in korea for a ear and was hooked on UEFA by the time i left.

    i agree with all said above: the play in MLS is unimpressive, the team names are ridiculous (especially since they were done under the pretense of increased…exposure/name recognition)…

    i have NO problem with a 0-0 game. but i prefer a 0-0 game that is several great moments away from a 2-2 game (just as an example).

    I would love to be a fan, and I would love to bring soccer to the tri-state region (from pittsburgh, i am)…but people just don’t care for uninteresting sports.

    my point was that i can’t see any way for the sport to become better appreciated by americans without bastardizing it into something that isn’t really soccer, and I don’t think the MLS big wigs know what the hell to do, either.

  • Dr. Dreadful, good comment. I imagine we could sit at the pub and discuss classic matches in soccer all day…”Chelsea vs. Leeds for the FA Cup, the CAT in goal…burp…” and other soccer blather…

    But don’t get me wrong. I am an actual whitebred American that now has 42 years of playing experience in this country! Well, I haven’t done the league thing for a few years but it still is a great conditioning routine.

    My youth team won many state championships and became legendary. Definately the best youth soccer team in the country. By the time I was 14 I (or any one of the hundreds in our league) could smoke any USA college player.

    POINT BEING that the game will take off in this country if it is not messed with (idiot ‘americanization’ marketing concepts). Then, the USA better learn how to play the game. Creating a strategy to maintain posession of the ball for more than 30 seconds is a good start. I definately have some ideas there.

    Bringing in players from overseas (like Beckham) is helpful, but the MLS must be careful not to buy itself out of existance like the NASL did. I must say I have seen hundreds of NASL matches (Seattle Portland Vancouver) and did witness some VERY amazing play. Pele, Beckenbauer, Best (my fav) put on shows that actually could basically surpass a lot of world soccer if you caught it on the right day.

    Anyway, the MLS could get over big time if administrators played their cards right. Right now, I really am not impressed in their approach.


  • Dr Dreadful

    Considering the vast numbers of first- and second-generation immigrants from Latin America – where football is a religion – in the US, I’m amazed that it isn’t more popular here. Cable/satellite TV, and MLS, are slowly changing things.

    I agree with Douglas that US professional soccer – the men’s game, at any rate – is pretty inept. The national team prepared for the last World Cup, where it was grouped with two of the world’s strongest teams – Italy and the Czech Republic – by playing warm-up games against such footballing nonentities as Guatemala, Jamaica, Venezuela and Latvia. I still can’t decide if the USSA were trying to make themselves feel good or give their FIFA ranking a cynical boost prior to the tournament.

    Watching a typical MLS game is a bit of a snooze-a-thon: teams play with too much caution and too little flair and imagination. Small wonder the best American players almost always migrate to the European leagues, where they can fully develop their talents.

    Mike is right about football being the most democratic of sports. You can play it any time and pretty much anywhere. You need the minimum of equipment to get a game going: no pads, no bats, no special footwear; just a ball. The players’ jackets or a couple of sticks will suffice for goalposts. Heck, as kids we didn’t even have a ball sometimes – we used an empty soda can instead!

  • Here is the deal. I am an American that ended up in the greater Seattle area in 1965 (7yo at the time). Youth and Men’s League soccer were highly organized and in full swing at the time. The concept of soccer mom is 50 years old out here. Kid’s out here have grandparents that can still play a mean game. It is in the whitebred bloodline out here.

    First of all, don’t mess with a single rule of the game. The game is the most pure team sport there is. Let us start with the fact that the clock keeps running, there are no time outs. Injury or wasted time is added on by referee decision.

    We need more scoring? What idiots are coming up with that idea? If that is the case, make every crossing of home plate in baseball worth 50 points. That way a pitchers duel will come out 100-50 final score. Won’t baseball become more popular?

    To the rest of the world, USA soccer is a joke. Why? The USA has no distinct style of play. Recently I saw Salt Lake vs. Dallas on TV. It was awful. The most embarrasing level of pro soccer I have ever seen. They all looked like kids bunching up around the ball.

    The Brits are masters of creating and using space on the field, the Brazilians can create a masterful flow of the game, etc. This is no different than, say, the “West Coast Style” of American football. The USA has ZERO style in soccer. We have some skilled players and some occasional sharp play. But there is no style in the team game.

    The marketing is hideous. Team names like Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas or DC United are a joke. No USA team deserves these obviously lifted soccer titles of establishment. What a joke.

    Dan Beckham save the MLS? Well, he could help. He is a very good player and his skill in knowledge and creativity in the game is usable. If at a midfield position he can direct and guide some stylistic play, the game will sure look better.

    In general, the USA population has no idea what good soccer actually is. All the suggestions marketing idiots have are based on a really shitty level of soccer.

    I could go on for days about this. But, food for thought now.

    Geeves, do you have an email I can send a soccer business proposal I came up with in regards to the MLS expanding to my territory? It might give a bit of clarity to my ramblings…

    Douglas Mays

  • Mike

    Well time will tell won’t it? I was going to defend the sport of soccer but I figure you just want soccer dead and buried and there are a few people like you that like to see that happen. One thing is for sure and that is Soccer is part of the social fabric of this country even if professional soccer doesn’t enjoy NFL kind of popularity or even NHL kind of popularity. Amateur soccer is bigger than even baseball and this David Beckham guys is going to drive the youth participation of this sport to even higher numbers to your disappointment. It is the only sport that resonates and transcends cultures and it is the most democratic sport in the world. Despite your assertion that it is boring or unentertaining I get a lot more entertainment watching a scoreless soccer matches than I would watching Yankees versus Red Sox homerun fest. Don’t call me crazy I just don’t know why but I am fine with scoreless draws periodically. And I won’t bash baseball but I won’t go to a baseball game even if you paid me. Professional soccer is never going to enjoy NFL or NBA kind of popularity in this country but it will thrive on its one and if you like to consider it a failure fine but it would be around for a long long time and it would be thorn on your sport conciseness. MLS is viable and self sustaining and let the market work and you will see what happens.

  • RJH

    You, sir, are out of your element. To pose the question, ´Can the MLS be saved?´ says it all.

  • Peter

    Change the game? Are you crazy? We are finally in line with “the beautiful game” as it is played in the rest of the world. The NASL went with a goofy offsides line half way between the midfield line and the goal, to allow old slow foreign imports to hang around waiting for a long pass towards the box. No one else had that line. They also came up with the shootout. NOT penalty kicks, actual dribbling from that goofy offsides line. All that because “Americans want” high scoring, a winner, no tie games…
    Add shift changes and call it sockey, because it wont be soccer, it would be something else.
    We finally have our game to where everyone else is (as far as the rules), changing it would be a huge mistake.
    Lastly, I was looking at this blog with utter amazement. “Saving” MLS??? It doesn’t need saving. They’re doing well, and will continue to grow.

  • I have to disagree with the headline for this story,
    the MLS is growing and getting more popular by the second. They just need more coverage and that is what they are getting. The more players they get from around the world, the bigger MLS will be, as far as potential it has to be the number one professional league in all American sports. Unless you count Ultimate fighting.

  • Fred Olbrecht

    You said “..LA Galaxy, who haven’t played in a week and wont play again for three more weeks”. I see no gaps that are three weeks long in their schedule! Maybe you forgot what team Beckham plays for! You’re just another hateful person. So boring.

  • “Hey, it took baseball 100 years.”

    Baseball wasn’t popular until the 1970s?

  • carlos

    The problem with your articlte is that MLS has given up on competing for fans. They did that years ago when they tried to americanize the game. It was an awful mistake. Instead they focus on grassroots efforts to bring diehard futbol fans to watch the games. Plus they improve the players and coaching staffs every year. The league is better than it ever was, and it grows every year. Hey, it took baseball 100 years. Give soccer another 30, on top of the 10 it has now, then we’ll talk. If your still blogging that is.
    The game in itself is near perfect. Few adjustments are made each year. Don’t touch the game.

  • RJ

    “Nah, Friday and Saturday night is TV wasteland. The young people you’re after are out.”

    Many, maybe most, but not all.

    And those who stay home? What else are they gonna watch?

    And also, a lot of the young guys who do regularly go out on Fri and Sat nights are going to bars and restaurants with their male friends. And those places usually have the TV tuned into live sporting events. So, why not the MLS?

  • Stan Collins

    Nah, Friday and Saturday night is TV wasteland. The young people you’re after are out.

  • RJ

    “If that weren’t bad enough, the MLS only plays games on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday (plus one Wednesday per month). Perhaps because of such scheduling genius, you have Beckham’s LA Galaxy, who haven’t played in a week and wont play again for three more weeks.”

    That kind of scheduling is sheer foolishness. There should be games on every Sunday and Monday night when they aren’t competing with the NFL, and every Friday and Saturday night throughout the entire season.

    Many sports fans, particularly during the Summer months when the NFL and the NBA are away, and particularly on the weekends, are desperate for live team sports on TV at night, which gives them a semi-valid excuse to have a couple friends over for some beers. Not everyone is a baseball fan, or a hockey fan, and the MLS could make some headway here.

  • RJ

    “The league plays its games from April to October. Seven months. So that’s two months of being overshadowed by baseball, hockey, and basketball, followed by three months of competing with baseball, then two months of competing with the NFL and baseball. That doesn’t seem particularly ideal for succeeding at taking fans away from more popular ways to spend their money.”

    Yabut, when would be a good time period for the MLS season? The NFL is from roughly August – January. The MLB is from roughly March – October. The NBA is from roughly November – June. The NHL is from roughly September – June.

    So, month to month:

    Jan – NFL, NBA, NHL
    Feb – NBA, NHL
    Mar – MLB, NBA, NHL
    Apr – MLB, NBA, NHL
    May – MLB, NBA, NHL
    Jun – MLB, NBA, NHL
    Jul – MLB
    Aug – MLB, NFL
    Sep – MLB, NFL, NHL
    Oct – MLB, NFL, NHL
    Nov – NFL, NBA, NHL
    Dec – NFL, NBA, NHL

    So, you can see that there are a total of zero months in which the MLS would not have any competition from another major professional American sport league, only one month in which the competition would be limited to a single sport (and only two months when there are just two other major sports competing for the public’s attention; the other nine months have three other leagues playing).

    So…I guess you could limit the MLS season from late June to early November, to lessen competition. But there will always be competition.

  • Stan Collins

    Beckham’s much, much, much better than you’re giving him credit for. He was the spark-plug that turned his team around and allowed them to win the Spanish championship.

    He was brought back to the English national team and created three of the four goals they scored in the last two games, reviving their fortunes in European Championship qualifying.

    I could probably only think of about three or four guys in the world who clearly play his position better than he does right now. Beckham’s right below that group in the “still a star player” category.

    Also, the Galaxy has a player in Landon Donovan, who is the most talented player ever developed in the US, and who leads us in all-time goals scored. You probably haven’t heard of him (less than one in ten Americans have, and most of those are probably Hispanics that have a few choice insults for him), but if this Beckham thing “works” you will, because he’s the already the best player in the league when he wants to be–I’m wondering what his impact will be against who are concentrating on someone else, and who furthermore are *afraid to foul him.*

    Beckham’s impact won’t be measured in his stats but Donovan’s.

  • rojojova

    you did 15 minutes of research to determine the issues for MLS? Good job on the research… numbnutz.
    MLS is in better financial health than ever before.
    It has more team owners than ever before.
    Attendance is growing (albeit slowly)
    It has a tv deal now.
    It’s spending more money and bringing in better players than in recent years.
    You see… it all depends on where you look when you research.

    David Beckham won’t save MLS because the league does not need saving. He WILL help it grow faster, however.

    Anyway, enjoy the rest of your “Boreball” season.

  • Jkrincon

    Honestly I disagree with tha comments that suggest to change the rules of soccer, It´s a wonderful sport and is the biggest around the world, the problem is based in the lack of good players.
    About the article, I think tha Beckham stil is a great player, I´ve been watching the spanish league for quite some time and I like the way he plays, he´s just overrated.
    Anyway, is a good article, I hope DB can prove you wrong.

  • nicolas

    geez matt, didnt you see the movie? dodgeball is, like, SO much more complicated than that.

  • Make the new goalie requirements:

    No taller than 5’8
    No skinnier than 250 pounds
    Points if you hit the goalie

    Suddenly you’ve got yourself a thrilling game of dodgeball.

  • nicolas

    i agree tom, the goalie rules and offsides seem part of a much larger problem of too many rules that – intentionally or otherwise) – slow down an already plodding game.

    i say, at least for MLS, find a way to “americanize” it…make it a bit more hockey-like…institute line changes (maybe one or two per half)…find a way to clean up or eliminate the offsides…create a smaller area the goalie is allowed to hand-carry the ball in.

    just some ideas.

  • Tom

    I love futbol and absolutely agree with your comment:
    “Its not about goal, its about goal scoring opportunities.”

    The laws of the game mitigate AGAINST offense.
    The goalie has way too much control–don’t let him catch the ball, only use his hands to parry.

    The offside rule is the worst in sports. Its obviously impossible because every game I’ve ever watch has at least one blown call. Why have a rule that is impossible to get right?

    And why is every whistle blown against the offense in free kick and corner kick situation?

    All of this being said, I’d still rather watch Man United or Barcelona play than ANY American sport–including unfortunately the MLS