Sunday, January 9, 2011

Why Soccer is Going in the Right Direction in the United States

Well as I've been watching Fox Soccer Channel's coverage of the FA Cup, I came to thinking: The United States format of soccer is actually similar to England's. Obviously, the clubs in England have a chance to play for many trophies a year, (FA Cup, Carling Cup, UEFA Champions League, etc.) but the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League has been making the United States soccer more European, year after year.

Now, I have talked about how we need to Americanize soccer, but in this situation, I'll make an exception, because we need to have multiple pieces of hardware to play for every year. That's what I think makes soccer so great in Europe, you always have something to play for. Whether it is to escape relegation, win a cup, or win the UEFA Champions League, the teams in England are always playing hard. Its also exciting for the clubs, hardcore fans, and casual watchers when a small club from the Football Leagues draw a mastodon like Chelsea or Manchester United.

You can see the similarities when the USL clubs draw the MLS sides in the US Open Cup. Though it is always exciting to see two MLS teams duke it out for the trophy, it's always nice to see a USL squad play an MLS team in a "David vs. Goliath" type scenario. We saw this in 2008 when the Charleston Battery played DC United in a rendition of the Coffee Pot Cup and the US Open Cup championship game. Though the Battery didn't win the match (they lost 2-1) they put up a good fight, and it was good for the fans to see their team compete for a big cup.

This extra excitement that is found in soccer is not found in the other professional sports in America. In the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL you play for one championship every year. You also see teams in the later stages of the season not play hard, because they are out of contention to win anything. Now while this can happen in soccer in some situations, when you are playing for 3 or 4 trophies every year, you can keep it exciting, and keep more clubs afloat.

What I want to see in the future, is a relegation system. It is far off, but the relegation system could work in the United States once the USL and MLS develop a little further. Undoubtedly the MLS has gotten good attendance figures, but if the USL can get each club up to 10,000-15,000 average attendance, then there is a good chance that the relegation system used in England, could work here. Just imagine, "MLS in Charleston" it just sounds good.

To finish this long rambling off, let me say this: English Soccer fans can't talk down to the MLS for attendance, quality of play, or coverage of the sport in the United States, because seriously the MLS has been around for 13 years. I would like to see the English soccer attendance numbers from 1901.

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