It’d Be A Big Night, If Anyone Knew

I hate to be the pessimist in the party, but guess what? The hype surrounding tonight’s CONCACAF Champions League match is being overplayed. Don’t get me wrong, a Real Salt Lake win (or a tie conceding one goal or fewer) would be a great testament to the advances that the domestic league has made in our region.

The problem? As the sizing of the above image indicates, I believe it’s being vastly undersold by those who stand most to gain.

I’m not sure where the blame falls for this oversight. Perhaps it’s because an American team has failed to reach the finals in the CCL (or Champions Cup) since 2000. Another thought could be that American teams have not done well at the gate in the CCL matches in recent history. Or could it be that a replay of El Clásico would garner better ratings than an earlier CCL Final?

In any event, on a work night, East Coasters will have to stay up until 11:45 PM (or later, should the full time result be 2-2 at Rio Tinto) to see whether RSL can earn the trophy. In my opinion, the only people who will tune in at this time for this match are the most hardcore of fans. That’s not the broad appeal that the soccer establishment is seeking.

One argument would be, “Monday Night Football usually runs until midnight.” That would be a great argument, if soccer had half of the support in this country that the NFL enjoys. MNF showcases regular season games, and even if a game gets primarily participating team support, it’s still significant.

You could then make the argument, “Who do you think will be watching this? It’s the same, mostly RSL fans.” Then it should not be billed as a night comparable to the 1980 Olympic Semifinal match between the United States Hockey team and the USSR. It’s true that the hockey game was played at 5 PM on a Friday afternoon, but the Olympics are a well-established entity that draws because of its societal place. The other piece to this was that the match wasn’t even shown live in America, but rather on tape delay on ABC. But at least it was broadcast on a channel that almost everyone received.

The final argument could be, “There are other sports having playoff games that will outduel this match.” That’s very true, but there’s a Denver Nuggets NBA game starting at 9:30 PM on TNT. So the CCL match will have competition regardless.

I would love to have this game be covered in a way that behooves a great game. It should be considered a coming-out party for Major League Soccer, regardless of the outcome (although a victory would be icing on the cake). I just wish that the powers-that-be had seen the marketability of this match, and planned it to be a grand display. Instead it’s been pushed into a time slot that’s indicative of a meaningless local market one-off match-up. I’ll definitely be staying up to see if the Utahn’s can succeed, but I see a country of potential fans with no knowledge that this match is taking place. That’s a shame, and I still don’t know who is to blame.

71 thoughts on “It’d Be A Big Night, If Anyone Knew”

  1. I totally agree but until this league takes competitive matches seriously and leaves out international friendlies this is the way its going to be. MLS holds press conferences, cliff hangers just to announce the ALL STAR VENUE! The powers that be understand there isn’t a lot of $$$ attached to this tournament, as in advertisement dollars. If you had 70k fans lining up to see Concacaf clubs it would be a whole different story.

    1. Agree. We should take competitive matches as a main priority. international friendlies or these so called world club tournament MLS calls them are really trash!, cause their in the middle of the MLS regular season, the games dont mean nothing really and its just a way to make money. More money,marketing, and time should be given to the CCL and U.S open cup.

      1. MLS has the best of both worlds. It turns the avid soccer fan of other leagues away by going against the grain [see: playoffs, conferences, no promotion/relegation] but wins them back when an international club comes to the U.S.

    2. Totally agree robert. international friendlies may be fun but in the end they exhaust our top players against a b-rate squad in the middle of the season just to add to their coffers. improve quality, put main priority on CCL and USOC and everything else will follow.

  2. I partially agree. The hype for this is huge amongst MLS and RSL fans, but outside of that it has no recognition. I understand that this has been a Fox Soccer broadcast, but has ESPN even mentioned it?

  3. Very good thoughtful piece. I think that MLS could do more a little more to market the CONCACAF Champions League in general, and this final in particular. And sadly, only hardcore MLS fans outside of Utah will pay attention to tonight’s match. But even with more marketing, I’m not sure the new or casual American soccer fan currently fully understands this competition and its importance.

    This is part of a larger issue, though, that I think will be overcome over time. For example, I still struggle to explain to non-soccer fans and casual fans in my office that the total number of games played in a season can vary by team; they don’t fully grasp the differences between league matches, US Open Cup matches, CONCACAF Champions league matches and friendlies. In an American sports world where you only have league competitions, the soccer landscape is still alien to many.

    But I think that is slowly changing. And I think that RSL’s progression in this tournament will surely help continue to grow awareness. More importantly, however, we need other MLS teams to carry the torch and perform as well as RSL in future Champions League competitions to make these finals into something really big for more fans. Greater emphasis and more marketing will surely come when MLS teams routinely make the finals of this competition.

  4. MLS deliberately de-emphasizes competitions like CCL, US Cup, etc. where MLS plays non MLS competition in games that matter (gee, wonder why?) and instead promotes the crap out of non competitive, meaningless exhibitions like Super Liga, various friendlies, MLS regular season, etc.

      1. Believe what you want. It’s a meaningless exhibition- which is why the Mexican teams often sent their reserves. Its not even a CONCACAF sanctioned competition.

    1. i totally agree. anything that doesnt bring in SUM money is a waste of time for them. really the only positive MLS (the corporation) can gain from this CCL is brand recognition. but i totally agree with you anything that isnt MLS related they put it in the backseat.

  5. I’d like to see an earlier kick-off time for east coasters as well. That aside, I’m holding out hope that the league will promote retroactively. People who follow MLS know the game is happening. People who don’t follow the league aren’t going to be convinced by a couple of ads that they need to tune in and watch Salt Lake play a Mexican club they may have never heard of.

    If RSL wins tonight, I hope the league and U.S. Soccer invests more in publicizing the Club World Cup – an MLS team playing a possible competitive tournament match against Manchester United/Barcelona/Real Madrid will be a much bigger draw than the CONCACAF final.

    1. I wouldn’t hold your breath regading RSL playing the UEFA rep anytime soon. Given the format of the Club World Cup, it’s highly unlikely that the CONCACAF representative would face the UEFA rep before the finals. And every final has featured UEFA and COMBENOL teams except once.

      1. Except two I say. Vasco Da Gama played Corinthians in the first World Club Cup. Lat year, Conmebol was out in the semis.

  6. I hope that Salt Lake wins the club championship.
    Not because I am a HUGE MLS homer, I am.
    Not because I am a Salt Lake fan, I am not.

    Because I want to see how guys like Earl spins it to be a negative.

    What is the point of this article ? There isn’t one.

    1. Charles, I understand your point but this could be the last time we see a MLS club in the final for a long time. RSL has outperformed, no doubt, but what is going to happen to this franchise when key players ask for more money? Is it fair to keep players pay wage down so that teams like the NE REVS have a fighting chance for MLS Cup? RSL has definately made a Cinderella run to the final considering that they operate with the shackles that MLS has placed on them.

    2. It’s troll-bait, and disappointing. Props to Feuerstein for trying to make things positive. Thumbs down to Earl for trying to spin it in a negative way.

  7. Possible posts actually relating to soccer:

    1. Beckerman out.
    2. Souza…awesome, but not so much lately.
    3. Salt Lake at home…awesome.
    4. Monterrey slumping, but probably the best CCL performer so far
    5. How they got there recap

    hmmm, this is easier than I thought.
    I bet I could hit 25 without even trying….

    6. Tactical discussion of the game tonight
    7. Spotlight of a bunch of great players playing tonight.

    Yeah, 25 would be no problem…

  8. Charles, I think there’s a link on the main page with instructions on how to get your own articles published on MLS Talk. If you think there are 25 things worth talking about, go ahead and submit an article on one of them.

    1. Also, I didn’t mean for that to come out as condescending as it appeared. Although I often think you’re a little crazy in your seemingly blind devotion as an MLS Fanboy, you do come across as very knowledgeable about the American game, and I’m sure your thoughts might be interesting.

  9. If “MLS deliberately de-emphasizes competitions like CCL” then:

    WHY did MLS reschedule RSL’s game with Philly this past weekend?

    WHY is practically the ENTIRE MLS New York office in Utah this week?

    WHY did MLS produce a video of other MLS coaches and players wishing RSL luck in the competition?

      1. Schweet, I predict a heel turn by RSL with Nick Rimando cutting a promo on the crowd in Rio Tinto with the NWO.

        Steel Cage match baby!

  10. What a very strange article.

    It’s not MLS scheduling this in midweek, it’s CONCACAF. The RSL-Columbus quarterfinal, played before the MLS season started, was played on Tuesday nights (er, much like the UEFA Champions League, and we all know that whichever way matches and leagues are scheduled in Western Europe is the only correct way to organize leagues and schedule match times). So complain to Uncle Jack, not The Don.

    And the complaint about the time being inconvenient for East Coasters is flat out bizarre. I’m sure folks on the West Coast and Mountain Time would like East Coast games to not start until they’re actually off work. But that’s not going to happen either.

  11. MLS clubs have won the champions league before and it wasn’t that big of a deal.

    if RSL wins this game what’s the difference from when dc united or la galaxy won it?

    1. Are you serious? It is a completely different competition with international implications for the league, the team, and the fans. When did DC United of LA Galaxy play in the Club World Cup? More is on the line, and there is more reason to be competitive.

      1. Once again a MLS-snob shows his ignorance. Champions Cup was hosted in the USA and they only had to win three matches to be Champion. Champions League by far is more grueling than some cheesy summer tourny.

        1. Ok, first of all, when did I say anything to the contrary? Second, you show your ignorance. I have said time and again that I watch leagues all around the world, with my favorite league being Serie A (which I like and watch even more than MLS) despite what issues I have with the European system. If you are referring to me asking about when DC and LA played in the Club World Cup, it was to make a point as to how the tournament is different. Once again, an MLS-hater troll shows his ignorance.

      2. The CWC didn’t exist back then. It’s a fairly new competition that is basically TV filler during the winter holiday break.

        And yes, the UEFA and COMBENOL reps get byes until the semi-finals, mostly because if they had to play more than two games, they wouldn’t bother with it.

      3. LA Galaxy qulified to the World Club Cup in 2001. The problem is that the tournament was cancelled due to the ISL and FIFA scandal (bribes, etc.)

  12. Great point about the timeslot, this is huge in getting viewers and momentum for the competition. However, it’s still great for Real Sakt Lake and MLS. This competition should be managed like the UEFA counterpart in terms of coverage and glamor, at least in our region.

  13. the difficulty for MLS clubs in the champions league is that they are at a disadvantage because of MLS’s strict salary cap. If clubs were aloud to spend what they wanted on players I think you would have MLS clubs regularly win the champions league.

    1. “the difficulty for MLS clubs in the champions league is that they are at a disadvantage because of MLS’s strict salary cap”

      Right now that’s a curse but in the future it will be a gift. Because in the future when 1 MLS club is good enough to win CCL then because of the salary cap 8 to 10 teams will be good enough. And then MLS clubs will regularly win the Champions League.

      1. it’s not a gift

        a salary cap in soccer will never work as long as other leagues within the confederation don’t have one. You’re weakening your clubs.

        1. Wrong.

          When our cap (actually it’s a salary budget because 75% of the leagues teams are over it) is higher or equal to what the other top clubs in CONCACAF can pay then our clubs will be stronger because our league will be much stronger.

          1. Wrong.

            because other leagues dont have a cap. they can go as high as they want. we are stuck with a $2 mil budget. maybe in 10 years it will be $4 mil. still wont make a difference. i understand that a salary cap is functional so teams can stay competitive against each other and keep from clubs balloining themselves to bankrupcy but at any rate a self imposed cap is always bad for clubs. i do hope for MLS sake the salary cap does increase to equal or greater of clubs like America and Chivas. which points to another thing, MLS strict parity laws on clubs. like DLH says below the average fan doesnt know but too much parity exist in MLS. people are unaware and thus are conformed to the cookie cutter soccer we see every week. internationally clubs dont have parity laws or very few parity laws so they can freely compete while we are basically running a marathon with a 50 lb ball strapped to our leg. this is probably the first and last time we’ll be seeing a MLS club at the CCL finals.

          2. @gazza

            so you’re saying that the salary cap should always be set so it’s on the same level as the CONCACAF clubs with the highest budgets?

            kind of a tricky dance .

            salary caps lead to mediocrity. They always do.

            if there must be some kind of regulation on salary budgets , luxury taxes are the way to go. The salary cap has been very bad for the NFL. Teams can’t keep their players and there is too much parity.

            a luxury tax would be much better for MLS. If a club wants to spend 10 million on players they can, but they will be taxed at 30% on everything over the cap. That money could be used by mls to promote the league or whatever.

          3. The only teams that pay better to their players are the Mexican teams. The rest of the CONCACAF countries pay a misery to the players and that is why they do not compete. In fact, Mexican teams are the ones that pay more in the Americas. Besides, some of the teams in Mexico are not making money in soccer, they use the teams to clean money they make in other “businesses.”

          4. @Alex who stated ‘because other leagues dont have a cap. they can go as high as they want. we are stuck with a $2 mil budget. maybe in 10 years it will be $4 mil. still wont make a difference’

            LOL. You know that 2 teams in 2009 had a salary payroll of more than $11m right? You know that every team this year will pay over $3m right? In ten years it will be $4m ….. are you fricken kidding me!?? Do you not even pay ANY attention to MLS? Or do you get you info from only this site? In ten years team payrolls will be $25m to $40m depending on clubs desire for DP’s, how many Generation Adidas and Academy players that don’t count against the cap, allocation money for clubs doing well in the CCL etc.

            What the league will never do is pay 35m pounds for the likes of an Andy Carroll. Or 50m pounds for a burned out Fernando Torres. You can run the best Academy in world for 5 years with that money.

          5. That should be 2010 not 2009.

            Red Bull NY was $15.6m which will be alot more this year. DeRo in and Henry for a full year.

            LA Galaxy was only $10.9m

        2. Gazza’s talking about the future and how the league will be able to afford better players with higher payrolls from future TV contracts since expenses should be fairly constant. The league was only able to sell television rights in 2007 and so rights fees should continue to rise.

          The NHL is more attractive for advertisers for a bunch of reasons and with their new contract, that league gets 200M/year. But MLS has similar Nielsen ratings on cable for regular season games. Just 10% of that number per year and the salary cap will be bumped up like never before. A twenty million dollar increase from television contracts from all (FSC, ESPN, Spanish language) sources would improve league quality for every team.

          Sucks to start from the ground floor but if Salt Lake can pull it off, it speaks well for a 15 year old league.

          1. MLS owners will just pocket the money, like they have for every other additional revenue stream. All the SUM money goes to the SUM (and the owners), not to the clubs to pay players. Not that $1 million a year per club will make much difference; Fred left my team (DC United) for more money… in the Brazilian fourth division.

            MLS will continue to de-emphasize these competitions because they’re typically not very competitive in them- MLS structure is designed to keep salaries low, and keep teams from competeing with each other for players. The rest of the soccer world doesn’t work that way, of course. But the typical MLS fan doesn’t care, or is unaware. Comments about how awesome it would be for RSL to play Barca or United point to that. Barca’s academy team would score at will on RSL in a competitive match.

          2. DLH says: ‘Um, MLS doesn’t get any of the money for the league’s TV contracts.’

            Seriously? You actually believe this?!! Maybe you should research THEN post.

          1. @Gazza:

            SUM gets all the money from MLS TV contracts, not the MLS clubs. SUM is owned by the MLS franchise owners; thus they put the money in their pockets instead of putting it into their teams.

            MLS is designed to make money for the owners, not to build competitive teams and rosters.

            The MLS owners poor mouth about how their teams don’t make any money- no kidding, since the clubs don’t get two of the biggest revenue streams (TV and merchandising). MLS just assumes that their fanbase won’t ever figure this out; so far, they’ve been right.

        3. What are you talking about ?

          Salt lake was a few inches away from going to the next round. They were the 8th best team in the regular season for MLS when they qualified.

          Hmmm, maybe a salary cap is working fine, seeing as it goes up again next year.

        1. To Earl: What the hell are you talking about (salary cap not rising faster than inflation)? The salary cap, as in all NA sports is tied to revenue. As league revenue goes up – which it has significantly in the past 3 years – then the players will be paid accordingly. Caps are never tied to inflation and young leagues that are stable see their revenues climb significantly until they reach maturity.

          To say MLS will never be good enough to win the CCL 5 minutes after they lost in the final is ridiculous. To not see the improvement in quality since 1996 and then to state we will never be good enough ……. wow. Makes me wonder if you even watch the league you are writing about.

          1. My comment was more regarding the fact that many claimed that RSL was the favorites. Tough to say that given that Monterrey’s players are all making higher wages in a poorer country than ours. MLS is doing what they feel is a smart way to manage debt to survive, and in doing so they pretty much put MLS teams at a large disadvantage in these types of competitions.

    2. Andy, I also wish MLS teams were allowed to spend what they wanted to build their teams. However there is a long ways to go. MLS salary cap is around $2mil per team (MLS averages $12 mil per team revenue, you do the math where the rest of the money is going). MFL averages $35-40 mil per team annual revenues, with the big boys like Chivas, America, etc. well north of $50 mil/year.

        1. @ Andy

          Maybe so; $10mil/year would be higher operating costs than some Premier League teams and most Championship teams, which seems kinda hard to believe. Most leagues pay a far higher percentage of revenue in player salaries (ofter 50% and up), in your opinion why does MLS have trouble running their teams as efficiently?

          Also what do you think of the fact that the $12mil/year doesn’t include MLS TV and merchandising revenue (goes directly to owners via SUM)?

          1. @DLH

            just from that 12 mil you mentioned I’m assuming a large part of it goes to pay off the debts from financing the new stadiums. If you look at the home depot center, it costs $150 mil and was finished in 2003. Thats not something you pay off in 10 years.

            i’d be surprised if any MLS clubs are turning a profit yet.

  14. Your article is confusing since 75% of your article’s content is about the time of the game while your title indicates that people are not aware. It’s unfortunate that it might be a little late for the east coasters out there but unlike the DC/Seattle game that caught a lot of incidental viewers that was on ESPNx that caters to a more general audience, the game is on FSC and to that broad audience that you’re seeking, that might not even be channelsurfing territory.

    The people who have been following the tournament certainly know that the game is today and in Utah itself, the tickets weren’t even available outside the season ticket holder base who just gobbled them up with people still desperately seeking tickets as I type. Not the end of the world.

  15. It’s halftime now. 11 posts since the game started, and all are haters. Ironic that they are posting negative crap on a blog post about a game that is being played right now and they are not even supporting the team or the league. Very telling.

    1. It would be shocking if the MLS Hater Trolls were watching soccer.

      Everton would win the EPL before that happened.

  16. The people who have been following the tournament certainly know that the game is today and in Utah itself, the tickets weren’t even available outside the season ticket holder base who just gobbled them up with people still desperately seeking tickets as I type. Achat Chaussures Gucci pas cher Not the end of the world

  17. Real Salt Lake could not make it but they show they can compete with the best from Mexico. MLS is on the way. A few more years and the MLS teams will start winning it.

  18. The article touches on a good amount of related subjects, but misses some key points. Firstly, that Real Salt Lake is not on par with an LA Galaxy, DC United or Seattle club in terms of name recognition and status. Also, it will probably take one team getting to the club World Cup and playing Man U. or Barcelona before the CONCACAF Champions League really takes off.

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