A couple of weeks ago it was reported that Celtic, Dundee and the Scottish Premiership Football League (SPFL) were close to committing to playing a competitive league game in the US. To describe the idea as a bad one would be a massive understatement.
The proposal is borne from a misreading of the sophistication of US soccer market. MLS outstripped the Scottish League as a spectacle a number of years ago, and what is more, fans in North America can watch the best soccer from around the world on television and online in greater quantities than most.
Simply put, North American soccer fans are not going to be taken in by a gimmick match involving two teams from a league that is stuck in reverse gear.
Hard times forces organizations and individuals to reassess approaches, practices and habits, and that is definitely the case with the SPFL. The Celtic versus Dundee idea is a horrible one, but on Monday the SPFL hit on an initiative that might have legs. The announcement related to the revamping of the Scottish League Cup and the details can be found at the end of this article.
Of course, good organizations are constantly assessing how they do business, and they look to accentuate the positives and mitigate or even fix the negatives. That brings me around to Major League Soccer. The 20th season came to an end on Sunday with the Portland Timbers crowned MLS Cup winners, becoming the 10th team to win MLS’s biggest prize.
The playoffs provided exceptional drama and entertainment over 39 days, and surely every died-in-the-wool MLS fan watching the Timbers win on Sunday thought back to late October, when Portland’s Cup hopes came literally within an inch of being still-borne. That was when Sporting Kansas City’s Saad Abdul-Salaam’s penalty kick hit both posts and stayed out in what had become a sudden death penalty decider.
There were other terrific moments and great games, and some may even argue that the fight for playoff spots down the stretch also offered high drama. But as strong as MLS finished, it still takes a long time to get to that finish, and it is at the front end of the season where opportunity lies for MLS.
It is clear that the Supporters’ Shield is never going to have the prestige that a league winning campaign has in Europe and other countries around the world. The US Open Cup is a tournament of good intentions, but unless it falls under the direct control of MLS, it is never going to get the respect that a century old competition deserves.