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American Soccer

Will the sports fan be able to keep up?



The Summer of Soccer continues to open eyes. Sports fans are taking a second look and new fans are getting hooked.  This period of time has undoubtedly been Soccer’s most historic in the U.S.  But are sports fans getting confused and could this confusion be counter-productive?

No other mainstream sport has as many international tournaments.  Basketball and hockey have the Olympics, while baseball entered international competition only very recently, playing in the Olympics and forming a World Classic. 

No other mainstream sport has an international tournament structured towards clubs/franchises only.  CONCACAF Champions League and SuperLiga are something none of the other ‘Big 4″ have. 

The U.S. Open Cup has its place among the team sports as the only one of its kind, as well.

On one hand, all of these Soccer tournaments produce something unique and special.  But what is the average sports fan supposed to think?

We send our best team to play the Confed Cup, but second-teamers to play the Gold Cup.  Why play it then?  The average sports fan doesn’t accept that the best only play some of the time, but not all of the time.

The best players play in the Champions League but second-teamers play in the U.S. Open.  Why play it then?  What’s the average sports fan supposed to think? 

After a while, it’s like which exhibition/friendly/international is this and are they playing for real?  Superliga doesn’t matter because the Mexican teams aren’t in their season.

The great European squads are here for their pre-season games, which don’t count towards their record, so their first-teamers don’t play the entire game and when they are playing, they’re trying to avoid contact and not get injured.  Are sports fans supposed to watch these ones too?

On tv, we get our choice of many games from all over the world all the time.  So, which games count?  Which matter?  Does each fan pick and choose? 

If an MLS team wins the Champions League but doesn’t win the MLS championship, who had the better season, the MLS winner or the Champions League winner? 

More soccer in America is great but wouldn’t more MLS games in a season be the better idea?  The intrigue of all the different international and national tournaments is fascinating for the soccer enthusiasts and blogs, but what’s the sports fan’s motives through all this?  Why should they care and are they able to keep up?

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  1. Lars

    July 23, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    aren’t* not are, lol

  2. Lars

    July 23, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Biggest problem I have with this article is it assumes the average american is a moron. I’m not even american, and I’ll tell you americans are morons…they’re merely brainwashed by media focused on garnering ratings and ad dollars…

  3. Dave

    July 23, 2009 at 1:04 pm


    The Dynamo were NOT “resting” their top players. They didn’t even HAVE three of their starters (Ching and Holden to USMNT duty, Hainault to CMNT duty), and were lacking Davis to the flu, and one or two other starters to injury (probably because they’ve played seven straight road games to the tune of 20,000 miles traveled. And three of those games were USOC games, played alternately on either side of the continent, by the way). The actual Dynamo team hasn’t played together since May, which is why I so vehemently object to all these summer competitions everywhere, some of which are meaningless (I’m looking at you, Superliga and USOC!).

    As a fan, I’m going to see my team DISMANTLED at the end of the season, and yet, because of all these other obligations, I don’t even get to watch them play this season (or at least for 2 and a half months of the season, anyway).

    But the silver lining is that we’ve been fortunate to have a strong backup team, so we’re still winning, and I’m happy about that. But my point is that all these other competitions distract NOT the fans, but the league from giving the fans what they want, which is to see their team do the best it can.

  4. Adam Edg

    July 23, 2009 at 9:43 am

    There is a place for SuperLiga, but that place is away from the CCL (and USOC). As soon as MLS/FMF/CONCACAF figures out that it could be the region’s equivilant to the Europa League – that is a secondary competition to CCL – the sooner they can work in the scheduling so it does not conflict with CCL.
    MLS & USL also need to find a way to get at least one USOC game per round on TV. Even if it is FSC, this would help build excitement. USOC should be a big deal here like the FA Cup in England. Media coverage would definitely help. If the two leagues would swallow their pride and work together on this one, that would help more…

  5. Joe in Indianapolis

    July 23, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Yes, SuperLiga should get axed. But I bet Garber keeps his baby a couple more years.

  6. Glubber

    July 23, 2009 at 12:46 am

    In some regards your point is taken. But are you seriously suggesting that US sports fans don’t understand pre-season games?

  7. PP

    July 22, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    SuperLiga will get axed. The sooner the better.

  8. Lars

    July 22, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Dumbest article I’ve ever read. Even Daniel F.’s articles make more sense than this. Sorry Danny F. It’s true…

  9. Footballer

    July 22, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    The SuperLeague Final between the Fire and Tigers will be on at the same time as the Red Bulls’ CCL match vs W Connection. How f’n idiotic is that? Unbelievable stupidity.

    And yes, full strength teams should definitely compete in the USOC. The Dynamo were only 2 wins away from an amazing 5th straight Concacaf berth. 5 in a row. A 5peat. But they shit the bed last nite and rested some starters. Now they are much more than just 2 wins away from that coveted 5peat. Idiots.

  10. gmonsoon43

    July 22, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    I agree that MLS teams should send full strength sides to USOC. Expansion might help this cause. The more teams in the league the harder it is to qualify for CCL. This may lead teams to see the USOC as the easiest path to the CCL.
    IMO it is the smartest use of resources to try and make an USOC run. You have to win 4 matches some of which are against lower level teams.

  11. Adam Edg

    July 22, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Dave, we agree that MLS sides should be sending their first teams into the Cup games. The USOC is special because it is ONLY open to US clubs.
    I think the idea of CONCACAF CL is to be our region’s equivlient to the UEFA CL. The lower US leagues do not belong (USL-1, 2 , & PDL). It should be between winners of the top flight leagues of our region and special qualifers like the Carribean Cup and Canadian Championship (as it is now). The USOC winner does qualify, so theoretically Dallas Roma could play (& rightfully so) in the CCL.
    Some MLS teams will play regulars in USOC. I know that after beating Pittsburgh, Charleston, and Atlanta in 2005, the PDL Menace were taken very seriously by the Wiazards. They threw Wolff, Preki, Arnaud, Victorine, Oshoniyi, Zavagnin, and the rest of their regular starters onto the pitch. It was awesome to see our amateur side given that much respect by an MLS club, even if we did lose 6-1. Clearly a result meant something to them that night. And I know the Fire take pride in the USOC victories as well. It should be the marquee event of the US soccer season.

  12. Dave

    July 22, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Adam Edg,

    I see your point, but I’d rather see something like a Concacaf Champions League preliminary US Open-type round, where your club team could enter group tournaments around the country and eventually earn a shot to get into the CCL, where MLS, USL, PDL, FMF teams are all giving it their best shot. I mean, if your club team had the chance to take on the Dynamo, wouldn’t you rather be playing against Ching, Clark, Holden, etc., instead of Akinbiyi, Ashe, Oduro, and Ustruck?

    The CCL could, and should (maybe it already does…), give automatic berths to the USL-1, USL-2, and PDL champions, and then a few wild card entries to teams like yours that earn the opportunity.

    Then, the spirit of the US Open Cup is preserved, and the competitiveness of all teams involved would be protected as well.

  13. Adam Edg

    July 22, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I have to disagree with you about the US Open Cup, Dave. I think the USOC is one of those things that makes soccer truly appealing. An adult amateur team like Dallas Roma facing off with and beating professional teams in a sanctioned tournament is unique to soccer. Knowing that your men’s rec league team can enter the tournament (by qualifying through the state/region) and play against professionals is awesome in itself. I think it adds more excitement to the game.
    I mean, I am an avid fan of our local PDL team (Menace) anyway, but when they made their great USOC run in 2005 I was able to get a bunch of new people out to the games. Hosting a USL-2 and then a USL-1 team in a national cup is a huge deal. I even got some new fans to road trip to KC when the Menace faced the Wizards. These fans came back for the regular season games and the playoffs. They even watched the PDL championship on a crappy broadcast converted from FSC’s digital feed to analog on our local sports channel. This is how the game grows – through the fanbase.
    The real problem is that MLS doesn’t care enough about the USOC. The winner gets into the CCL, but I think the runner-up should as well; perhaps that will cut back on the back up squads…

  14. Dave

    July 22, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    It’s complicated, but I think that 2009 is an unusual year. First, playing in the Confederations Cup is extremely rare. Second, the Superliga’s days are numbered, so it won’t be around much longer, and third, the Hexagonal is the most exciting and publicized portion of WC qualifying (In 2007 and 2008, WC qualifying wasn’t all that talked about). So really, this is the only summer of the four year WC cycle that might be confusing to the fans.

    Finally, once we get rid of the ridiculous US Open Cup, then we’ll have a Champions League, MLS season, and USMNT four-year cycle, with the occasional friendly/minor tournament. That would be much easier to understand than what we’ve got in 2009, which is a huge mess.

    Having said that, I agree with Joe that the big mess is fascinating. And to my “new fan” soccer friends, they are eager to learn about all the different tournaments and games – things that are not offered by the other sports. If they don’t like the Gold Cup, they can ignore it. But most of us like it, so all in all, this big mess is great.

  15. Joe in Indianapolis

    July 22, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I love how the guy in the picture is so confused. “Wait, why doesn’t USA ever play AC Milan, if they’re so good? How do we get USA into this Champion’s League I hear so darn much about?”

    Mitch, I hope you’re just trolling so that all of us will say “But Mitch, we love the complexity.”

    I do agree that to the casual viewer, all these tournaments are difficult to make sense of. However, every person that has ever asked me to explain it all to them immediately becomes very interested. The complexity and global nature is a strength of this sport, and you know that. I know you are not honestly advocating for MLS to drop out of all other competitions and solely focus on MLS just because a complex schedule confuses fans of domestically isolated “American” sports. But yes, it’s complicated.

  16. Jorgito

    July 22, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    “What’s the average sports fan supposed to think?”

    i don’t think new fans are supposed to do anything, it’s all about whether they like what they see, if they do they will try to understand the sport.

  17. todd

    July 22, 2009 at 10:56 am

    i gotta say, I have dived into soccer the past 3 seasons because of all of these nuances and different tournaments and the globality of it all. (it also helps I’m from houston and the Dynamo have kicked ass)

  18. park bolivar

    July 22, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Let’s see:

    MLS Regular Season
    International Friendlies (Chelsea, Real M, AC Milan)
    WC Qualifier Round 3
    WC Qualifier Round 4 (The Hexagonal)
    Confederations Cup
    CONCACAF Gold Cup
    Lamar Hunt US Open Cup
    World Football Challenge

    Anything else I’m forgetting?

  19. Berlin

    July 22, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Superliga has become very redundant now that it overlaps with the CCL. I enjoyed it when it was separated from the CCC by several months, but now it seems to have outlived its usefulness. Yes, there’s a lot to keep track of, but it adds to fun. However, there are plenty of MLS games as it is, no need for more or you start running into the baseball/basketball problem where individual games don’t matter.

  20. Mike

    July 22, 2009 at 10:06 am

    I think the various tournaments are good for soccer and the MLS. With say the NFL, 31 teams always feel vaguely disappointed because they didn’t win the superbowl, which is the only competition. But if your team isn’t doing well in MLS, they could still make a run at the open cup or some other tournament. Everyone loves a winner, and if there are multiple definitions of success other than just winning one tournament it helps attract fans.

  21. Mario in SJ

    July 22, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Nice article but I would not worry about it. Let the fans figure it out, its part of the excitement of our sport. New fans get a chance to discuss and gain knowledge, current fans get to give their opinion on which tournament su*ks and which is worth a look.

    The more the merrier.

  22. Jason Gatties

    July 22, 2009 at 9:03 am


    Baseball has a World Championship in addition to the World Baseball Classic.

    Hockey has a World Championship in addition to the Olympics

    Basketball has a World Championship in addition to the Olympics (Will be held next year, US will send NBA team once again led by Coach K)

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