Great Textversations: 3/28/17 – USMNT & MLS

Just before the US men’s national team took the field against Panama, Hunter and Zander had a back and forth about the lack of available broadcasting for important qualifiers and how to make American soccer better. 

Zander:  Another USMNT WC qualifier that will not be shown on English television. So frustrating. 

Hunter:  Because for some reason they don’t matter to people. 

Z:  I really do not understand. Is it ESPN or Fox that has the WC rights? It’s ESPN, right?

Just looked it up. It is Fox, which is quite disappointing. FS1 has boxing on instead and I cannot see FS2. 

H:  FS2 has re runs of Poland v Montenegro and Norway v Northern Island from today.

Z:  Wow. Just wow. I do not get it. 

H:  But remember, we are in a better place on a world stage with Arena and not Klinnsmaan. I don’t remember this being such a regular issue under him 

Often times, pointless friendly matches made main channels 

Z:  The only conflict on the main Fox channel is the news at 10. That could easily be pushed back and is regularly for football games. Are you telling me that you will have more people watch your local Fox News broadcast than a USMNT match that is quite important considering that they are not in an position that would automatic qualify them for the World Cup? 

I checked and the only channels with the game are Bein and Telemundo. It is not even available on Fox Sports Go. 

H:  People want soccer to be relevant here, without it interfering with other things. Doesn’t work that way.

I tweeted a slight dig on it. Quote retweeting them on twitter. 

Z:  That is just so sad. Do they recognize the irony that their tweet in English advertises for Spanish speaking channels? People who watch the channel probably couldn’t read the tweet and those who can read the tweet probably couldn’t understand the channel. 

H:  I truly have had enough of US Soccer in terms of making it unwatchable to the public, then complains about how real soccer fans don’t support the team or that MLS heavy sides are terrible. They don’t care about real fans, they care about the MLS blind fans who think a “great” player is Jermaine Jones.

Z:  Jermaine Jones is a great US player because of the quality that surrounds him. He chose the US because he would not make the German squad. The problem is also that those fans extol Jordan Morris for staying the US instead of challenging himself and growing himself abroad. Arena said that Dortmund didn’t invent Pulisic, and he is right, but they did nurture him through their youth squads and made him the player he is today. If you want to see the proper path for a US player, compare the short careers of Morris and Pulisic and judge for yourself who made the right choice.

H:  The other thing I would argue with Klinnsmaan is he with the coach with the Donovan youth years and yet, how was US Soccer after that? Did we have great players that led us to success? Nope. Our “success” is vastly less than other countries. People praised a generation of US soccer that did not live up to even half of the hype it could have had. But now, we expect a league not set up for growth to help nurture our players who stay home which will never ever happen because MLS is, and for the considerable future, a retirement league and a league made up of average college players who play until they are 33 and continually bounce around teams. There is no real growth in US Soccer, only the illusion, or should I say, the delusion of one. 

Z:  There is no institutional consequence for failure, an unfortunate quality of the MLS that is unique among soccer leagues worldwide. Until there is promotion/relegation and freedom for individual clubs to negotiate their own contracts with the players of their own choosing, the MLS will remain second class, maybe even third class.

H:  An issue I see is the lack of real and true academies to help players grow to be pros. We live in a society that praises one style of schooling, 8 hours of school during the day, practice or games after. Academies operate like clubs, with training grounds all day and training twice a day with matches and tournaments regularly. They also count as schools that teach them basic high school things so that if they are not good enough by the time they leave at 18, they can go to college just the same as normal kids. Not everyone is Leo Messi, but Europe allows better growth and stability for players than here. Normal travel league is useless and teaches up and down soccer, not the beautiful technical side of the game.

Z:  Beyond that travel soccer, and I know first hand from being a part of it, puts a burden on parents. They have to drive hours to games that may even be out of state and pay considerable sums for uniforms and dues. These reasons can also make travel soccer an opportunity in which some people cannot participate due to either the financial or time commitment. Even if people take part, sometimes parents or kids aren’t fully committed. They often don’t show up at those distant games or tournaments which then leaves the team undermanned and leads to kids developing bad soccer habits. However, I think that there would be considerable obstacles to setting up academies.

H:  I had a conversations with someone about how vastly different a very good high schooler here is compared to a very good U-16 player in Europe. A 16 year old in Europe has played more matches, more training sessions, and sometimes, able to get the chance to play a lot of matches for their U-16, U-18, and U-23 National Teams. Here, we focus on the path the limits real, meaningful growth in US Soccer. Academies would be very hard to set up yes, I agree with that. But for me, if you are going to grow a game within a country, plant the seed and let it grow from the bottom. Right now, we try so hard to grow it by pouring Miracle-Gro on it at the top while the bottom is rotting. I am not saying US Soccer is beyond repair, but the odd notion we often see from MLS fans is the idea that having all of our good young players stay here will somehow grow the National Team. How? By playing slightly above average to even some below average competition week in and week out? How will that help anyone out? It will bring them to the same level as everyone else in the league. One issue I have with MLS is that the top leagues in the world play in the fall, winter, and spring, MLS plays in the dead heat of summer. The best time to play soccer and gives players the best chance to perform and their best. MLS does not give players a chance to thrive, the heat of summer does not, and will not ever be beneficial to players. 

Z:  I would say that the scheduling is the easiest thing to fix considering that it only requires unilateral action from the MLS, but the question is how would you stagger its schedule so that it does not conflict with the pre-established and more popular sports, e.g. the NBA and, arguably NHL? I think that one of the few things that the MLS has that will not, and probably should not go away, are the MLS playoffs. Playoffs are just a foundational part of American sports and I just cannot see a good slot to put them. March Madness goes until April, and the NBA and NHL playoffs follow that and they sometimes last until June. That would place the open slot in mid-June to early July, or in March/April if they want to compete with the NCAA. 

H:  Why does it have to be slotted somewhere to accommodate other leagues? Say the season now starts in August and ends in May like the EPL, on a Saturday or Sunday in August you have a few choices, Late season baseball, in late August you would have college football, and that is really it. I do not see NHL franchise competing to MLS sides if the schedule was moved and changed. September NFL starts and ends in February, College Basketball starts in November and ends in early April which is around when MLB starts up. But MLS could bring a more exciting twist and option to sports in the US. I honestly think it would help most and garner support from most other pro sports. Let’s say Atlanta United would have match in November and the Falcons also have a home game that weekend, why can’t the Falcons play Sunday and United play Monday or even Tuesday in a mid week game? We see those games all of the time in the EPL. If MLS moved from the summer, it would help boost NHL, MLB, and NBA ticket sales during that time because now those people who have used that time for soccer, can use it for another event. I think the level of play would go way up and we would see more fans watching because players would be able to focus on the game, not the heat. I think to would beneficial to more than just MLS sides to move to the EPL style of schedule. You could even do a Winter Break like Spain does to give a rest to the players and avoid snowed out games like in Minnesota and New York.

Z:  I admire your optimism, but I do not think any executives in any of those sports, save maybe baseball, would share your views. The MLS has much less competition during the summer and you just listed the amount of distraction they would encounter if they did move. The MLS says it wants to compete with European teams, but their actions and stranglehold on who can do what and when reveals that it is all for show. It would then be logical to draw the conclusion that they would rather grab the easy money of less competitive scheduling than attempt to compete with other domestic sports, let alone European soccer during a different time of year. As much as I would like them to adjust their schedule, I do not think they would risk monetary risk, even if it could lead to growth. 

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