Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Who is the man and why should you care?

Thought I’d post two things I read over at Soccernet.

1) Great article by Kristian Dyer about the meager developmental player contracts offered by MLS. I think the base pay in MLS needs to be raised, and that goes double for the developmental players, as depth is clearly lacking throughout the league. The problem, of course, is how to fund those pay increases. I don’t have enough knowledge of league finances to intelligently discuss the issue, but results like that discussed in Dyer’s article (where a collegiate star, in this case, former SMU-standout Jay Needham, pictured above, signs with the USL rather than the MLS as a developmental player) cannot be a good sign for the league. Plus, I think the DC United veteran who approved of Needham’s decision to turn down the developmental player contract has to be Ben Olsen. Any other guesses?

2) Interesting comments from Alex Ferguson about Beckham’s efforts to sell soccer in America. Humorously, he offers this about managing Beckham: “He was never a problem until he got married. He was a fantastic young lad. Getting married into that entertainment scene was a difficult thing -- from that moment his life was never going to be the same.”
All together: “Love and marriage, love and marriage, it’s an institute Alex’ll disparage…”
But, of pertinence to this post, note his comments about growing soccer in the U.S. To quote at length:
“In European soccer, and especially in British soccer, you can travel easily,'' Ferguson said. "If you are in Boston and need to go to Los Angeles, it's a six-hour flight. Supporters don't travel, so you are missing that rivalry between fans.
"To make it substantial you would have to go regional, but there's not enough teams to have four strong leagues.''
Ferguson said Major League Soccer is undermined by young American players leaving for European leagues early in their careers.
"What you have got in the States is that a lot of kids are playing football in the States and there is nowhere to go,'' he said. "The best American players go to Europe very early, like Brad Friedel [at Blackburn], [Brian] McBride and [Clint] Dempsey at Fulham. That situation doesn't help the American game.''

I think there is something to that distance thing, but several counters:
(1) NBA is kind of the same way, yet still works as a league (though admittedly without the fan rivalries of which he speaks)
(2) College Football manages to establish classic fan rivalries (granted most are in fact regional, but there are some exceptions)
(3) NFL: NFC East. No problem there with fan rivalries.
(4) Gotta start somewhere. Plus, there are some nascent regional rivalries in MLS.

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