The Superliga: Why It Matters

It doesn't. Have a nice weekend!

....okay, I actually do have thoughts on it.

We're all familiar with the negatives, of which there are several. Cynical money-grab to fleece fans who ought to know better but can't resist the lure of beating bigger teams (if you're an MLS fan) or seeing your favorite team in person (if you're an FMF fan). The extra games on the schedule are theoretically a good chance to try out new talent, except MLS teams are traditionally as deep as a Dan Brown novel. And, as Bill told us, were an MLS team to win this tournament, they would split cabfare home in prize money.

(Which, depressingly enough, represents a significant advance in MLS generosity. I remember a player from the 90's, when I congratulated him on a successful Open Cup game, grumping that they didn't get any bonus money whatsoever from the tournament. Stop me if I told you this one, but MLS players in the 90's:Sunil Gulati::little green army men:nine-year-old pyromaniac.)

So why is it given any importance? Last year, it was David Beckham, and the Galaxy trying desperately to salvage a lost season. Not only was it amazing that the Galaxy nearly succeeded, the fan base was willing to go along with it - mostly because the games were so good. The Pachuca penalty loss was a franchise high point, which in cold electrons would read stupidly coming from a Real Salt Lake supporter, let alone a snooty Galaxy fan, but I defy any Galaxy fan who was there that night to disagree.

One notes with amusement that yesterday morning, the Superliga games weren't listed on the front page of the MLSnet schedule, while today, the Dynamo shellacking of Atlante is shown fairly prominently. If there's one thing MLS can do, it's sing when they're winning.

Even the Superliga games against other MLS teams, which theoretically should have been absolute landfills, were showstoppers. Is it reasonable to expect the same this year? Well, fortunately, the MLS teams involved sort of hate each other, so it's quite possible. Sadly, they separated the real rivalries, so if Houston and Chivas USA are going to get all stabby with each other again, it'll have to wait until after the group stages.

New England and DC United's practical interest in this tournament seems pretty small, especially with their league form ticking away quite nicely. The Revolution have historically been the least interested in continental success to a degree that would impress a Glasgow Rangers fan. Perhaps last year's Open Cup win got New England interested in winning tournaments, or at least confident that they can win tournaments. And if they lose this one? No worries, they're still in the hunt for a domestic triple, maybe even a CONCACAF award. DC United is in pretty much the same position, except the Superliga would be a new bauble for them.

Houston and Chivas USA are theoretically in a position to gain a lot from this tournament. One assumes Dynamo fans are happy enough with the success gained so far, but it never, ever hurts to beat an FMF team. Turning Cancun into Can'tcun is, to say the least, an unexpected bonus. Houston should just quit the international scene today, declare themselves Champions of the Hemisphere, and get back to work on finding a way to win in Utah. (Especially with DeRo suspended.)

Chivas USA really do have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Realistically, this is a tournament to ease them into the post-Guzan era, and give Preki a chance to try out new formations (as opposed to, say, a rivalry game for first place in the West...defending MLS Coach of the Year, folks). Naturally, any time a Los Angeles team faces a Mexican team, the LA team dreams that this, this will be the game that makes LA fans realize that good soccer is played north of the checkpoints. "How blind we have been! Here, have a lot of money in exchange for tickets!" they will say, flocking and thronging and other vaguely suggestive gerunding their way to the Home Depot Center. "We are no longer Pachuca fans, or Santos fans, or even Guadalajara fans! Henceforth, we will support our local!"

Perhaps Chivas USA and Chivas FMF will meet in the semifinals...or the final...and it will be like in Rocky. Yeah, like Rocky IV, with Sacha Kljestan taking the mike and giving the "If I can change!" speech to 27,000 newly-minted Chivas USA fans.

Several problems with that line of thinking, two of the most obvious: hardcore FMF fans change team loyalties about as often as sequoias go jogging, and on paper Chivas USA isn't actually good enough to beat Pachuca or Santos (or New England, either, but even Shawn Hunter probably isn't daft enough to target LA-based Revolution fans). The I-told-you-sos if CUSA ends up on the wrong end of a bowling score would be heard from here to the Yucatan...and Brad Guzan saying "gotta catch a plane, l8ers" doesn't exactly make that less likely. Of course, maybe the British Labor Board will come through again. Don't expect Brad Guzan to get the Happy Employee of the Month parking space if that happens, though.

Then there's MLS pride, which I hope to see less and less of as the years go by. You think Manchester City or Arsenal fans were looking at the Champions League final, and happily saying "Premiership, yay!"? If they do, I don't wanna know about it. The respect and goodwill of the international community towards MLS are extremely small beans to me, compared to the prospect of horse laughs following Pachuca running CUSA clean out of the building. I suppose I'm cheering for a Houston-New England final, but if it's DC United against Chivas USA, I'll be supporting something along the lines of "kills people, leaves buildings standing."