The Daily Snark: NOW with 50% More Conspiracy Theories

Since we're still reading about how Seattle is "the center of MLS" or "the Soccer Capital of the US" or "the heart of American soccer" or whatever other mildy-insulting-to-everybody-else term they can dream up, I have an idea that will demonstrate, once and for all, that they're not just blowing smoke up our skirts:

Pony up for the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum.

Either all this Seattle civic chest thumping is just a bunch of empty preening and silly blabber or it's not. If they're really serious, if they really mean it and believe it, and soccer has overtaken incomprehensible, overpriced, monopolistic software and burned coffee served by arrogant yuppies-in-training as the Citys' most popular products, then great.

Prove it.

It's no secret that Oneonta is in trouble and will be seriously curtailing operations, hours and staff, and it's a shame. Apparently the minivan crowd that drags a gaggle of sticky, smelly rugrats to Cooperstown so they can ask Daddy who Rogers Hornsby was (he doesn't know either, but he'll give them a speech about it anyway) aren't making the detour to Oneonta that the founders hoped for.

(Maybe they're visiting Fenimore House instead, or one of the thousands of "George Washington slept here" houses - complete with gift shop - which are as ubiquitous around there as strip joints in Ontario.

Seems to me if GW had spent a little less time sleeping in every damned house in New York and a little more time fighting Cornwallis maybe he wouldn't have needed the French to win the war for him. But that's a topic for another day.)

If Seattle is serious about wanting to be known as Ground Zero for soccer in the US, then let's see them get on board: move the HoF out there, maybe build something next door to Qwest and show all of us rubes what real soccer fans look like.

I'm more than willing to be convinced.

Perhaps it has escaped your attention, but there's a team of Generation adidas players in South Africa at the moment. They're training, playing some games (they beat Orlando Pirates 2-0 yesterday on a Chris Pontius first half strike and another by Patrick Nyarko after the break) and will attend the World Cup draw in a couple days.

The team is being coached by Crew top man Robert Warzycha, but there's no indication that he'll be benching his best players in case he needs them some other time.

The Rochester Rhinos announced yesterday that they will be the tenth member of the neo-North American Soccer League, although they were reportedly disappointed to learn that being in the NASL does not mean they'll all get to wear porn staches, long hair and short, tight pants.

(Extra credit for identifying the guy with the beard)

This latest defection leaves only Cleveland, Puerto Rico, Portland and Austin remaining from the 2009 edition of USL1, although New York is scheduled to join in 2010.

And with Cleveland likely to fold (or drop down to USL2) before the start of the season, NYFC beginning to look suspiciously like a myth and Portland leaving in 2010, all the talk of "New Franchises" busting down the doors can't hide the reality. This is the next best thing to a moribund league.

I'm sure this latest announcement will elicit another round of increasingly shrill threats and accusations from NuRock, the new USL1 ownership group, but he's likely just shouting into the wind.

As I've said before, it's highly unlikely - indeed almost inconceivable - that any of this is happening without a wink and a nod from USSF (and, probably, MLS as well). These guys aren't stupid.

And since Sunil Gulati is really the only person who can stop this - the thinly veiled threats of legal action aren't going anywhere - it's safe to start speculating on the end of USL1, since it's hard to imagine them making it as a five (or four or three) team league.

Which leads us to another, more sinister but vastly more entertaining question:

How complicit are USSF and MLS in the demise of USL1? Were they simply interested but passive bystanders, or were they, in fact, active participants?

Anywhere along the line USSF could have told the TOA group "Look, we're just not going to go along with this. Make nice with NuRock and make it work".

At which point the TOA/NASL group would have had to fold their tents.

Despite what I've read in various corners, there was never, ever any chance of these guys establishing a "renegade" league.

Anyone who had anything to do with such a venture - players, officials, owners and broom pushers alike - would face an immediate lifetime ban from FIFA and the USSF. They take that sort of thing extremely seriously and don't fool around.

The only thing that prevents us from leaping to the USSF/MLS Plot theory of the demise of USL1 is that it would take a level of foresight and cleverness that, frankly, neither of them demonstrates very often.

At the same time, it's clear that neither party is shedding any tears, either.

And somewhere on a beach in Portugal, Francisco Marcos is smiling.