North America's Superfluous League

Per Kenn, whose own take on NASL's woes is required reading - if Kenn were mineral water, he'd be Eau Snap - stop me if you've heard that one - various NASL supporters have sent a letter telling Sunil Gulati, in so many words, to go play in Traffic.

Also by way of Kenn, this is what NASL and USSF are wrangling over - the standards the Fed has set for a second division league. As paraphrased by Brian Quarstad:

And this is before we got anywhere near financial statements. I'm not surprised the fledgling NASL fought these so strongly - hm?

...okay, well, probably Nestor would like to have that back today.

But a number of these requirements, especially the geographic and population demands, simply were not realistic. Not ITTET (In These Tough Economic Times), not with our still-unpopular sport, and not with America's unwillingess to embrace minor leagues without an elaborate series of bells and whistles.

Most of the clubs and markets able to fulfill this standard were ripe for MLS annexation. USL found this out to its considerable cost, and is retrenching. The USSF, in other words, has legislated an unworkable business model.

Last year around this time, most bystanders applauded the USSF move, hoping that the two sides would come to some sort of agreement. They haven't, and now the USSF has a desert and calls it peace.

The basis of this squabble still baffles me - like, lower division soccer in North America is some mother lode of riches worth fighting over? - but let's say it settles, with one league towering in triumph over its defeated opponent, engorging itself on its players and teams.

Then what?

It suddenly becomes cheaper to fly from Edmonton to Puerto Rico?

Fans are suddenly a lot more interested in watching players who...how can one put this delicately...are not adequately appreciated by MLS or Europe?

The USL-Pro division three model is the right one. You play your local rivals as much as possible. That's where the money is anyway. Then, the most successful teams meet for nationwide titles.

That's how American minor leagues do it. And by "minor leagues," I also mean monstrously successful college sports. They don't scrape off the top twenty programs and make them fly all over creation. They keep the traditions they've built, play those SOBs down the block/road/interstate, and rake in the bucks. College football's championship system is beyond fizzucked, sure, but college basketball's championship is very close to perfect - a little big, perhaps.

And yet the Nostalgic And Simulated League is going to the freaking wall for the right to shuttle its half-dozen clubs around three nations. Asinine.

It's the fans in these NASL and USL outposts that are truly stuck, conscripts in this pointless war. If you're a soccer fan in Atlanta or San Antonio, the NASL is at least offering the possibility of soccer - so you're stuck with them. At least the nicknames are cool.

The USSF should consider sanctioning nobody, forcing the clubs across Canada, the US and Puerto Rico to come to some rational understanding, preferably without the competing agendas of people like Traffic.

Or the Puerto Rico federation could sanction the NASL as a first division league. They could bring in the Cosmos, and take on MLS head-to-head!

(The sad thing, is, I'm not sure that hasn't already been suggested on majorleaguesoccertalk.)
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Speaking of fans and SOBs - congratulations, Sons of Ben! You've arrived. A fast-talking tool with an accent conned you into collaborating in some mainstream hit piece. Welcome to Major League Soccer!

Turns out the UK edition of GQ did a piece on Union fans, and - well, what do you think. A British magazine does an article on American soccer fans. I guess in theory it could have been all about how incredibly awesome we are, and how we totally deserved to win Group C.

Amazingly enough, though, it wasn't. (Through a LARS link, the actual article is here. And it's bad. Unless you like being lectured about fandom by a guy who's big life achievement is a Katy Perry interview. Then it's good. (It's not))

I don't mean to pick on the fan who supplied most of the coathangers to this particular back-alley abortion, but, sadly, this is very instructive:

Yeah...don't do that.

Yes, I know. That's not what you're about, they took crap out of context, and the guy said the article was going to be one thing and it turned out to be another. Let me guess - while he was talking to you, he didn't say anything about you being laughable posers, did he? No? Imagine that.

Please don't tell me you thought being an American soccer fan was going to make you famous. Being an American soccer PLAYER doesn't make you famous.

Here's the good news. They could have run this on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and it wouldn't have made any difference. This was by and for the preconceptions of people who either hate soccer, hate American fans, or both.

"Oh, my goodness! These MLS fans are so violent! Buggy Dimson was right! By the way, what's an 'Eagles'?"

If the article was "Philadelphia sports fans sit politely and applaud good sportsmanship," THAT would be frightening.

But as I'm sure you've realized, most supporter group recruits are people who are already fans, and want to take it to the next level. No one is going to read this article and say "These! These are my people!" and join you out of nowhere. And you wouldn't want them if they did.

There are real, solid, honest soccer reporters out there. They are covering, wait for it, the game. If someone with an accent and a Mr. Microphone slithers up and wants to know why you're so cool, your best bet is to nod politely and go on with what you were doing. These people aren't your friends.