I feel bad about not doing an MLS preview, but...I have no idea how to handicap this league anymore. It isn't just that anyone can win MLS Cup. Anyone can win the Supporters Shield, too. And as we saw last year, anyone, literally anyone, can win the Open Cup. It's just a lot easier to preview the league after they've been playing for a month or so. I'm sure you understand. Yet, some people felt like they could predict the league enough to try to make money for their efforts. Bovada had these odds before opening day, or, as we like to call it, First Kick:
LA Galaxy 11/2 New York Red Bulls 6/1 Sporting Kansas City 6/1 Portland Timbers 7/1 Seattle Sounders 10/1 Toronto FC 10/1 Real Salt Lake 11/1 Houston Dynamo 12/1 San Jose Earthquakes 16/1 New England Revolution 20/1 Montreal Impact 25/1 Columbus Crew 33/1 FC Dallas 33/1 Vancouver Whitecaps 33/1 Chicago Fire 40/1 D.C. United 40/1 Philadelphia Union 50/1 Chivas USA 66/1 Colorado Rapids 66/1
The Galaxy might as well change their name to LA Default. You can always pick them without looking too silly. They stunk up the previously pristine city of Tijuana last week, and they were still only one goal away from...well, probably from getting boat-raced by Cruz Azul in the semifinals. But this is American soccer, and if we can't tell comforting lies about ourselves, who will? WE WERE ONE GOAL FROM BEING WORLD CHAMPIONS!
These odds were posted before the Rapids settled on Mastroeni, which tells me they are pretty much exactly as impressed with Colorado management as Colorado fans. Still, 66/1? Equal to CUSA? That had to sting.
RSL fans might be seething with rage about being twice as long a shot to win as the Galaxy...after all, who won the playoff series? But it looks like Columbus, so far, was the bargain of the year. But why? My only assumption is that Bovada really, really hates first-year coaches. And Ben Olsen.
I would have thought last year's semifinalists in Foxboro would have left the gate at better than 20/1, but I would have been wrong. Let's bury MLS, or at least one of its teams, before we praise it -courtesy of Boston Magazine, the Krafts' management of the Revolution gets the treatment here. Pro-click, baby.
You would think freaking New England's soccer market would be as close to unbreakable as any in America. I realize that Foxboro is as close to Boston as Tel Aviv is to Ramallah, but the whole region has been a soccer hotbed since before Joe Kennedy was shoplifting Wild Turkey. But the Tea Men and Bicentennials' impact on the first NASL would be dignified by the term "footnote," and while the Revolution have been winners on the field now and again, they've gone from MLS attendance leaders (seriously, 1997, look it up) to what they are today.
Which is pretty amazing, for the longest-surviving professional soccer team in the history of the United States. Sure, they're tied with seven other teams, but still.
It went more or less unnoticed that at high noon local time on March 8, on green carpet in the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City kicked off the 19th season on MLS. That's an American record in professional soccer. The first NASL has been eclipsed. If you seek soccer history, look around you.
And if you would like to speak up now for the American Soccer League that played between ASL I and NASL I, well, you do that. Asteroids aren't planets.
No NASL team survived the league's entire run, of course, so the Original Eight in MLS have been the longest-surviving American pro teams for a few season now....if you date Bethlehem Steel's run from when that team became fully professional in 1915. If you count amateur teams, then MLS clubs are nowhere near the record and unlikely to be. Hey, remember when amateur soccer teams in America helped us qualify for that one World Cup and helped us win that one game? That was neat.
MLS, of course, didn't achieve this through an unbroken string of business masterstrokes. MLS has lasted through such self-inflicted wounds as the 1996 uniforms, several league-owned teams, multiple ownership, the 1999 All-Star Game, all the other All-Star Games, Dragon Stadium, Cardinal Stadium, Spartan Stadium, Giants Stadium, Titan Stadium, RFK (oops), ten freaking seasons of Chivas USA, roster rules that would baffle experts in Mornington Crescent, turf quality that would shame a Subbuteo tournament, Adumania, Beckhamania, and fans who wondered every step of the way why the league can't be run the way they do in Europe.
If only we had avoided those mistakes. If we had, the league would be in its nineteenth season now.
I don't know why the league's front office hasn't crowed about this, but I suppose I'm glad they haven't. That doesn't mean it's not a milestone, and I hope someone is proud of it.
It should be noted that the Vancouver Whitecaps officially claim existence since 1974. Which is, in the words of Alfred North Whitehead, totes adorbs. That isn't even the most outlandish claim in Canadian sports - ask the Ottawa Senators about their Stanley Cups.
EDIT - typo in title corrected with a post-last-minute much better title