Sigi Out; plus: Not a Sane Lawsuit

In retrospect, what doomed Sigi Schmid in Seattle was something that was completely out of his control.  When the Sounders FINALLY got over on the Galaxy in the playoffs last year, I thought that bought Sigi time.  I realize Sounders fans were losing patience, but a penalty shootout loss to FC Dallas had to be their least painful playoff exit in their history. 

Then Dallas flopped against Portland, and the Timbers went to Columbus and won MLS Cup. 

It's always a painful thing when the arch-rival wins the championship.  When the arch-rival who came into the league AFTER you wins the championship BEFORE you?  That riles up a fan base.  It was the worst possible ending to a season that was primarily notable for Clint Dempsey tearing up a referee's notebook. 

Historically, Sigi Schmid provides either quick or very quick success, peaking with a landmark season.  And then it falls apart - slowly at first, reaching terminal velocity within a year.  Schmid's last two Galaxy teams were painful to live through, and, well, you can look at the standings and see how the Sounders are doing.

Some of this is made worse because of Schmid's previous success.  The Sounders aren't used to being underwater at all, let alone down there with the miserable Dynamo.  They've lost five times at home, and yes, they do lead the league in that unfortunate stat. 

So, yeah, in the long view, Schmid had a highly successful run for the Sounders.  I was just about to say he didn't win a double, like he did for Los Angeles and Columbus...but he did, didn't he, in 2014.  It was just the wrong double.  Stop me if I've told you this one, but the Open Cup and the Supporters Shield is like ordering whipped cream and hot fudge but leaving off the ice cream.  Nice hat.  Nice belt buckle.  No cowboy.

Should your team hire Sigi?  Of course.  He drafts well, he signs well, and he wins.  Then his star players turn the locker room against him, and your owner would prefer to keep Sigi and not dump fifteen players, but that's not economically feasible.  Or he'll leave you for a better gig, like he did to UCLA and the Crew.  But he'll leave many trophies behind. 

The big question is, who will replace him?  UCLA got lucky with Jorge Salcedo.  LA...well, Sigi's replacement there won a double himself.  Rejoice, Sounders fans!  Sigi is like the Johnny Appleseed of doubles!  Okay, in reality, it took the Galaxy and Crew a minute or two to recover from Sigi's departures.  Heck, the Crew are at the bottom of the East right now, so - really?  Defending conference champions?  Strange team.  Strange league.

Should Sigi coach the US national team?  Probably?  I think?  Sorry, my hot take machine is on the fritz.  He can scout talent and build a team, and get that team to win.  And then it goes bad.  If he can have his good year in 2018, then the sky is the limit. 

I was going to say Schmid is the most qualified for the position, what with having won championships in NCAA and MLS.  But then I realized I just talked myself into hiring Caleb Porter...or re-hiring Steve Sampson. 

Since in this premise Schmid would be taking over a team that Klinsmann has either ditched or ran into a ditch, a safe choice would be almost obligatory.  I think it's less likely he'll be a candidate for the next cycle.  Assuming Schmid wants to wait around to follow Klinsmann, he'll be almost 70 in 2022.  (Okay, fine, he'll be almost 70 in 2022 whether he follows Klinsmann or not.  You know what I was getting at.)

LAFC is by far the most obvious choice for Sigi at this point, which will annoy the Galaxy to no end.  I can only assume Schmid and LAFC are working out the final details.

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One place Sigi Schmid won't coach will be the NASL team in Los Angeles - because there won't be one.  Chad Hollingsworth had the intriguing report here - go read that while I congratulate myself on that incredible topic segue I just made.

One of the factors that dissuaded Sumner was the pending antitrust lawsuit by the NASL against the USSF. With representation including high profile attorneys like Jeffrey Kessler, who represented Tom Brady against the NFL, the legal fees are bound to pile up. Reportedly, each NASL ownership group is expected to share equally in those costs.

This is very, very close to being the funniest thing I have seen, read or heard of in my adult life, except for maybe - MAYBE - the Sarah Silverman Program episode where Brian Posehn and Steve Agee passive-aggressively argue about Tab. 

The issue in question is Division 1 status for the North American Soccer League.  I've, um, touched on this issue in the past.  Long and stupid story short, Division 1 status is not worth fighting over.

From the USSF point of view - Jesus, just grant the waiver.  You've done it before for the NASL.  You've granted a waiver for Division 1 before, for WPS. 

For our younger readers, WPS was a struggling soccer league that didn't quite meet the written standards for a Division 1 league in the United States.  But the USSF granted WPS a waiver so it could claim Division 1 status. Guess whether it worked.

The only reason I can see for not giving NASL Division 1 status - well, apart from the fact that they don't meet the standards, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be the last guy on the planet who cares about the standards - is the sanctity of the CONCACAF Champions Cup.  As a Division 1 league, goes what for want of a better term we'll call "reasoning," its champion should gain automatic entry into the CCC.

Unless the NASL's champion is Canadian, or Puerto Rican, of course.  Stop me if I've told you this, but I'm not sure the NASL has thought this all the way through.

Anyway, the USSF could either take ticket away the Supporters Shield winner and give it to the NASL champ....assuming they want only one, considering the NASL crowns champions every couple of weeks or so thanks to that asinine minor league split season scam they run so the Cosmos and Puerto Rico FC don't have to start the season on time if it's not convenient.  Or the USSF could use the US Open Cup the way the CSA uses the Pyramid Scheme Challenge to pick its national representative.  For those of you just joining us, no NASL team - including the Pet Rock era versions - have come anywhere close to winning the Open Cup.  USSF's right to choose its representatives to the CCC is pretty much undisputed, so the NASL would have no recourse if Sunil chose to be cute about it.

Which brings us to the NASL side of the lawsuit.  If the lawsuit is going to be so expensive and time-consuming that actual serious investors are scared off, then maybe your lawsuit isn't such a great idea, maybe?  Sports league lawsuits in this country have a very amusing history, and it doesn't usually end up well for the challengers.

A much better option for the NASL is to actually act like a Division 1 league with Division 1 teams paying Division 1 salaries.  That's what the American League did, that's what the American Football League did, that's what (a few) American Basketball Association teams did.  The USFL even made a little go of it that way, before they decided to quit gridiron and try lawyerball.

This shouldn't even need to be said, but the money spent on attorneys to argue this case - this stupid, stupid, stupid case - could be used much more productively.  Like stadiums and players and advertising.  Or building a giant Lego Danny Szetela, I don't know. 

I haven't even mentioned FIFA here.  Thou Shalt Not Sue Thy Federation is pretty high on the list of FIFA commandments.  Everyone on the NASL side of this is risking a ban from the sport.  I bring this up because if the argument is that USSF has the power to make and unmake leagues through FIFA authority, then the NASL will be pariahs in Zurich and...New York?  Miami?  Wherever CONCACAF's headquarters is these days. What price CONCACAF Champions Cup place, if the league is not allowed to compete in international competition through FIFA and CONCACAF decree. 

And if the USSF does NOT have ultimate power over soccer through apostolic succession from FIFA....then what is NASL suing over?  USSF is just a licensing agency.  If the NASL can't market its teams once it gets that license, whose problem is that? 

There's an outside chance - I've mentioned this, I think - that the real target is not the USSF, but Soccer United Marketing.  It would be nice, from the NASL point of view, to divorce MLS from US national team friendlies...and, better still, Mexican national team friendlies.  But divisional status has nothing to do with that subject. And again, any serious attempt to say that USSF can't market and promote soccer as it sees fit will probably have repercussions in Mexico City, let alone Zurich and...it's not Port au Prince still, it can't be.  Assuming NASL can get a judge to agree that it is being harmed by Mexico playing New Zealand in Nashville, AND assuming NASL can get a jury to award it change appreciably above chump status.

And I want to beat one last thing into the ground.

This is not to say that the pursuit of legal recourse is the wrong path for the NASL. A legal victory would likely have a more significant impact on the league’s long-term goals than the addition of any single team, regardless of market.

Nope.  What would help the league's long-term goals is having teams with long-term plans.  Building a fan base is the best - maybe the only - aim of a soccer league.  A legal victory would mean nothing except on whatever marketing can be squeezed out of the difference between "only pro soccer team for miles around" and "only Division 1 pro soccer team for miles around."  Sacramento and Cincinnati have shown that not even Division 2 status is necessary to build a team and gain fans.

Seriously, was I ever wrong about FC Cincinnati.  I see their gear worn by people in public.  Like in parks and stuff. 

The NASL could take advantage of similar markets if they made the effort - but apparently they can't find investors in Detroit, Buffalo, Nashville, San Antonio, San Diego, Birmingham, Truth or Consequences, or St. Louis, because mean old USSF won't let them dress up as Division 1 princesses.  Meanwhile people are making money in Division 3.  NASL should fire everyone and start over.  But I've probably said that already, too.