Not so long ago, you could pretty much rely on starting a 500 post all-out BigSoccer flame war that ended up with at least three guys getting the boot simply by bringing up the question of "style". While most of us don't particularly miss all that wildly creative abuse of the autocensor function, with the arrival of one savior (la Beckham) and the departure of another (Freddy, we hardly knew ye) it's puzzling to note that, if anything, we're farther away than we've ever been to figuring out whether there really is or ought to be an American "style" of soccer, and if so what it ought to look like. The irony of course is that, at the same time the quintessential symbol of British soccer has become -by default if nothing else - the face of "American" soccer, MLS is engaged in a mad scramble for South American players in an effort to inject a dose of creativity and flair into a league which is generally recognized as fast, athletic and largely devoid of skill. As Grant Wahl noted recently, this current influx is having a readily discernible impact on the "style of play" of many MLS sides, and I doubt if very many people would say that's a bad thing. Guys like Toja in Dallas, Angel in New York, Blanco in Chicago (yeah, yeah, he's not "South American; just work with me here people) Fred in DC and Schelotto in Columbus have put a real charge into this MLS season adding a style and a flair that, honestly, has been sorely lacking. Unfortunately, while all these guys and 50 more like them may very well be able to juice up MLS, they aren't likely to do much to change the way Americans play soccer, or at least not anytime soon. Because in America, soccer "development" - meaning how we teach and train our youth players - was hijacked by the British a long time ago. Go to any big tournament, particularly in the east, and a great many, sometimes half or more, of the coaches voices you hear ringing across the fields will have British accents. And those that don't all have USSF coaching licenses they earned in courses designed by, and using books written by, British guys. Guys like Bobby Howe and Clive Charles and a host of others set the course of how young American players were to be taught the sport years ago, and not much has changed. This influence is certainly nothing new; as Steve Holroyd noted in his comments on the New York Cosmos: "The South Americans on the team ignored Chinaglia, and passed only to Pelé. New York’s English contingent-Tony Field, Steve Hunt, and Keith Eddy, among others-played the ball in the air, which was not to Chinaglia’s liking..... Further, the three contributing Americans-Shep Messing, Bobby Smith, and captain Werner Roth-chaffed under the team’s suffocating British influence.... Messing complained bitterly of the league’s "English mafia," while Smith was indefinitely suspended by (British) coach Gordon Bradley after a violent locker room tantrum over Smith’s being replaced by a Brit in the lineup What's more, the soccer that's being coached and taught in America is actually old British soccer, dating from before the Premiership era. Teams in England don't really play that way any more. The influence of foreign players and foreign coaches on the EPL has by necessity changed their style of play, at least at the top levels. Of course a large part of the reason why American soccer has been thoroughly "Britainized" is a simple one: they speak our language. They come over to play, either in college or at various other levels, find they like it here and/or get married and often end up coaching youth soccer. As a result, American soccer, from the lowest levels on up, puts a premium on "work rate" and toughness and guys who are willing to "stick in" and ball crossers and long passers and coaches who holler "Well done, lads". We're teaching them Route 1 soccer and then wondering why, when they're 20, they aren't more "creative" Look around those same youth tournaments, and you'll find darn few, if any, Hispanic coaches. It's a shame and it needs to change. We all agree those guys play an attractive brand of soccer that we'd like our players to emulate, but then sign our kids up to play at clubs run by British ex-pats and wonder why, ten years later, the kids look like they grew up watching the Tampa Bay Rowdies. I love Old Blighty as well as the next guy, but if it's creative and imaginative soccer we're striving for in this country, then we have to find ways to teach American kids something other than a style they played in England circa 1975. Changing the face and style of play in MLS may be a relatively easy matter, but changing the way Americans play the game is something else altogether. The US Women's National Team has arrived in China for the FIFA Women's World Cup. Unlike last time, when a lot of the players were well known to even the most female-soccer-averse amongst us, this group might as well have just arrived from Saturn. Yet this team. top to bottom, may be superior to the 1999 version. They're coming into the tournament on an unbelievable 47 game winning streak, not having lost since November of 2004. And while the ladies may have somehow slipped under your radar, I'm willing to bet that the US Beach Soccer team has ever even registered. Yet this hard working group has just completed CONCACAF Qualifying, having somehow survived the suffering down at the Fairmont Acapulco Princess Hotel Beach in Acapulco (Say, you don't suppose Chuck Warner had anything to do with picking the venue do you?) going 3-0 and qualifying for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup to be held in Rio de Janeiro in November. Led by hat-tricker Yuri Morales, they beat Mexico 5-4 to secure the spot, and he, along with teammates Anthony Chimienti, Zak Ibsen, Luis Montanez Francis Farberoff, Benyam Astorga, Bayard Elfvin, Joshua Nolz, Raphael Xexeo and Ronald Silva, vow to overcome whatever shortages of Captain Morgan or Hawaiian Tropic may come in order to make us all proud. Salud. Rather than help the Galaxy win games, it appears all that Beckham is accomplishing is demonstrating how lousy they are. Somehow, I don't thing that's what Tim Lieuweke had in mind. Meanwhile, there may be celebration afoot amongst the degenerates over in the quaintly titled WAGERING FORUM one of these days. The World Trade Organization, in response to a lawsuit brought on behalf of Antigua by an American, has ruled that the US cannot arbitrarily restrict online sports gambling. The issue of course is not really gambling per se but rather the political influence of the owners of major league sports. The last thing they need right now is more issues with gambling and they lean on Washington pretty hard. But the US may be forced to buckle on this one. Who knows: maybe one of these days you'll find MM10S in a little booth outside your local stadium, selling tout sheets. By now I'm sure all of you have seen This commercial featuring an oh-so-sincere Landon Donovan advising us to not "discriminate" (There are a couple other versions featuring different players, including a hilarious Frankie Hejduk version where he loooks like he just put down the bong) And while I'm certainly all in favor of not "discriminating", every time I see that ad I want to throw something at the TV. Yeah sure, the little kid can chip the ball into a goal. Great. If what they're doing is picking sides for a "ball chipping contest" then I agree: not picking him is pretty rude. But it appears that what they're doing is getting ready to play soccer, and if that the case he's never going to get the chance to chip anything except possibly a tooth. All of those guys have six or eight years and 60 pounds on him, and the first time he takes posession he'll be tackled into next week, at which point his parents will hire a lawyer and sue everybody in sight for letting some little kid play against teenagers. If they'd showed a Korean kid, or a Jewish kid or a kid with three eyes, the thing would make a little sense. But as it is, it just seems forced and lame. Surely they can do better.