The Sweeper: Soccer Nation?

Don Garber

Don Garber

The Big Story

Don Garber’s been all over the place on the anniversary of his ten years as MLS Commissioner. A particularly interesting in-depth interview is on Reuters Soccer Blog. Garber all but confirms Montreal as the next expansion team (“A very strong position yes.”), and comments that the recent spate of successful international tours is leading America to become “soccer nation.”

Garber’s answer about the position of USL below MLS was notable, and suggests the leagues are somewhat at a crossroads in their relationship. “I do believe that we can only all benefit from a strong minor league and a strong connection between it and the major league in this country,” Garber said. “I look forward to seeing how that progresses in the years ahead.”

It seems this could go two ways: the much-wanted desire for promotion-relegation between MLS and USL (unlikely given the price an MLS franchise costs) or the forging of a new relationship with the USL/PDL as a true development league for MLS. With the lack of a reserve league hurting MLS teams and the growth of MLS academies, some new kind of relationship could be of benefit — but would this would mean USL accepting a much more subordinate role than the league has now, in which it can often compete on an equal footing with MLS in cup competition.

Of course, USL fans will point out another of their teams knocked off an MLS team in the CONCACAF Champions League last night, but with Montreal set to become the latest strong USL club to be “promoted” to MLS, both leagues do need to forge a new relationship going forward to strengthen the structure below MLS nationwide for a true “Soccer Nation” to exist.

Worldwide

North America

  • The fallout from the Twitter revolution in sports continues apace. This times it’s journalists who will have to watch their words at ESPN — a memo from ESPN headquarters yesterday cracked down on use by ESPN employees. The guidelines basically forbid any social network posting on anything related to sports.
  • As we mentioned above, in CONCACAF’s premier tournament the Champions League, it was another disappointing night for MLS. Toronto FC went down to USL’s Puerto Rico Islanders, unable to score over 180 minutes of play. DC United did go through, but only on penalties against an El Salvadorean team they took far too lightly in the first leg.
  • Finally, the Chicago Fire take on Tigres from Mexico in the SuperLiga final tonight, and I will of course be in attendance — and in fact, I’m far more excited about it than I thought I’d be at the start of the tournament, essentially North America’s version of the UEFA Cup. It’s been fashionable, and with some good reason, to deride SuperLiga this year — especially with poor attendances at MLS stadiums in the group stages. But it looks like a large crowd will be in attendance at Toyota Park for the final tonight, as the Fire take on an excellent Tigres side with $1 million on the line. Section 8 is sold-out, so it’s guaranteed to be loud.  Tune in on TeleFutura in the US and try to spot me going nuts.

For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow @pitchinvasion on Twitter. ESPN can’t censor us!

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