The Sweeper: MLS Cup Highlights League’s Opposing Forces

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In many ways, the opposing sides in tonight’s 2009 MLS Cup final (8:30 PM EST) are representative of the two faces of MLS.

Seattle’s Qwest field will see Real Salt Lake, a team that stumbled into—and through—the playoffs with the lowest wage bill in the league and no designated player to speak of, a symbol of MLS’ egalitarian, singe-entity structure; face the LA Galaxy, MLS’ biggest spender with two of the league’s biggest names, one of them the world’s most famous person, an exorbitantly-paid designated player whom many in MLS credit for giving soccer a bigger profile in North America, for better or worse.

The differing nature of both sides—a small-but-stable underdog in Utah against a star-pushing, LA-based glamour-machine—were reflected in league chairman Don Garber’s cautiously optimistic state of the union speech and media Q & A.  Garber strongly defended the league’s growth in North America, referring to 2009 as a break-out year, and reiterated the need for MLS to connect with more North American soccer fans (Garber owned up in a recent interview with Grant Wahl that “There are still far more soccer fans in this country than there are MLS fans”).

But Garber added that expanding MLS, whether with more DPs or higher wages or more franchises, shouldn’t “negatively impact” the league’s stability, which, considering the TOA/USL-1 split which has seen the rebirth of the North American Soccer League, isn’t something to take lightly. It’s a fine balance to say the least, and it will certainly be reflected in on-going CBA talks in the next two months.

Meanwhile, predictably for the media, tonight’s final, and the MLS in general, is all about David Beckham and not a hell of a lot much more.  On why he’s been overall pretty good for American soccer here, pretty dire here, and dire-then-good here.

Worldwide Stories

  • But MLS isn’t all about soccer you know!  Twofootedtackle does a nice little piece on MLS W.O.R.K.S., you know, the organization with the comic sans hoarding signs.
  • Jermain Defoe scored five goals today as Spurs destroyed Wigan 9-1; in doing so he tied Premier League record for goals scored in single match.  Watch all of them here.
  • Bayern Munich manager Louis van Gaal has made Bayern Munich terrible, or so says this guy, and he didn’t do much to dispel WSC’s quaint theory by drawing Leverkusen 1-1 at home.
  • Meanwhile, the DFB will do everything in its power to aid match-fixing investigators following a series of arrests this past week.
  • Brisbane Roar’s Brazilian winger Henrique showed the world what a handball really looks like on Saturday.  Apparently there were some other shenanigans in the game as well.

Richard Whittall writes A More Splendid Life, and is live blogging the MLS Cup tonight with some other major MLS peeps if you want to come on by.

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