You might not have noticed it with the UEFA Champions League on something like 87 channels yesterday (at least if you had DirecTV like I do), but the CONCACAF Champions League group stage quietly got underway last night. Steven Goff points out even the players don’t see the tournament as a priority: he quotes Santino Quaranta of DC, who ahead of their 3-1 loss to Marathon of Honduras said that “It’s important to the club and it’s important to the people here — we’re taking it seriously — but for me, the league has to be [the priority], right? What good is it to play in this tournament if you don’t make the playoffs? To me, it doesn’t make sense.”
I think Quaranta is right to some degree; whilst I do think MLS teams should take the CCL more seriously, it’s difficult with roster limitations and the salary cap as it is to effectively compete on two fronts. Yet it’s interesting that Canadian blog the 24th minute takes this quote and runs with it to draw a general cultural conclusion that not prioritising the CCL is a consequence of American soccer fans “isolationism” and lack of interest in the international competition: “It stands to reason that a 24-year-old from Baltimore that has played his entire professional career in the United States would share the viewpoint of most of the people that watch him.”
Is this really true? Are American MLS teams not prioritising the CCL because supporters don’t care about it?
- Gabriele Marcotti responds to the speculation on a prospective European Super League following Arsene Wenger’s comments at the weekend, saying “I don’t really see it as a positive or a negative: I see it as an inevitable fact of life.” Marcotti goes on to say that “Economic imperatives have driven every major innovation (good and bad) in history. There is no reason football should be exempt from this.” Yet it’s simply not clear there is an overwhelming economic imperative for it; if there was, why does it remain years away? The backlash against the 39th Game showed that the supposedly inevitable can be ridiculed into retreat. Influential writers like Marcotti are only hastening the arrival of a Super League by purporting its inevitability.
- It’s remarkable how quickly pundits change their views. Arsenal, predicted to (relatively) struggle this season by many after their parsimony in the summer transfer market, have apparently been proven in the space of two games to be “no longer the beautiful yet vulnerable side we have watched for a few years now”, according to David Hytner of the Guardian. It’s been an impressive start, but hold your horses there, David.
- Peru’s football federation is attempting to avoid a promised national team players’ strike by improving working conditions and benefits for the players — it’ll be interesting to see the response. It’s been a tough road downhill for football in Peru since their success in the 1970s, with Reuters reporting that “The domestic game is in a deplorable state with players often complaining they have not been paid for months and clubs sometimes struggling to even find training pitches.”
- Meanwhile, the TV deal mess holding up Argentinian football has apparently finally been resolved. The government has taken over control of broadcasts in an expensive deal, after the previous agreement with a pay TV company was torn up by the Argentinian federation. It appears to be unclear where all the money is coming from: “Local media had reported the government would have to spend around $150 million to screen the games on state television, but [AFA spokesman] Cherquis Bialo said the state would not have to put up any money.”
- The match-fixing crisis in Macedonia continues, with three more clubs under investigation by UEFA following the ban of former champion FK Pobeda from European competitions for eight years.
- Texas-based JMJ Holdings confirmed it intends to buy Bari of Serie A. Interestingly, prospective new owner Tim Barton was quoted by the Dallas Business Journal as saying that “with soccer growing in the United States, there is even the possibility of setting up a sister team in this country.”
- The debut of Premier League football on ESPN2 last Saturday morning attracted a strong rating given it had almost zero advance publicity (the deal with Fox to sublease the rights wasn’t signed until the night before, and the game never even appeared in most onscreen listings). According to EPL Talk, “the game scored a 0.2 rating with 159,948 household impressions and a total viewing audience of 164,485.”
- You have to give New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Danny Cepero some credit for writing remarkably honestly on the New York Times Goal blog despite the annus horribilis his team are currently suffering in MLS. “We are awful, this is an embarrassment, and we most definitely need to fix it,” Cepero writes. “We need to face our proverbial demons and somehow exorcise them. But that then begs the question: How in the world do you do that?”
- MLS bankroller Phil Anschutz is the latest addition to the U.S. World Cup Bid Committee; du Nord raises an interesting point, when he says “I don’t understand why there isn’t a fans’ representative on this committee.” Of course, they haven’t finished naming the entire committee, but as well as celebrity additions, a grassroots representative would add some interesting value and input.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.