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June 21, 2002

So I haven't posted in

So I haven't posted in a month. Blah.

A few thoughts on the World Cup and the state of soccer:
The US played out of their boots, as have Senegal and South Korea. The future of the game looks bright for America; lots of young quality players combined with a keeper that's probably now Top 5 in the world. Blackburn should count themselves lucky that they have Friedel inked to a four year deal.

I'm concerned about MLS, though. Play in the league resembles English Division Two. The bar needs to be raised significantly in the next four years while adding four to six more teams to get the league to a point of national stability. I'm not sure you can expand a league AND improve play -- the past forty years of baseball say no, the past twenty years of basketball say maybe. The league really has no choice, though -- it needs a foothold in the Northwest and the South, two areas with strong youth soccer movements. I'm thinking the beat way to go about this would be to expand to Seattle, Atlanta, and two mid-sized cities where there's little competition for the sports dollar (a la Columbus). Cities that come to mind: Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Austin, Richmond, Salt Lake City, Birmingham. (Personally, I'd like to bring back some of the old NASL teams -- Tampa Bay Rowdies, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Tulsa Roughnecks, Vancouver Whitecaps....)

It's obvious that money is really hurting European football (just as money has hurt just about every other sport). Too many club tournaments, long regular seasons, and the seperation between the Premiership/Serie A/Bundesliega and all the lower leagues keeps getting wider. I would not be surprised to see an MLB-style farm club system emerging in the UK in the next few years, unless the FA steps in to force the Premiership into profit-shairing with the Nationwide Leagues. Not bloody likely; Man U and Chelsea would bolt to whatever new European league would get formed, one without relegation. Somewhere, Branch Rickey is smiling.

Sepp Blatter makes Bud Selig look like, well, he's not a car salesman. The money that Europe and the World Cup have generated has attracted the same corrupt leeches that have been hanging off the IOC. Serious reform needs to happen, and while I think that pretty unlikely (hey, we're talking about sports team owners here, folks who make politicians look angelic and the type that would hire a car salesman to ru(i)n their league), I think the emergence of the United States could be the death knell to the current corrupt hegemony.

And now, as I'm apt to do, I give my list of how to fix football (and the World Cup).

1. MORE REFS. I'm sorry, but the biggest sporting event in the world, and you have ONE REF? I mean, it's loopy. Baseball has four umps; during the playoffs they add two (one down each line). Why? Because it means fewer mistakes (like fair balls being called foul etc.) It doesn't eliminate mistakes -- Jorge Orta's "hit" in the '85 World Series comes to mind -- but more eyes would help. Imagine if there was a ref watching Rivaldo's dive from the other side, one that could signal him to be booked. I think three refs, one head "rover" ref and two refs on either side of the pitch, would help control the diving and the "unseen" calls.

2. BIGGER GOALS. Not much, mind you. Just a foot higher and a 2 feet wider. Just enough to adjust for the taller players and keepers. I would mean maybe one more goal a game, if that. But the small goal is creating these score one goal then play keepaway for 75 minutes games that, I'm sorry, just drag on. One more goal would lead to a greater likelihood of the 1-1 scramble versus the 1-0 yawner. Obviously, the penalty box will be widened as well.

3. FIVE A SIDE OVERTIME. Each team picks their five best players and have at it in overtime. One substitution, that's all. If it's not decided in thirty minutes, they go to:

4. FREE KICKS, NOT PENALTY KICKS. 5-on-5 again, ball can be spotted anywhere outside the penalty box, same system of kicks, only you can play the rebound, and once the ball is dead (kicked out of bounds, caught by the keeper) or cleared by the opposing team, you set it up again. Penalties are a ridiculous way of deciding the game; you might as well just flip a coin. Free kicks are, at least, a little truer to form.

I think it's imperative that the US gets the 2014 World Cup. We'll have numerous new stadiums online by then, incuding the grass field domes in Phoenix and Houston and soccer-ready places in Seattle and (if they can get their act together) LA. The support will be here, and in 12 years we'll have enough kids in the system to, possibly, win it all. What better way to do it than at home.

Posted by dylan at 12:11 PM