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05 June 2015

These are the Champions! 5 reasons why the UEFA Champions League is superior to the FIFA World Cup

What would you rather watch?—A quadrennial month-long tournament with just a handful of memorable matches and the same five or six champions?—Or an annual 10-month-long championship featuring the world's best club teams, literally hundreds of cracking goals and a different winner each year?

Given those options, most football fans would probably choose the latter. I know I would.

In anticipation of the 2015 UEFA Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus, why not toast the world's premier international club team showpiece?

Given the latest stains on FIFA's reputation and its dubious awarding of World Cups, why not praise the Champions League for being the superior tournament?

Before you rebel or accuse me of sacrilege, hear me out.

The Champions League trophy shown on March 12, 2015, prior to the second leg semifinal match between Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona at Allianz Arena in Munich. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Apples and Oranjes?

Perhaps it's unfair to compare the FIFA World Cup to the UEFA Champions League. After all, a World Cup is a WORLD CUP, right?

You wait four excruciating years for the most watched, anticipated and celebrated sporting event in existence. It's great. But just as suddenly as it begins, it's over. For all of your patience, you're only rewarded with a month of "fever pitch."

Still, (the early part of) last year's tournament did not disappoint. The group stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil featured a slew of stunning goals (Robin van Persie's "superman" header against 2010 champions Spain), surprising results (Spain knocked out) and great individual performances (Lionel Messi vs Iran and Bosnia).

But as in most World Cups, the goals dried up in the knockout stages and teams played more conservatively as the tournament advanced. To make matters worse, nationalistic fervor inevitably seeped into the competition's later rounds.

The meaningless old rivalries and ethnic/racial/national stereotypes of yesteryear dominated the mainstream narrative of the World Cup, making for hackneyed "analysis" and punditry. Even worse, those without a team to represent their real (or adopted) homeland in the later stages often found little solace in supporting the remaining countries.

While fair-weather fans, sporadic viewers and rabid supporters alike wait for 2018, European club football followers are like kids in a candystore year-after-year. Here are five reasons why the UEFA Champions League is superior to the FIFA World Cup...


1. The Champions League has better teams and more parity. 

With a three-month-long group stage and two legs per knockout round, the Champions League forces teams to prove their mettle at home and away.

The Champions League has also featured some of the greatest squads ever assembled. Whether its this year's Barcelona team, the 2009 version, Milan 1989, Ajax 1995, Real Madrid 2002 or Manchester United 2008, its difficult to argue that Europe's top club teams are vastly superior to almost all national teams.

After all, the best clubs are comprised of the world's best players, and not just the country's best. Whats more, professional footballers spend so much more time with their clubs than they do with their national teams, which leads to greater cohesion and fluid gameplay.

Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane volleys past Bayer Leverkusen's Lucio, right, and goalkeeper Jorg Butt, to score his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Final on Wednesday, May 15, 2002 at Hampden Park stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. (AP Photo/Denis Doyle)

It's great to see smaller countries, such as last year's Costa Rica team, hang on and battle the big boys in the World Cup. But surely we all know from experience that the smaller nations will never win the whole thing. No team outside of South America or Europe has ever had a realistic shot at winning the World Cup and that doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon.

Conversely, remember when Porto shocked the world in 2003 to defeat Monaco in the final? Or when Liverpool came back from three goals down in the second-half of the 2005 final to stun AC Milan? How about when Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia made it all the way to the quarterfinals in 2012? Or when unfancied Borussia Dortmund throttled Real Madrid in 2013 to make it to the final?

The Champions League somehow simultaneously features the best teams and the unexpected.

2. The Champions league is just as meaningful as the World Cup

On a superficial level, the World Cup means more than the Champions League. After all, a World Cup pits nations against each other. And what can be more glorious than being the world's best?

Yet many football fans love their clubs as much, if not more, than their national teams (i.e. Barcelona and its ties to Catalan identity).

Without condoning hooliganism, it is rare to see the same passion and fervor among supporters of national teams as one sees in the ends, among barras bravas, torcidas and their equivalents across Europe.

Moreso than national teams, clubs have truly global followings. With supporters groups, pubs, stores, blogs and other publications all over the world, one can find a fellow Barcelona or Juventus supporter in almost any corner of the globe.


3. The Champions League has better matches and better goals

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was notable for its dearth of well-played matches or great goals. Many blamed the unpredictable ball, but seasoned followers know that all-around conservative tactics and stifled game-play lent itself to a bore of a tournament. Even the 2006 World Cup only had two or three entertaining matches.

The Champions League, on the other hand, always has great match-ups and astonishing goals. This year, Barcelona and Bayern Munich met in a slugfest of a semifinal with the Blaugrana's Lionel Messi figuratively breaking Bayern's Jerome Boateng's ankles before chipping the world's best keeper, Manuel Neuer, en route to a majestic tie-sealing goal.


With the likes of Messi, Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, Chelsea's Eden Hazard, PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, not to mention Bayern's Arjen Robben in the competition year-after-year, viewers can always expect the cream of the crop. While many of these same players grace the World Cup, the difference is the quality of the players surrounding them at club level. That quality makes for these kinds of moments.

4. The Champions League has a better theme song

For every Waka-Waka (2010 World Cup), there's an equally forgettable J.Lo and Pitbull duet (2014 World Cup). For every Hips Don't Lie (2006 World Cup), there's an equally cheesey Ricky Martin song (La Copa de La Vida--1998 World Cup). The Champions League has a classy, mighty, rousing and inspirational theme that will never change.


5. No FIFA meddling = No corruption to stain the competition

Nothing close to the latest FIFA corruption/bribery/money-laundering/complicity in human rights violations/what-the-hell-else can they dig up next?--has ever come close to sullying UEFA or the Champions League.

Whatsmore, UEFA has attempted to increase parity in Europe's domestic club competitions by regulating overspending and debt through its Fair Play Regulation.

The Champions League is UEFA's biggest cash cow, just as the World Cup is FIFA's. The difference is that UEFA hasn't been implicated in bribery, scandal or been complicit in the deaths of countless migrant workers to ensure that things go swimmingly year-after-year.

With all of that in mind, here's hoping for a memorable final between Juventus and Barcelona. May the goals reign, may the stars shine and may the UEFA Champions League continue to be what it has always been: The greatest international sports competition of them all.

Juventus players warm up during a training session on Friday, June 5, 2015, at the Olympic stadium in Berlin on the eve of the UEFA Champions League final between Juventus Turin and Barcelona on Saturday. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

15 May 2015

The redemption of Gianluigi Buffon

To watch Gianluigi "Gigi" Buffon play football is to witness the art of goalkeeping. Everything he does on the pitch is textbook.

He positions himself flawlessly. He exudes control. He reads matches with a measured, almost computerized rhythm.

He reacts like a feline, making the seemingly impossible saves a repeated reality. He commands the penalty box powerfully. He distributes the ball accurately.

He approaches penalties with the demeanor of someone who always knows where the taker will shoot. And he's made stops that would astonish even the Soviet great Lev Yashin.

In short, he's the prototype of the modern goalkeeper. Don't believe me? Watch this:

His qualities, his consistency and the accomplishments they've led to separate Buffon from his peers, and even from his predecessors. Many consider the tall Tuscan "Superman" the greatest goalkeeper of all-time.

But on June 6, in the same stadium where he won the 2006 World Cup with Italy, the legendary Juventus shot-stopper will seek the ultimate redemption.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon makes a save during the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal between Real Madrid and Juventus on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.
Daniel Ochoa de Olza/The Associated Press)

Redemption for Gigi?

Why would a World Cup winner, eight-time Serie A champion and owner of 34 individual honors (including the International Federation of Football History & Statistics' Best Goalkeeper of the Last 25 Years and 21st Century awards) require any measure of sporting redemption?

The short of it: It's the classic story of the one that got away. He's never won the UEFA Champions League.

The long of it: Juventus has had a checkered history in "the aughts." Since winning the Champions League in 1996, the team has been marred by heartbreak and scandal. In other words, it's taken much longer than it should have for Juventus and its 37-year-old shot-stopper to return to the pantheon of European club football. 

The beginning of heartbreak 

In 2003, Buffon's second year at the club, Juventus met Italian rivals AC Milan in the Champions League Final at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. The match went to penalties.

Buffon faced five well-struck shots and stopped two—his first save a thunderous, gravity-defying, double-fisted punch at full stretch of a low, rasping strike by Clarence Seedorf.

Unfortunately for Buffon, his teammates missed three. That was the last time Juventus came close to winning the Champions League.

A scandal erupts   

Shortly after the 2006 World Cup, Juventus was relegated to Serie B for its part in the Calciopoli scandal. Along with four other teams, the Old Lady (La Vecchia Signora) of Italian football was deemed to have rigged matches through a thick network of managers and referee organizations by selecting favorable referees.

As a result, the 31-time league champions were relegated to Italy's second division (Serie B), exiled from the Champions League for a season and stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles. Many of Juve's top players, such as Lillian Thuram, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Cannavaro and Patrick Viera, immediately jumped ship.

But the then-28-year-old Buffon and captain Alessandro Del Piero stayed on to help the team back into the top flight.

In 2006, Juventus was relegated to Serie B for its role in the Calciopoli scandal. Despite an exodus of top names, Buffon stayed with Juventus to help them win promotion back to Serie B.

Climbing back to the top

After a string of decent league finishes (third in Serie A in 2007-08, second in 2008-09), Buffon's next few years were blighted by back injures and the team finished seventh in consecutive seasons.

Despite winning Serie A from 2011-2014, Juventus never advanced past the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

Through bad luck or possibly fate, Buffon has been made to wait for another crack at a trophy that has eluded him throughout his career. Until Wednesday.

Buffon celebrates after his teammate Alvaro Morata scores the go-ahead goal during the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.
Andres Kudacki/The Associated Press)

Against Real Madrid in the second-leg of their semifinal matchup, the keeper was impervious. A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty aside, Buffon was as commanding as ever.

A sprawling one-handed stop of a swerving 25-yard Gareth Bale missile and an improvised near-post lunge to keep out a left-footed whack from Kareem Benzema kept Juventus in the match and allowed the team to advance to its first final in 12 years.

Even his counterpart, the great Iker Casillas of Madrid, showered the Italian with praise before their semifinal tie. "For somebody like me who's dreamt of being a goalkeeper, he represented a figure we could only hope of one day being able to be showcased with," Casillas said.

"Da Berlino alla B.....dalla B a Berlino!!!!! questa e la vita!!" 
("From Berlin to Serie B.....From Serie B to Berlin!!!!! That's life!!" —Tweet from Gianluigi Buffon)

Now Buffon has a chance, perhaps a final chance, to redeem the lost years of disappointment, injury and scandal.

On June 6 at Berlin's Olympiastadion, in his 533rd appearance for Juventus, Buffon can add a pesky piece of coveted silverware to his astonishing trophy haul. Standing in his way is a Barcelona side featuring possibly the greatest attacking trident of all-time in Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar ("MSN" for short).

The odds heavily favor the Catalans, but the odds favored Madrid in the semifinal, as well. The real mark of a legend is an ability to defy the odds and rise to the occasion. Now, few would dismiss Juventus' chances. And none should begrudge the great Buffon if he finds his final redemption.

04 September 2013

Where has all of the money gone? Transfers in the age of recession and protest

Last week, the world's wealthiest football club, Real Madrid, paid a world record one-hundred million Euro for an unproven Welsh footballer, albeit one coming off of a standout season in the British Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur.

For the fifth time in the history of professional football (more times than any other team), Real Madrid broke the world record transfer fee for a single player. Madridistas may be celebrating that the long protracted transfer is over, but the rest of the world should be gravely concerned by what this means; and not just to football.

Gareth Bale, left, alongside Real Madrid owner Florentino Perez at his official unveiling Monday, September 2, 2013. Bale became the world's most expensive signing of all time when Madrid paid Tottenham 100 million Euro for his services. Photo: Getty Images

 Like so many young talents before him, Gareth Bale, a speedy Welsh winger who has developed into one of the world's most promising players, dreamed of the big time. And who can blame him? To achieve great things we must possess ambition, especially in football. The only problem is that Real Madrid's ability to pay for the "big time" is not only creating an enormous disparity in talent between clubs in Spain's La Liga, creates an inequity in television rights, and frankly, is an embarrassment for a country mired in a half-decade long economic slump.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators stage a protest against austerity, near the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, February 23, 2013. Photo: Juan Medina/REUTERS/

In an era where recessions, austerity measures, unemployment, anger and massive protests threaten the old pillars of capitalist democracies, the mega rich see fit to continue slapping everyone else in the face with astounding nonchalance. In this sense, Real Madrid's Midas touch gives them the biggest hand with which to slap everyone else in what has become an irreversibly bloated transfer market in club football.

To spend one-hundred million Euro on one player (and 188.761 million Euro on summer transfers) should be seen as a middle finger to everyone notwithstanding the owner and inner administrative circle of Real Madrid. Singling out Real Madrid, however, would be wrong.

Madrid are joined in the highest peaks of financial muscle by other mega-rich clubs, such as:

-Paris St. Germain (who on July 16, spent 64 million Euros on one player--Edinson Cavani);

Striker Edinson Cavani at his official unveiling in Paris after Paris St. Germain paid 64 million Euro to Napoli for his transfer. Photo: Jacques Brinon/The Associated Press

 -Barcelona (who paid 57 million Euros for the 21 year-old Brazilian prodigy, Neymar);

The 57 million Euro man, Neymar, waves at a packed Camp Nou in Barcelona at his official unveiling.

-Chelsea (63.5 million Euros in summer transfers);

-Manchester City (88.9 million in major summer transfers); and

-Monaco (165 million Euro)

Combine the summer transfer spending of all of those clubs and you come out with a staggering 627.16 million Euro spent on the transfers of just over a dozen players in little under three months. While that may not be enough to fix Greece's economic woes, it highlights how little empathy wealthy football clubs have for the suffering of the economies (and indeed in many cases their own fans) in their home countries.

The ultimate goal of a profession sports team is to win. And in theory, how they manage to do so is their own business. Yet the problem with these clubs is not that they have money, but the way in which they so arrogantly spend it while millions of people (often their own fans) suffer.

At a certain point forking over hundreds of millions of Euros in the face of parlous economic conditions becomes symbolic. It should even make us think about the role of sport in society and the reasons why we turn to sport for entertainment.

While professional football is not necessarily "the opiate of the people," we should not rightfully stand by and let neoliberal economic logic turn the game into a completely lopsided reincarnation of World War II. The summer transfer market shows just how much of a farce club football has become. Hopefully UEFA's Financial Fair Play Rules (which come into effect this year) can rectify these shortcomings, but considering the corruption which has mired football's world governing body over the past half-decade, one cannot be so sure.

07 February 2013

Berlusconi the biggot: Why we are not living in a post-racial age

Newly-signed AC Milan striker, Mario Balotelli, was again the source of controversy this past weekend, but not for something he did.

"Super" Mario Balotelli unveiled at the Milanello.

Balotelli was the subject of a racist statement uttered by club co-owner Paolo Berlusconi (brother of AC Milan owner and ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi). Paolo Berlusconi used racist language to describe the volatile Italian striker in a political rally for his brother's prime ministerial campaign. The statement, which was captured on a camera phone, at best translates to, "let's go and see the new little black boy of the family play," and at worst, "let's go and see the new little (n word) of the family play."

Paolo Berlusconi speaking at a political rally last week. Berlusconi invited the crowd to "go and see the new little negretto of the family."

While the Berlusconi's have never been tactful orators (see Silvio's description of Barack Obama as having a "sun tan", or Berlusconi's interview alongside former U.S. president, George W. Bush), this new incident represents a new low. It also highlights the pervasiveness of racism in football and in European society in general. Combine this incident with Real Madrid fans' racist taunting (monkey noises) of Dani Alves (who claims that he's experienced similar racism in la liga for the past ten years) last week, and one would be quite accurate in asserting that racism in football is here to stay.

Barcelona and Brazil defender, Dani Alves, claims that he's experienced racism in Spain's la liga for the past decade.

Racism was once a hallmark of football matches. All-time greats, such as Pele, Eusebio, Ruud Gullit, Lillian Thuram, Thierry Henry and others, have described the racist atmospheres in which they played. These players even came to expect such treatment. That racism was a hallmark of football's past, does not excuse its presence in the modern game. Indeed, it shows us how little has changed since the first days that non-white players played in professional leagues.

Former Spain National Team manager, Luis Aragones, for example, once famously commanded midfielder Jose Antonio Reyes to tell "that black shit [Thierry Henry] that you are better than him." Balotelli himself had previously attempted to walk out of a Serie A match against Juventus three years ago when confronted by racist chants from the Juve faithful. Liverpool forward Luis Suarez was fined and banned for several matches during the 2011-2012 season for continuously calling Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, "un negro" on the pitch (language that is somewhat acceptable in the Rio de La Plata region, but not in multiracial societies). In the fall of 2012 ultras from the St. Petersburg-based club, Zenit St Petersburg, created a petition protesting the purchase of black and homosexual players. And perhaps the most egregious recent incident occurred during the 2011-2012 season, when London police brought criminal proceedings against Chelsea defender John Terry for his racist remarks aimed at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a match. Terry was also fined and banned several matches for his behavior. 

Luis Suarez (left) was banned for several matches in 2011 and fined for calling Manchester United's Patric Evra a "negro" multiple times.

Despite these recent occurrences, there are some, including FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who would claim that racism is no longer a problem in professional football, that the above incidents are isolated, or that racism is mostly restricted to sporadic bigotry from an Eastern European ultras section. The above examples, however, would suggest otherwise.

There is some truth to FIFA President Sepp Blatter's assertion that racism is a social problem. It is, however, also a "footballing problem." It doesn't take a sociologist to realize that football is not an insular institution immune to wider social problems. If anything, football is a microcosm of the social, economic, and political features of society. The global economic recession, for example, has financially compromised, and even bankrupted certain European clubs, while an exclusive group of wealthy clubs have been generally unaffected (99% vs 1% anybody?). Insofar as it is an integral part of culture and society, what better place to address racism than in a football league?

Certain incidents have prompted harsher punishments from national and international football associations, such as multi-match bans on fan attendance, fines, and threats of tournament exclusion. Both FIFA and UEFA have created anti-racism public relations campaigns ("Kick it out"). The global sportswear giant Nike followed suit in 2005, creating the "Stand Up, Speak Up" anti-racism campaign that they cashed in on by creating advertisements featuring professional footballers wearing their "Livetrong style" black and white bracelets. Yet in spite of all of these efforts, racism continues because none of these actions were sufficient.

Chelsea defenders John Terry (left) and Ashley Cole (right) "do their part" to fight racism. Terry was the subject of an investigation into his alleged use of an epithet towards QPR defender Anton Ferdinand in 2012.

The time has come and gone to "Kick It Out." Corporate anti-racism does not make it "cool" to fight racism. Fines will not change players' attitudes, or make them think twice about using epithets. Stadium bans do not underscore the severity of racism or change fan behavior. There is only one option; an unequivocal hard line.

Players who use racist language towards opponents should be banned for life. Racist crowd chants should be met with the strictest of scrutiny and lifetime team bans from international tournaments, such as the Champions League. While draconian measures may not always work in the criminal justice system (See Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow"), they have never been applied to football. In other words, the threat of exclusion could actually deter racism.

Perhaps Mr. Blatter is correct in asserting that racism is a social problem. But football is part of our social world, so racism is also a "football problem." And before we tackle racism on a macro level, it is also necessary that we tackle it on a micro one, which means applying the most severe punishment to those who engage in racist behavior.

There is no place for racism in football, nor anywhere else in society. It has been said that admitting to a problem is the first step towards recovery. It is therefore time to stop pretending that racism in football no longer exists, and time to get deadly serious about eradicating it from the beautiful game.

30 October 2012

NBC's acquisition of Premier League TV rights a blow to American Soccer

 The television broadcasting conglomerate NBC announced on Sunday that, beginning in 2013, they had acquired the domestic television rights to England's Barclay's Premier League (EPL) for the next three seasons.

Allegedly, part of NBC Sport's selling point to EPL league chief executive Richard Scudamore was the "historical quality" of their international sports coverage. (I can only imagine that they're [somehow] alluding to NBC's Olympics coverage, which is about as biased towards American athletes and contextually shortsighted as possible.)

In any case, NBC Sports' deal with the EPL, worth an estimated $250 million, comes as a strong blow to rival cable television networks ESPN and Fox Soccer (FSC), who are the only two stations currently showing Premier League matches in the States.

Fox Soccer in particular, has been steadily losing its television rights to several other premier European soccer leagues. If the network does not act quickly to stop this bleeding, it may soon find itself in the same zone of obsolescence as GolTV, the once proud owners of television rights to Spain's La Liga (from 2004-2012), who now only show German Bundesliga and a few less-popular South American matches. As a result, Rupert Murdoch's satelite television giant DirecTV dropped GolTV from their broadcast packages.

Even with their extravagant financial offer, which was reportedly four times what any other network was willing to pay, NBC will feel confident that they can recoup expenses in a timely fashion given football's increasing popularity in the United States. While this might be music to the ears of English football fans on the "left side of the pond," who for so long had to illegally stream their beloved "Gooners," "Spurs," or "Red Devils,"it may actually hinder the development of football in the United States.

European football fans, such as myself, have long complained about the difficulty in watching European club football in America. Either you had to pay loads extra on your cable bill for a paltry selection of weekly matches, or you illegally streamed the trials and tribulations of your beloved team through your [faulty] internet connection. Depending on the specifics of the deal, NBC's EPL acquisition could change all of that.

As one of the largest broadcast networks in the States with a signal that is included in most basic cable packages, NBC could potentially deliver what Mr. Scudamore called, the "biggest and broadest programing." Yet nothing is universally "good." It's important to remember the "grey areas," or, what's good for one party may be bad for others.

In this case, NBC Sport's previous tenants, the MLS, will undoubtedly suffer from the "new deal."

Not only will the amount of airtime afforded to the less-developed, less-accomplished MLS decrease, but so will their profits and overall visibility. It's not that every American teen who plays soccer dreams of being in the MLS, but the MLS is all many of them have on hand; its teams the only ones that they can see in person, its players the only that they can tangibly look up to.

There's no denying that the EPL is among the world's best leagues. Some of the world's most accomplished footballers ply their trade for Premier League teams and dominate the limelight of world football week-in and week-out. It's also true that English football is more popular in the States and than any other league. But by effectively riding themselves of MLS, NBC is yet again embracing the "logic" of capitalist at the expense of contributing to the development of a national product. Such is globalization people!

Allow me to sum up the idea here if I have not yet been sufficiently clear...

NBC , a highly visible television network, acquires the rights to a more popular league (the EPL). Because NBC is included in basic cable packages (that are cheaper and more accessible than ESPN/Fox Sports), they will attract more viewers, and hence, generate more profits.

They will do this at the expense of the MLS, whose matches were previously shown on NBC. The MLS mostly consists of American and Central American players (it's where the majority of the Yanks and chavales from Central America have been cutting their proverbial "football teeth" before heading off to brighter pastures. In other words, less MLS exposure=less interest in MLS=less profits for the MLS=bankrupt MLS=big problem for the development of domestic talent in the US. Wow, I need to breath for a moment, that was heavy.

The other day I chronicled my first experience at an MLS match between Sporting Kansas City and the Philadelphia Union. The match may not have caused me to fall in love with the "beautiful game" all over again, but the unique passion of their fans encouraged me to give MLS another chance. I have no premonitions that the MLS will ever be a world class football league, but if nothing else, it's middling quality has served a decent purpose over the past decade by generating some solid American talent (Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Landon Donavon, Michael Bradley).

Things may now get more complicated for the MLS. If its survival and ability to attract domestic talent was dependent on gate entrances, advertising, and to a lesser extent, television revenue, it may now need to look elsewhere for funding. NBC shot the MLS in the foot with this one.

While this doesn't come as a complete shock, it is disappointing for those of us living and studying in the States who are attempting to break into sports journalism by covering soccer.