Friday, April 22, 2011

RSL Making it Matter

Last night RSL picked up a last gasp draw against Monterrey in the Champions League Final first leg. I've been surprised to see and other blog sites talking up this final and RSL. However, still many are critical of this competition and their team's involvment in it. I am not sure I understand the fans who feel meaningless midseason friendlies are a good idea compared to playing meaningful international cup matches. A good run in the CCL can catapult an MLS side into the Club World Cup (which is a competition teams from everywhere other than England actually do take pride in, check your history) where they could play a big European or South American team in a truly meaningful game. Many critics question whether people would truly accept RSL as Club World Cup champions. But in the USA and Canada where play-offs are the norm it shouldn't be questioned whether a team can go through a knockout play-off to become the undisputed champion. As Americans and Canadians we learn that anything can happen in the play-offs regardless of who the truly better team is.

If there's one thing that North American sports fans could hopefully grasp after RSL's cup run is that there is soccer and other sports for that matter outside of the continent. Throughout the history of North America people have played sports that are typical North American sports where the best players reside and is considered to be home to the best basketball, baseball, ice hockey and American football players; though the game is only sparsely played outside the continent. There has rarely been a desire to play teams from other countries as North America already sees itself as the best in these fields. The NFL tried to get a World Football League to take root in Europe, but there was no interest as these countries don't have American football teams in their schools and grow up playing proper football instead. (It has come down to the NFL sending its own teams to London every year to play for Americans living abroad and Europeans who only attend because they see the NFL as a spectacle {one Englishman describe it as being similar to UFC.}. More McDonaldization of the world)

 However, throughout the rest of the world there is a desire to play teams from other countries and to see who is the best of the best. Perhaps it's because of the vast size of North America that we don't play other countries in sports unless it is the Olypmics, World Cup or the two competition old World Baseball Cup (which features the typical baseball powers in North and Central American, Asia and most recently Australia). Maybe it is Americans, especially, that have a perception that they are the best at everything and if they're not they won't participate; being from the "strongest" country in the world many don't want to be beaten by the minnows and look bad. We are taught from an early age, as most countries are, that our country is the best and most influential. As part of this there has been a thinking in the history of MLS (despite two CONCACAF Cup winners) that MLS is the most important league and playing outside the league is worthless. Why waste energy for something that people won't understand anyway. But people do understand and aren't as nieve as some think.

I'm sure Rio Tinto will be in full force next week for the second leg in which RSL hold the away goals lead at the moment. This will be massive for a city with only one other professional sports team in the Utah Jazz. A team that has had limited success in its history. RSL already has one more league title than the Jazz, and with an international trophy to their credit it could make demand even higher for the hottest ticket in town.

Hopefully, when the 2011-2012 CONCACAF competition kicks off Colorado, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders will take the tournament seriously. However, the Galaxy and Seattle have not played to their full potential in the competition in recent times. Not to mention three of the four teams are extremely undermanned at the moment. Colorado when healthy does have a team that could compete at a high level in the competition. However, I don't expect any of these teams to make it past the group stage. The upswing is that MLS now allows 10-teams in the play-offs and that could influence these teams to try harder in the Champions League. Don't expect another MLS team to make a cup run like RSL next season. This won't be an every year occurrance, and if RSL do win the competition it will be a shame if they aren't allowed to defend their title.

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