Happy Friday Caps fans and it happens to be another (!) matchday, a bizarre trend that I can only assume is on the whims of Canadian TV. Either way, I’ll be watching tonight’s Cascadia derby as, I presume, will you.
Before we discuss the Caps’ prospect against the Timbers, I want to kick around a story that broke yesterday which may initially appear to be more centered on European football but made me instantly think of MLS.
The New York Times obtained and published documents from UEFA showing that the elite European clubs are more closely considering than ever reforms to the Champions League that would close entrance to all but a select few teams.
24 clubs would gain automatic membership in the 32-team tournament, meaning the remainder of the clubs would be forced to scramble for anywhere from four to eight slots in the most prestigious club tournament in the world. This, of course, would make the likes of FC Barcelona, Juventus and Manchester United even richer than they already are, potentially exacerbating the revenue gap to the point where the have nots could not reasonably compete with the haves.
The news is obvously ironic, as it comes mere days after two Champions League semifinalists (Ajax Amsterdam and my beloved Tottenham Hotspur) met on the field, a matchup which is highly unlikely to be duplicated in a “super club” format, as neither team is likely to be included.
While not as bold of a proposal as the so-called “Super League” which is seemingly constantly kicked around in Europe, this would obviously have major ramifications. The current big five leagues in England, France, Italy, Germany and Spain would be significantly watered down and any league from elsewhere on the continent would be virtually meaningless from a monetary standpoint.
A relatively closed system dominated by the pursuit of profit? Why by God, that’s MLS music!
In seriousness, as someone who spends a lot of his time watching, reading and thinking about a closed system, I have a few words of advice for the powers-that-be in UEFA who I’m sure are loyal readers of this column.
In short, don’t do it.
The reason I’ve endorsed a closed system in the U.S. as long as I have is because soccer has historically neither had the market penetration nor the history to support a promotion and relegation system. I love the Caps and would follow them were they relegated to the USL or MLS 2 league but I suspect many would not. The gap in revenue between a USL and MLS team, while difficult to pinpoint because of a lack of financial transparency, is still likely significant enough that it would be tough for second division teams to compete. I’d love if North America got to pro-rel but, unlike the tinfoil hats crowd online, I don’t see it as a realistic possibility for another couple of decades.
But leagues in Europe have both history and visibility in spades. The new Champions League format is one that basically is about the pursuit of the almighty dollar and nothing else. The Times article notes that the push is being led by elite Italian and Spanish teams who want more “certainty” when it comes to revenue. Now, the best way for these teams to have more stability is to a) not be run by corrupt idiots, b) not match fix and c) not support the significant portions of the fan base who are raging racists or anti-semites, but that’s besides the point.
My message to the European clubs is this: you may think this proposal would be more attractive to new fans in the U.S., China and elsewhere. But it isn’t. The value in what you have to offer, from my perspective, is the history and tradition of your clubs, leagues and, most importantly, fanbases. Fans in Europe hate this ideas—they are clear they will not turn out in the same way for what is basically a kangaroo competition. This eliminates the impassioned singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Kop at Anfield or the pandemonium-turned-heartbreak of Ajax fans at the Cruyff Arena, both of which we witnessed just this week.
Many clubs in MLS and USL have atmosphere approaching that but most would kill for the type of fan support, prestige and worldwide respect which European leagues have accumulated over the years. Pissing that away just because you have a halfbaked idea which would make you money (an admittedly not insignificant sum) would not only ruin the tradition but it would kill your brand in a way that makes you instantly unattractive to many fans the world over.
Just ask MLS, who has had until very recently a tough time getting respect globally, primarily because of its closed format and strange competition rules. A closed Champions League is not quite the same idea but the result would be no different.
Onto the links:
Shameless Self Promotion
We have everything you need to get ready for the match tonight. Start by getting the lowdown on training from Sam Rowan, who gives us his keys to how the Caps can emerge victorious later.
We also chatted with Stumptown Footy, who helped us get to know our Cascadia enemy.
AtlantisB breaks down Maxime Crepeau’s tenure in Vancouver thus far, courtesy of some advanced stats
And make sure to get your lineup predictions in here!
Best of the Rest
Missed all the action earlier this week, as MLS’ transfer deadline came and went? Get caught up on the biggest moves (none of which involved Vancouver :( )
The New England Revolution are the latest MLS team to fire their manager, showing Brad Friedel the door in a move I’m shocked took this long
The Chicago Fire are ever-so-close to leaving the money pit that was Bridgeview and Paul Tenorio looks at how that might help the league’s presence in one of the country’s biggest markets
And its Friday so wow here’s a great video of the world’s cutest dog!
Have a great day and enjoy the match folks!