I know that soccer will never become what sports like football and baseball already are here in the United States. If not for the huge demographic of American sports fans that think it’s a “fruity commie game,” it could still never fully succeed here because there just isn’t any down-time built into the games for advertisers to pump full of commercials. The capital-driven mindset that powers our media (and therefore, our country) just can’t get the math to work out in their favor, so soccer gets relegated to obscure premium cable channels, and a few games a month on ESPN2.
So for a soccer fan like me, it’s always a treat to see something go right. For many years, the MLS has been little more than a hilarious sports in-joke. The first team in the league to actually make a profit was the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2003–a full seven years after the league started. To date, the league itself has lost over $350 million. Not exactly on its way to pushing the NFL off CBS in the fall.
But Thursday night, on ESPN2, Major League Soccer opened their 2009 season with an unbelievable bang, and I felt like the Grinch at the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, my heart swelling three sizes larger (I also ate some Roast Beast and Who-Pudding). I think I actually almost teared up at the sight of a completely packed stadium, flags waving, scarves spinning. Bright green and electric blue scarves at that. It’s wonderful to see that with the introduction of the brand-new Seattle Sounders FC (who absolutely dismantled the New York Red Bulls, 3-0), we’ve accepted one of the long, proud traditions of association football from all over the world: deliciously horrible uniforms. Watch out Fluminense, we’ve got your number.
Seattle really is an amazing step in the right direction for American soccer. With an amazing supporters alliance led by Drew Carey (who hired a f**king team marching band called the Sound Wave!) and an already established soccer following, the Sounders might well represent what we are going to see in the coming years. The next three expansion teams have already been announced. Philadelphia in 2010 is the first. And for the other two? Just this week, the 2011 clubs were made official by MLS commissioner Don Garber:
Vancouver and Portland.
Hells yes to the Pacific Northwest. My only problem is going to be deciding to stick with Freddie Ljunberg and the neon green Sounders or pledge my allegiance to the Portland Timbers in their amazing forest green, yellow and maroon kits. Yeah, I like to pick my teams by how they look. How do you think I became a Cincinnati Bengals fan when I was six? That’s not a uniform, it’s a damn costume. And a phenomenal one at that.
But 2011 is a long time away. Long enough for Michael Ballack to get old and tired and maybe want to settle down in one of the hippest cities in America… get on that contract, Portland. Still, being able to look into the future of what was once one of the most unstable, least profitable major sports investments of the century (other than the New York Mets) is extremely exciting to me. I live in the middle of nowhere, an hour west of Philadelphia, surrounded by Amish people, and still, I’m excited as all hell that the Pacific Northwest is becoming a hotbed for soccer, breeding rivalries, selling out so many season passes that the Sounders administration had to put a cap on sales. Maybe at some point in my lifetime an MLS highlight will actually make it onto Sportscenter’s Top 10.
Okay, probably not.
Whatever the future may hold for Major League Soccer, the scenes from Opening Day with the Sound Wave marching through Seattle to Qwest Field with fans in their wake, and the ESPN commentators talking about how they felt like they were watching a game in somewhere in Europe due to the unfettered revelry taking place in the stands–those are the scenes to be appreciated now. Those, and Kasey Keller’s saggy old man sweatpants.
Seriously man, I know you’re almost forty and still one of the best goalkeepers in the world. I know you used to live in a castle in Germany when you played for Mönchengladbach and yes, you do quite resemble a slightly younger but equally as bald Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson. You don’t have to give a fuck–you’re totally the man. But really, those pants? It looked like you pulled them over a dirty pair of Depends. You’re not that old yet, are you?