05 August 2009

Soccer Goal! A Friendly Introduction to Major League Soccer

Guest post time! Richard Whittall lives in Toronto, and when he's not stalking James Richardson or "sing[ing] like a girl for cash", he's writing the excellent blog A More Splendid Life. Here, he gives those of us on the wrong side of the Pond the lowdown on the soccer sensation that's soon to land on our shores and seduce our womenfolk with chocolate and nylons.

ESPN has recently announced it will be airing live Major League Soccer games in the UK and Ireland. In an effort to promote understanding between European and American soccer, MLS chairman Don Garber has appointed several goodwill ambassadors to introduce the complicated league rules and American soccer culture to British and Irish audiences. This is part one of a thirty-part series.

Hi, my name is Richard Whittall and I’m an official ambassador for Major League Soccer. Major League WHAT!? you ask? Don't worry, it’s not some sort of crazy nightmare, the kind that makes you wake up so drenched in sweat you worry you might have gone to the bathroom in your sleep. No, It’s Olde Europe soccer with an American twist, like a croissant with a hotdog in the center wrapped in a Twinkie and covered with grits, and it’s coming to the United Kingdom of the British Isles. But wait, you ask in all seriousness: just what the hell is MLS exactly? Well rather than tell you, how about I show you?

Woaahhh! Howdy partner, we’re in Dallas, Texas! I’d like you to meet my All-American soccerball kicking friend Kenny Cooper. Kenny plays for FC Dal—wait, hold on. Okay, I’m being told Kenny isn't here because he's just signed for a German club named TSV 1860 Munich. I don’t know much about them but I suspect Kenny joined the team because they were founded to commemorate the start of the American Civil War. Although they’re a year off. Must be the time difference. And TSV probably stands for telesoccervision. Germans love their telesoccervision.

Well…hmm, okay, maybe we can just relocate this thing to Seattle, get that Freddy Montero kid on. Wait, he's leaving MLS too? Seriously, this season? So what am I supposed to do here Frank? This should have been worked out weeks ago. Well, I don’t care, this job doesn’t pay anything anyway. And I am going to write off the white wine spritzers. Because I thought they were complimentary on every Southwest flight. Yeah, well screw you too.

Okay, so in America (and in America’s Hat), soccer is a game played between two teams of eleven dudes each, much like your own Royalist Foot of the Ball. Our fans are a lot like your fans, except you have scarves and concealed whiskey bottles, and we have baseball caps and children. And our league predictability is like your league predictability, except your big clubs finish in the top four while our big clubs lose to second division USL teams. So a lot of similarities there.

But it's our rich cultural differences that make the world a beautiful place. Like for example in the Premier League, you stop the advertising buck at shirt sponsorship. In America, we sponsor things like added time. It’s Four Minutes of Esquire Added Time at the end of the ninety bitches, and if you call the ref on his Mickey Mouse watch, chances are you’ll get a ESQ Oceania Two-tone Steel Black Men's Watch whipped in your face. Don’t worry though; he’s got twenty more where that came from.

Also, team names. Lots of English Subjects get their pants in a twist on the subject of names like the Seattle Sounders and the Pittsburgh Petunias. Well, we’re natural born poets over here. And for those cities that we couldn’t think up names for, Toronto, Dallas, Washington DC, well, they’re just too beautiful to sum up in an alliterative, shirt-friendly moniker.

And no, we don’t have lasers or dragons in MLS, so you can ignore all those rumours about the high rate of blindings and third degree burns among regular starters. And that’s all you need to know about MLS. Wait, twenty-nine more parts? No Frank, I don’t want to talk about the two-division league playoff system. Because I don’t understand it. What’s a league revenue sharing salary cap system? I can’t talk about DPs, this is a family-friendly show. Ohhh, Designated Players. Because I don’t know what that means Frank. Please, put the bat down. This is Dallas, no one’s going to call for help if you do this to me.


stowe 6/8/09 1:17 AM  

That seems about right.

Eric 6/8/09 1:21 AM  

I'm pretty sure Garber would approve.

MLS is going to OWN that coveted 3 AM timeslot on ESPN UK. Or whatever.

stowe 6/8/09 3:59 AM  

Eric--better than MLS live? MLS on tape delay.

Eric 6/8/09 5:09 AM  

Whoa. I think you just blew my mind.

(in a bizarre way, it's like repayment for the days when ESPN would tape delay the hell out of Champions League matches. justice at last! or something.)

redduffman 7/8/09 12:41 PM  

In fact Franz Beckenbauer was an 1860 fan as a boy. He almost signed for them only there was a disagreement during a youth tournament that he played in and opted for Bayern instead. True story.

Elliott 9/8/09 2:19 AM  

Wonderful post Richard, but perhaps a link to grits is in order. I didn't know what they were until I moved down south, and I still don't know what they are made of (and I don't care to know - ignorance is bliss)

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