Is the beginning of what sounds like an awfully terrible joke that only a handful of North American football nerds would get.

Sepp Blatter has been making the news rounds in American soccer circles after he said some pointedly stupid things about Major League Soccer. A refresher:

“We had the World Cup [in the United States] in 1994. But we are now in 2012 — it’s been 18 years — it should have been done now. But they are still struggling.”

I don’t want to rehash what Jerrad Peters already said on this topic—namely, that Blatter clearly knows fuck all about the US sports market, and doesn’t care who knows it.

MLS commissioner Don Garber responded yesterday as reported in Stephen Goff’s Soccer Insider.

While some (well, Daniel Squizzato) have taken issue with Garber re-opening the question of MLS reopening the file on a Fall/Winter schedule, which MAKES ME WONDER WHY THE HELL ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS IDEA TORONTO IS CURRENTLY UNDER A FOOT OF SNOW AND I WON’T EVEN BOTHER TO CHECK THE MTL WEATHER OMG.

But what is far more illuminating is Garber’s need to be diplomatic. Like, by saying this:

I really don’t believe the president believes we are struggling. I don’t think anybody in the pro sports community would describe us that way. In no way are we struggling, but we are less than 20 years old; we haven’t gone through a full generational term.”

What is global football? The Soviet Politburo? The president is incapable of saying something wrong, ergo he really doesn’t believe what he said? Does Garber have a line to Blatter’s hidden psyche?

Then, after calmly and intelligently undressing Blatter’s idiocy, Garber goes and says this, plainly with an eye to damage control:

“We have always had a very good relationship with FIFA and President Blatter. In many ways, he looks to some of the developments in the United States with pride because if not for the 1994 World Cup, soccer in America wouldn’t be what it is today.”

You know what? Bullshit. The 1994 World Cup thing is an overstated catalyst. It was a necessary antecedent laid out in FIFA’s stipulations for the US hosting the tournament, but to my mind that only hurried the inevitable. What World Cup spawned NASL in 1968 for example (well, 1966 did a bit, to be fair)? And while FIFA’s dog and pony show was the spark, it has had nothing to do since with MLS’ subsequent success. The fact Blatter basically shit all over it shows you what kind of gratitude he has for the league’s efforts in a crowded, deadly pro sports market.

As for Garber’s winter remarks, I think he genuinely thinks it might have to happen one day. But please—spare us this Blatter arse-kissing. It’s un-American.

Comments (2)

  1. The biggest factor in MLS’ success is simple:

    1. They’ve finally figured out how to cultivate people who thought that Soccer was just something you watched over breakfast on Saturday mornings into people that will pay reasonable ticket prices (well, reasonable in context outside of Toronto) to attend games.

    2. They got a MASSIVE lucky break with the Supersonics moving out of Seattle. Slightly smaller one in that TFC was given free reign to suck since the Jays weren’t exactly taking many of the casual fan’s dollars away in recent years.

    The 1994 World Cup sure as hell didn’t jump-start anything in Canada (although tying Brazil was pretty sweet), and the three Canadian teams are, what, three of the eight most stable MLS franchises? MLS sort of backed into a demand in northern areas of the U.S. and Canada that were traditionally strong markets in earlier leagues.

    It’s telling that MLS still hasn’t figured out a way to establish a team in Florida, which you’d think would be a rich market. But there’s no historical base down there, and that seems to be the key to success.

  2. I think a point that is missing is the fact MLS has had the luxury of picking off A-League/USL-1/NASL sides that were the most successful, essentially acting as a paid-for promotion to the top league. The last 4 teams to join MLS were all the most successful clubs in NASL/USL-1 at the time. That trend doesn’t look like it will end either, as Tampa Bay seems to be coming forward as the answer to a Florida franchise, despite being led by a group that I don’t believe has any real relation to the Rowdies. Ok, maybe scratch that last point as moot.

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