Giant Steps are what you take…

I’ve been starting posts and never finishing them for the last couple of weeks. I’ve really got to get back into more of a routine on this. But I’m here now.

So, what’s happened since I last posted?

Read through my blog and you’ll see numerous posts where I talk about the League/Sport of soccer needing to take baby steps to get where we (soccer fans in the US) would like it to be. That’s my theme today.

The MLS All-Stars beat Chelsea 1-0. Yeah, I actually watched some of it. I know I always say All-Star games are a joke, but I tuned in during the early part of the second half. At first it was just in the background I did other stuff but it slowly grabbed my attention. By the end of the match, I was sitting there watching it. To be honest, it wasn’t a bad game. Personally, I don’t buy Mourinho’s excuse that his players weren’t as fit as they should have been. Ok, so maybe they aren’t, but weren’t those same players playing on Germany just a month ago and didn’t the US players (granted there were only 3 on the All-Star team) get their butts handed to them? Most of the Chelsea players knew each other and have played together. Most of the MLS players had just a couple of practices together. It was a good result…nice to see. However, was the trophy presentation/confetti really necessary? That really ruined what was until then a nice event. I mean, the guys did a great job on the pitch but the over indulgent choreographed celebrations at the end really smacked of desperately seeking approval or something. C’mon, it was a meaningless friendly. It’s a nice Baby Step. But let’s hold that celebration for the next time an MLS side gets past a Mexican or Costa Rican team in the Champions Cup.

So, there are other teams over from Europe trying to tap into the American market and put a few extra Euros in their Transfer Fund. Selling merchandise (and getting in shape) is the main objective of these tours. But it’s good to have the chance to see these top players over here. It’s great to see massive crowds fill stadiums to see them and the best bit is some of these games are now against MLS teams…MLS teams that aren’t afraid to leave injured players on the sidelines (Landon Donovan) if it could make things worse. More baby steps.

Ok, enough of the trivial stuff, how about the big news?

From the “It’s about time” file:

MLS teams can now keep the rights to players they develop in their “Academy” and not have to run the risk of losing them in the “SouperDouper Draft.” This is a no-brainer if ever I saw one. The fact that it took several years for the league to come up with this plan shows how far they can bury their heads in the sand.

Finally, from the “We’ve been saying it all alone” file:

ESPN/ABC pimped the heck out of the World Cup. Highlights on Sports Center, special shows etc. Viewership was double what they expected. Wadda-ya-know, there is a market for soccer in this country. All that you need to do is give it air time. So, now ESPN have gone one step further and sight a multi-year deal to show matches. No more of this time buy stuff where MLS bought a 2 hour block on ESPN2 and had to pony up the cost of producing the TV coverage. ESPN will now take that risk and pay MLS for the right to do that. I hate to say it, but this isn’t a Baby Step, this is a Giant Step. Now, I’ll have to check out Sports Center this weekend and see if they actually show highlights of the matches. Add this to the new deal Fox Soccer Channel signed and MLS is looking pretty good right now. I wonder if GolTV is next.

Any way you look at it, this is great news for the league and the sport. I find it interesting that this wasn’t done until after the World Cup yet talk of this deal started when ESPN bought the rights for the next two World Cups a few months ago. This is big news and hopefully it will pay off for everyone.

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