Monday, October 29, 2007

Revs Superliga Bid Doubtful

Superliga, or "Super League" for those engaged in legal commerce in the United States, is an annual competition between MLS and FMF (Mexico) clubs. Last year was the inaugural competition, with eight teams playing in two group stages and four moving on to the semifinals.

Last year, despite some lame justification after the fact (Don Garber tried to say LA Galaxy "earned" their spot by being runners-up in the USOC over the two MLS Cup finalist, both which had much better regular seasons), the MLS participants were hand-picked. In essence, it was a dry run which Mexican side Pachuca won. All in all, it's a great idea which will provide some intriguing matchups in years to come during the summer grind. In short, it's something the Revs should want to be in and for Revs supporters, something they should be excited to go watch.

According to MLS commissioner Don Garber, the teams in next year's Superliga will consist of those with the four best regular season records in 2007. The Revolution finished comfortably in fourth, so that should mean qualification, right?
(click title to read more)
Not so fast. First off, Garber stated the qualification method in one or two announcements/press releases. In other words, this is by no means set in stone. In the great scheme of things, there aren't a heck of a lot of people in the media who listen to what comes out of MLS central and hold their feet to the fire. They can just as easily go back on their word if the right situation presented itself.

Enter the New England Revolution. They are the team with the worst record of those that supposedly qualified. They are also a team who has been accused in the past of dragging their feet when it comes to moving the game forward in America (i.e. lack of soccer specific stadium, fieldturf, no serious youth program, quarantining fans to one side, etc...). Also, the president of Kraft Soccer is Sunil Gulati. Gulati hold several other hats in the soccer world, including president of US Soccer. He was instrumental in creating Superliga and would need to make a decision which is not only best for the Revs, but for the competition.

The most likely scenario denying the Revs Superliga participation involves a team seeded lower than them winning MLS Cup. That's a very real possibility with every lower seed save Red Bull New York holding a 1-0 lead heading into the return legs this week. Last year, Chicago Fire were initially in Superliga (originally "justified" by winning the US Open Cup). That selection had everything to do with their soccer stadium, which would have been fine if they were just up front about it. However, the Mexican delegation justifiably raised a stink because the MLS Cup champions, Houston Dynamo, were left out. Since both teams were then owned by AEG, it was an easy switch. The same thing would likely happen this year if the champs were on the outside looking in. To be honest, the Revs would have no one to blame for that situation but themselves. They foolishly dropped at least three easy points in the last two games. If they had one extra point, they would have tied Houston, who they got the better of in head to head play for the tiebreaker.

MLS is serious about having a legitimate qualification process for Superliga. However, they often fail to ask those "what if?" questions. For example, the 2007 Western Conference trophy could go to the Kansas City Wizards (DOH!). Don Garber certainly had the best intentions when he said the top four regular season records will be in Superliga. However, someone forgot to ask him what would happen if the eighth seed ran the table. They could, and almost surely will, backtrack in this scenario. As a qualification process, I have no problem with that. I just have to ask why on Earth they went out and made the "top four" comments.

There's also a few other unlikely possibilities which would boot the Revs, but those would involve shenanigans of the highest order. I have a bet with a friend involving one such scenario. According to him, LA Galaxy will receive a bid based on the fact they made it to the finals of Superliga last year. They are desperate for ratings (it aired on one of the Univision-owned stations), and having David Beckham involved would be a huge boost. You could also throw Chicago and Blanco in that conversation, but they would definitely have to win it all to get in, in my opinion. On that bet, this is a soft reminder that I haven't forgotten about it. You know who you are.

If this were to occur, it would set the competition back a ways in legitimacy. You can't announce qualification standards and then completely throw it out the window for marketing purposes.

Any of the above scenarios can be negated if Sunil Gulati sticks up for the MLS side which employs him. He is probably the only one who can hold Garber to his word. For that to happen, others in the Revolution organization need to let owner Robert Kraft in on the benefits of hosting this event. These games can always be coupled with international doubleheaders. Sure, some fans will only be there for the other game, but playing a game that serves as a measuring stick for MLS's progress in front of an "international audience" wouldn't be a bad idea. Just a thought. It also wouldn't be horrible to offer some special events that aren't mostly doubleheaders with games that were already included in the season tickets package.

We'll concentrate more on this during the off season. I'm just giving those Revs fans who trust Don Garber and are excited about the team's Superliga participation a little heads up.


The Soccer Source said...

yeah the Galaxy or Fire will get the bid. Probably the latter.

Anonymous said...

It was my error.