La Liga and MLS have one thing in common: they don't care about fans

When sports leagues do things that are barefacedly anti-fan, I get a little bit peeved. Enter La Liga and MLS, both of which are doing their best to make it hard on fans.

Side note: This is the first week of something new, in that the Star Tribune is going to post my column on Friday during the day, rather than waiting until Friday evening / Saturday to post it online. So far, the extra interest that this is garnering has been pretty nice to see.

A European Soccer preview for 2018-19

With the Premier League preview out of the way, I thought I’d preview the rest of European soccer for the year. The problem is that superclubs - Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain - dominate. So instead, I gave readers five other teams to watch instead.

(Yes, I am aware that this is a group that includes two near-superclubs, in Borussia Dortmund and Atlético Madrid, as well as an Italian powerhouse fallen on hard times. But bear with me. I wanted to make it relevant for semi-casual fans, rather than telling everyone to watch Atalanta and Real Betis.)

Minnesota United is in a month of upheaval

This has the potential to be a make-or-break month for Minnesota United, as the team clings to the fringes of the playoff race - and still traded its best striker, Christian Ramirez.

Earlier this month, I wrote for 1500 ESPN about the team’s road struggles, and how the team’s month-long road trip could derail its season.

Then this week, United traded Ramirez, a move that I just can’t understand. This has the potential to be a defining move for the front office and the coaching staff. Ramirez, of course, underlined the point by getting two goals in his first start for LAFC.

How European friendlies in the USA help build American soccer

I’m not sure I quite hit the point I wanted to make in this week’s Soccer Insider column. I was trying to connect the dots on something that someone involved with Minnesota United told me once, who I will now paraphrase: “You know, if you can afford to fly to London every week to watch Chelsea, or to Mexico City to watch Club América, you should definitely do that. But for everyone else, there’s a team here in town to support too.”

You can see Tottenham or AC Milan or Chelsea or whoever come to U.S. Bank Stadium, and my guess is that you’ll be left wanting something more. Something real. Something that matters.

I was at the Minnesota - Seattle game on Saturday night, possibly one of the best wins ever for the Sounders, definitely one of the worst losses ever for the Loons. You can’t tell me that didn’t matter. You can’t tell me that that kind of thing isn’t exactly the kind of atmosphere that people are really searching for.

Or, heck, maybe it’s just me.

The balance of Liga MX power moves north - and makes inroads into the USA

You can watch Liga MX on national TV in the United States now. In English. Club Tijuana and C.F. Monterrey have both sold their TV rights to FOX Sports, and so FOX is showing the games in Spanish on FOX Deportes, but in English on FS1 and FS2 (and on its regional networks in the southwest).

As Liga MX kicks off its year, it was a good time to preview the season - and about how Mexico is coming for soccer fans north of the border.

Soccer Insider: A 2018 World Cup Knockout Round primer

For the Star Tribune this week, I wrote about the knockout round of the World Cup, and the expected favorites.

Unexpectedly, the paper also asked to print my picks. I leave them for posterity here:

Quarterfinalists: Uruguay, France, Brazil, Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Switzerland, England

Semifinalists: France, Brazil, Spain, England

Final: France 1, Spain 0

(I also wrote about 100 words why each team would win in the final; I’m sure whichever unlucky soul had to edit it laughed bitterly as he had to cut it down for the actual space alloted, which was about 20 words per team.)

Eric Wynalda's free kick got U.S. Soccer rolling

I remember being unsurprised, when the United States got out of its group at the 1994 World Cup. I knew very little about soccer, but I’d seen the Olympics, and I was pretty used to Americans winning at everything. Plus, it wasn’t like the rest of the tournament was filled with countries with huge soccer reputations. Bulgaria? Norway? The United States was in a group with Romania and Switzerland. Who even knew they had teams?

Since then, of course, I’ve learned a lot about the history of American soccer. How the team qualified for the 1990 World Cup, but only as an accident. About how the United States got hammered at that tournament. About how everyone expected them to get hammered again in 1994.

Into this stepped Eric Wynalda, who even then was brimming with confidence. His free kick goal against Switzerland, in the first game of the tournament, not only earned the United States a 1-1 draw - it was what launched everything that came after. That moment was the beginning of pro soccer in the USA.

It's time to kill VAR before it kills soccer

I am not the first person to turn against instant replay, in soccer or anywhere else. A year or so ago, I was all in favor of using replay to help blunt the effect of refereeing mistakes on the outcome of games.

I was very wrong! It turns out that in soccer, just like every other sport with refereeing, introducing a video referee just doubled the number of chances refs had to screw up - all while also taking a huge part of the entertainment away from the game. Soccer needs to act fast, soccer needs to act now. Kill VAR before it kills soccer.

Portland has the best stadium in MLS

I recently turned in a draft of a book about soccer stadiums around the world, which needed to include an American stadium. I chose Providence Park in Portland, not because it’s the nicest soccer stadium in the United States, or the most comfortable, but it’s absolutely the best to watch soccer. This week’s Soccer Insider relates to my trip to Portland, and the goosebumps I got there.

Could MLS, NWSL still fail?

I’ve been reading a lot about the NASL, WUSA, and WPS - the three failed major soccer leagues in America. Right now, MLS is doing well and the NWSL has been more successful than any of its predecessors. But could they still fail?

(This is in the Star Tribune, where “Is MLS going to make it” is far more of a legitimate question than elsewhere.)

1500 ESPN column: The Ibson Experience

I’m writing Minnesota United columns every two weeks for the website of 1500 ESPN, a sports talk radio station in town. The first looks at Loons midfielder Ibson, whose skills are evident - but who may not be a match for what United needs right now.