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.

Zlatan Arrives in America

If you are a soccer fan, reading this, you already know all about Zlatan Ibrahimovic. You know he’s one of the greatest target forwards ever; you know that his trophy case is stuffed to bursting; you know that he may or may not be a crazy person.

However, the Soccer Insider column really isn’t for people who already know about Zlatan. It’s for people like my dad, who don’t watch all that much soccer (and frankly what Dad watches is mostly so he can talk to me about it, which is very nice of him.)

Last weekend, as Zlatan put his immediate stamp on MLS after arriving in midweek to play for the Galaxy, my Dad was furiously texting me about him. Forgive me, but if Zlatan’s big enough that Dad is interested, then it’s time to try to explain Zlatan to the rest of the Star Tribune readership.

Why can't there be more teams like the Portland Thorns?

I keep coming back to one statistic from this week’s Soccer Insider column about the Portland Thorns. Take the Thorns out of the mix, and the NWSL draws about 3,600 fans per game league-wide. Meanwhile, the Thorns draw an average of 17,400.

There are other teams that play in soccer meccas, there are other teams that are owned by MLS teams, there are other NWSL teams that don’t have to compete with Major League Baseball in the summertime, but Portland’s the only place where the NWSL is taken seriously. The league’s goal is to figure out why.

(Side note: I really, really hope that one of those places ends up being St. Paul.)

West Ham protests are a reminder, for MLS

Things got out of hand at West Ham last week, with fans verging on a riot against club ownership. That doesn’t happen in America, unless an owner tries to steal someone’s team. It’s a reminder for MLS: #SaveTheCrew.

College soccer is increasingly not developing professional players

College soccer is kind of a weird thing. They play an entirely different game in college, one that’s full of substitutions (nearly unlimited) and with frequent games (two in a weekend, three in a week, usually, in order to fit the entire season into the autumn).

Men’s college coaches are leading a push to make the season span across both fall and spring, in order to ease the schedule burden, but for the moment the NCAA and pro soccer are two very different things.

Soccer Insider tries to cover a little of this.

On Podcast Recording

So last week we were about 35 minutes into the podcast, and Stu suddenly exclaimed, “Guys, my audio isn’t recording.”

No big deal, really. It happens. We teased him a little, restarted the podcast, and talked for another 45 minutes.

Over the podcast’s history, we’ve taken a lot of grief — mostly from ourselves — about our audio quality. The Sportive has veered back and forth between “fine” and “unlistenable,” sometimes within the same episode.

Last week’s failure was an equipment failure. Stu uses a laptop from the Bush administration — possibly from the first Bush administration — because he doesn’t have another home computer. It failed twice last time — you didn’t even really hear the second failure because Stu managed to save it.

Our reach exceeds our grasp in many ways. We have to record remotely, mostly, because none of the four of us lives or works within 20 minutes of each other. Family life means that at least one of us is booked and unavailable every single day. We have full-time jobs. Even if we had perfect audio, we’d still be a collection of white middle-aged Twitter dads complaining about local sports, and the audience for that is so small that it does not even include our immediate families.

Our audio sins are many. If our podcast was a good podcast, we would edit for content. We would spend money on better equipment, instead of figuring out how to jerry-rig the aging hardware we already have. We would get better spaces to record. We’d do whatever it is you’re supposed to do to borrow a studio, and we’d learn to record things professionally and balance our dolby or whatever the heck it is that audio engineers do.

If we had to do any of that, we wouldn’t do the podcast.

I know that few people will notice and fewer will care, when the podcast does end. But, and this is the point I want to make, I think the world is shorter than people think on people who make things. And it’s longer than people know on people who plan things but — terrified of something, anything— never get them off the ground.

We’re short on planning, we’re short on skill, we’re short on time. But we make something. Sometimes it’s garbage, and sometimes a computer dies. But it’s out there. We take what we have, and we slap it all together and hit the publish button, and it goes out in the world for a few hundred people to download and maybe even listen to.

I’m not going to pretend we’re good at this, but I don’t think that’s the point. The point is to make something. The point is to hit publish and then do it all over again. Making things always beats not making things.

You should do a podcast, is what I’m saying. Or write a blog. Or snap a chat. (Remember, white middle-aged Twitter dad; I don’t understand how Snapchat works). Think of what you want to do and then do it and forget whether it’s good or not or whether anyone will care. Making things always beats not making things.

(*NOTE: if you have a free studio and an awful lot of free time to produce a podcast, we can offer you, as a trade, Stu’s laptop with the faded but still original FOUR MORE YEARS, REAGAN ’88 joke bumper sticker on it.)

The holidays are for Cups

Christmas used to mean that it was time for the third round of the FA Cup. England, in its infinite wisdom, did away with that tradition, but this is still time for the various cup competitions to take center stage. For Soccer Insider, I tried to explain what these are and why they’re great.