Landon Donovan is America’s goal-scorer. People who know the name of only one Major League Soccer coach know the name of Bruce Arena. Does having the team featuring those guys in the championship game constitute “as good as it gets” for Major League Soccer? Particularly if the same team employs David Beckham?
It’s close. In an even better world for MLS, Chicago would have beaten Real Salt Lake in their semi-final, which would have landed Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the final as well, thus especially delighting lots of Mexican fans.
But Beckham and Donovan in the final mere months after revelations that the latter regarded the former as a slacker and a fraud ups the melodrama, and who can’t see the benefit in that? Even MLS Commissioner Don Garber acknowledged this week that “the turmoil in the L.A. locker room was a big story of the first part of the season, and that was not necessarily a bad thing for us.”
MLS will also benefit from the site of Sunday’s game, which is Quest Field in Seattle, where 30,000 fans have been regularly attending Seattle Sounders games all season. To put that figure in perspective, the teams featuring such headliners as the aforementioned Beckham and Blanco have had to settle for a little over half that many fans most weeks.
This is not to suggest that all is entirely excellent for Major League Soccer at the close of the league’s 14th season. Though sponsorship and television coverage are up a bit, attendance is slightly down from last season, and would be down more if it were not for all those soccer enthusiasts in Seattle. The fact that the members of the team based in Salt Lake have been wandering around in T-shirts that say “Eastern Conference Champions” is bound to confuse potential fans who understand how to read a map.
Beyond that, the league’s collective bargaining agreement will expire in a little over two months, and there is every reason to suppose that the players and the league office are still drawing very different conclusions regarding such matters as how much it costs a healthy, young soccer player who isn’t David Beckham to rent a room and eat three times a day.
For the sake of its fans as well as its employers and employees, we’ll hope that such matters as that can be settled without a mid-winter walkout, and that Sunday night’s game will earn the appreciation of the more than 40,000 people who’ll be on hand to see it and however many additional fans tune their TVs to the game the rest of the world calls football.
This program aired on November 19, 2009.