Friday, June 30, 2017

US Soccer: The Most Confusing Sport in the World

A bold statement in fact, but let me explain. 

It begins at the US Open Cup game between Miami FC and Atlanta United. A simple cup tie for most soccer fans, but to the trio of teenagers behind me the fabric of American soccer was something they couldn’t seem to grasp. And I don’t blame them, we have made our beloved sport so confusing to follow that we are handicapping our chances of popularity and success.

“What’s the difference between the Lamar Hunt Cup and the US Open Cup?”, they so innocently wondered. I hope it doesn’t come as a shock to anyone reading this article, they are the same thing. But if local youth soccer players don’t know the difference, we have a problem.

The kids continued to have problems getting their facts straight. They kept saying that Atlanta United forward Andrew Carleton played for Weston FC. Andrew, in fact, grew up in Georgia, is one of Atlanta United’s Homegrown Players and has played for the US U15 and U17 national teams.

The boys went on. Commenting on how Miami FC would fare against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies, who in their view of the US Soccer landscape all play in the same league. In fact, Miami FC play in the NASL. Tampa Bay plays in the USL. And the Strikers, well, they just don’t exist anymore.

Here is where I’m going with this. We have some how some way in this country so confused the public that following our sport requires a dictionary, a glossary and a legal bible.

A few months ago I got mad at radio broadcasters for not being able to understand the away goal rule in a home and away Champions League game, but I fear the problem is much worse.

Take South Florida for example, sometime soon we will have our Miami MLS team. We will also have a Miami NASL team. We have teams in the NPSL, UPSL and PDL national leagues. Confused? PDL is an Under-23 league. NPSL is a mix of amateur and semi-pro.

What about college teams? We have a lot of teams. We have a lot of leagues. What makes it so muddled is that they are all run separately and the only competition that unites them is the US Open Cup.

As we like to compare to other countries. When cup games are scheduled its easy to say this team is Division 1, 2, 3, etc. Here we have MLS teams playing USL teams and NASL teams playing PDL teams. And no one has any clue as to what differentiates one from the other.

Unfortunately I don’t have the answer. Is it simple enough to have US Soccer come in, take over each league and say you are 1, you are 2 and so forth? Perhaps. I don’t care what it’s called, let’s just make it simple and let fans know what they are in for.