Wednesday, August 09, 2006

US Super Cup

Community Shield possibilities in USA?

With the FA Community Shield taking place this Sunday in Cardiff, Wales, contesting the 2 time defending EPL Champion Chelsea vs. defending FA Cup Champion Liverpool, the 2006/07 FA season gets underway with much pomp and circumstance. The whole English football world stops and trains their eyes on the Millennium Stadium for the gala event that opens each season. Winning this match is a huge source of pride for which ever club wins, as it adds to their trophy case and gives them a launching pad for their season.

The atmosphere surrounding this match every season is a great one. Supporters groups travel from all over England to attend this match and the FA gets a great jump start to their season each year. The clubs themselves take this match seriously and feel that it is important to perform well in this match, as it sets the tone for the run towards the Championship.

So a big question is, would something like this translate well over here in the USA? If it did, how would it be presented and held? Would the USSF be the ones running it? Would it be solely a MLS production?

A USSF Production
One idea would be to have this event be under the guidance of the US Soccer Federation (USSF). As they are the organization that oversees all professional soccer in the USA, having the USSF organize this event would be logical and allow for a greater amount of involvement. The two clubs that make up this match could be well diversified. Several different options would be to include the MLS Cup winner and have them face the US Open Cup winner. That is patterned off of the English FA setup, as they have the EPL Champion face the FA Cup winner. When the situation arises that the FA Cup was also won by the EPL Champion, they have the second place club in the EPL take part. So in a similar vein, the club that lost in the MLS Cup final could take part in this match, or if the MLS Cup winner did not win the Supporters Shield, as what happened last season with San Jose placing first in the league regular season, but not winning the MLS Cup, they could take the second spot. Then we would have had the LA Galaxy vs. the Houston Dynamo at the start of this season.

Due to the idea that the USSF would be organizing and running this one match event, one other idea would be to have the MLS Cup Champion take on the current USL Champion. This would bridge the two leagues together and provide some main stream exposure to the USL, which is really left out of any mainstream media exposure for soccer in the USA. So if this were to have taken place this season, we could have had a match-up between the LA Galaxy vs. the Seattle Sounders. That type of match up, even on ESPN2 would have garnered a lot of interest. The chances of this happening are very remote.

A MLS Production
If this were a solely MLS run event, they could still use the first format mentioned, which would be having the MSL Cup Champion vs. the USOC Champion. With the exception of the 1999, when the Rochester Raging Rhinos defeated the Colorado Rapids, MLS clubs have won every USOC since the league was founded. As there are only 8 clubs left in this season’s tournament, all MLS clubs, that trend will continue. This would give the appearance that this is a match that involves more than just MLS, but in reality, (unless a USL club pulls off a future upset) it will just be contested among the MLS clubs.

As MLS has just signed a 7 year deal with ABC/ESPN to have the opening match of each season broadcast on ABC, this is the type of event that MLS should have hyped up for the ABC broadcast. The winner would be presented with a trophy, much like the English FA match has. Rather than just having 1 match as the “opener” among 6 others that are held on the same weekend, MLS could have this “event” match as the season opener, have it on ABC and present the winner each season with a trophy.

The best idea for scheduling this match would be to take place one week before the start of the MLS season, which usually kicks off around the end of March/beginning of April. March usually doesn’t have the warmest of climates over the entire country, so this type of match should be held at one location every year, say in LA at the Home Depot Center. Good climate and good location to hold all of the visiting supporters.

A different option on the venue would be to have it in a neutral location, with Las Vegas being the most ideal. Having this event in a neutral location would benefit neither club, and allow for MLS/USSF reaching into a yet untapped area in the USA. It could also make Las Vegas an unofficial MLS city, as it would host the start of each season every year.

Las Vegas has better weather in March than most of the country. Las Vegas has Sam Boyd Stadium, which has a capacity of 40,000 people. Granted it isn’t right on the Strip, it is still a good venue, with a grass field, that could host this type of event. A weekend in Las Vegas, coupled with a MLS match that is something that might actually get 40,000 supporters in the seats. Las Vegas has some of the lowest airfare rates, on average, from anywhere in the US. That and the number of hotel rooms that are in Las Vegas, makes this an ideal location.

Good Start
Giving MLS as good a start to each season as possible is paramount in the needs of professional soccer in the US. Having a marquee, stand alone event like this one at the start of each season could do that. It would get the proper TV coverage from ABC, ESPN would most likely show highlights on SportsCenter and the league would have the ability to showcase its defending champion on network TV.


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