Thursday, July 21, 2011

World Football Challenge, Be Gone!

Raise your hand if you are tired of these midseason MLS friendlies.

(raises hand)

On Wednesday, there were five of these friendlies and another match that was associated with the so-called World Football Challenge.

Every July, MLS puts the regular-season on the backburner and paves the way for these midsummer friendlies. It's a way for the league to get exposure, to allow the fans to see teams and players they don't normally get the chance to and to allow for MLS players to do the same. At least, that's the load of goods they're trying to sell, but I'm not exactly buying it. The main reason for these friendlies is to generate revenue.

I keep hoping these games will go away, but as long as Manchester United draws 67,000 in Seattle, that won't happen. Sure, the Galaxy drew far less against Real Madrid this year than last (56,000 this year, 89,000 last year) but sadly that had more to do with Carmaggedon and the Coliseum than it did anything else.

Still, these are games that MLS teams face begrudgingly.

For starters, the way they're set up (WFC matches anyway) doesn't benefit MLS teams at all

"Without dwelling on the thing, it’s a lot more difficult – these games, they way they’re set up, the format – for the MLS clubs than it is for the visiting teams because the whole tournament is just set up to accommodate them and their needs," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said after his team's league match on Wednesday. "Our needs are not addressed at all."

The Galaxy has been placed in a difficult situation. Although they are playing just two friendly games, it's disrupted their schedule. The team traveled to Seattle to play a US Open Cup match on July 13, then had two days to prepare for Real Madrid. A league match followed Wednesday and now Manchester City will come for a visit four days after.

Opposing teams also have the chance to use their entire roster. MLS teams meanwhile typically use more players as well but it's mostly precautionary since there's no reason to add minutes and the chance of injury to key players' legs. That also complicates things.

"It’s worse when an elite club can play more players. It’s not easier – it’s more difficult," Arena said. "When you are down 2-0 at half and you step out on the field over the last two years and Ronaldo is there, I did it one year with Messi coming out when I was in New York and we played Barcelona – if you tell those guys they only have to play 45 minutes, it’s 45 minutes of hell. It’s an advantage to these clubs when they get to play more players because they obviously have better players, deeper players, more quality. It’s difficult."

So does that mean then if you play a regular game that the Galaxy would have fared better than their 4-1 loss? Or that Seattle Sounders would have done better than to lose 7-0 to Manchester United? Not necessarily.

"I’m not betting the house on the fact that if we just played regular rules and if we had only three substitutions, we’re in much better shape," Arena said. "But I’d rather play under those conditions than to see some of the players I saw step on the field in the second half on Saturday at the Coliseum."

Ultimately, however, as long as MLS suits have large attendance figures they can trumpet and parade around to proudly, these games will continue to carve out a deep hole every July.


Robert Carrillo said...

Its a total money grab, and its true, MLS teams have thier best players in mid season form and are trying to preserve them, the EPL/La Liga squads are trying to get their best players fit, so thats why Wayne Rooney comes on at half time in Seattle. It would be different if both leagues were in mid-season form (Man U still wins though) but its unavoidable. At least in Mexico the teams are in pre-season.

I understand it increases exposure, but some of that is negative, as in MLS teams being absolutlely demolished.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Luis, this might be a money grab but it's also tremendously expensive for the MLS teams. Clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester United demand as much as $2.5 million in appearance fees. Then you have to consider stadium rental and added advertising costs for each club. Frankly, I'm sure the Galaxy lost money on this year's Real Madrid friendly.

Besides, as long as the big clubs like Real and Man U. are in debt, they'll always go on some off-season tour. Liverpool and Chelsea are doing the same thing in Asia as we speak,.

what'sgoingon said...

My hand is raised. Who wants to watch these "games"? I for one do not. I would rather watch a real game between a team from MLS and a team from the Mexican League. They are much more interesting to watch with something on the line.