And now, on with the show:
- By now, surely you've heard that the World Cup finals will suddenly grow by a whopping 50% to become a 48-team tourney in 2026 (conceivably just in time for the US to host again... yay).
I will shuffle right past the multitude of reasons this is a hideous joke of a money-grubbing sham decision (and there are several) and skip straight to the most-important, overriding one: the competition and qualifying process - aha, don't forget that part - will suffer roughly a 350% increase in suck. If you thought the puffed-up Euro 2016 was largely filled with snooze-fest matches, just wait until we have 16 groups of three (and whatever the hell nonsense qualifying will turn into).
Just typing that makes me yawn. But wait! This gets even more insulting...
"It's a football decision," FIFA president Gianni Infantino told the BBC. "Every format has advantages in financial terms. We were in a comfortable situation to take a decision based on sporting merit."
So not only is the new prez gonna open his reign by doing vast damage to the sport's showcase event, he's going lie to us about it in the most laughable manner possible. I cannot even muster an effort to hide my disgust.
- Last week, "new" USMNT boss Bruce Arena called 32 players to the annual January camp (the roster is now down one, with Bill Hamid excused due to injury). The coach called most of the guys you'd hope for, including some newcomers and others seemingly forgotten by the Klinsi regime. I really only have one major complaint, as I badly wanted to see Christian Roldan involved in this group. The only other real snub that bothers me to any real effect is Justin Morrow.
Side note: There still seems to be some confusion (and offense taken) over the moniker "Camp Cupcake" long ago given to this regular January gathering. Again, this nickname does not refer to the partial squad called up by the Nats, but instead describes the friendly opponents that always come with "B" (or lower) sides because the majority of their top players are in club seasons in Europe.
- No doubt about it, Bob Bradley was done dirty by Swansea. What a severely pathetic maneuver that was. They were chickenshits who bowed to the wholly unreasonable public slurring of an American manager that started before he even walked a sideline for them.
Never mind that they were only a few points away from safety air with over half the season left, never mind that he didn't even make it to the first transfer window to put his mark on the squad, never mind that their points-per-game rate increased over the guy he replaced, and of course, never mind that the board pre-wrecked the season by selling their most important attacker (André Ayew) and most integral defender (Ashley Williams) during the week leading up to opening day without doing anything of note to replace them. Yeah, sure, just fire another manager without even having a replacement in mind.
Whatever, dudes. Enjoy the Championship next season.
- The MLS offseason transaction wire has been fun so far, but I feel like there's still so much left to do - especially for the top teams. To date, the expansion clubs and Houston have been the most aggressive, if also possibly impressive.
Real Salt Lake made a terrific pick-up in Albert Rusnak, who should more than ably replace Javier Morales, who should more than ably cover FC Dallas' injury loss of Mauro Diaz until midseason. Sporting KC appear to have ignited their attack with a couple pacy wing signings.
But right now, I'm going to tell everyone to look out for Portland next season. They've added David Guzman to protect the central defense, brought Roy Miller in to boost the back line stable, look on the verge of landing Sebastián Blanco to greatly improve flank production and are still being linked with a Rodney Wallace return. Plus, they have that "UGH, Seattle succeeded us as champs" chip on their collective shoulder.
- As you all know, I've paid close attention through the years as my hometown of St. Louis tries to find its way into MLS. With a proper ownership group finally on board, all seemed to be on the right track until... the public money issue fell into a ravine.
Believe me, I understand the city's needs and governor-elect's strict reluctance to help fund a new stadium. The Lou was burned by the Stan Kroenke's Rams and the usual NFL assholes, and the revenue impact of publicly-funded arenas has often been overplayed. And yet, this is another gut punch in the city's drive to get an MLS team. It hurts, it's annoying as hell and it makes everyone worry things will never come together. Again. Grrr.
It's high time that this city gets in the MLS game and it is on the ownership group to figure this business out. Sooner rather than later, please.
- Greg Seltzer