Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Back from travels

Now that we are back from the lady's first tour of America (and have had a few days to just sleep), I am back on patrol here. I'll drop a few stray opinions on recent soccer happenings now and then kick off a short series of non-soccer top five lists related to food and activities enjoyed during our cross-country jaunt (the already promised L.A. taco countdown will come first).

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."

    Uhhh, no.

    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


dikranovich said...

The 1978 World Cup had 16 teams the 82 cup had 24. Did that 50% increase water down the event, or the qualification process? Some rational people will argue it made it better.

Dr.Jon said...

Welcome back and Happy New Year.

Greg Seltzer said...

Let's just assume that 100% of rational people understand the difference between half of 16 and half 32, and *strictly leave it that* with relative math discussions of the topic. I'm feeling rather charitable at the moment, so don't blow it.

DaM said...

Welcome back Greg. Pretty much preaching the gospel to me on the bullet point meanderings. Really annoyed at the Bradley thing. Not my favorite USMNT coach of all time, but clearly deserved a better shake than that. Rarely do I root against a single team all season but Swansea have earned it. Shocks me that the americans would have caved to anti american pressure so quickly. Someone should tell them they may have to toughen up to make it out there.

Patrick said...

Thank all that is holy you are back!

I would point out that everything you said about the WC and WCQ is from the POV of the USA and other big soccer nations. WCQ will undoubtedly get more exciting to teams like Haiti, Guatemala, the Stans, Egypt, etc. It will even make places like Bermuda, Guam, and Puerto Rico have hope and some skin in WCQ. Yes, the tournament will make more money but the real reason it is happening is because all the above countries get an equal vote at FIFA.

By the time the quarterfinals roll around, it will be the same tournament with the same teams.

dikranovich said...

Does everyone agree that if we did have promotion and relegationi in the US soccer structure, that sending young players off to Europe, would be bad for said system? Does anyone agree?

Isn't it St. Louis exactly where politics and soccer become ensnarled. If anything the last several years has shown, it's that public funding for the sport of soccer is going to be close to nil in that city. Might be best to start low and try to build up through grass roots, and try and branch out the sport into local communities. Maybe in 10 to 15 years, St. Louis could work its way into the MLS ranks, and in the process, create a wealth of homegrown talent.

It is kind of ironic, you want in MLS, you want pro/rel, and you want young Americans playing in Europe! I guess you think beggars can be choosers.

Greg Seltzer said...

@ Patrick: Everything I wrote was from the point of view of assessing quality of play and the integrity of the championship event, regardless of what size country the observer comes from. That has nothing to do with it.

And the vote was unanimous, so even the big countries went along with it, and they all went along for the obscene money grab. Don't be fooled for a second about that. There's no other reason to perpetrate this overt ridiculousness.

@ dikranovich:

Your first comment makes no sense and is doubly off-topic, so I'll skip past it.

Your second comment is pure trolling. Just in case another reader might get thrown off from reality, let's correct all the silly bits you have there: 1) this is the first time public funding for a soccer stadium has come up, 2) grass roots soccer started in St. Louis only about a hundred years ago, 3) there will be no chance to "work into the MLS ranks" in 10-15 years, 4) MLS doesn't want to wait any longer to get a team in the city and 5) the city has produced MLS talent since the beginning. The #8 all-time scorer, the #2 & #3 on the career assists chart and two of the top 10 in minutes played are from St. Louis.

Finally, when the hell did you ever see me say I wanted promotion/relegation in America? Or that all young Americans should play in Europe? Keep it together, dude, the ice is paper thin for you here. I've no patience for strawmen.

Unknown said...

Yeah my biggest problem with the expanded format is the huge increase and the hit to qualification. I think 40 wouldve been reasonable and is very workable and still give every team a 3 game guarantee. Qualifying will mean a lot less and be a lot less exciting overall. Its not a big money maker, but i love world cup qualifying probably more than the world cup tbh. Seeing underdogs fight in front of their home crowds to make it there. Now, that underdog triumph will be much smaller and less significant.

dikranovich said...

Dany, I'm just curious, what do you think is more exciting and fair, a six team qualification round with each team playing ten games, or a ten team qualification round with each team playing eighteen meaningful games? In each case, half the teams make it, plus maybe a half team also, since some people are curious why we are still working with fractions.

Unknown said...

18 games for a final stage is too many. CONMEBOL currently has that format but it is their only round. Making caribbean/centroamericano teams play 24-28 games in a qualifying campaign is not fair and borderline logistically impossible.

There is literally no downside to the ICPs. Ever since the first one ever kept israel from qualifying with 0 matches played, they have done their job. Plus, they are (usually) great matches to watch and the stakes dont get any higher.

On a tangent, i think this pushes us closer to a single americas zone, as having 9/10 conmebol teams playing for 6 or 7 berths makes a lot of those matches low stakes. The great irony in this is the concacaf minnows who no doubt saw this as a chance for them to make it, but will now find themselves hopelessly outclassed by the likes of bolivia, venezuela, and peru.

Unknown said...

The way to make it workable in concacaf would be two final groups, like AFC, but that is a lot less interesting and means mexico and the USA probably never playing each other in qualifiers (altho costa rica is top dog in the rankings right now... we'll see if that sticks as their world cup points decay)

dikranovich said...

Dany, you make some fair points. They are just your opinion, but they are fair. Europe does not have as many qualifiers as the americas, but they put more emphasis on their continental championship, and in the end, they certainly play more than 18 competitive matches, don't you think? more FIFA international dates will be needed, and teams seeded outside the top 8 or 10, will have to play more games, but those qualification games could be played before the previous World Cup, and they could hold some real appeal. Your suggestion that these smaller teams don't want more competitive matches, but doesn't that go against what is actually suggested to make team stronger?

You're happy with 40, but 48 is to much? yet the increases over time are going in what looks to be a pattern. 16 to 24, 24 to 32, and now 32 to 48.

I see more competition on the horizon, not less. And with the 2026 cycle being shortened by several months, the action will be even more intense.

dikranovich said...

The FIFA rankings are a good thing to paruse. We got a former World Cup semi finalist at the 72nd spot. A modern era semi finalist at that. China is ranked 81, but that is bound to be at the very least, cut in half. There are some good teams in the bottom half of the rankings, and a lot of potential. El Salvador is 138, and there is real talent in that country, and in short order, they could quickly rise. Relatively quickly anyway. Palestine is 131, and imagine if they were actually a country, what they could do.

The increase of the stakes has just been announced, and motivation is going to rise. This is big!!!

Unknown said...

UEFA teams play 8-12 (most teams play 10) WCQ matches in a cycle. Overall, outside of finals, uefa teams play no more than 24 competitive matches in a cycle, including continental competitions. Youre talking about 24 competitive matches for some teams in wcq alone. UEFA FAs also have a lot more cash than Concacaf FAs. It might be good for haiti or surinam to play 35-40 competitive matches in a cycle, but they actually would struggle to afford the travel and all.

16 -> 24 -> 32 -> 48. "Seems to be a pattern"
16 -> 24 -> 32 -> 40. An actual pattern.
16 -> 24 -> 36 -> 54. An actual pattern.

I dont see what your point with the rankings is. Bad teams need love too? Bulgaria is bad. China is bad. El Salvador is bad. Palestine was playing in the challenge cup last cycle for pete's sake. Throwing these teams into a world cup and they get hammered for two games and go home... how does that help them?

Speaking of the challenge cup, that was a similar idea. If bad teams can play in AFC Cup, they will develop. The idea was tried. These teams went and got crushed and went home and nothing has changed in any of the countries.

But really of the countries you named China is the only one with a hope of qualifying any time soon, even in the new format.

dikranovich said...

16 to 24, 24 to 32, 32 to 48, it is definitely an actual pattern. Continuing the pattern would see 48 to 64. I'm sorry you didn't see that.

The point of the rankings is that these teams at the lower end can rise. Bulgaria is not a bad team, they are an under performing one. Wales is not a great team, but gosh, did these little euro countries not wake you up to the fact that rather quickly, a national team can climb the ladder. I mean, Costa Rica was a shootout loss away from a World Cup semi finals.

only time will tell who is going to get in, but the World Cup is going to increase in size, and the tournament has been better for it, each time it has done so. It's a world competition and this is a natural progression.

16 teams in a World Cup, with ten of those teams coming from Europe. That is almost an oxymoron. Someone was a moron for allowing such terms.

Unknown said...

+8 +8 +16 +16 is not pattern, its arbitrary arithmetic. Not exponential or logorathmic.

Let them climb the ladder to qualify for a 32 or 40 team world cup.

Back in the days of the 16 team cup there were fewer countries in the world (especially africa and asia), less money in the game, travel was harder. When the finals was in SA there were fewer euro teams. When africa was decolonized and no new berths were given, they protested and got more berths. Berths now should be redistrib ited but you dont need to expand to 48, 16 groups of flipping 3, in order to redistribute.

dikranovich said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Your arbitrary "pattern" is exponential and not arithmatic. Congratulations.

Unknown said...

Oscillating at n=4... lmao

Greg Seltzer said...

You're done, dikranovich. I'll ask everyone not to reply to his nonsense, please.