MLS crowd

More reader generated content: Sepp Blatter’s comments on lack of U.S. soccer growth

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As Richard Farley demonstrated the other day on the Fake Field Farce (and I demonstrate almost daily), our readers sometimes have better things to say on a topic than we do.

Or, they keep the conversation going in interesting ways, creating ever more colorful and vibrant branches on the tree.  (And thanks for doing so to all of you, by the way, because I know becoming a commenter on this platform remains a bit cumbersome – I’m working on it …).

At any rate, here’s a perfect “for instance:”

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time on the ongoing, old debate on whether domestic soccer should link up with the FIFA soccer calendar. Three separate posts generated great reader back-and-forth, commentary, literary high fives, some valid disagreements, etc.

The launching point for it all was Sepp Blatter and his ongoing Blatter-ings. But in getting into the calendar debate, I may have blown right by one important point: that Blatter, world soccer’s ranking official, said something else that qualifies as “painfully ignorant.”

He talked about soccer’s lack of growth in the United States, about the lack of a “very strong professional league.” Reader “@C_Tobin” nailed a vital point. His comment in full:

“The worst thing is Blatter’s presumption that the World Cup in 1994 failed to grow soccer in the United States.

Success can and should be measured by more than just the domestic league. While I think MLS is growing and will enter the broader public conscience soon why is that the measuring stick in Sepp’s mind?

The USA pays more to Sepp’s FIFA for World Cup broadcasting rights than any country. Read that again. The USA pays more than ANY country in the world to broadcast the World Cup.

The EPL rights just went to NBC for $250M for three years. Clearly soccer is alive and thriving in America. The domestic league is very well attended (Seattle might be somewhat of an outlier but you can not ignore the average 40k+ attendance in 2012) and the only factor that legitimizes MLS criticism is the lacking TV ratings.

Blatter criticizing the growth of American soccer since the 1994 World Cup while collecting literally a BILLION dollars for future World Cup TV rights in the US is laughable. Remember watching the 1990 World Cup on TV in the US?

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.