One theory for MLS failures in Champions League

26 Comments

A few years ago I wrote critically and frequently about Major League Soccer’s chief flaw on the field. That is, the faulty element most guilty of holding back the league from achieving better quality between the white lines (i.e., MLS imperfection on the field, not in marketing matters).

It was simply that too many matches didn’t matter. When 80 percent or 60 percent of teams make the playoffs (MLS first decade or so), every single match simply was not important enough. That tolerance for imperfection infected everything, from daily practices to match-day management. Mistakes weren’t punished sufficiently, so the drive to improve individually and collectively suffered.

It’s gotten better, of course, but the math still works in opposition to genuine, night-in, night-out, down and dirty competitiveness. Simply put, each individual match does not drip with the weight of importance as it should.

Making the playoffs is still the brick and mortar of Major League Soccer from a competitive standpoint. And more than half the teams still qualify (10 of 19). So there is still not enough “gotta have it” for each contest.

The basic league structure is just too forgiving in terms of individual match importance; too many contests cannot be earnestly stamped “Code Red Critical!”

When MLS teams get themselves into Champions League seriousness, they aren’t quite equipped to deal tactically, emotionally or intelligently when it comes to one match (or a pair of them) that simply must be had.

We saw it twice last week, as Seattle couldn’t properly manage a home match against Santos Laguna. Left in a 1-0 hole, last night’s 1-1 draw in Mexico was insufficient.  Santos advances into the CONCACAF Champions League final; MLS misses another chance.

The LA Galaxy conceded two goals late against Monterrey, and the chances of something heroic tonight in Mexico do not look good. At all.

Quality depth in the rosters (better on the Mexican side) has a lot to say about this ongoing imbalance, as Mexican sides continue to dominate the regional tourney.

But the lenient playoff qualification standards still hinder MLS progress. We saw it last year as clubs that finished fourth and fifth in their conferences made the MLS Cup final. LA was about as bad it could be in March, April and May … and still won the championship.

When a smaller percentage still of Major League Soccer teams make the playoffs, every match will ring the bell of importance. Organizations and individuals will know that a match in April, May, June, etc. should carry all the serious weight of a stretch-run contest in September. Only then will the best practices of approaching a match and managing out matches become muscle memory for MLS players, coaches and clubs.

Until then, well, we’ll just have to enjoy a few more all-Liga MX CONCACAF Champions League finals.

STREAM, TV: Premier League schedule, Week 9

Leave a comment

Ready for three days of Premier League action? Of course you are.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for this weekend is below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

Kicking things off on Friday, West Ham host Brighton and Hove Albion at the London Stadium (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with the Seagulls still searching for their first away win in the Premier League.

On Saturday there is an intriguing encounter in west London as Chelsea host high-flying Watford (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with the Blues one place and two points behind Watford.

Huddersfield then host Manchester United at the John Smith’s Stadium (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) in a massive clash for the Terriers who are aiming to bag their first win since August.

At the same time PL leaders Man City host Burnley at the Etihad Stadium (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBC Sports.com) with Pep Guardiola‘s men hoping to not come unstuck against the away-day specialists.

To round things off on Saturday Southampton host West Brom (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBC Sports.com) at St Mary’s with both teams desperate for a win.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

Sunday sees two games with Everton hosting Arsenal at Goodison Park (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both teams struggling to start the season. Could a heavy defeat be the end of Ronald Koeman?

The match of the weekend then takes place at Wembley with Tottenham and Liverpool colliding (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp clashing is always an intriguing matchup.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App,

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Friday
3 p.m. ET: Everton vs. Burnley – NBCSN [STREAM]

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Watford – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Huddersfield Town vs. Manchester United – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Burnley – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Crystal Palace – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Southampton vs. West Brom — NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
8:30 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Arsenal – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]

PL player Power Rankings: Top 20

Leave a comment

Which players are on fire right now in the Premier League?

[ MORE: Power Rankings archive ]

Stars from Manchester City dominate our list as Pep Guardiola‘s men continue their imperious start to the Premier League season.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections of the top 20 players in the PL right now.


  1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 1
  2. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Down 1
  3. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) – New entry
  4. David De Gea (Man United) – Up 9
  5. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – New entry
  6. David Silva (Man City) – Up 2
  7. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – Up 4
  8. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – New entry
  9. Nemanja Matic (Man United) – Up 1
  10. Phil Jones (Man United) – Down 1
  11. Tammy Abraham (Swansea City) – New entry
  12. Anthony Knockaert (Brighton) – New entry
  13. Ederson (Man City) – Up 3
  14. Romelu Lukaku (Man United) – Down 10
  15. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) – Down 2
  16. Ben Davies (Tottenham) – Down 2
  17. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – New entry
  18. Fernandinho (Man City) – New entry
  19. Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton) – New entry
  20. Mamadou Sakho (Crystal Palace) – New entry

Europa League, LIVE: Arsenal, Everton in action

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Crunch time is arriving in the UEFA Europa League group stage.

[ LIVE: Follow Europa League games ]

Two Premier League teams are in action on Thursday as Everton host Lyon at Goodison Park and Arsenal face a tough trip to Red Star Belgrade.

Everton have yet to win in the Europa League, while the Gunners are sitting top of their group with two wins from two.

Below is a look at the full schedule for Thursday’s games, while you can click on the link above to stay updated on all the action across Europe with the likes of AC Milan, Athletic Bilbao and Lazio all in action.

Thursday’s Europa League schedule

11:00 a.m. ET: Astana vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv
1 p.m. ET: BATE vs. Cologne
1 p.m. ET: Hapoel Beer Sheva vs. Steaua
1 p.m. ET: Konyaspor vs. Red Bull Salzburg
1 p.m. ET: Lugano vs. Viktoria
1 p.m. ET: Marseille  vs. Guimaraes
1 p.m. ET: Nice vs. Lazio
1 p.m. ET: Ostersunds FK vs. Athletic Bilbao
1 p.m. ET: Red Star Belgrade vs. Arsenal
1 p.m. ET: Vardar vs. Real Sociedad
1 p.m. ET: Zenit vs. Rosenborg
1 p.m. ET: Zorya vs. Hertha Berlin
1 p.m. ET: Zulte-Waregem vs. Vitesse
3:05 p.m. ET: AC Milan vs. AEK Athens
3:05 p.m. ET: Atalanta vs. Apollon Limassol
3:05 p.m. ET: Austria Vienna vs. Rijeka
3:05 p.m. ET: Dynamo Kyiv vs. Young Boys
3:05 p.m. ET: Everton vs. Lyon
3:05 p.m. ET: Fastav Zlin vs. Copenhagen
3:05 p.m. ET: SC Braga vs. Ludogorets
3:05 p.m. ET: Sheriff vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
3:05 p.m. ET: Skenderbeu vs. Partizan
3:05 p.m. ET: TSG Hoffenheim vs. Istanbul Basaksehir
3:05 p.m. ET: vs. Villarreal Slavia Prague

Premier League releases new schedule for December games

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Start planning for the festive period.

[ LIVE: Stream every Premier League game

The Premier League have announced their updated game schedule for the month of December, with several games moved to set up marathon windows of action across the festive period.

PL action galore and eggnog. Sign me up.

Premier League Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore revealed that the festive fixtures were particularly challenging to schedule this season was particularly

“We appreciate this is the peak time for supporters attending and watching the Premier League. With matches scheduled on Christmas weekend for the first time in 11 years, the process of selecting games for live broadcast has been a more complex one than usual and I would like to thank our broadcast partners and clubs for their co-operation and flexibility,” Scudamore said. “We can now announce we have a fantastic selection of 24 live televised matches for supporters to enjoy in December whether in the stadiums or at home.”

Some of the highlights include three games on December 23, a Manchester derby on Dec. 10 and

Below is a look at the new dates/times for games which have been moved.


Saturday 2 December
7:30 a.m ET: Chelsea v Newcastle
12:30 p.m. ET: Arsenal v Man Utd

Sunday 3 December
8:30 a.m. ET: AFC Bournemouth v Southampton
11 a.m. ET: Man City v West Ham

Saturday 9 December
7:30 a.m. ET: West Ham v Chelsea
12:30 p.m. ET: Newcastle v Leicester

Sunday 10 December
7 a.m ET: Southampton v Arsenal
9:15 a.m. ET: Liverpool v Everton
11:30 a.m. ET: Man Utd v Man City

Tuesday 12 December
3 p.m. ET: Huddersfield Town v Chelsea

Wednesday 13 December
2:45 p.m. ET: Swansea City v Man City
3 p.m. ET: Man Utd v AFC Bournemouth
Both further to Manchester derby moving to 10 December
3 p.m. ET: West Ham v Arsenal

Saturday 16 December
7:30 Leicester City v Crystal Palace
Subject to change dependent on EFL Cup 5th round participation
12:30 p.m. ET: Man City v Spurs

Sunday 17 December
9:15 a.m. ET: West Brom v Man Utd
Subject to change dependent on Everton and/or Swansea reaching EFL Cup 5th round
11:30 a.m. ET: AFC Bournemouth v Liverpool

Monday 18 December
3 p.m. ET: Everton v Swansea
Subject to change dependent on Everton and/or Swansea reaching EFL Cup 5th round

Friday 22 December
2:45 p.m. ET: Arsenal v Liverpool

Saturday 23 December
7:30 a.m. ET: Everton v Chelsea
12:30 p.m. ET: Burnley v Spurs
2:45 p.m. ET: Leicester City v Man Utd

Tuesday 26 December
7:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v Southampton
12:30 p.m. ET: Liverpool v Swansea

Wednesday 27 December
2:45 p.m. ET: Newcastle United v Man City

Thursday 28 December
3 p.m. ET: Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Because of their selection on 28 December, neither Arsenal nor Crystal Palace will play on 30 December.