DC United v Real Salt Lake - 2013 U.S. Open Cup Final

What a U.S. Open Cup final! … Too bad a few more people could not see it

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Who doesn’t love a huge upset in tournament play? (Well, who outside of Utah this morning, in this case.)

D.C. United holding out heroically against heavily favored Real Salt Lake on Tuesday at Rio Tinto was brilliant theater, a real memory maker and a fitting end for the 100th edition of a storied tournament built on the possibility of these very upsets.

The question on the day after Tuesday’s soccer version of a D.C. Shutdown is this: If such a thing happens again next year, will more people be able to see it? Because for all the brilliance of last night’s underdog triumph, the storybook finish was diminished by a lack of viewers and the attached lack of a big, national event feel.

(HT to the Salt Lake Tribune; I stole the “D.C. Shutdown” line from the paper’s headline this morning.)

Worse, Tuesday’s big moment was turned into a punch line, with the clevers of Twitter cracking on about how they were planning to watch:

source:

I know it’s easy to blame U.S. Soccer here, but that’s an overly simplified explanation.

The game was broadcast on GolTV, which is in the second year of its three-year agreement with U.S. Soccer to televise the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final. Two things to know:

All the other potential TV partners (larger ones, that is) said “pass” on the opportunity to show the final. Hardcore soccer supporters here love the U.S. Open Cup, and rightly so.  (I certainly do, by the way; it’s an absolute gem.) But supporter regard and actual brand value are not attached in any meaningful way. In other words, the dollar value of the tournament is, let’s just say, something less than staggering.

This ain’t no NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Second, when U.S. Soccer signed the agreement with GolTV, no one in the industry knew that BeIN Sport, backed with stacks of cash through its attachment to Al Jazeera Media Networks, was going to absolutely cut the legs from beneath GolTV. When BeIN gobbled up GolTV’s most valuable properties (U.S. television rights for La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Copa del Rey and South American World Cup qualifiers, for instance), GolTV’s market share and its very relevancy fell off the table.

Long story short, BeIN Sport has practically killed off GolTV, and the U.S. Open Cup final became collateral damage.

GolTV had no pre- or post-game show Tuesday – thanks, by the way, to MLSSoccer.com for providing one – and did not even have its broadcasters on site. Nothing says “mailing it in” like calling a final from a studio.

So … will it get better next year?

Short answer: possibly, but nothing is likely.

source: Getty Images
Precious few TV viewers watched D.C. United lift its third Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy Tuesday night in Sandy, Utah.

“We are always looking for ways to get  as many people as possible watching our matches,” U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe told me this morning, “whether that is U.S. men’s or women’s national team matches or the Open Cup final or other matches in the national team program.”

When I asked about streaming and why last night’s match was not available via internet, Buethe could only say that it was discussed but was ultimately GolTV’s choice.

Marketing U.S. Soccer’s Open Cup is always tricky business. MLS clubs and U.S. Soccer could potentially enhance the brand by adding big marketing dollars, but there are no guarantees for a tournament that simply does not have a substantial, national footprint. In all honesty, it’s a tournament where continued organic growth probably remains the best course; throwing money willy-nilly seems unwise, especially considering MLS and its clubs mostly remain awash in red ink.

The one possible escape hatch would be U.S. Soccer and Soccer United Marketing (Major League Soccer’s marketing arm) bundling the tournament final along with other properties. That’s how MLS has enhanced the value of its TV contracts, by bundling national team rights with MLS rights.

Until then, hope for better days for GolTV, I suppose.

(MORE: D.C. United revels in victory; celebration video)

(MORE: D.C. United stuns Real Salt Lake in U.S. Open Cup final)

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.

Qatari official says World Cup drunks will be treated “very gently”

In this photo taken during a government organized media tour, laborers work at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, May 4, 2015. Qatar’s top labor official told The Associated Press Monday that Qatar’s inability to ensure decent housing for its bulging migrant labor population was “a mistake” the government is working to fix as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, vowing his country would improve conditions for its vast foreign labor force. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
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One of the biggest unanswered questions still hanging over the 2022 World Cup — at least for fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament — has to do with the rules and regulations placed upon their consumption of alcohol.

[ MORE: All of the latest FIFA news ]

On Monday, Hassan Al Thawadi, the head of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup committee, attempted to ease those fears when he said that not only will the consumption of alcohol be permitted during the tournament in six years’ time, but that in the event of public drunkenness, the visitors in question will be dealt with quickly and “very gently” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I know in South Africa there where specific courts established during the World Cup for this kind of thing, and that is something we were discussing with FIFA.”

“In relation to drunk fans it will be as it is anywhere else, anyone who is rowdy, anyone who breaches the law, will be very gently – depending on how they react – taken care of in a manner to make sure that people are not disrupting the public order. Everyone will be able to have fun and be exposed to Qatari culture.”

“We welcome everyone in the world. We’ve hosted many people, from many places and [drinking] was never an issue. This will be a fun World Cup. It will be one of the best cups out there.”

Chelsea’s next manager? Juve GM tells Allegri to “think twice” about it

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri waits for the start of a Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Juventus at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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Chelsea fans, quickly think up a few qualities and characteristics you’d like your club’s next manager to possess. Got your list? OK, good. Massimiliano Allegri ticks just about every box you’d hope your next manager would do, which is why there are plenty of rumors flying around linking Juventus’ current boss to the Premier League’s highest profile vacancy.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

For staters, he’s young (48) and massively ambitious; he’s had plenty of success at his two most recent stops as a manager (2010-11 Serie A title with AC Milan; 2014-15 Serie A title, Coppa Italia triumph and UEFA Champions League runners-up with Juventus); and he boasts a successful enough playing career to command the respect of his players.

Juve aren’t going to let Allegri walk out the door without putting up a fight to keep their in-demand leader, though. The club’s general manager, Beppe Marotta, has warned Allegri that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side — quotes from the Guardian:

“In the space of one month we have to play in every competition: the league, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. The next month will tell us a lot about how the whole season is going to play out.

“But we talk to Allegri about footballing matters, not about other matters. Beyond the contracts you have to sign there are the relationships you must build with people, and we’re happy with Allegri.

“All the conditions are right for us to continue with him as coach. Results are what count and Allegri has delivered plenty of those. Football is a business and the role of a coach is important when it comes to breeding continuity.

“Chelsea are a top club and it’s obvious that they’ll want to look at the best coaches. All I can say is that Allegri is already at a top club, so he’d do well to think twice before leaving Juventus.”

[ MORE: Van Gaal calls Mourinho speculation false, a bunch of “nonsense” ]

In the end, if Allegri wants to test himself at a higher level where league titles are anything but a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the season (Juventus are currently in pursuit of their fifth straight Serie A crown), Marotta and Juve stand little chance of changing his mind. Not even Bayern Munich could withstand the pull of the PL and keep hold of Pep Guardiola, just as Diego Simeone will one day join Jurgen Klopp and many others as foreign coaches who established themselves elsewhere and eventually ended up in England.

Checking in with the Championship’s Premier League promotion hopefuls

HULL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07: Jake Livermore of Hull City in action with Diego Fabbrini of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship match between Hull City and Middlesbrough at the KC Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Hull, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
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With roughly one-third of the schedule to play, there are four clubs within three points of automatic promotion to the Premier League and five more in or within shouting distance of the promotion playoffs.

So while we’re tracking the race to avoid PL relegation between Aston Villa, Sunderland, Norwich City and others, let’s take a look at who’s making bids to take their places.

[ MORE: Difficulty looms for in-form, relegation-scrapping Villa ]

Only one of last season’s relegated teams is far removed from the race to rejoin the Premier League, and that’s Queens Park Rangers. The R’s are 11 points back of sixth place, the final PL playoff spot.

Top dogs

Steve Bruce has Hull City in line for an instant return to the Premier League, but it’s far from sewn up. The Tigers have the Championship’s best goal differential (26), but are tied with Middlesbrough on points and just a point ahead of Sean Dyche‘s Burnley.

Also within a win of the Top Two is Brighton and Hove Albion, led by ex-Norwich City and Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton. He guided the Magpies to promotion, and also got Birmingham City to the playoff in 2012.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  Jonathan Spector of Birmingham City during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Birmingham City and Leicester City at St Andrews (stadium) on August 1, 2015 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Also in the running

Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday would be headed to the playoffs if the regular season ended today, but either could drop out of the six within a single game weekend.

Ipswich Town is in 7th with 48 points, while Birmingham is a point back. And remember Vincent Tan? Cardif City’s 45 points have them in the discussion for a PL return.

Of those teams, only one carries an American player. That’s USMNT defender Jonathan Spector (right), the former Manchester United and West Ham United man.