NPR column on “America vs. MLS” gets Twitter buzzing, but what’s so controversial about it?

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One of the big talking points this morning in the world of Twitter and soccer — and by the world we mean the United States and by “big talking points” we mean the usual suspects in U.S. Soccer media — is this short post by Frank Deford for National Public Radio.

Deford’s take is that American soccer, meaning MLS, hasn’t yet caught the imaginations of sports fans here, and that it isn’t likely to as long as Major League Soccer isn’t among the top leagues in the world.

And?

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Of course, that’s chapped several undersides in our “quick to react” soccer culture, and many are just calling Deford an over the hill, ancient-thinking click-baiting troll.

But that’s neglecting a couple of things:

1) Frank Deford is, on the whole, quite far from a troll, and one of the most respected writers of sports journalism’s modern era. Sure he has his salacious headlines, but on the whole his treatment of topics like this is far from patronization.

2) Doesn’t he have a point? I’m not talking about the fans in MLS, NASL and USL markets pumped about their local teams. That culture is brilliant, growing and going to keep moving up in interest. And soccer itself will continue to grow here, eventually reaching the heights Deford projects.

From NPR:

Soccer in America has a curious impediment to its popularity, and the problem is soccer — that is, everybody else’s soccer.

After all, Americans not only believe that we are the blessed exceptional, but that we have the divine right to always have the most exceptional entertainment right at our fingertips. The British Empire, theatrical division, seems to have taken up residence here. And hey, nobody has any problem with immigration if you’re a baseball, basketball or hockey player.

Yes, the World Cup attracted terrific interest, but then, so does Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, every time she has a baby. Then it’s back to all the first-rate exceptional diversions that we have right here.

Sure, Deford drops the inevitable “soccer moms” and diving/theater blasts, but in terms of MLS making the major leap most of us desire, no one is claiming the league is there, so why be upset when someone tells you the same? Plus, considering the long head start the States gave Europe, catching up in world-renown is almost impossible to do in 20 years. In this piece, Deford says that Beckham didn’t get the sport moving here — debatable — but he’s lavished praise on Becks/MLS in the past.

Deford, it should be noted, is not a soccer fan and many may be reacting to their distaste for his distaste as opposed to his point.

Put it this way: India and China are huge nations that are sure to be forces in soccer by the time most of us leave this Earth, but short of the Indian Super League and Chinese Super League signing the world’s best players and sponsors in the primes of their careers, it’s going to be a slow build.

Neutral American viewers, largely, are drawn in by the best of the best, and they tend to like it better when those “best” are playing at home. See NASCAR defeating open wheel racing as a prime example. In fact, one of the biggest sports in Europe that is also saluted by the U.S. is basketball, and the NBA is the biggest league in the world right now. Cricket and rugby, not so much.

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source: Getty ImagesSo here’s my point to Deford’s post: It really doesn’t matter. The opinion he presents is one that is going to be trumped in time, guaranteed, unless MLS vomits all over itself. United States businessmen have either bought or are consistently linked with big clubs in England. Ownership is a status symbol, and when it’s more important to have that be Stateside, those folks will vie with bigger businessmen for American club ownership.

MLS has some things to sort out, as do NASL and USL and any other interested ruling party in U.S. soccer. For one, this country is huge which makes minor and major league play quite a costly endeavor. And courting the European team fan to watch a currently inferior product is a challenge that demands a great stadium atmosphere. Some have it, some don’t… and it shouldn’t be ignored that the brightest ones hail from longtime soccer markets like Portland and Vancouver.

If you’re asking me, there’s no question that U.S.-based club soccer is going to arrive at its destination of being a major competitor on the club scene. It’s 100 percent unreasonable to expect it to be there now, or in five years. Being upset with Deford for stating the absolute obvious — to me — is like being mad at someone for observing that some butterflies are in cocoons while others are already soaring through the sky.

But hey, NPR got your attention. And Alexi Lalas underlined your hopes in a very real and salient way:

Stampede at stadium in Honduras kills multiple people

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) Officials in Honduras say thousands of soccer fans trying to force their way into a stadium for a championship match stampeded in panic when police fired tear gas, and at least four people and an unborn fetus were killed in the crush and 25 others were injured.

A spokesman for University Teaching Hospital says the victims died from suffocation and multiple broken bones from being trampled Sunday. Spokesman Miguel Osorio says a fetus died when its mother suffered severe injuries.

The stampede happened at the National Stadium as fans tried to push their way into the jammed venue to see the game between Motagua and Honduras Progreso.

About 600 police officers were guarding the stadium and used water cannon and tear gas trying to push back the crowds.

LIVE, at the half: Huddersfield miss glorious chances v. Reading

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It is tough to explain how Huddersfield Town aren’t ahead at half time of the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on Monday.

[ LIVE: Follow the action from Wembley

The Terriers had two glorious chances early on but Michael Hefele headed wide and then Izzy Brown — on loan from Chelsea — somehow put his effort wide from a yard out.

Reading only had a few forays forward but Jaap Stam’s men held firm with the score locked at 0-0 at the break.

Will David Wagner’s Huddersfield live to rue those missed chances?

Follow the second half live from Wembley by clicking on the link above.


 

LIVE: Playoff final – Huddersfield v. Reading for PL spot

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The richest game in world soccer is here.

[ LIVE: Follow the action from Wembley ]

Huddersfield Town and Reading clash at Wembley Stadium in the Championship playoff final, one win away from the Premier League with the final promotion spot up for grabs after Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion clinched automatic promotion.

Whoever wins this match will alter the path of their club for the foreseeable future.

The winner will not only receive a place in the PL but also a huge sum of $218 million for next season and if they stay up for just one season in the Premier League it is estimated to be worth $372 million.

Below is the team news…

Click on the link above to follow live updates from Wembley, while we will have analysis, reaction and more during and after the game.

VIDEO: Watch Francesco Totti’s emotional Roma farewell

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After a 25-year career at AS Roma, Francesco Totti was handed a fitting farewell on Sunday.

The hometown hero, now 40 years of age, called time on his incredible Roma career and looked overwhelmed.

[ MORE: Totti’s incredible career

Coming on for the 786th and final appearance of his stunning career, the all-time leading scorer for Roma (307 goals in all competitions) helped his team secured a dramatic last-gasp 3-2 win over Genoa to seal second place in the Serie A table and an automatic spot in the UEFA Champions League next season.

Totti spurned big money moves to Real Madrid and Barcelona where he could have won the biggest trophies and individual titles in the game to stay at Roma. He won just one Scudetto with Roma but famously said that was worth 10 league titles had he played for another team.

[ MORE: Serie A final day roundup ]

Following the game it was all about Totti as his teammates and manager broke down in tears, and so too did Totti as he went on a lap of honor with his wife and children at a sold-out Stadio Olimpico.

Rome’s favorite son said goodbye and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Watch the emotional farewell in the videos below.

I know. I have something in my eye too…