Going Up and Going Down
Oh, hello. It’s been a while.
Today I want to talk about football and the MLS. I know, to some it isn’t real football - or even real soccer - but it’s the only live football we have here in North America.
In particular, I want to discuss passion - and the lack of it in the MLS. Not in the stands but on the pitch. Now this can’t be put down to the relatively poor skill levels on display. There are many worse teams in the lower reaches of the English league system and what they lack in ability they definitely make up for in raw emotion. Very raw in some cases. No, I think it is down to a lack of incentive. And that can be explained by one simple fact: you can’t get demoted in the MLS.
Last week I went to two TFC games, both against Vancouver. The first was a regular league game. It was 22 men running around but clearly not killing themselves for a win. The next game was the Voyageur’s Cup final. The difference was startling. Suddenly there was action, excitement, end-to-end football and goals. Why? Because it mattered if you won the game.
For MLS teams like TFC, it’s fairly obvious - from about the fifth game of the season - that you won’t be going to the play-offs. And at that point, because there’s no relegation, it doesn’t matter if you lose every game - there’s no consequences if you’re bottom, other than fan irritation.
For an English team relegated from the Premier League, it’s a disaster - not only because it means second tier football the next season but because of the serious financial hit the club takes. This means that there are terrible consequences for both the players and the owners. And because of that, the owners invest and players play their hardest.
Because the MLS copied the set up of every other American team sport, the owners only have to react when fans fail to show up. And the fans in North American sports tend to turn up (hello, Leafs fans). But football needs relegation battles - it what’s keeps the season interesting and it’s why European fans keep coming back to support the biggest losers. The MLS should change the system. No-one was born a TFC fan. We’re not invested enough that it isn’t easy to vote with our feet.