Pitch Points promotes, relegates

Let’s round up the latest links relevant in the world of Nashville SC and US Soccer! With commentary! As always, feel free to share with a friend or share anything you’d like me to include on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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Ghost of USL Future. USL President Jake Edwards has a Big Mood about where the United Soccer Leagues will be come the United States’ 2026 host year for the World Cup. The USL has made eyes at pro-rel talk since the launch of League One was announced, but Edwards was fairly unequivocal that he hopes it’s in the long-term plans if the lower league proves itself to be sustainable:

“A lot of focus and attention needs to go into building [League One] up over a short period of time. But we’ve got to get the right owners in League One, the right stadiums and infrastructure.”

I’ve said many times that an incremental move toward promotion and relegation is the way to go (while I still remain skeptical that the American sporting culture would ever support it at the top level in the country). I would like to see it in USL, not least of which because – and this isn’t the most honorable thing I’ve ever thought – if a League One club folds, it means a lot less in the grand scheme than somebody dropping from the top flight and eventually folding.

Edwards, like MLS commissioner Don Garber, has Bad Ideas about expansion, though.

“We’re looking at the ideal number [in the Championship] somewhere around 38 or 40, and that’s where we’re going to top out and cease expansion.”

Yo, that’s dumb. I don’t need to explain the size of our country to you (well, I shouldn’t need to). Limiting the size of the first tier makes some sense, but I don’t agree that the limits it imposes are worth the benefits in scarcity of supply, etc. Artificially limiting the second division in a country comes with all the downsides and essentially none of the benefits (aside from minuscule administrative costs compared to allowing them into League One instead).

(Meanwhile, Indy Eleven’s stadium proposal looks awesome, and I would like for them to have the opportunity to compete at the highest level possible).

I promise it will come around. This is a story about basketball. I really liked one of the quotes used in it as it relates to soccer, though:

“I guarantee you that he played so much basketball without a coach, or without a ref, or without a scoreboard. Just playing. Where out of bounds is the grass, or out of bounds is the street … there’s such a difference between guys who just play and guys who are manufactured by a trainer.”

We often talk about problems with player development in our country, and about how they come back to lack of coaching, poor scouting of underrepresented communities, etc. etc. Those are all valid complaints, and complaints I’ve made multiple times in this space. However, it’s also worth noting that just as huge an issue in our nation is a lack of a pickup soccer culture.

We hear every four years about about [Brazil/Argentina/France] is built on kids who grew up playing pickup games in the streets and turned into [Neymar/Maradona/Mbappe], and those who consume soccer outside the World Cup hear it occasionally, too. There hasn’t been an American who can up with that origin story, aside from maybe Clint Dempsey. There aren’t soccer Jordan Pooles out there.

MLS Playoff format change. This is the first year of a new MLS playoff format, something that will become relevant to Nashville in very short order (hopefully, at least). Does the new format actually improve higher seeds’ chances of advancing, though? Maybe not. The kicker:

The stakes just got higher for winning the Conference in the regular season. But in general the new format does little to change the perspective of most of the teams

I don’t like the expansion to an odd number of teams in the least, but it’s whatever. I still like the idea of using group play and a smaller knockout bracket, rather than what we’re seeing nowadays. It would make it easier to fit the playoff into a smaller calendar – which seems to have been the primary motivation for the recent change – and would appeal to the mainstream American sports fan in the same way that the World Cup does: it sets soccer aside as different, but in a fun way.

Danny Vitiello is popular. This may be the lowest-profile signing to get its own bullet in a pitch points, but hey, the available literature is the available literature. The Long Island Roughriders PDL program, UAlbany athletics, and a soccer-specific site covering NYC and Long Island(!) have all covered the keeper’s signing with the Boys in Gold.

That last one is mostly an aggregation from the other two (and Nashville SC’s release), but regardless, that’s a lot of ink.

Americans Abroad. The big news of the past couple weeks has been a record-shattering transfer for US international Christian Pulisic: his $73.1 million is not just the largest for an American (by a huge margin), it’s one of the top 25 transfer fees ever. There are two confounding factors here: 1) the numbers are on a consistent upward trend worldwide, particularly in recent years, and 2) Chelsea is certainly spending to get a talented winger, but they’re just as much spending to develop business in the American market. Is it possible for Pulisic to live up to that hype? On-field, it may not be as unlikely as you think.

Meanwhile, fellow USMNT winger Timothy Weah has gone on loan from Paris Saint-Germain to Scottish Premier League juggernaut Celtic. He’s expected to be a game-changer with his speed, which sounds like a potential striker role along with the wider position we’re accustomed to seeing him play with the Nats.

American “prodigy” (ESPN’s word, not mine) Ben Lederman has had a rough go since moving to Barcelona as a youngster, for reasons both external – Barça was punished by FIFA for violating player registration regulations, preventing him from playing for the youth setup for a while – and just because it’s difficult to break into such a setup. A cautionary tale that “move to the highest level possible,” while it sounds good on the internet, is not always the best fit for every player. Finding the right move (which sometimes includes staying domestic) is far more important.

Former US international David Wagner was sacked by Huddersfield Town this week, meaning the German-born manager is out of work. He intends to take some time off, but it’d be cool to see him come to the States. He has limited experience (outside of MNT camps) on this side of the pond, so the connection you might expect aren’t there, though.

Etc.: Not a ton of new information in this radio appearance from NSC Technical Director and Nashville MLS GM Mike Jacobs, as long as you’re paying attention to the day-to-day. … Nascar at the Fairgrounds will require upgrades to the track. … Former Nashville SC CEO Court Jeske takes a gig with the USL. … The company that puts on the International Champions Cup has purchased a Latino-focused multi-platform company – the one that puts on Alianza de Futbol in the United States each year. … Donate donate donate. … I like Peter Vermes. … NSC defender Justin Davis joins the FiftyFiveOne pod for a nice long discussion.

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