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Friday, March 18, 2011

Teaching Sports Fans to Embrace Multiple Championships

Originally posted July 31, 2009

Professional Soccer provides a uniqueness that no other professional team sport in the U.S. offers. It has multiple championships. Though, the Superliga does not seem to have the staying power, the CONCACAF Champions League and U.S. Open Cup appear to be gaining more strength each year. Through the qualification processes, the USOC and CCL have become an integral part of the professional Soccer calendar.

There may come a time when the USOC will not have the same relevance, if one of the leagues is clearly dominating or there is only one league. As it is now, with at least one USL team in the semi-finals and other pro and amateur teams playing competitively, the Cup seems to have a niche. Also, the CCL has earned respect by becoming the region’s most important club tournament.

With MLS Cup included then, there are 3 main trophies to be won every calendar year. This is the uniqueness and advantage Soccer has over the other mainstream sports, basketball, football, baseball and hockey.

The schedule, including USOC and the CCL, seems to be working well for Soccer fans. As the pro season builds, the USOC plays its championship, and then with the season progressing, CCL begins and takes the fans through to the end of the season. Some MLS teams are managing to give their fans the chance to see many additional games.

D.C. United has the possibility of giving their fans an extra 12 home games this season through its USOC and CCL play. By giving fans more games, they are building more tradition. Their dedication in trying to play the fullest schedule possible is teaching their fans to respect all 3 championships.

Learning the principles and value of each championship has been lost on many Soccer fans and it is definitely not easily understood by U.S. sports fans. Whose responsibility is it to teach the sports fans and all the Soccer fans? Is it just something that’s going to take a while? It seems that it is a shared responsibility among the leagues and the media.

As pro Soccer progresses and becomes more mainstream, the 3 championships need to get a better explanation so the U.S. sports fans can begin to pay more attention to all the storylines.

The NY Red Bulls may be having an awful MLS season, but they are about to embark on a whole other journey with CCL. At this point, their games in MLS need to be played as practice and preparation for the CCL. This is the kind of intrigue that 3 different championships bring.

As each championship awards an automatic berth or berths to another championship, the fan stays connected and interested to their team and its prospects that exist for their season this year and the following year.

A 30 game schedule can become a 50-60 game schedule depending on how far a team can go in the 3 championships. When and if that happens, a team that can go the distance in all 3 in the same calendar year will have rightly gained the title as greatest club team ever from the U.S. The only way for them to be supplanted with the label, ‘Greatest U.S. Club Team Ever’, would be if another team came along, wins all 3 AND the FIFA Club World Cup.

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