Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What would be the Best MLS Cup for Casual Sports Fans?

Back during the David Beckham days, the league really needed the LA Galaxy to find its way to the MLS Cup. The allure of Beckham partnered with the greatest U.S. scorer of all-time, Landon Donovan, gave MLS some drama for the casual sports fan that hadn't really existed prior to Beckham's arrival. David Beckham's star attraction moved the needle more than anyone else had in MLS history. There was intrigue for whether he would win titles for the Galaxy like he had for Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Does the league still need the LA Galaxy to reach the Cup final? I would argue that 'yes', it does. To get casual sports fans engaged, to keep the sport moving towards mainstream, there is always a best Cup final scenario. This season, like so many others, would best be served with the Galaxy in the Cup final because they have the most well-established and well-known players scoring goals with creativity.

Donovan's return late in the season has not been a huge sports story, but he is one of the few household-known soccer names. He is the #1 all-time MLS goal-scorer. And, his legendary career would grow even more with LA in the final. Robbie Keane's influence on the league, also, can't be ignored. He is currently the 13th all-time leading goal-scorer in league history. Add Giovani dos Santos to the mix, a major star player from Mexico, and even with their elder status, all of them have tremendous ability to make magic happen around the goal. Additionally, there is the tremendous story of the best openly U.S. gay team athlete in Robbie Rogers, the will of Mike Magee in his return with the Galaxy and the curiosity for whether the once-great Steven Gerrard will make a contribution along the way.

With apologies to Colorado, Seattle and Dallas, the dramatic effect is just not the same as it is for the Galaxy. Colorado's best story is Tim Howard and the USMNT outstanding goalkeeper's return to MLS. But, he and Jermaine Jones, don't sustain enough intrigue and pale in comparison to LA, as does for sure FC Dallas and Seattle without Clint Dempsey. Seattle has some nice foreign players to follow, like Nicolas Lodeiro of Uruguay and Nelson Valdez of Paraguay, but there's not much of a chance to see a Cup final in Seattle (Montreal would have to make it from the East), so what's the point.

With the Galaxy established as the best option from out West, who should they play against? I say Toronto would bring the most compelling final. According to best record by points, the game would be played in Toronto. Why Toronto? A few reasons. The crowd at the stadium and build-up for the final would be exciting as heck for outside viewers on television. Also, seeing long-time, brilliant (at times) USMNTeamers, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, would provide some familiarity for sports fans. And, Sebastian Giovinco's influence on the league can't be ignored. His goals have come often and have been beautifully done.

At this point, the efficiency and elegance of David Villa of NYCFC and Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls are just not enough for me. And, the problems with Didier Drogba in Montreal are well-documented for that story not to mean enough, either. No, none of them measure up to what Toronto can bring.

MLS struggles to find a strong audience on Tv, therefore only the best match-up will benefit the casual sports fans. LA Galaxy vs. Toronto FC in Toronto is the overall best potential match-up.

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