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Russell Berrisford

Russell Berrisford

Russell’s support of Derby County eventually led him to leave the country. He has lived in Canada since 2007 and currently writes about soccer for The Vancouver Sun.


The “World Football Challenge”

Written by on March 30, 2011 | No Comments »
Posted in Manchester United, MLS

We are at that time of the year when MLS starts to announce the schedule for the summer tours of European club sides to North America, including the ‘World Football Challenge Tournament” which will feature Manchester United and Barcelona, and United will also be the opposition to face the MLS All Star team at the end of July.

I understand the reason for these games; they bring in money (for all parties) and they add a touch of glamour and publicity that MLS feels that it can exploit to attract casual fans, but what I find less than appealing is the huge amount of hype that these matches attract from the official MLS outlets.

If you were to visit on the day of the announcement then you would find that the arrival of the European giants was not only the lead story, but the second and third story too, and this was on a day when the US national team were playing against Paraguay.

Of course the publicity is full of how Manchester United want revenge for last year’s defeat to Sporting KC and how it will be a chance for MLS teams to compete against the best in the world, but we all know that this isn’t really a tournament; it’s just a series of friendlies disguised as one.

I could be wrong I suppose and maybe both Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola are just itching to get that pesky Champions League out of the way so that they can fly across the Atlantic to claim the one trophy that really matters to them, but somehow I doubt it.

The most annoying thing of all though is that this is yet another example of the MLS hierarchy not taking their own league as seriously as they should.

They allow international fixtures to take players away from teams at the drop of a hat, they increase the play-off allocation to the extent that league games don’t have the intensity that they should have, and now you can bet that much of the summer will be focused on the “World Football Challenge” (will it have its own anthem do you think?) rather than the bread and butter games where teams are battling to get three points.

As I said at the beginning of this piece I understand the reasoning behind what MLS is doing, and I’m pretty confident that the league will continue to flourish despite the distractions, but if those in charge can’t  find it in them to treat regular season games with respect then how will they ever convince the fans that they are so desperate to attract to do the same thing?

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