Crawl Across the Ocean

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mostly Soccer

1) Greg is right that Canada was on the wrong end of a bad call in it's semi-final loss to the U.S. (eventual winners) in the Gold Cup. He's also right that the overall result was pretty positive, with Canada showing promise for the upcoming (next year) world cup qualifying campaign with a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica and a 3-0 victory over Guatemala - 2 of the teams they will likely need to beat to qualify for South Africa in 2010. Nice the see a Canadian men's national team actually scoring some goals.

2) The U-20 World Cup opens today in Montreal, the biggest soccer tournament ever held in Canada, in terms of total spectators anyway. As I write, the Poles have taken an unexpected but not undeserved 1-0 lead over Brazil. Now we'll see what the young Brazilians have got. Meanwhile, the Canadian team takes the pitch for their first game against Chile tomorrow in Toronto.

3) The Canadian team will be playing on BMO field, the new soccer pitch in Toronto, which seems to have been proposed, designed and built in less time than it will take Vancouver city council to weigh the merits of having a new soccer stadium downtown vs. the obvious heritage value of the air above the railway tracks down by the Vancouver port. Generally, Vancouver planning is far superior to Toronto planning, but sometimes things can drag on a bit.

Outside of the U20 tournament, the Toronto pitch is normally home to Toronto FC, the wildly successful Toronto MLS franchise which debuted this year. The improvement of Toronto FC from their first few games of being held scoreless to their recent 4-0 drubbing of West leading FC Dallas has been remarkable. The team's success to date is a credit to everyone involved, I remember when I heard that they had picked Toronto FC I knew the team was on the right track, following a model (like the MLS itself has done) of modelling a North American soccer league more on the successful soccer leagues around the world, rather than on the other North American team sports. If they had been called the Toronto Transformers or been named after some other violent animal because it was profiled in a big budget movie, then I would have figured the team was in trouble.

4) I see that the TV ratings in the U.S. for the Gold cup final between Mexico and the U.S. were a lot higher than the ratings of the Stanley Cup finals. And that's just the rating on the Spanish Univision channel, not including the ratings for the English broadcast on Fox Sports. Something for Bettman and company to consider as they make the apparently difficult decision whether it make more sense to leave a struggling franchise nobody cares about in a city where only a handful of diehards know anything about hockey or allow a billionaire to put the team in Southwestern Ontario.

Of course, it now looks like the team will move to Kansas City (for now, at any rate) - after all, that worked so well last time, with the KC Scouts lasting 2 season before moving to Colorado, before moving to New Jersey, where the team has managed to combine the most successful record in hockey with mediocre attendance and fan interest. If not for Lou Lamoriello's shrewd management, the team probably would have moved on from there by now as well.


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