MIAMI - Major League Soccer craves
credibility and respect and on Wednesday the North American
league hopes a victory for its Real Salt Lake in the CONCACAF
Champions League Final will be a breakthrough moment.
The MLS team enter the second leg of the title game for
North and Central America and the Caribbean after earning a 2-2
draw away to Mexican champions Monterrey.
Those two away goals give the advantage to the team from
Utah as they look to be the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF
competition since it switched to a group format in 2008 and
only the third since MLS began play in 1996.
Despite all of MLS's success in establishing a stable and
respectably supported league in a country where professional
soccer has struggled in the past, there remain many fans of the
game in the region who prefer to follow foreign soccer.
Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey said this pattern
needs to change and more soccer fans in the United States need
to start paying attention to MLS action.
"Right now they don't. A lot of those people are going to
deny, deny, deny and say they'd rather get up on Saturday
morning and watch the EPL and that American soccer sucks. I
just don't believe that," said Lagerwey.
"I think we get more respect outside our country than we do
inside it and I think we'll win over a whole bunch of fans who
simply can't ignore us if we're able to win and achieve
MLS's D.C. United and Los Angeles Galaxy won the regional
competition when it was a traditional knockout tournament but
there has not been an MLS team in the final in 10 years.
The CONCACAF tournament, which began in 1962, has been
dominated by Mexican teams as Cruz Azul and America have won it
five times each and Pachuca on four occasions.
Costa Rican club Saprissa, who Salt Lake beat in the
semi-final, are the most successful non-Mexican club in the
continental championship with three victories.
This year MLS urged its teams to make the competition a
priority and gave them greater flexibility in terms of roster
rules and fixtures to help them fight on two fronts.
"In terms of what it means historically, I think it really
makes a difference if we win or not," said Lagerwey, who sees
Real's opportunity as similar to that faced by the U.S.
"We're well past the point of moral victories. We've
knocked on this door: in 2002 the U.S. goes to the
quarter-final of the World Cup and got a bad call on a handball
and lost to Germany. In the Confederation Cup we upset Spain
and were up 2-0 at halftime against Brazil (in the final) and
we didn't finish it.
"All of those are arguably highpoints for U.S. Soccer, but
in each case we weren't able to finish. We haven't had that
Lake Placid moment like the 1980 U.S. (Olympic) hockey team win
over the Soviet Union - but that's the opportunity I think we
"I think we have an event of that scale that can put the
world on notice that American soccer is taking another step
For Wednesday's game, Salt Lake will be without their key
midfield organiser Kyle Beckerman, who is suspended, while
Monterrey are without injured midfielder Luis Ernesto Perez and
the suspended Jesus Zavala and Aldo de Nigris.
The new season is but six weeks away (in the Football League)
Toon upheaval continues in style
They're really rather good
Trio of triumphs
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010