MLS is 18 years old. In that time, its grown from relative obscurity, in a sports climate that was anything but welcoming, to become a mainstay in the US. While it still has a ways to go, soccer in The States has placed itself in a favorable position. Having grown to 19 teams - and looking to grow to 20 - the league is now taking form as a typical soccer league. The next goal is to take that local stability and extend it to regional excellence. And, with that, we come to the CONCACAF Champions League.
We, as a league, are at the point where the next step is to grow in the region. That means winning the CCL, and making appearances in the Club World Cup.
Introduction to the competition is not the aim here. We already know about Mexico's stranglehold on the competition, our history of only two semifinal appearances due to MLS vs.MLS quarterfinals, and RSL's crushing loss to Monterrey in the 2011 final.
So, with three MLS powers (read: no Toronto) competing in the CCL quarterfinals against Central American components, it was time for MLS to shine. If one, two, or even three MLS teams advanced, it would mean an even or advantageous position for MLS over LigaMX. First, 1-0 win in Houston, then 0-0 away for LA, and finally 1-0 loss away for Seattle. Great starts for all involved, positioning each for advancement if things go well this week.
Then, this happened:
Followed by this exchange after a Zach Woosley tweet, along with many other similar sentiments across the internet.
Instead of banding together in support of MLS brotherhood, each team is wishing for their own team's advancement along with their MLS compatriot's unmitigated failure. I'll be honest, I was initially flabbergasted (love that word) by this. However, after getting over this initial surprise, my naivete gave way to some introspection concerning these sentiments. Let's break them down:
In Support of MLS: Long Live LA
This is a sentiment that I suspect MLS and Garber are proponents of, or at least that's what we fans of other clubs believe of them. The idea that MLS needs a flag-bearer capable of bringing the wonders of our league to the masses of the world. Its similar to the Yankees, Lakers, Bulls of the 90's, etc. It's what led to this absurd B/R post (that I hate linking to, but it proves a point).
This shouldn't apply to any non-LA fans. Just thought I'd throw it out there.
In Support of Someone... Anyone
This is my initial reaction to the dilemna. I seriously just want someone to win from MLS so that we can stop talking about a gap, the lack thereof, or some curse and/or duck (or cursed duck). I, of course, would want Dynamo to win above all others, but if we fall to Santos in the second leg, then I would be fine with Seattle taking up the flag for the league. Let's just start by beating Mexican clubs in competition every once in a while before we start talking about dominating the CCL completely.
In Support of My Club: Damn the Rest
There are a couple forms of this argument: from the outsiders looking in, and from those involved.
Let me say this first: to those outside the competition wishing poor results on the MLS clubs taking part, why? I get the sentiment coming from, say, FC Dallas. If they want to hate on us, and hope for our loss, then that is just super neat. If that gets them through losses to Chivas USA, then I'm all for it. Its sad, and a little pathetic, but I understand it. I would do the same...*ahem*... if they were ever in the CCL.
For the latter, at least it comes from some semblance of hope for competitive advantage. If you are hoping for Dynamo to win so that you won't have to face a "better" Santos squad, or if you're hoping for CS Herediano to beat LA so you won't have to face the Galaxy, at least you have your team's best interest at heart. However, I would caution against thinking of a team winning a CCL quarterfinal as inferior to the team it beats, or hoping for a trip to Central America as opposed to a cushy trip to the west coast. There is more involved in travel than you would think.
In Support of My Club, But Liga MX After That
This is the sentiment of our fearless Ordinary Orange Fan. I would also assume that for the many Mexican fans in the states, they would find no problem supporting the LigaMX teams along with their MLS team of choice. Or, if you just like LigaMX more, then that's just fine. It's a league with similar, if not more evolved, goals compared to MLS. Winning the CCL, while paling in comparison to Copa Libertadores, means an invite to the CWC and serves as a measuring stick for the continued Mexican advantage over the MLS.
In Conclusion: My Sort of Change of Heart
If we're going to call ourselves a legitimate league, contender, and soccer nation, we need to start acting like it. While my first reaction to these arguments was something like "can't we all just get along?", I realize that the "right" thing to do is say "f*** you" to everyone else and support only my team, and no one else.
While it may be beneficial to the league in the short-term for LA to win it all, in the long run our philosophical approach to this interesting dilemna is much more important. It may be a bit too Euro-snobby of me, but if we are to act like the "big boys" of the soccer world, we need to stop thinking about what's best for our league and think more about what's best for the team we love. That means an end to the "all for one" mindset. By the same token, it means an end to any unwarranted vitriol against other MLS teams. It's childish to wish for MLS teams to lose just so you can be the first to win it. Grow up.
So, what say you, readers? Are you taking MLS's vocalized "all for one and one for all" approach, their (most likely) un-vocalized "all for Galaxy and Galaxy for all" approach, or something more team-centric?
Writer's note: I will invariably end up supporting the MLS teams if (God forbid) the Dynamo lose this week. That doesn't mean I don't see the absurdity of supporting all of them now.