Soccer haters, you’ve had your fun. You’ve mocked kicky ball, you’ve said it’s socialist, you’ve tarred it as communist. You’ve bragged that you don’t know anything about soccer, and that you don’t want to know anything about soccer, and you’ve smeared anyone who does know anything about soccer as either a socialist, a communist, or a pantywaist.
Tell that to Tim Howard. If you have the guts.
So here’s the deal. Soccer is not only not any of the things that you haters claim, it’s actually much more of a capitalist sport than you realize. Because you don’t know anything about it. Here are five reasons that soccer is actually capitalist and ruthlessly American.
1. Soccer rewards success and punishes failure ruthlessly.
The NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB are mostly static leagues. Regardless of their win-loss records, the leagues keep the same teams around year in and year out. Franchises like the Detroit Lions become embarrassments that go on for years on end, yet they are never booted out of the NFL. Loser teams stick around in all of the US top sports leagues. That’s also true of US Major League Soccer. Teams move from town to town every once in a while, but they’re still the same team nearly all the time. Even if they get a new name.
But in the world’s soccer leagues, if you suck, you get kicked out of the league. And if you’re good and finish at the top of your league and you’re in a league that’s lower than the top league, you get promoted up to the big league. Of the 20 teams that make up England’s Premiere League every year, three have been promoted because of their accomplishments in the second-tier Championship League the season before. And the worst three Premiere League teams got relegated down to that second-tier league. If they want to get back to the top league, they have to earn it by finishing high enough to either earn automatic promotion or go into a playoff to earn it. Any EPL team can get relegated if they have a bad enough season. The same is true for leagues all across Europe, wherever there are enough teams to have multiple leagues with tiered systems.
One year of suckitude and you and your club get sent down to a lower league. That’s hard core. US sports could learn a thing or two from the creative churn of soccer’s relegation-promotion system.
And by the way, a good player in a lower league team can find himself scooped up directly into a top team in a top league if his play is good enough. It’s all about how well he plays as an individual. If you shine even on a horrible team, you’ll move to a good team.