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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


eos0000: "Looking Southward"

That fateful view

thanks to eos0000 for this great post on soccer - THANKS EOS!

This week, two Mexican clubs -- Chivas and Pachuca -- will travel to the United States to face MLS sides DC United and Houston Dynamo in the first legs of the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup. The winner will receive a berth in this year's World Club Cup in Japan; the runner-up (and possibly one or both of the other teams -- this is CONCACAF, where at least one of the C's stands for "confusion") will be invited to the Copa Sudamericana.

But that might not be the most important tournament pitting MLS teams against Mexican foes this year.

This summer, four Mexican clubs (Chivas and Pachuca, again, plus América and Morelia) will travel to the US for the inaugural SuperLiga -- a made-for-television competition featuring David Beckham (eventually) plus a million-dollar prize for the winner.

Between this new tourney, the Interliga (which determines which Mexican clubs qualify for the Copa Libertadores), and a seemingly unending series of national team and club friendly matches, it sometimes seems like more Mexican soccer is played in the United States than in Mexico itself.

It's all because somebody -- actually, two sets of somebodies -- has finally figured out how to make money from soccer in America.

As suggested above, the first set would be the FMF (the Mexican football federation) and Mexican clubs, who have been making money hand over fist, thanks to the higher ticket prices possible in the US, television rights fees, merchandise sales, etc.

And the second set of somebodies would be MLS, whose ownership groups have hit upon a workable formula: the combination of low expenses (especially when it comes to the majority of players' salaries) and mid-size soccer-specific stadia controlled by the teams (which nonetheless can be rented out for concerts, rodeos, sports like lacrosse and rugby, etc., ad infinitum) can actually be profitable.

The idiosyncrasy of both these approaches means that American sports businessmen with hundreds of millions of dollars burning holes in their pockets (like the Glazers, like Hicks & Gillett) who'd like to make money off of the beautiful game end up looking for those profits elsewhere. And, thanks to a welcoming business climate, a lack of institutional impediments, and, possibly, a common language, they're going to England.

But the English (and European) football machine doesn't just require large sacks of cash to keep it running at its most profitable; it requires a neverending supply of players -- domestically trained if possible, imported when necessary. Long story short: hundreds (if not thousands) of Brazilians and other South American soccer players end up plying their trade in Europe.

(Even though there may be a comparatively small number of Brazilians in the Premiership, the continuing influx of other foreign players (French, Spaniards, other Europeans, etc.) creates openings in other leagues for Brazilian players.)

Despite the continuing drain of talent to Europe, South American clubs are still well-supported and their competitive standards have remained high. The main problems -- especially in Brazil -- would seem to be organizational; for example, the Brazilian first division has historically been less important than the bigger state championships, and even its recent history (with numerous rules changes) has been checkered at best.

Even so, the Brazilian game would seem to represent an immense opportunity for the sporting entrepreneur able to bring some order to the chaos; if anyone were able to gain some control continuing stream of players to Europe -- and the transfer fees coming the other way, that individual or organization could make astronomical amounts of money.

One Brazilian club -- Corinthians -- recently tried to do just that, signing a deal with the international fund MSI, bringing in the Argentine stars Carlos Tévez and Javier Mascherano among others. But then both Tévez and Mascherano were transferred to West Ham under extemely murky circumstances, and the relationship between the club and its investors has apparently deteriorated, to put it mildly.

So who might be capable of succeeding where Corinthians and MSI failed?

Over the past decade, Mexican soccer has become more and more entwined with that of South America; at the same time, US soccer has become more and more tied to that of Mexico -- the new Superliga just represents the latest and greatest example of cooperation between them.

And between them, there are quite a few really, really, really, really rich people and organizations (the Mexican network Televisa, Philip Anschutz among others) who could conceivably take profitable advantage of the footballing situation in South America.

But will they?

- posted by eos0000