SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Relegation, American Soccer Players and the English Premiership

Just when you thought that U.S. soccer was getting better and might have a better chance in the next World Cup, this. . .

9 of the 12 Americans playing in England's top league are on teams that face relegation, a uniquely European soccer-ish concept, which means that if they finish in the bottom 3 in the league, they get dropped down to the next lower league. If you're thinking baseball, that might mean that the Pirates, with 15 straight losing seasons, would be playing in the AA Texas League (or worse). But before you draw any conclusions, it's not really fair to say that the dismal play is the Americans' fault, although one team, Fulham, has five Americans on it. Also, not all of the top-drawer Americans play in the Premiership, so it's also hard to say that the Yanks will have trouble getting either into the World Cup or, if in, out of the first round.

Still, I'm having a hard time believing that U.S.A. soccer will make serious inroads in international competition until dozens of players are playing in the top leagues in Italy, Spain and England, with many of them playing on the top teams in those leagues. If you look at the elite international teams, you'll find that they populate the best teams in the best leagues with their players. The U.S. is not there yet.

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