A key contrast between American pro soccer and pro soccer in the rest of the world is the league setup. MLS is a closed franchise-based system, whereas virtually every other country has an open system that give any club the theoretical chance of rising or sinking.
That contrast was on full display this week, as MLS welcomed St. Louis as its newest member. Meanwhile, in England, two storied clubs in the third division — Bolton Wanderers and Bury FC — are in danger of folding under financial trouble.
Bolton has no coach and only a few players under contract. It’s trying to make do by playing its youth team. Bury has yet to play a game this year and has an owner accused of trying to milk the club’s bankruptcy for personal gain. It may be thrown out of the league as soon as this weekend — harsh punishment for a team that’s been part of the league system since 1894.
MLS’ system is unfair to cities that lack a cash-flush owner ready to spend millions on a new franchise, but it does tend to guarantee its fans that their team won’t vanish forever. Stories like the sagas at Bolton and Bury are an example of why MLS seems unlikely to change.
• Expansion fever is gripping the National Women’s Soccer League, too. Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson, who also owns MLS’ Portland Timbers, told fans that three teams will join the NWSL over the next two years. One will be run by a current MLS club, one by a future MLS club and one by a current USL team. Leading women’s soccer website Equalizer Soccer has reported that the USL team is likely Louisville City FC. The two MLS clubs apparently involved are subject to much speculation.
• MLS and Liga MX created a new, confusing competition this year called the Leagues Cup, with four Mexican teams and four MLS teams playing a knockout tournament. Those who have followed MLS’ struggles against Mexico in the CONCACAF Champions League can guess how things turned out. The Leagues Cup final will feature two Mexican teams, Cruz Azul and Tigres, just as eight of the 11 CCL finals have done. At least Atlanta United defeated Club America in the Campeones Cup, another interleague competition.
Premier League: Arsenal at Liverpool, 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Ch. 11. Optimism abounds at Arsenal, where the Gunners have started the season with two victories for the first time in a decade. Their past three visits to Liverpool, though, have ended with 5-1, 4-0 and 3-1 floggings. As Liverpool chases an elusive league title, can Arsenal’s resurgence continue? Or will Liverpool show it just how far it must go to reach the league’s upper echelon?
Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org