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SoccerCentric

Jon Marthaler writes about the Minnesota United and sport of soccer.

SoccerCentric: What to watch this weekend (There's a lot)

Saturday

7pm: Minnesota United FC vs. Jacksonville, Ch. 45. Beginning the season with three draws and a loss gave United no margin for error in the ten-game spring NASL season. They've won two in a row, moving up to fourth in the standings in the process, but winning both games on their two-game homestand that starts tomorrow is critical.

9pm: Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City, MLS Live. There is suddenly life in KC again, after a mid-week 4-2 win over Eastern champions New England. Their next test is a trip to Seattle, who have only lost three games at home in the past twelve months.

Sunday

9am: Every Premier League game AT THE SAME TIME. It's the final weekend of the Premier League season, which means that all 20 teams are in action, and all at the same time. NBC has taken to using its family of networks to broadcast them all, for the viewer with the twitchy channel-changing finger, so NBC, NBC Sports, USA, SyFy, the Esquire Network, E!, CNBC, Oxygen, Bravo, and MSNBC will all be airing English soccer on Sunday morning.

Only a couple of games particularly matter. Manchester United - Hull City (on NBC) is the big one, as Hull needs a win, and for Newcastle to draw or lose against West Ham (on USA), to escape being relegated to the championship. Arsenal needs at a point against West Brom (on Bravo) to officially clinch third place and the final automatic Champions League spot; even if they lose, Manchester United would have to combine with West Brom to win by a total of at least seven goals to overturn the deficit.

Watching anything else? Let us know in the comments.


For more soccer coverage, especially of Minnesota United FC and the NASL, head over to Northern Pitch.

SoccerCentric: There's always a game - including just south of the border

One of the great things about soccer is that there's seemingly always another game to watch. Take yesterday, an otherwise innocent Wednesday, a random day for midweek games in the middle of the American season and at the end of the European one. Somehow, it threw up a day's worth of excellent games. In the afternoon, you could have watched Sunderland park their bus, two forklifts, and some assorted furniture in front of their own goal, on the way to a 0-0 draw at Arsenal that clinched a spot in next year's Premier League for Sunderland - a surprisingly exciting game, given what was at stake for Sunderland.

At the conclusion of the game, you could have flipped over just in time to see the Italian Cup Final go into extra time; the game, originally scheduled for the day after the Champions League final, was moved after Juventus clinched a spot in Europe's championship. Instead, Juventus won their tenth Coppa Italia on a Wednesday, with a 2-1 extra-time win, a goal from Alessandro Matri proving the difference against Lazio.

After a dinner break, there was a wildly entertaining 4-2 win for Sporting KC over New England, or if you so chose, any number of live streams of second-round US Open Cup games. Later, Vancouver beat Edmonton in the second leg of their Canadian Championship semi-final, a wild game that saw Edmonton level the match with a 91st-minute penalty, before Vancouver scored in the 97th (!) minute. And even this wasn't enough for some; a tweet from me, pointing all this out, led to a reply from Internet friend Derek Caron, pointing out that there was an awfully good Copa Libertadores game on some obscure satellite channel.

There's always another game. A trip down the Live Scores page at ESPNFC.com is enough to a wistful regret that I shall probably never see so many of the teams therein named. Who wouldn't want to watch St Gallen 2 - FC Thun 1? IFK Norrkoping 1 - Hammarby 0? Bayelsa United 1 - Wikki Tourists 0?

There seems to be an unlimited amount of coverage available – but one league seems strangely under-represented. It's the United States’ favorite league to watch, regularly drawing twice the viewership of either Major League Soccer or the Premier League. In many places, it's broadcast over the air. And yet, given the amount of coverage devoted not only to MLS but to England and Germany and Spain and the rest of Europe, you’d hardly know it exists. Yes, I'm talking about Liga MX, the highly competitive, entertaining league to our south, which stays mysteriously unmentioned when we talk about what to watch.

English-language coverage of the league is scarce. ESPN tried televising a few matches with English commentary, but they didn't draw much for viewership. Most of the English-language online writing appears to be provided by one man - Tom Marshall, an Englishman who moved to Mexico a few years ago and has seemingly been writing continuously ever since. The semifinals of the league’s Clausura playoffs begin tonight, after a shocking quarterfinal round that saw the top four seeds all turfed out at the hands of worse teams; you will, I suspect, hear very little about them, unless you seek out that coverage.

It’s a symptom of what seems to me to be a much larger issue – the Great Divide between mainstream soccer fans and Hispanic soccer fans in America. From what I’ve seen, everything that’s not the Premier League, Champions League, or US National Team might as well not exist. But, at least according to the viewership numbers, you can put the Premier League and MLS together and still not reach Mexican soccer’s popularity. Put another way, for every person who’s in the bar at 6:30 a.m. to watch an early Premier League game, there are two or three who are kicking back in a recliner to watch Club America and Guadalajara and all the rest; why is our concept of the American soccer fan so geared toward the former?

I do not have an answer, in this space. But I do think that whoever figures out how to bridge that divide, whether television executive, league president, or savvy marketer – is going to find himself a very rich man.

Local Schedule

< >
  • Fargo-Moorhead at Saints

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    7:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    3:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Jacksonville at Minnesota United FC

    7pm

  • Fargo-Moorhead at Saints

    7:05pm on 105.1-FM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    1:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Fargo-Moorhead at Saints

    5:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Boston at Twins

    1:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Saints at Amarillo

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Boston at Twins

    7:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Saints at Amarillo

    11:05am on 1220-AM

  • Boston at Twins

    12:10pm on 96.3-FM

  • Saints at Amarillo

    11:05am on 1220-AM

Today's Scoreboard

< >
  • Texas

    NY Yankees

    6:05 PM

  • NY Mets

    Pittsburgh

    6:05 PM

  • Philadelphia

    Washington

    6:05 PM

  • Seattle

    Toronto

    6:07 PM

  • Houston

    Detroit

    6:08 PM

  • LA Angels

    Boston

    6:10 PM

  • Cincinnati

    Cleveland

    6:10 PM

  • Baltimore

    Miami

    6:10 PM

  • Oakland

    Tampa Bay

    6:10 PM

  • Milwaukee

    Atlanta

    6:35 PM

  • Minnesota

    Chicago White Sox

    7:10 PM

    FSN

  • San Francisco

    Colorado

    7:10 PM

  • St. Louis

    Kansas City

    7:10 PM

  • Chicago Cubs

    Arizona

    8:40 PM

  • San Diego

    LA Dodgers

    9:10 PM

  • NY Rangers

    Tampa Bay

    7:00 PM

    NBC Sports

  • Cleveland

    Atlanta

    7:30 PM

    TNT