The moment of the Premier League season so far happened last week, when newly promoted, injury-ravaged Norwich City pulled off a stunning 3-2 victory over two-time defending league champions Manchester City. Predictably, Premier League fans reacted the same way American basketball fans do when a No. 16 seed wins a game in the NCAA tournament. That reaction shows just how broken the Premier League is.
From afar, the contrast between the top and the bottom of the league seems fine. There are six particularly good teams, with most of the coverage devoted to them, so far-flung fans can reasonably follow those six teams and treat the others as cannon fodder.
As much as foreign fandom supports the league, though, six teams buried in two corners of the country aren’t enough to cover the map. It’s the other 86 teams in the English Football League and the countless non-league teams that ensure that every corner of the country has a team to cheer for. When all of those teams are merely there to make up the numbers — so much so that when another first-division team winning a game against the champions is front-page news — it’s an extremely bad sign for the health of the game. English soccer will crash and burn if it continues to be this top-heavy.
• Cruz Azul won the inaugural Leagues Cup, defeating Tigres 2-1 in Las Vegas in the culmination of the goofy tournament between four MLS teams and four Liga MX teams. Next year this tournament expands to 16 teams, including the eight best from Mexico plus the eight best from MLS that don’t make the CONCACAF Champions League. Minnesota United is likely to be one of those eight. MLS and Liga MX are always finding ways to play inter-league tournaments, so expect more goofy ones like the League Cup to flourish.
• Italy could sure use a lesson from the National Women’s Soccer League. Following reports of racial abuse from the stands at a Utah Royals game, the league and the team identified the offending fan and banned the person from the stadium for life. Meanwhile, both Cagliari and Verona escaped punishment in Italy after players from opposing teams were racially abused by much larger sections of the crowds there.
La Liga: Real Madrid at Sevilla, 2 p.m. Sunday, beIN. Sevilla is the surprise league leader, under new coach Julen Lopetegui. Real Madrid is unbeaten after four league matches, but just endured a midweek 3-0 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. Lopetegui is a former coach of Real Madrid, having once replaced current coach Zinedine Zidane, who is now back and already under pressure, given Madrid’s spending over the summer.
Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org