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.