Home / Soccer Fans / Don’t Tread on Me, Alan Shearer


 You don’t have to tell the savvy footy fan in the U.S. that our soccer is not the best in the world. Anyone who knows anything about the world of sport outside our borders knows of, or has heard of the passion and skill with which the beautiful game is played in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe.

Most MLS fans are all too aware that there’s a gap in skill level between the MLS and other popular club leagues around the globe.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when Alan Shearer, Newcastle legend and England striker-extraordinaire, was recently quoted as saying, ‘I don’t know if David [Beckham] is regretting going to Los Angeles Galaxy. But he’s better than that standard, without a shadow of a doubt.’ (article)

This is not a novel thing to say, nor is it very insightful. Slamming the standard of play in the MLS seems a bit silly as it overlooks the fact that ever since the fairly recent inception of Major League Soccer, agents, sponsors, and the MLS itself has been working tirelessly to close that skill gap. It also overlooks the good ol’ question, ‘So what?’ What if DB wants to come and play in the MLS because he wants raise the standard of play in a younger league? Does he have to play against the likes of Messi and Henry every week for his efforts to be worthwhile?

I tend to think not.

Of course, I can’t claim to know the motivations of someone like Becks, but now that he’s getting older he may be wanting to move to a less strenuous league or maybe he wants to be closer to his LA-based soccer school for youths. Maybe his wife just wants to live in Hollywood.

So whatever their reasoning, shouldn’t we fans of the game here in the USA be overjoyed when the best of the best want to come and ply their trade in our freshly built soccer-only stadia? Yes, I think we should.

The arrival of Beckham to the LA Galaxy in August will raise the quality of play, increase ticket sales and perhaps most importantly, it will raise the expectation levels of fans here in the States.

Supporters of other clubs will want to see similar quality coming in from overseas to their teams, and front offices will no doubt want to compete with the Galaxy’s burgeoning season ticket sales. High tide lifts all boats, right? That will remain to be seen.

Having said that, I can guess that Alan Shearer’s audience was probably not mainly on this side of the Atlantic, and I can also guess his comments reflect his concern for his beloved England and the amount of playing time Beckham will have in the run-up to the European Championships of ’08 taking place in Austria and Switzerland. The concern is, with the MLS season ending before Euro 2008 begins, Beckham will have gotten heavy-legs and a beer belly.

A severe drop off in fitness is not likely but being somewhat acquainted with the fragile British sport psyche I feel confident that come finals time in Austria/Switzerland there will be copious amounts of over-analysis regarding long flights and odd training schedules, given that England even qualifies.

The reality is, this country has enough raw talent from which to draw quality professional soccer players, but not enough motivation for young players to continue on in the sport. A professional league filled with David Beckhams might help provide that motivation.

All the after-school practices in the world cannot compete with the raw and overwhelming numbers of kids playing soccer in the streets and fields of the world outside the US. So until that day comes when the vast majority of American kids would choose to play soccer over all other sports, I say give me your huddled masses yearning to play free and get stuck in a studs up tackle.

And don’t ridicule stars for wanting to help change things, Mr. Shearer.


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