Monday, February 06, 2006

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Yesterday's New York Times had a special additional magazine section called Play, a take on the sports world from the NYT Magazine perspective. Nicely done, it contains not one but two soccer articles. One, "When the Grass Was Greener," discusses a new documentary about the defunct New York Cosmos called Once In a Lifetime. The Cosmos, for those of you too young to remember, was the shining franchise of the North American Soccer League and home to, at one time, such big soccer names as Pele and Beckenbauer. The team was a pop culture sensation but is now seen as an example of what went wrong with the NASL - too much growth too soon, leading to eventual collapse. What's nice about the Play piece is that admits that the NASL period was not the golden era of American soccer. Rather, we live in it today:

While the Cosmos make for an irresistible narrative, they don't deserve to embody the game's glory days — which would be now.

The M.S.L. has survived for a decade, adhered to a prudent business plan and built a competitive league. The United States team reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup and now ranks eighth in the international federation standings, ahead of England and Italy. In June, it will field perhaps its best World Cup team yet.

Of course, there is no "M.S.L." It's particularly aggravating that they got the acronym wrong after correctly identifying Major League Soccer earlier in the piece. But, that seems symptomatic of the game in this country: one step forward and one step back, all at the same time.

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