Superliga, Bad Sex, and the Wisdom of Midseason Breaks

As with sex, soccer tournaments rely on a kind of momentum, a slow, steady build to the climax of the final…or, in the case of sex…you know…the messy bit at the end. Somewhere in the two weeks that elapsed between the final games in the group stage and tonight’s semifinal between the Houston Dynamo and CF Pachuca, I started thinking about, I don’t know, baseball or golf or something. Whatever I’m thinking about, it ain’t Superliga.

This is all to say rhythm is a good thing. League play has the week-in, week-out that keeps things humming along. On a more relevant note, the best tournaments – think World Cup, or even the Gold Cup – plunge ahead at a dizzying, almost reckless pace, which rather pleasantly recalls the giddy frenzy of a really fantastic fling, or a relationship a-birthing; either way, the experience leaves you breathless – and that’s a good thing. The thing is, the pace doesn’t matter so long as the build-up follows certain physical rules. The Superliga, on the other hand, effectively rolled over after August 1st to watch something on TV…Major League Soccer’s (MLS) regular season perhaps?

At this point, I’m really wanting for the whole thing to end so we can get back to focusing on the league. In my experience, few phrases are less titillating than “Are you done yet?” (Said the right way, this can be positively, and literally, deflating.)

And so, once again, these factors suggest the wisdom of having a mid-summer break. And, as I see it, this is needed to give due prominence to a tournament of this kind, one that should catch Mexican fans just as they’re getting giddy about their league’s kick-off (even if that kick-off probably means they’ll subsequently ignore MLS). That same break leaves open dates for the nine – or, early as 2009, ten – teams who don’t qualify for Superliga to schedule money-spinning friendlies with European clubs looking for preseason warm-ups of their own. It doesn’t have to be much time – two weeks would suffice, while three would be ideal – but a break of some sort just makes sense.

How this will play out during World Cup, or even Gold Cup, years is something else again. The league certainly couldn’t stop for two months with regular season observers suffering from a similar kind of blue-balls experience. Maybe the league just needs to suck it up on World Cup years and make Superliga run concurrently with MLS’s regular season; maybe that’s a bad idea as well. At the same time, three good years plus one bad one beats the current format where Superliga exists as just another after-thought on the domestic calendar. I, for one, count the tournament as too good a concept to abandon.

OK, all for now. That’s not to say good stuff isn’t being written about the tournament we have: for instance, Steve Davis turned in a bang-up review for both semifinals, while J Hutcherson (standing in for a vacationing Ian Plenderleith) picks Pachuca to go through (traitor!). And I’m planning on watching the semifinal pitting DC United against the Los Angeles Galaxy…in spite of the fact I don’t think it’ll be nearly as good. Still, the whole thing would have been more “sassifying” a week ago…(clearly, I’m grumpy; just give me that pint of ice cream and leave me alone).

Tomorrow, I’ll solve the issues with the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup…or have I done that already?

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