Sunday, November 27, 2005

Falling off the edge of the Earth

From the President of the Flat Earth Society, the SoccerScribe -
In case you missed it a couple of weeks ago, and most probably did, the Flat-Ball Society grunted again.Along the lines of Jim Rome, Frank Deford and the anonymous sports talk show host in the Nike commercial that opens the spot with: "OK, let's take two minutes to talk about soccer, which is about two seconds more than it deserves" (which by the way the tune that follows has become a bit of a battle hymn), the latest flat-head spokesman has shrieked.Identifying the latest pseudo-intellectual to ascend to the throne of Grand Wizard for Exalted Society of American Sports Bigots would only feed his ego, which is considerable already. His identity is irrelevant, as is what he wrote, which followed along the lines of previous screeds of his numerous predecessors.What is relevant, and what to keep in mind as we continue forward, is just this: be prepared. The stupidity which until now has been fairly scattershot, will become more frequent, more inane and shriller as the flat-ball society members see their domain shrink. Instead of realizing soccer is a sport _ not an alien virus, societal upheaval or cultural threat _ and just learn a little about it, they will withdraw into their sanctuary of ignorance and lob as many spitballs as possible to defend their bigotry.In quick summary, the latest silliness proffered that "soccer" _ and more specifically Major League Soccer _ owed "an apology" to the country for continually promising to be the "next big thing" and never delivering.In other words, the writer was tired of hearing about soccer. It apparently impinges on his ability to watch, read, hear about the more important things in life like the NBA, the NFL, MLB, etc. For as we all know, soccer is crowding those topics off the tube and sports pages.He and his particular screed were irrelevant, because nothing in it was new. I've been hearing and reading the same arguments for 20 years, and yet soccer continues its march north. His ilk have continually retreated in their arguments; he's just the latest who's been told to defend the valley with the rocks and sling.Twenty years ago, at the time the NASL died, my colleagues in sports journalism _ the baseball, football, basketball crowd _ quietly celebrated. They thought they had finally buried soccer. Most didn't overtly fete the death. First, because the MISL was in ascendancy, and secondly, the NASL was dead. They already had killed it. They didn't have to talk about it, which was the objective in the first place.But as soccer has continued to rise, first with the U.S. qualification for the 1990 World Cup, then the 3.5 million who showed up at the 1994 World Cup in the U.S., then the launch of MLS, then the quarterfinal appearance of the U.S. in 2002.the flat-ballers have seen the fringes of their empire encroached upon.As they lose more territory, their attacks have become increasingly braying. More and more, the flat-ballers' latest line of defense is to equate soccer with what they call "niche" sports such as arena football, lacrosse, etc. But when was the last anti-lacrosse or arena ball-bashing column you can recall reading?If soccer was as inconsequential as they claim, why would it warrant such a full-frontal assault?To some degree, stock-car racing used to endure such idiocies, at least in the Northeast. At first, it was a "redneck" sport, then it was a regional sport, now it's the second-most watched sports property on television in the United States.With MLS about to make money for the first time, the situation will worsen for the flat-ballers even more quickly. The MLS Pictures program that aired MLS Cup weekend on Fox Soccer Channel was the first foray by adidas to improve the league's image by taking it into a more general entertainment forum. Adidas has committed $150 million on MLS over 10 years. It now is invested in MLS in a big way.They apparently don't intend to waste that $150 million. They will spend even more on MLS Pictures.The production of MLS Pictures will become more professional, more frequent and more glamorous, appealing to a wider and wider audience _ much like NFL Films has done for pointyball since Ed Sabol started his little outfit by packaging the 1960 NFL Championship game.It will aid soccer as it continues its ascendancy in the American sports landscape, gaining numbers as more and more join the parade.Besides attracting the casual sports fan, I could venture a wild prediction that soccer also will ensnare the flat-ballers too. And no doubt, a few will be caught in the net. But the practical side of me, hewn from 25 years in sports journalism, believes that this is the American sports version of the Ottoman Empire.Fat, lazy and bureaucratic, American sports journalism is pretty decrepit. They are invested in maintaining the status quo. They will use the only weapon they have to protect their investments, and their status. They will throw words, more and more words, and pretty nasty ones, too, believing that the keyboard is mightier than the rolling ball.But just as in rock/paper/scissors, ball crushes keyboard _ usually with a distinctive cracking sound.So just like fatally doomed souls about to get engulfed by the rapidly approaching avalanche, the cries of sports writers and columnists will get louder just before they get squashed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

He drink whiskey, Poncho drink the wine

The original Frisco Kid, the SoccerScribe -
Frisco, Texas (Nov. 13, 2005) _ It started off ugly with three fouls by New England in the first two minutes and degenerated from there.One team came to Frisco, Texas, to play what most of us would call soccer on Sunday, while the other.I'm not sure what they came to do.It was clear that the Steve Nicol-led Revolution didn't think they were going to wow the soccer world with style at MLS Cup _ and they weren't going let LA wow anybody either. In the post-game press conference, Nicol said they tried to be consistent with what gave them success during the regular season.I saw the Revs a couple of times during the regular season. I don't remember it being that bad. Well, now wait a minute. I did see it that bad. I saw it that bad through three playoff games.The Revs played abut 25-30 minutes of decent ball through the playoffs, most of it in the final 20 minutes of the second leg against the MetroStars.I guess I'm ripping on the Revs because I was so disappointed by Sunday's game. Unless you were a Galaxy fan, it was hard to be otherwise. With Taylor Twellman on one side, and Landon Donovan on the other, this could have been a really good game.I shouldn't complain too loudly. I won five bucks off LA (last of the big-time gamblers!)And I really shouldn't be that disappointed. I knew it probably was going to be a one-sided show. I just thought it would be a bit more entertaining than what it was.Sunday morning, sitting with three others on the way to the game, one person in the group asked for predictions. Of the four, I was the only one who said the Galaxy, and I said 3-1. One guy looked at me with a hairy eyeball, put his index finger and thumb together at his lips, inhaled quickly and said: Here, have some of mine!But was I really that off? Donovan wore "a cape" through the playoffs, as Chris Albright said. The Revs were awful, but somehow won. There was always the thought the Revs could explode, but they never did.On Sunday, the Galaxy persevered and the Revs' fuse burned out.The foreshadowing was evident. Besides the three quick fouls, Twellman didn't get a touch of the ball for the first nine minutes, didn't get a shot until the 32nd and New England didn't generate anything remotely dangerous until the 26th minute.Meanwhile, by the time the Revs created their first chance, they already had picked up two yellows.The Galaxy on the other hand seemed to be playing a modified counter-attack strategy: Get it to Landon and let him lead a jailbreak.One wag in the post-game press conference prefaced a question to Nicol by saying the Revs "contained" Landon. If you mean by contained he didn't score or set up a goal, maybe. He still sent in the corner that Pando Ramirez booted in after the best Reis could do was punch it to the top of the area.But he was instrumental in nearly every chance created by the Galaxy, which out shot New England 25-11 and 9-2 in ones that were on goal!He sprung Chris Albright down the right in the 19th minute, a rush in which Albright himself contributed with a nice move that fizzled at the end but made me think at the time he might prove to be the difference considering the way the game was developing.Landon's best moment came right before halftime with his run and left-footed blast that Matt Reis had to stretch to knock away.This isn't all to praise LA. Herculez Gomez was a study in how to put shots over the bar. And LA fell prey to New England's tactics relatively early and unfortunately adopted many of them.Todd Dunivant's foul at midfield on Steve Ralston which earned the LA left back his card in the 33rd was a shrewd professional foul, but probably unnecessary. The hobbled Ralston had been very tentative coming forward, had no help at the start of the play and likely would have had to pull the ball back.But after that, the street fight was on. Fifty-one fouls (LA 27, NE 24) and a record 10 yellows (miraculously no reds).Clint Dempsey said the early fouls were a "message" that slowed the game. I'm no cryptologist but the only thing I could decipher was that New England felt LA had more skilled players, they we're going to whack 'em to intimidate LA, and the Galaxy retaliated by whacking back to say we can hit harder.Nicol's first substitution also left me flummoxed. Both Ralston and Shalrie Joseph came in with knocks. Ralston was tentative, and Joseph already was grabbing his hamstring and calves by the time Nicol decided to make a switch in the 64th.The thinking, Nicol said, was that after the regular battle plan that worked during the season didn't produce any results through 60 minutes, a change was in order. So he pulled Pat Noonan, which _ granted _ didn't have a shot and I'm not sure if he even had a touch, for Jose Cancela.The Revs aren't producing, so you pull a forward?! Nicol said he didn't want to give up anything defensively (like dousing the flames right before they hit the gasoline is an effective strategy), so the odd man out was Noonan. With Daniel Hernandez and Joseph, do you really need TWO defensive midfielders? Joseph got in a few headers and broke up a few things, but the man appeared to be hurting.It says something about your team when one can make an argument that you're right back, Jay Heaps, is arguably your most effective offensive threat!The better team won and I guess that's some consolation. Steve Sampson, who was blamed for the 1998 World Cup debacle _ most of it rightly so, now has a title and a reason to say he was unjustly blamed for France.There were some interesting things that came out of Frisco this weekend. It just could have been so much more.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Reporting from the Pine Trees

SoccerScribe is on the sport, down in Frisco training hard for the MLS Media game. But if there is news to be had, this has got to be it. MLS, ladies and gentlemen, may turn a profit.

Missing amid all the reports that likely will come out of Frisco and MLS Cup this week is probably the biggest story of all _ MLS is about to turn a profit.Buried in last week's reports about the 2010 and 2014 World Cup television rights deals for the United States was that the packages included handshake agreements between Univision and ABC/ESPN/MOUSE with MLS about the league's next television contracts.At first glance that may not raise an eyebrow.
But MLS grand poobah Don Garber also was quoted, indirectly, as saying the league is expecting rights fees for those contracts.Univision and ABC want programming to keep their showcase events: World Cup, Women's World Cup, etc., in the public's field of vision.And apparently they are will to spend a little coin to get the best advertisement for an American audience that they can, MLS.How much coin is a guess, but if MLS gets a mere $5 million per year from both Univision and Disney, profitability is essentially achieved. Considering MLS has never received rights fees in 10 years, some may wonder which planet I'm from.But it could be more than $5 mil each.Ten million dollars a year is a pittance compared to the nearly half of a billion ($425 million exactly) Univision and Disney just committed to FIFA.To realize what makes these numbers significant, consider two years ago when Kevin Payne, then under the AEG umbrella, acknowledged that each MLS team had to kick in between $2.4 million-$2.5 million to the league as part of the "cash calls" to cover the league's expenses.
That meant MLS HQ ran through all the money it generated at the league level and needed more from the "investor-operators" to run league operations. Multiply it by 10 teams, and the number comes to $24 million to $25 million _ MLS' yearly loss for 2003.Payne's disclosure came in a report about the Galaxy becoming the first MLS team to report a profit, albeit a relatively modest sum of about $250,000.If you assume Garber has held the line on spending, and losses have not increased dramatically, the annual loss has remained at about $25 million.Now take the $10 million from Univision/ABC and add it to the $15 million annually from Adidas (recall that $150 million, 10-year deal signed earlier this year) and you get $25 million _ break even.MLS started the reserve league with some of the Adidas money, so the numbers don't exactly match. But $5 million from each Univision and ABC was a number I devised to make the math easy.If it's $10 million per year from both ABC and Univision, we're up to $35 million from the TV networks and Adidas, and that surely will cover the previous annual loss totals. And that doesn't take into account the one-time expansion fees (which Garber said would be "slightly more" than the $10 million Chivas and RSL paid) from Toronto and/or any other city MLS decides to admit to its fraternity.
The league could redistribute the excess to the clubs, or more likely, use it to acquire higher profile players, better promotions, etc.Either way, profit is assured. LA's $250,000 profit becomes a $3 million profit. Columbus, who Lamar Hunt said would be profitable without the cash calls, automatically becomes profitable.Chicago, which Peter Wilt said before he was ousted would become profitable with its new building in Bridgeview (including the cash calls), now is guaranteed an additional $2.5 million in profit to whatever they were projecting next year with the opening of their home.
Dallas likewise. Colorado in 2007. Whispers have been around since 1996 that the New England Revolution have been near profitable or break-even every year since the beginning due to fact that the Krafts own their own building and don't gouge the Revs. They now are guaranteed a profit.Sore spots remain: including the sorest spot of all _ the MetroStars, who I have heard lose $6 million-$7 million a year. Not having to pay $2.5 million to the league will get you down the road, but that light at the end of the tunnel is still just a dot. But they say they have a stadium on the way for 2007 (hack, cough, gag _ sorry, but the body has a difficult time swallowing things like that!) D.C.'s stadium plans are still not definitive. The situations with San Jose and KC are another matter. Chivas, and its virtual monopoly on revenue from advertisers from companies trying to reach Spanish-speaking Hispanics, has unique circumstances.But we "soccer smugnuts" _ as Frank Deford once called us _ have another reason to be smug and twist it into the ear of the Deford-like U.S. sports swammiyobs.
They told us "no one" would go to the 1994 World Cup, and then said it was "just a bunch of foreigners" that comprised the record attendance of 3.5 million. They said MLS wouldn't last a season. We're finishing 10.They said soccer would never make a profit. The '94 World Cup, the 1999 and 2003 Women's World Cup all made money and now, MLS is about to as well.University of Oregon sports marketing professor Paul Swangard said two years ago when asked to comment on the Galaxy development that when MLS reached profitability that it would be an evergreen.
Take a walk outside MLS fans, smell the pine.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Pornographic Amount of Money

Finding inspiration from the adult movie industry, here is the SoccerScribe -
If, as Sepp Blatter claims, Chelsea and other major European clubs are pouring "pornographic amounts of money" into the game, does that mean the FIFA president is getting the equivalent of a soccer lap dance?Blatter seems to be particularly bothered by Roman Abramovic spending the $500 million or more to acquire players for Chelsea, and the yearly shore leaves by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, et al, to buy talent for the new campaigns.The argument goes, and it's not without merit, that a handful of teams end up with all the best players, that they monopolize all the sponsorship money and titles, leaving the majority of clubs in each league to compete in a de facto second-level competition.It follows that this becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Additionally, these massive clubs have to find new streams of revenue to feed their ever-increasing budgets and thus end up making exhausting pre-season or post-season exhibition tours.The argument made by Blatter _ and others _ is hard to dispute. There is little to defend. One can claim things like free market principles, but it's like trying to portray George Steinbrenner as a paragon of virtue.The Abramovics or Chelseas of the world do little for the welfare of soccer. They may win titles and delight their fans _ gaining praise and glory along the way, but they also very likely stifle interest of many others who will lose interest knowing the outcome has been predetermined.Yet, despite the worthiness of the argument, its righteousness is nearly _ if not entirely _ lost due to the messenger.Of all the people to make the argument of restraint, Blatter is probably the worst choice.Literally, books have been written (Badfellas, Great Balls of Fire to name two) detailing the accusations of corruption and excess by Blatter and his predecessor Joao Havelange _ paid for with the dollar bills stuffed into their metaphorical G-strings.FIFA generated about $2 billion in revenue from the 2002 World Cup. It will make about $1.2 billion just for the television rights to the 2006 World Cup. For 2010, they've already sold the European television rights alone for about $1.2 billion. That doesn't count sponsorship or TV rights from the other five continents.The world body began the Financial Assistance Programme in 1996 that redistributed some of that cash by sending $250,000 a year to each national federation and $2.5 million to each confederation.That's $60 million every four years to the confederations, and about $800 million to the federations. That still leaves over $1.1 billion. Subsequently, the GOAL Programme has been instituted to help the "poorer" federations, and FIFA never misses an opportunity to publicize the field it builds in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.The more cynical among us view both programs as little more than bribery, paying off the voting members of FIFA's Congress with cash to keep Blatter and his ilk comfortably in Zurich.Using FIFA's billions to travel the world first-class, stay in five-star accommodations, shake the hands of heads of state and receive plaudits at state dinners and the United Nations for doing little more than.spending millions to travel the world first-class, stay in five-star accommodations, shake the hands of heads of state and receive plaudits at state dinners and the United Nations hardly seems a qualification to criticize others for immoderation.Additionally, allegations of making the Abramovics to be unworthy interlopers because of a perceived lack of history of appreciation for the game probably are best left to someone who didn't start out as an ice hockey PR guy.If Blatter and FIFA are serious about making a significant argument, surely they can find a more convincing advocate.Michel Platini has credibility, and doesn't come with the moving van of baggage that Blatter does. He's just one of several former players that come to mind, but he's already in Blatter's camp and seems the most likely.Regardless, the argument needs a new face. Otherwise, this is like a prostitute complaining that the strip club is ruining the neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

World Cup TV Rights

So, don't be surprised if on Wednesday FIFA announces who it is awarding television rights in the US to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. And don't knickers all in a bunch if SUM doesn't get them.
The spoils will go to either ABC/ESPN, Fox and NBC/Telemundo. MLS already has relations with ABC/ESPN and Fox, and NBC has been making overtures. Apparently, all three have discussed packaging the World Cup with MLS games for cross-promotions which could earn its first rights fees.
Look for Garber to to be quoted as saying he expects the next TV deal to garner rights fee's in the USA Today on Wednesday.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wilbon, Kornheiser and the SoccerScribe

It's a bird, it's a plane! It's SoccerScribe. If it weren't for him, we would all be slaves to the Legion of Doom.
The boys over at MLS HQ were smiling the other night. I was a bit more somber (exasperated, actually, but that doesn't start with an "s".)
MLS folk were happy because Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon had discussed Freddy Adu on Wednesday on their ESPN talk show, Pardon the Interruption, also known as PTI.
I was less enthused because Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon had discussed Freddy Adu on Wednesday on their ESPN talk show, Pardon the Interruption, also known as PTI. MLS liked having Freddy as a topic of discussion on PTI. It's a symbol to them that MLS is becoming a little more mainstream. Maybe.
If nonsensical discussion counts for mainstream, then I guess MLS has arrived. I don't watch PTI, or haven't watched for a long time, because I came to the conclusion that listening/watching Kornheiser and Wilbon is about as useful as going to my local pub for a discussion on nuclear fusion.They're not complete idiots, but they're near complete.
I only paid attention Wednesday because a colleague was watching as I walked out of work, and I caught a glimpse of "Adu" in their "rundown."Freddy, all 16 years of him, wants to play more. Show me a non-regular that doesn't. He said so publicly on Tuesday of last week, and added that he might look for another team once the off-season hits. Personally, I think Freddy is becoming a brat. But teenagers are like that. I've seen worse brats, and much older than Freddy. Maybe Rich Motzkin should catch a red-eye from Los Angeles and have a chat with his young padawan. I've watched Freddy, in person and on TV, and yeah, there are times when you nod your head. There are also times when you wonder where he's disappeared to. I haven't heard one knowledgeable soccer person/fan in the past two years say: "Ya know, Nowak's an idiot for not playing Freddy more."Maybe that's because Nowak has taken a team that missed the playoffs three times in the four years before his arrival and took it to the title in his first season, and has the third-best record in the league this season.
But predictably, Kornheiser and Wilbon sided with Adu. They expressed essentially the same point last year when Adu didn't start D.C. United's home opener, nor a lot of other early games.Their point then, and now, was not that Adu was a better player than others starting in front of him, but that "the fans", "the people" wanted to see Adu, and that MLS is so hard up for spectators, they should play him. D.C. United management, or MLS itself, should order Peter Nowak to play Adu.
This from one guy (Kornheiser) who, my D.C. sources tell me, has NEVER shown up at a game (at least in the press box), and another (Wilbon) who hasn't been to a game in "at least 3-4 years." I guess they TiVo the games on their Direct Kick package! Wilbon tried to make an argument that came down to: Adu isn't that bad. Gee, that's inspiring.Nobody said he was bad, but as Nick Rimando pointed out in at least one account that I read - and I mentioned above - he's inconsistent.Wilbon compounded his idiocy by ranting in a subsequent Washington Post column that MLS "played" Adu and that the league committed fraud by touting Freddy as some great savior and then not showcasing him as such. This must be the same kind of fraud that the Washington Post perpetrates by saying it will publish informed opinion and reasoned commentary and then publishes Wilbon's rubbish.
Kornheiser prattled on saying something to the effect that "this was about marketing," and "MLS is never going to expand beyond its core fans" unless it did something like play Adu. I remember those kind of arguments in 1996, which led to the oh-so-popular countdown clock and who could ever forget, shootouts! Thankfully, one of the first acts of Don Garber after he took over in 1999 was to ban both, realizing that the shootout and countdown clock weren't attracting all that many new fans and were in fact alienating the old ones _ a lot of them. Now, we (Nowak, D.C. United, MLS, soccer fans) are supposed to take advice from these two, one guy who hasn't shown up to watch Freddy - who's played in 55 of 62 games over the past two years including 30 starts - since he showed up, and the other who has NEVER covered a game!!!!If they wanted to make an argument that Freddy is better than Moreno or Gomez or even Quaranta or Walker, maybe I would be less critical. I wouldn't agree with them, but I'd hear them out.
Their argument really is that MLS, i.e. soccer, must be a circus side show, the bearded lady, the dog-faced boy, the two-headed man, to gain attention. It's not an under-the-big-tent act, like the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. and never will be.This is the thought process that pervades the over-45 set. As Agent J said: "Hey! Old guys."Wake up. Besides being old, you're not very bright. Do you mind getting out of the way? Down in front.It's not a side show to us: the 15,000 or so who show up at every game every week. And we're not going to become one just to satisfy your infantile attention span.
The boys over at MLS were happy because of the attention. I can understand that, because the younger set also watches PTI (proving the adage of youth being wasted on the young!) But while it may increase exposure, I'm dubious as to how many seeds are falling on fertile ground. MLS is happy with their name in the discussion. I guess I'm looking for an educated discussion, and I should know better than to look for it from guys like Kornheiser and Wilbon, or in places like ESPN.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Of Blind Squirells and Acorns

With the explosive power of an A1 Abrams Tank, and the acerbic prose of Maureen Dowd, we have the SoccerScribe -
Maybe for all the wrong reasons, FIFA actually has done something right. Come December, the second Club World Championship FINALLY will be staged. Despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth by Euro snobs, the imperfect tournament will determine on the field, not in polls, or boardrooms _ or pubs, which is the best club in the world.
Unlike the Intercontinental-later-named Toyota Cup, which limited participants to Europe and South America, the Club World Championship will give each continent a shot. For those that consider the notion silly, because we all "know" the best club football is played in Europe, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association would love to have you speak on their behalf to defend the notion that their league champion is the "world champion."
Back in 1960, when leagues in Asia, Africa and CONCACAF were limited, the idea of restricting the Intercontinental Cup to Europe and South America probably made sense. But like everything else in life, nothing remains the same.
Europe may still pay the most, and therefore draw most of the best talent; and South America (i.e. Brazil and Argentina) may still produce a large portion of that talent for European clubs; and Asia, Africa and CONCACAF league may still have a long way to go to match the variety and depth of talent as Europe and South America; but then let this all be proven on the field.
The resistance from the European clubs has numerous origins, not the least of which is obviously money. Tradition, arrogance, inconvenience, self-righteousness and ignorance also factor into their opposition, which probably accounts for all the hostility from the street level.
There seems little glory for Liverpool fans to boast they beat Saprissa, a club probably which the overwhelming major of Liverpudlians, Brits or Europeans don't know where is located.
But in 1960, how many Real Madrid fans had really had heard of Penarol? How many today can identify its country of origin? (By the way, it's Uruguay.) The first Club Worlds in 2000 was won by Corinthians (Brazil for those of you wondering). It wasn't overwhelmingly received (probably because new things usually are met with skepticism and disdain in traditional institutions _ like soccer).
The second fell apart due to a lack of sponsorship money and not so subtle antagonism from UEFA. The Europeans insist that the outcome of the first two events demonstrate that there is "NO" interest or desire for the tournament and that it only adds to an already crowded calendar.
That is the opinion of many _ especially in Europe. And while it does add to the calendar, a one whole team is required for all of a week. Absolutely burdensome!Of course the three-week jaunts by Milan, Manchester United, Real, Barcelona, and the rest of the G14+4gang, to the United States and Asia don't have any negative impact on their players!
This schoolyard argument really comes down to who is in control. The major European clubs (read the G14+4) want to be the biggest bullies on the block. They don't run the tournament; they don't control its revenue, timing or structure. FIFA still thinks it is. They also could lose more than a little prestige by getting beaten by some club from nowhere _ which means anywhere outside Europe.
And while there are still elements of the tournament that probably could be improved, the idea of determining a true club world champion seems like a natural. What seems unnatural is that the most played, watched and global of sports does not have a true champion.And if your argument is that the Club World Championship will not really crown the best on the planet, then ask yourself, is a team that finished fifth in England last season really the best in all of Europe?