- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Professional soccer's life-or-death struggle for survival in the U.S. took a couple of jokingly dissimilar turns last week. On the one hand, there was the Chicago Sting, which wrapped up the NASL championship with a 3-2 Soccer Bowl win in Toronto that completed a two-game sweep of the hometown Blizzard. Not only did the Sting's achievement go virtually unnoticed even in Chicago, where the Cubs hogged the headlines, but also, embarrassingly enough, the Sting is now leaving the NASL to play in the Major Indoor Soccer League. That will reduce the reeling NASL, which had 26 teams just four years ago, to only five certain survivors.
On the other hand, there was the U.S. national team, which began what it hopes will be a march to a berth in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City by beating the Netherlands Antilles 4-0 in St. Louis in the final of their two-game series (the first game was a 0-0 tie) to advance to a round-robin tournament with Trinidad/ Tobago and Costa Rica. If the U.S. wins that event and a second regional round robin, it will qualify for the 24-team World Cup field.
In contrast to the languor in the NASL, the mood in St. Louis was upbeat. Buoyed by NBC-TV's same-day taped coverage of the final game (in the U.S., the NASL championship game was shown only on local cable in Chicago) and by the large and enthusiastic crowds that attended Olympic soccer matches in Los Angeles, folks in St. Louis, including a number of present and former NASL officials, were talking about the possibility of starting a new six-, eight- or 10-team North American league that would play real international-style soccer, not a game with Americanized NASL rules.
In other words, professional soccer in the U.S. may have been enjoying the first stirrings of rebirth even as it appeared to be dying.
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OH AND FIVE, BUT OH, MY
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