Essays from 116th Street

Self-therapy, since 2004...

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Location: New York, New York

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Great Soccer FAQ, Part III

Okay, so I read Part I and Part II, and now I want to watch some soccer games. Where can I catch them?
If you live in the United Kingdom (and I know that a great percentage of my readership does), then I have no clue where to tell you to look. For those of you who live in the land of oil addiction, however, I can tell you exactly where to go. ABC Sports and ESPN share duties broadcasting U.S. National Team and MLS matches, but they don't advertise these games very heavily, so you'll have to check your listings to find out when they will broadcast them. The Disney sports empire will also be broadcasting every game of the 2006 World Cup live. In addition, ESPN2 shows Champions' League games, although they don't advertise this in any way, shape or form, so your best bet is to check out the schedule, figure out which days are match days, and hope that a game will be on either Tuesday or Wednesdays at 2:30 pm. If you have ESPN Deportes (my cable provider doesn't offer it), you can get much more Champions' League, plus some other European action, but expect a lot of re-run matches. Telemundo and Univision show plenty of Mexican league action, as well as some international matches (you can occasionally get really lucky and catch a Brazil match). Telemundo will also carry Spanish-language rights to the World Cup.
Those of you with Gol TV, you're the lucky ones, with access to tons of Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A matches. You're also few and far between, as the channel is not carried by many operators. This, of course, brings me to the king of soccer broadcasting, Fox Soccer Channel. With FSC, you'll get enough English Premier League to make you want to watch Ted Nugent kill things on OLN, not to mention French Ligue 1, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A (well, they show really crappy Serie A games that you'll never want to watch, but they do show them), Copa Libertadores, World Cup qualifying, and, of course, MLS.

With all of these other games available, is MLS even worth watching?
That's a good question. In my opinion, it is. I saw a match on ESPN2 last season between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes that, while perhaps not having the status of a Liverpool-Chelsea trash-talk war, was a fairly exciting game, nonetheless. Furthermore, I'd rather watch a D.C. United vs. New England Revolution clash than the crappy Cagliari vs. Lecce match FSC keeps trying to promote (seemingly) every week.
The talent level of MLS teams has been a debateable topic; D.C. United put up a surpisingly competitive showing against English champions Chelsea in July, but both the L.A. Galaxy, and, especially, a hastily-thrown-together team of MLS "all stars" were put through a clinic against Real Madrid.
The league remains a work-in-progress, and has shown positive signs of growth; on intrigue alone, MLS is worth following (of course, selling to the massive Spanish population of Utah by naming a team "Real Salt Lake" is a little bit silly, but to make an omellette you have to break a few eggs, no?).

So where can I go on the Web to keep up on everything that's going on?
If you're new to the world of soccer, ESPN Soccernet is the best place to look (make sure you select the "UK/Europe" option, when prompted). The site focuses way too much on the English game, but it is very informative, and it also has a pretty comprehensive U.S. Soccer section. Sports Illustrated's soccer section doesn't contain nearly as much information, but it does have a much more global perspective, and the columnists are outstanding. Fox Sports has a pretty basic format, but has a decent amount of info, some great photo galleries and a very good U.S. section, headlined by razor-sharp columnist Jamie Trecker.
These three sites will keep you informed of everything that's going on, but if you want to be truly fanatical about following the game, you'll have to step it up a notch. UEFA.com gives you a window to the European game, but the real benefit of this site is the terrific player profiles, each with a scouting report describing each player's game. You can also watch Champions' League action from the site, but it'll cost you a subscription fee.
If you want a more of a fan's perspective, check out Goal.com. This site has lots of talkback, and has a more informal approach to covering the game. You can find out a lot of info about your favorite team here, but tread lightly, as many rumors are reported as fact here.
After all of this information, you should know more than enough about the game to impress your friends, as well as talk your way into a few free pints the next time you're in the UK. But for those of you who are feeling especially masochistic, check out Bigsoccer.com, a massive online community of serious soccer geeks. Here, you will find fans of anything and everything soccer-related going into in-depth discussions, such as why Lionel Messi should start for Barcelona over Ludovic Giuly, why Winning Eleven is better than FIFA 06 (or vice versa), or whether or not Freddy Adu is really going to make the U.S. World Cup roster.

So that's all I need to know to become a soccer expert?
That's all I'm willing to tell. Oh yeah, word on the street is that Nevada Smith's is the place to go in NYC to watch soccer games, but I've never been, so don't take my word for it...

Oh yeah, I did promise Zidane vs. Ronaldinho, so prepare for your jaw to drop...

3 Comments:

Blogger Sam Snead said...

I do have one question that you didn't address: If I start following soccer will I have a better chance of beating you at FIFA someday?

3:09 PM  
Blogger Z. Jackson said...

Keep your goals in front of you, and you may achieve them... It's not likely, but you may...

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the whole series Z.
Sounds almost like you have been living over here.
Picard

6:54 PM  

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