There is some amazing work being done by folks operating U.S. soccer-related blogs. Over the last few years, I have gone from being disappointed at the lack of decent coverage from reporters in traditional sports media outlets and frustrated by the half-assed efforts of local reporters assigned to cover the sport to blown away by the high level at which many committed soccer enthusiasts operate online, independent journals.
The Shin Guardian's recent interview with the Sounders' David Estrada is a perfect example of this. What TSG has publicized to soccer fans throughout the country is a compelling story of a player in the MLS who you want to root for. This is the type of stuff that gets me to tune into MLS games when they are on ESPN or the Fox Soccer Channel and sparks my wife's interest as well. TSG's piece is what sells the MLS -- and this point is not made to argue that Mr. Estrada's achievements to date would be any less impressive if they were not highlighted in an interview, only that a great story would be known by far too few people.
Similarly, I am awed by the work of Brian Quarstad over at Inside Minnesota Soccer. I don't really care about soccer in Minnesota (hailing from Illinois and Iowa, I am interested in the sport in those two states, but know nothing about them) and yet I make sure to check out Mr. Quarstad's site every day. IMS is essential reading for anyone who follows second division professional soccer in the country, as evidenced by his piece today on the USSF's release of the standards that will be imposed on the league next season. Outside of Mr. Quarstad, I have not run across anyone else who affords D-2 soccer serious treatment sufficient to keep supporters usefully apprised of developments. Indeed, it is the height of absurdity that, as a season ticket holder, I get more information about CP Baltimore from IMS than from any local news source or from supporters of the club.
Unfortunately, any concerns that I have about being left in the dark will likely be rendered moot by the standards Mr. Quarstad posted today from USSF. As noted, I have no useful information about the club, but I would highly doubt that CP Baltimore will be in any position to meet the requirements for a club in D-2 next season. In fact, I would be amazed if the minimum required -- eight teams -- would be able to meet these standards (although clearly the USSF must think that eight teams could meet these prerequisites next season). But I understand why it has to happen; as Mr. Quarstad has repeatedly noted, a 75% fail rate for franchises in the second division is the product of an unsustainable business model that does little to promote the image of soccer as a serious spectator sport in the United States. At this moment in time, getting the second division right -- in the wake of all that has been done to place the MLS on solid ground -- is vitally important to the growth of soccer in country.