Simon Evans, is an English comedian, born in Luton and now living in Hove.
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Thanks for all your questions and comments! Let's do this again sometime. Cheers!
Has Frank Lampard damaged his reputation with NYCFC? How do you think supporters will respond when (and if) he finally shows up?
If you would have asked me at the start of January I would have said that his reputation was damaged severely. People felt misled and Lampard wasn't talking about NYCFC or MLS at all. But time heals....now the team is up and running and Lampard has stated he is looking forward to joining the team (he will be at Yankee Stadium this weekend) I think the fans will welcome him.
Do you think all the upcoming expansion teams are truly good for the MLS or is it an oversaturation?
I don't think it is too much yet. The only concern is whether there is enough talent to keep the standard improving and the fact that MLS teams have gone out and recruited from Central and South America and to a lesser extent from Europe, shows the way forward. There isn't enough American domestic talent yet to support this expansion wave or the next. So it is about bringing in good imports.
Who is the US's best prospect that is under the radar?
I am not sure if he counts as under the radar but Christian Pulisic is a very exciting talent. If he can continue to progress and break through at Dortmund in a few years, he could be someone very exciting to watch for American fans.
As a person in media how does it make you feel about the treatment Bale is getting in Spain by the Marca & other papers there?
I think it is ridiculous. I don't watch enough of Real to give a real evaluation of Bale's performances but there is no doubt that he is a quality player and I don't buy the suggestions that he isn't giving his all. Of course the insane transfer fee probably over-raised expectations and the media is playing to the gallery with the fans on that issue. I hope he can come through it and prove people wrong. If not, you have to think a move back to the Premier League will be on the cards.
Do you believe soccer will eventually have as many fans as in football or basketball in the US?
I am very bullish about the future of soccer in the US but I think football is untouchable. I can't see soccer catching the NFL or college football in my lifetime. Basketball? Well leaving aside March madness, yes I can see a situation where MLS is as big as the NBA in a couple of decades. Certainly can see the league catching the NHL and MLB and ending the debate about whether soccer is a 'major' sport in the US.
Did Lord Bendter expose how weak the U.S.'s defense is yesterday?
Short answer - yes. I'm not convinced by either Brooks or Orozco yet. I think that Klinsmann, when he picks his full strength team, will turn back to Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron and perhaps Jermaine Jones.
Agreed. Very glad to see more and more of these behind the scenes/what do people really think stories pop up.
>"And then about how he finds the quality of play in MLS so low that he is unable to watch its games on television. (“I just, I can’t. You know?”)"
Pretty candid. Heh.
I think MLS is in a very interesting position right now. They want to be viewed as a true and inevitable success...while perhaps being super sensitive to actual criticism.
How do you see this evolving over time? Just part of the maturation of the org? How does MLS compare to other leagues you've followed in this regard?
I have to say that no league has ever been more helpful to me as a reporter than MLS. They provide access to players, coaches and executives in a way that other league's just don't. I have no complaint at all in that respect. I think the claim that MLS or its clubs are over-sensitive to criticism had some merit but I think that has become less of an issue in the last few years. Certainly I have had no issues and I have been very critical of the league - and its business structure - at times.
Where do you rank the USMNT? Are we a top 30 team in the world? Seems like we've been pretty static around that place for the last three cycles. Sometimes we can advance with a good group, situation --- but most of the time we are what we are expected to be. Tough, hard working, and moderately lucky in big tourneys.
Which do you see happening first? What year would you guess that it happens? :)
I don't see the current crop being good enough to make it to the last four in 2018 unless some quality emerges that we haven't seen yet. But I like what I see from the Under-17 and some of the Under-20's. If the development system delivers then the US could have a very good team in 2022. MLS will be a top league by 2026 I think. Top Five in terms of quality I am not sure. But in terms of the league's profile and global presence I think the money they will get in the next tv deal - in 2022 will set things up nicely for the push to the next level.
So what does Beckerman's hair smell like. Also is Dempsey as thug life as I would imagine?
Let's start with the heavy stuff eh? Dempsey can certainly give you a stare when you ask a question but he has never been anything but polite with me. I'm afraid I haven't sniffed Kyle's locks but I did once ask him if he was into the rasta religion. He isn't - but he is a big Bob Marley fan - as you would probably expect.
Hey simon, greetings from Doop country here in Philly. With world football being at an unbelievable level, do you think the best player to ever play the game is currently playing? Also, how far off is the "next one"?
Good question. I've never seen a player who can show such wonderful technique while playing at such a ridiculous speed as Cristiano Ronaldo. I saw him very close-up at Euro 2012 and it was remarkable to see him dribbling while sprinting full-out. Then Messi of course has an incredible touch and ability with the ball in closed spaces. Considering the close marking they both get it really is hard not to consider them among the two greatest. But the GOAT? Its impossible to compare with other eras. Cruyff seemed like an ET in his era. Puskas the same back in the 50's. Pele of course and Maradona did things people had never seen before. Each era produces its contenders. The next one? Hmmm, is there a next one identified already? I'm not sure Neymar is going to be in that category, are you?
Appreciate the reply, and agree with you pretty much across the board, except maybe for Neymar. I just don't think he's done enough or has shown enough to be that special great great player, however he is only 23 and a lot of time left .. That being said, I am a Barca guy, so I do give Messi the edge, but acknowledge how good cr7 is. As far as GOAT, I don't think he's there just yet but I think in about 4-5 years this won't even be a question, so I guess my answer is Yes, I think we are watching the greatest footballer of all time to ever play the game, the magisterial messi.
I think we agree about Neymar. I am saying I don't think he is in that conversation about 'true greats' yet.
Hi Simon. As a European who thinks the more widely spread football is, the better it will be for the global standard of competition and the quality of the domestic leagues over here, how long do you think it'll be before America's a legitimate football force in its own right? They put in a very good showing at the World Cup, although they seemed to get by mostly on passion and stamina. What do you think of the standard of the youth setup in America, and how long do you think it'll be until aspiring young American footballers can stay at home rather than go overseas to develop? Also, lots of nations have had problems with an influx of foreigners damaging their national team- do you think that'll ever be a problem for the USMNT, or will football take off enough to avoid this? Thanks- sorry for so many questions!
A lot to answer there! But thanks for the question. I think players already have the option to stay at home now and develop in MLS and I think a lot of young players think very hard about how to handle that choice. There are a lot of new changes going on in youth development and it is going to take time for the results to come through. For me the key thing, as you hint at, is can the US start to develop more technical, skillful players, and not just the strong athletic 'hard workers'. The current Under-17 team is very promising and there are good players at U-20 level. The challenge is to get those kids to continue into being effective internationals when they are 23. That hasn't been happening enough.
It's a little early as we aren't even a month into the MLS season yet, but do you have a favourite team to win the cup this year?
I really like what Gregg Berhalter has done at Columbus and I enjoy watching Dallas. Either of those two could cause a surprise but clearly Seattle and LA are the favourites.
Hi Simon. As someone who is hoping that the Miami MLS team comes to fruition, I really enjoyed your article today that helped to explain the local perspective on this whole thing. That said, I don't think negative stereotypes about the Miami market will be quick to change. What do you think are some positive ways to go about demonstrating that this city is actually worth investing in?
Thanks for the kind words. I think the only way outside perceptions change is by Beckham and the future team doing things right and by the community responding. I doubt the naysayers will be convinced until the end of Miami's first season when they look at the average attendance.
If Juergen was to get fired now, who are some realistic replacements for him?
I don't see Jurgen being fired now or any time soon. But if you are interested in who the next coach might be after Klinsmann, some time in the future? I would guess it will be an American Jason Kreis or Peter Vermes would be two strong contenders.
What's the worst place you've ever been sent to to cover an event? Maybe your favorite city to visit as well if you want to get all positive on us.
The worst place? Hmm, let's say the worst stadium facilities shall we? It was tough to report from the stadium in Tehran when I was in Iran in the 1990's - no phone line, no fax. I had to hand-write my report, take a taxi to a hotel and persuade them to let me fax my scribbled report to London.....Favourite place? Istanbul is an amazing city and if you ever get a chance to go to a Fenerbahce-Galatasaray derby - don't miss it!
Since you're based in Miami...
What are the odds team 24 will be Miami? Or what's the top two or three candidates in your mind?
I think there is clearly a chance that MLS runs out of patience with Miami's relatively slow progress and decides to give Sacramento the go-ahead for the 24th slot. The thing is that with Garber suggesting the league may expand beyond 24, the issue is no longer than pressing.
Are MLS teams not scouting in Africa as much?
I think we are starting to see some African players coming through. Portland's Nigerian forward Adi looks a handful.
What number of teams should MLS expand too? Would 28 teams be too many? How likely in your opinion is it that MLS can be a top 5 would league in 10 years?
I don't think 28 is too many in a country this big - plus Canada. The other big leagues in North America like the NFL and NBA cope well with even more. I think the next tv deal for MLS in eight years will determine how quickly the league gets close to the true elite. If there is genuinely big money involved and it can be invested to bring in EPL/Liga level players then yes. But it might need a bit longer for that to happen.
what other beats/cultures do you cover in the Miami area that are of interest overseas?
I'm covering the Miami Open tennis this week and next - its a very successful event that really gets good crowds. I also cover the Florida swing on the PGA Tour. There is international interest in the NFL and NBA both of which I write about for Reuters mainly. I love to pop over to the Caribbean to cover some cricket.
Very cool, thanks. To football manager I go!
He's only 16 so I am not sure if he is on there yet!
Do you have any advice on finding jobs in journalism/blogging?
My advice would be - write. Just do it. Start blogging. Create your own space and then make the most of it. Use social media to promote it. If you are good - people will respond.
and good luck!
Hi Simon, what did you think of the Howler piece on Miami and Marcelo Claure?
I thought it was very interesting and provided some insight into the weaknesses of the Miami MLS bid process at the moment. Robert is a very good writer and clearly devoted a lot of time to that article. It was strange that Claure suddenly cut off access.
Which parts of Miami culture surprises your overseas readers the most?
In general I don't think people realise just how diverse Miami is. Most people know about the Cuban-American community but the changes over the past 10-15 years aren't always understood. The building I live in is full of people from West and East Europe, from Russia, from the Middle East and of course from South America. You can't just talk about a 'Latin community' its way more diverse and complex than that.
Did Beckham weigh in at all during the CBA negotiations? I remember reading a while back that he originally thought there shouldn't be any salary cap in MLS. Think he still thinks that?
He did make some comments about the salary cap a while back yes. I would imagine that a Beckham Miami club would be one of those who would look to invest in top players - but he knows more than anyone that there is the DP rule for that. I am sure he will look to bring in some really big names. As for the CBA - Beckham won't have had any input. Its league office, club owners, players and their union and apart from mediators no-one else. CBA's are a very formal process and formally Beckham isn't part of MLS at the moment.
The USMNT seems to have a bipolar approach tactically since the World Cup. I get a lot of it is trying new things out with new players, but the Gold Cup comes in a few months and the results recently haven't been pretty. What stylistic approach do you think Jurgen needs to settle with? A return to the 4-2-3-1 that worked so well in qualifying? Defending en masse to help a shaky defense? And what should the panic level be for US fans heading into the Gold Cup with a full of jolt Mexico looming?
Lastly, thoughts on the CBA? Who did you think came out on top as a result? Share my belief that both sides won and lost (with the salary cap increase as an owner win and any sort of free agency a player win)? Maybe the fans lost most of all with the smaller than hoped cap imcrease?
I agree totally with your view on the CBA. I would have liked to have seen a bigger increase in the salary cap - because that will allow for the import of better players which the league needs (beyond the DPs). As for the USMNT - I think Jurgen will settle on a squad for the Gold Cup and it is in the build up to tournaments when the real work is done. There isn't a lot can be achieved when you have the players for a few days. I don't think the tactical system/formation is that important really. Jurgen has to find the most effective eleven and make a system that works for them. I think he is trying to find out what talent he has that is good enough for this level and so he continues to experiment. The problem is - he wants a big leap in quality but the playing talent just isn't there in this generation. He can still find a team good enough to win the Gold Cup though....
Do you agree with many of the "conspiracy therorists" who feel the league caters to specific teams to advance some agenda?
No. But I don't like the way that the league supports certain big moves by clubs such as with the Dempsey move to Seattle. If clubs want to invest in big-money DPs - thats great and good for the league as a whole but I don't think MLS should be helping to pay for transfer fees etc. That impacts on the competitive balance and isn't the job of a league.
With Eddie Johnson's career up in the air with a heart condition. Could we see DC United signing a new DP soon?
I honestly don't have any info on that. But DC do need to add some quality to their roster clearly.
Is Julian Green the new Freddy Adu?
Its a little early to say that......but I think he was over-hyped.
Any plans for a new book in the not too distant future?
I am working on a book idea yes. But nothing I can discuss just yet. Hopefully it will be something that American soccer fans enjoy.
Will there ever be pro/rel in US soccer? And if so, will it ever be at the behest of MLS or will it have to be forced upon them?
Ah the pro/rel question! Well, I don't think MLS is likely to choose to go down that route. "Turkeys' don't vote for Christmas" as we say in England. Which owner is going to choose a change that could see his $100 million franchise become a second tier club? So if there is going to be change it would have to come externally. But FIFA allows an exception to its normal rules about the size of leagues etc for the US. The only way I could see a change was if FIFA was to force it - and that doesn't seem likely any time soon.
Where do you see MLS as a league after the next CBA, both from a labor standpoint in terms of player salaries and minimum compensation as well as the prominence of the league itself as both a destination of choice for players internationally and interest from fans domestically and abroad?
Edit: and is television a major barrier to that success, especially domestically? It's weird to me to have almost NBA attendance and dismal TV revenue. I don't understand the disconnect between TV and game attendance I guess?
I think the problem with TV is that the quality is not there yet. MLS doesn't stand up well to competition with the EPL and Champions League on screens. But expansion might help - generating more interest in the league on a nationwide level and the standard is getting better. So is the standard of tv production of MLS games - which wasn't always top notch in the past. I think the next CBA will be a key one - are the owners ready to up their spending on salaries and start to truly compete with European and South American clubs in the global market? I think they have to but owners don't like spending money.
Beckham's group has previously turned down the Marlins park stadium site but now have had a change of heart and it appears to be at the top of their list. Why do you think they had a change of heart regarding this location?
To be clear its not the Marlins Park baseball park but land nearby to it that is being discussed. I am not sure it is top of their list but the indications are that they are considering it as an option. It wouldn't be a bad one. The politicians like it and that may explain any change of heart. Beckham needs the politicians on board.
As a follow-up, how do you feel about that in situations when a player only wants to play for one or two teams. Do you feel that the league should step in and incentivize them to go elsewhere? This is potentially what they did with Dempsey.
I personally would like to see the league keep out of those kind of decisions. They obviously don't want their clubs competing with each other and they have their regulations and procedures in place to stop that happening as much as possible.
Hi Simon. As somebody new to the MLS, who are the emerging young players to look out far? Are any potentially ready to make an impact at an elite level in Europe?
To name one - I really like Wil Trapp at Columbus Crew. Very intelligent player and has a great future ahead of him. Ethan Finley, another Crew player, has also impressed recently. Keep an eye on Bryan Rochez, the Honduran at Orlando. He is being eased into things by Adrian Heath but he has real talent and once he settles could make waves.
Why do you think a soccer club in Miami will benefit the league more than it will harm it?
As long as the team is successful how can it do harm? I think if the owners do thinks smartly and really engage the community and invest in quality players it will be a huge success. Possibly one of the biggest clubs in MLS. The risk is that the owners don't do it right and the fans don't respond. Hopefully Beckham realises the challenges of this market.
I'm American, but get frustrated with the need (seems more like desperation) for an american play by play. For me, surely it doesnt matter what accent you have, it matters on your ability as a announcer. Whats your opinion as a journalist?
I agree 100 percent that talent not accent should be the main factor. But the networks seem to have decided that they need an American voice across the productions. So in the studios on Fox Sports for example it is now all-American accents. I understand why that is and have no problem with it but a little variety wouldn't do any harm. I like the fact that Kyle Martino is part of NBC's EPL team - its good to have a mix of accents. As for commentators I really like my compatriots Adrian Healey and Arlo White both of who have found a way to deliver 'British' commentary that works for American audiences.
You don't think the USSF could do it? or do you just think they won't because SUM joins them at the hip?
There is clearly a very close relationship between USSF and MLS - I can't see the Federation causing problems for MLS. Like I say, it really is only FIFA that could try to enforce something about the size of the league and possible pro/rel. But I doubt that would happen unless there is a radical change of thinking at FIFA level.
As a Miamian, I enjoyed your piece today. I think a lot of the Miami sports fan detractors do not realize that for a long time Miami was a town other people came to as a retired person or a refugee and they either came as Yankees fans or Madrid/Boca fans etc. But for the past 15-20 years that has changed and those people have had kids and those kids finally identify as Miamians and take pride in living here.
Now for a question: Are there any moves you could see that Becks and Co. could make that would make the team dead on arrival with locals?
EDIT : Dang, missed him by a second.
Glad you enjoyed the column and I agree with your point about how Miami has changed. I think it is important that the new club, should it come into existence, is created in a way that engages the community and that its name and 'feel' reflect the nature of that community. I think it would be a mistake if it were too closely linked to a foreign club like NYCFC and Manchester City. That's why I wasn't too excited by the previous 'Barca Miami' idea.
Soccer has some very attractive female fans. In your career, has there been a fan that you couldn't take your eyes off of?
Is this my wife? :)
What's the deal with Rochez? He is on my fantasy team, but isn't playing..?
I think Orlando are easing him in - they don't want to rush him in before he is up to speed. But they clearly rate him very highly and I am sure we will see him in action sooner or later.
Why not just call it like it is, football?
Because it causes confusion with American football. I don't have a problem with soccer although for me...its football!