Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sun July 13: Superliga and Women's Olympics Soccer Preview

This is mainly a football (soccer) post and since there's a lack of football this July, I'm sure talking about football would be a nice change of pace.

Superliga Well Underway
It's the best club teams from Mexico's Primera Division league against the best club teams from Major League Soccer in the second edition of Superliga, a competition that started last year that seeks to find the best football club in North America.

From the Superliga website,

"SuperLiga™, a premier tournament that pits the best of the United States against the best of Mexico, returns with its second edition to award the heftiest winner’s purse in North American soccer history.

SuperLiga™ will be played between July 12 and
August 5, 2008. The tournament will include a group phase and a knockout phase with all games held in U.S. venues. Eight clubs – four each from the top-flight leagues of the United States and Mexico – will vie to determine a singular champion of No
rth America. The club that emerges SuperLiga™ champion will take home $1 million in prize money, the largest purse in North American soccer history.

During the inaugural edition of SuperLiga, CF Pachuca defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy in a dramatic match decided by penalty kicks at The Home Depot Center in
Carson, Calif., on August 30, 2007. Last summer this new competition between rival soccer nations became an instant hit among millions of soccer fans in Mexico and the United States.

For the 2008 edition of SuperLiga, competitive criteria determined which four teams would represent their respective leagues. From MLS, the four clubs earned berths based on their regular season records from 2007: Supporter’s Shield winner D.C. United, Western Conference champion Chivas
USA, MLS Cup 2007 champions Houston Dynamo and MLS Cup finalist New England Revolution. Representing Mexico’s Primera Division are four of the top clubs from the 2007 combined seasons: 2007 Apertura champion Atlante, 11-time Mexican League champion CD Guadalajara, current 2008 Clausura Mexican Primera Division champions Santos Laguna and the 2007 SuperLiga champion Pachuca CF. "

Yesterday was the first day of competition at this year's Superliga, and CD Guadalajara defeated D.C. United by a score of 2-1, while Houston Dynamo defeated Atlante by a score of 4-0. Today, the New England Revolution will face off against Santos Laguna and Chivas USA will face off Pachuca CF. Click here for a full competition schedule. All games will be televised live by spanish-language broadcaster, Telefutura. Check your local listings.

My opinion on the event:
Superliga is a great friendly competition still in its prime that produces many benefits, but at the same time, still needs a couple of small fixes. The tournament is a great development for soccer and improves the game of MLS since its players are playing against some of the best from the Mexican league. Though this may be an odd comparison, the teams from Mexico are doing what the Dream Team did for the sport of basketball in Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics. The level of talent in international play was forced upwards after the USA dominated those Olympics and several Olympics afterwards. Here, the Mexican league is improving the game of soccer in the United States.

But Superliga still needs more exposure. Although we hate hearing American commentators talk soccer, I feel the English language commentary is necessary to expose the game. Maybe if ESPN or Fox Soccer Channel hires commentators who can both speak English and are familiar with the Mexican teams and the MLS teams, Superliga can produce the same result that UEFA Euro 2008 did here in the U.S. And with little going on in the soccer world, this tournament has a big opportunity to shine in the spotlight.

It will be interesting to see how much talent and hype this tournament will produce and if anyone will buy into it. Only two years old, Superliga is progressing rapidly into a popular tournament. But can it be an annual summer hit? We'll have to see. Meanwhile, check out this column from ESPN which gives a more accurate preview on the tournament and the teams playing:

Women's Olympic Soccer Preview
Earlier today, the United States women's soccer team faced Brazil in a pre-Olympic warm-up match as well as a rematch of last year's semifinal in the FIFA Women's World Cup in China. In that semifinal, Brazil outplayed the U.S. to a 4-0 final score, with Marta Vieira da Silva scoring two goals in that game. She ended up being the leader of the tournament with 7 total goals.

Brazil eventually lost to Germany in the final of the World Cup, 2-0. In today's 1-0 loss against the United States, Brazil was playing without Marta and Christiane Rozeira de Souza Silva, their two best attackers. Both are currently fulfilling European club duties but are expected to join Brazil at the Olympics. But it was obvious that without their attackers, Brazil wasn't able to play at their usual aggressive level. In their North American tour, Brazil tied with Canada 1-1 earlier last week.

But at full strength, Brazil can be a monster team. Meanwhile, the United States they'll have to do a little more offensively to capture their second consecutive gold medal in Beijing. The U.S. is expected to get out of the group stage, where they will face New Zealand, Japan, are their arch-rival Norway, who poses the U.S.'s biggest challenge in the Olympics. But the Norwegians aren't as strong as they were back in the late '90s when they captured the 1995 World Cup title and the 2000 Olympic Gold Medal. The Americans defeated the Norwegians on their home soil by a score of 4-0, where four different players scored from the U.S. in the second half, including veteran Abby Wambach.

The toughest group in the draw at the Olympics is group B, where Germany, Brazil and the North Korean football teams are in the same group. North Korea could be a threat after they tied the United States, defeated Nigeria and loss to Sweden in last year's World Cup. They lost to Germany, 3-0, in the quarterfinals. All three teams are expected to advance, since the top two from each of the three groups advance, as well as the two best third-place teams. But it will surely be a huge battle for the top 2 spots in group B, and if Nigeria, the fourth team in the group, can upset any of the other teams, then Group B will surely be in chaos.

Host nation China is expected to advance easily from group A, which includes Sweden, Argentina and Canada. If the Argentines work as hard as their male equivalents do, then expect them to advance. But if they give the same effort that they did in last year's World Cup, then don't expect them to get anywhere. They only scored one goal while allowing 17, including 11 against Germany.

In that case, expect Sweden and Canada to battle it out for the second spot in the group. Both teams produced similar performances last year in China and placed third in their respective groups. Canada has a lot of youth in their team, with 13 of the 21 players on the roster aged 25 and younger, including Christine Sinclair, a 25-year-old veteran and captain that has scored 92 international goals for Canada.

Once we get into the knockout round, it's anyone's guess and who can take the gold. Predictions would be made on how well they play in the group stage. Brazil and Germany are consistent, but the United States always remains a threat. It's hard to tell now who can take the gold so we'll have to wait until the tournament is underway to start making predictions.

The women's soccer tournament in Beijing is the first event to get underway at the Olympics. Competition starts on Wed, August 6, two days before the opening ceremony. NBC will have coverage of team USA throughout the tournament and NBC's Olympic Soccer channel will keep you covered. Coverage of Team USA begins on Wednesday morning on MSNBC against Norway at 7:45AM. For more on the women's team, visit:

Other notes...
Tomorrow we will preview the Home Run Derby as part of the All-Star Game festivities here in New York. We'll also recap the first week of Tour de France action and preview the men's football tournament.

Brazil did lose to the United States today in women's soccer. For more info, click here. Brazil will face the U.S. again on Wednesday night from San Diego. Catch the game on Fox Soccer Channel and check your local listings.

I'm sorry with these recent late posts, weekends are usually busy for me as it may be for you. I'll try my best this week to get it in earlier. Thanks for continuing to read!!!

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