Every once in a while, Soccer Twitter goes into media-bashing mode. It falls into a few strains:
- Frustration at an inability to find work that questions authority. (I’m going to argue here that such work exists but isn’t always amplified.)
- Knee-jerk snark.
- People who are trying to amplify themselves by discrediting the work of others. One of the oldest propaganda tricks in the book. Sometimes done subconsciously.
- People who are utterly convinced that MLS and U.S. Soccer have buried bodies or trunks of money somewhere.
Now let’s be clear here. There’s an institutional reason to be frustrated with the media in general. The media are weaker today than they have been, for the following reasons:
- Print advertising has dried up. (Local newspapers in particular used to rely on classified advertising, which is now free on Craigslist, Facebook, etc.)
- Online advertising doesn’t pay enough to support large newsrooms.
- Even the ESPN model (money from cable subscriptions) is collapsing. ESPN has had waves of layoffs. Fox laid off its entire writing staff and just has videos of its talking heads who do little to no research.
It isn’t stopping.
And yet, there are plenty of soccer reporters who do not take what authorities say “at face value.” First of all, a lot of us aren’t taking Silva’s $4 billion “offer” or Commisso’s posturing at face value. But a lot of people also scrutinize things in the USSF/MLS/SUM power structure as well.
To be sure, most soccer writing is about the game. If you’re a beat writer covering a team, you’re going to spend the bulk of your time writing about games, injuries, transfers, etc. Maybe the occasional feature on an interesting player. Investigating MLS isn’t going to be the bulk of your output. (That’s also the bulk of MLSSoccer.com’s output, just as Barca TV and Liverpool’s Twitter feed are going to tell you more about the U23 team’s latest win and not as much about whether Barca should’ve done better in Europe or Liverpool should’ve done better in England. That’s OK. There’s a value to slickly produced game highlights.)
But what I’m highlighting here is journalism that goes beyond taking things “at face value.” It’s out there. It deserves more amplification than it gets.
These pieces aren’t 60-minute documentaries on the ills of U.S. Soccer. But they flesh out the discussion beyond what we see in games and press releases. Some simply point to a world beyond MLS and NWSL. Some raise questions, sometimes pointed, about what the league and federation are doing. And some are indeed the elusive “deep dive.”
Add it all up, and you can certainly get more than game stories and press releases.
Stuff MLS and USSF aren’t putting in press releases
At SI, Brian Straus raises good points in the wake of the Gonzalez fiasco
Goff on the Crew: “Unfortunately, the referee — in this case, league headquarters — is complicit.”
Straus shares info contradicting MLS claims on the Crew saga
Goff: D.C. United in danger of not filling 5,000-capacity venue.
Soccer America speaks with Steve Gans (in May, not pre-election) about what still needs fixing (a lot)
Soccer America speaks with a club director who’s leaving the Development Academy
The peripatetic Graham Parker on pissed-off MLS fans
Soccer America: Where are the U.S. players in MLS?
I remember Doug Roberson’s interview with Eric Wynalda being interesting, but I can’t see it now because I’ve hit my paywall limit. Come on, Doug — put your stuff out there for free! (I’m teasing. Doug and I worked together back in the Stone Age, where soccer content was maybe 0.1% of our work.)
SB Nation’s Outsports taking USSF to task for holding games in North Carolina.
Also SB Nation, and close to a “deep dive” here: How U.S. Soccer ignores players from underserved communities
Goff examines USSF financial disclosures, leads with all the employees making more than Jill Ellis
More SB Nation: Why NWSL can’t keep all its top players.
Not that MLS is keeping everyone happy. (Washington Post, but not Goff)
And one more SB Nation: A pretty deep dive on SUM.
KC Star’s Sam McDowell with good questions for Garber: The irony is that this piece started some of the conversation. Yes, it’s merely a Q-and-A. But the questions are good. They keep pro/rel, winter/spring schedule and “what the heck is TAM?” in the conversation. And then we can discuss Garber’s answers (which aren’t fully satisfactory to me, either).
Yahoo’s Doug McIntyre with Klinsmann AND Arena (and Bedoya): You may not like the answers, but there’s value in having them on the record.
Reporting on players outside MLS, and not just when they’re with the MNT or WNT
ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld goes beyond the immediate news on Julian Green.
Goff’s weekly roundup on more than 100 U.S. players overseas.
This is a starter. I spent a couple of hours doing this, not because the stories aren’t there but because you have to scroll past a lot of game highlights and other coverage (which is fine) on unnavigable sites (which is not — ATTENTION SPORTS ILLUSTRATED!!!! TURN DOWN YOUR AUTOPLAY ADS!!). Please leave more nominations in the comments.