Many young British players arriving to play in the North American Soccer League had no clue about the geography of the United States. “I thought it was the San Francisco Earthquakes. I didn’t know it was San Jose until I read it on my jersey,” said former Newcastle United reserve Derek Craig after signing for San Jose in 1975.
Major League Soccer has learned one major lesson from the big leagues in Europe it aspires to eventually compete with, and that is the ability to blow its own trumpet. Crowds are up! Sponsorship and TV revenues are up! New stadiums are being built! We are expanding the number of teams every season! Big name players are coming from abroad!
Gavin Willacy tells the turbulent tale of USA team the San Jose Earthquakes, the club that refuses to go away
While British media coverage of the MLS play-offs started and ended with David Beckham and LA Galaxy's exit at the penultimate stage to Dallas, a more interesting story was ignored in the other semi-final. San Jose Earthquakes came from mid-table to within one win of the MLS Cup final, losing 1-0 to Colorado in only their third season since returning to the league. The Earthquakes – football's ultimate boomerang club – are back, again.
Mike Woitalla explains why US players are having to cross the Mexican border in order to get their break
José Francisco Torres and Edgar Castillo were born and raised in the US, the children of Mexican immigrants. Both showed signs of great soccer talent from an early age. Both were told that they were too small at the trials that lead to youth national team selection. Neither would have been heard from again as soccer players if they hadn't moved to their parents' homeland as teenagers to join Pachuca and Santos Laguna respectively.
The US college system is offering an increasingly popular way into the professional game for British footballers. Gavin Willacy examines the latest phenomenon in Major League Soccer
With Five no longer airing MLS games during the milkmen’s breakfast slot, even fewer British viewers will have seen the impact Darren Huckerby, Ade Akinbiyi and Danny Dichio have had on the American top flight than saw David Beckham try to inspire the hapless LA Galaxy last summer. While a string of English thirtysomethings understandably use MLS as a preferable last stop to Brentford or Brighton, there is another growing group of British footballers emerging in America.
On the 40th anniversary of the “football war” Jonathan Barker asks if a World Cup play-off really led to armed conflict
On December 29, 1968, Honduras, widely regarded one as of the lesser lights of Central American football, caused a major surprise in the 1970 World Cup eliminators by overcoming a Costa Rica side that had been favoured to qualify for Mexico. Their opponents in the next round would be neighbouring El Salvador. Seemingly of little interest to the outside world, the three games the countries played in June 1969 would become the focal point of simmering tensions between the two governments, with the subsequent conflict coming to be known, however misleadingly, as the “football war”.
With a familiar name and ambitious backers, Mike Woitalla finds the MLS’s latest team are already winning over the locals
The city known for Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft and grunge rock is giving Major League Soccer a welcome boost as it copes with David Beckham’s jilt and a tanking economy. And if the Seattle Sounders ring familiar, it’s because they’re the reincarnation of a North American Soccer League (NASL) team that popularized the sport in the Pacific Northwest.
Martin del Palacio Langer reports on a Mexican defender whose family ties always make him the first name on the teamsheet
“How can a player say something when his team-mate misses a chance if he’s the one signing the pay cheques at the end of the month?” So did a former coach explain the awkward circumstances that exist inside a football club in Mexico’s second largest city. He’s talking about Juan Carlos Leaño, team captain and son of the president and owner of Tecos (Owls), officially known as Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara. For generations, both club and institution – an ultra-conservative college – have been the personal fiefdoms of the Leaño family, one of the richest in the Jalisco region, whose influence goes way beyond the educational and football environments (Tecos players are not required to be students).
Could you live on £7,000 a season? If so, and you can also play a bit, you could be a star in the MLS, writes Mike Woitalla
David Beckham’s Major League Soccer salary – not including his endorsement deals – pays him more in one day than MLS players such as Kevin Souter earn annually. Souter hails from Portsoy, Scotland. He was drawn to America by Graceland – not the Elvis estate but a small Iowa university with an ambitious soccer programme. At age 24, Souter attended a two-day open tryout with 200 other hopefuls and won a contract with the Kansas City Wizards that pays him $12,900 (£7,000) for the season. And a Wizard he must be to live on that.
Sven is quietly settling in as Mexico manager while his lookalike makes the headlines, says Martin del Palacio Langer
Mexico has always had stormy relations with its national-team coaches. The process is generally the same. They arrive amid great expectation and, after a few poor results, end up arguing with the press and being hated by the fans. Although the national team got through the group stage of the past four World Cup finals, no coach has lasted more than four years since Ignacio Trelles, who was in charge between 1958 and 1968.