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MLS 2008 Season Preview: Schedule Edition

The MLS off-season is now officially halfway over and I know many average Americans are pondering the same things: (1) what is the MLS, (2) is that, like, Michael Scott from The Office’s initials or something, (3) I thought his middle name was Gary, (4) man, I miss The Office, (5) when will this writer’s strike end anyways, and of course (5) will Britney bottom-out or bring sexy back.

Of course, if you are here reading this post, you are probably looking for soccer news or tickets and are not one of those average Americans. You understand that MLS stands for Major League Soccer, which is, contrary to some published reports, not an oxymoron here in America anymore. If you think Michael Scott or Britney is an oxymoron, you have some explaining to do to Ms. Wasserman, your fifth grade vocabulary teacher.

As the 2008 MLS season approaches, American soccer fans are collectively pondering something similar to many of the non-fans though: will the Brit bottom-out or bring soccer back?

The Brit, of course, is Mr. David Beckham who’s “Blue Steel”-inspired visage appears in our tabloid magazines alongside the more-well known Brit (at least in America). Even though Beckham has resided in the for more than half a year now, many Americans still don’t know much about him or the league where he plays that craaazy game with his feet. Meanwhile, many Americans know more about Ms. Spears than they do their own co-workers, friends and family. So, I figured the best way to teach America about Beckham was to prove that he is just as interesting as K-Fed’s ex. That is when it hit me.

The Brit and Brit aren’t just kind of similar; they are almost exactly the same. Seriously, the similarities between the two are scary: (1) they both came from humble beginnings, (2) they both achieved fame and fortune in their teens, (3) they both are as well known for their personal lives as their professional ones, (4) they are both considered past their prime, (5) they both married “musicians” who don’t play instruments, sing well or write music (um, can I get a ruling on whether Posh and K-Fed even qualify as actual musicians?), (6) they both have ridiculously strange British accents (though in Britney’s defense, her British accent is apparently involuntary), (7) they both have only sons, (8) they both have batshit-crazy friends (Exhibit A: Paris Hilton, Exhibit Gay: Tom Cruise), (9) they both famously shaved their heads, (10) they both can’t act (sit down for a Crossroads/Goal! 2 double-feature and you will end up with no hair too, only your baldness will be caused by frustratingly pulling out your own mane), (11) they both have their own perfume line (though some would say Britney’s “Curious” is more applicable to Beckham), and (12) they both are complete advertising whores (insert joke about Britney being another type of a whore here, if you like).

Wow, I am starting think they may be the same person. I guess that the only way they are really different is that she seems to be scoring a lot more than him lately. Zing…Oh yeah, and they both play with balls… a lot. OK, that was a little uncalled for. Now that everyone is aware that Beckham is just Britney with panties, I think I can move on to some actual soccer analysis.

Last year’s MLS season will undoubtedly be considered a watershed year for the league. The only question left to answer is whether it was a year that paved the way for a strong future, or if it was the year when the league went all-in only to be caught holding nothing. (I could have thrown in some sort of reference to the MLS holding Q-3, i.e. a queen with a trey, but I am told that refers to the “San Francisco busboy” and not the “L.A. spice boy.”

In any event, I would estimate that there is more pre-season interest in the 2008 season than there has been in just about every other year in the past, with the exception of the inaugural 1996 season. Whether you despise or idolize Beckham, one cannot ignore he has created a vast amount of awareness for the league in the U.S. Whether that awareness is fleeting or not remains to be seen.

I am not suggesting that the league could fold if this year is not a success or that if Beckham puts butts in the seats those butts will remain there after he is gone. I am suggesting that this year (like every year) will serve as an indicator of which direction the league is going. If attendance is up at Galaxy games, but down everywhere else, the league obviously will be in peril. But if Beckham can get the casual fans who show up at Galaxy away games to return the next week when the home team faces the Wiz, he truly will be the savior of American soccer.

Yes, average Americans, I just said “faces the Wiz” and it’s OK. Don’t alert the authorities. There is a team in the MLS referred to, albeit not officially, as the Wiz. It refers to the Wizard of Oz (the team is from Kansas…) and not golden showers. Now that we have that cleared up…

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten weeks since Houston hoisted the MLS Cup at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. It’s even harder to believe that a mere ten weeks from now, the 2008 season will be upon us. In order to get prepared for the season, I am going to be posting about two teams, one from the East and one from the West, each week for the next seven weeks. Week 8 I will provide updates on the teams I reviewed early on, and during Week 9, I will provide some worthless punditry on how each team will fare.

Here is the schedule:

Week 1 01/27/08 Chicago Fire & Chivas USA

Week 2 02/03/08 Columbus Crew & Colorado Rapids

Week 3 02/10/08 D.C. United & F.C. Dallas

Week 4 02/17/08 Kansas City Wizards & Houston Dynamo

Week 5 02/24/08 New England Revs & L.A. Galaxy

Week 6 03/02/08 New York Red Bulls & Real Salt Lake

Week 7 03/09/08 Toronto F.C. & San Jose Earthquakes

Week 8 03/16/08 UPDATE EDITION

Week 9 03/23/08 PREDICTION EDITION

Week 10 03/29/08 THE SEASON KICKS OFF! (pun definitely intended!)

If you are a fan of Mr. Beckham or any of these fine squads, or even if your favorite team was, say, ripped away from you when you were a helpless teenager and you are now just a fan of the MLS in general (if Britney’s ex JT can bring sexy back, why can’t MLS Commissioner Garber bring the Mutiny back?), check out the previews as they are posted.

If you are a fan of Britney, good luck with that. If you see her around town in L.A. sans panties, watch out for the Wiz, and I’m not talking about the Jimmy Conrad kind…