Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, September 16, 2016



A surprise announcement from UEFA this week has soccer fans across Europe scratching their heads. The decision involves the seeding for the coveted Champions League. Traditionally, the top performing teams from each nation earn the bids to the illustrious tournament. However, UEFA wants certain clubs to receive automatic bids to enter, regardless of their records. Called ‘Guaranteed Group Stage Placement,’ the concept is angering many.

Why the frustration? The plan favors famous and established teams over smaller, less significant clubs. This favoritism makes it even harder for small teams to succeed. Take Leicester FC, for example. Earlier this year, they beat longshot odds to win the English Premier League. But the honeymoon did not last long. Their team has been gutted by richer franchises, who snapped up their best players. Although the new season is only four games old, the Foxes are already in sixteenth place.

Let’s look closer at the new seeding. Four nations (England, Germany, Italy and Spain) would instantly get four teams into the Champions League. These include Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea from England and German giants Bayern Munich and FC Köln . Italy will send AS Roma, Juventus and AC Milan, while Spain gets to send current champs Real Madrid and star-studded Barcelona. The reason? These teams being in wealthy fans to the seats and lucrative TV contracts to UEFA. Smaller clubs simply don’t garner this phenomenal interest.

But what really has lesser Euro soccer teams worried is the current trend towards larger, international leagues. Talks are underway for a European-wide league that would include the sixteen Guaranteed Group clubs mentioned above. While the national leagues would remain intact, it's feared their best clubs would no longer take part. Even more alarming are the plans for a Worldwide Soccer Super League. This would have teams from the USA, Argentina and Brazil. (Let's hope they invent a cure for jet-lag!) 

Finally, the addition of Asian teams would complete the new, global soccer league. Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG are the fastest-growing franchises in the game. They are being groomed for the big time with some stellar additions to their lineups. Chinese investors have recently made a splash in the sport, acquiring huge stakes in Manchester United, Athletico Madrid and Lyon. The cards are lining up: It seems only a matter of time before the soccer world expands to the global level. Let’s just hope the underdogs don’t get forgotten.

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