Soccerlens Forum Weekly Spotlight – MLS Expansion, Joey Barton, Premier League Predictions, and more

Today, we’re starting a new feature here on SL that you’ll be seeing this time every week, as we take a look at some of the top discussions from the past week on the SL forum.

If you’re a regular reader of the site, and you haven’t signed up for an account on the forums, well, shame on you! I kid – hopefully this is an incentive for you to go and have another place to vent or state your opinions on the world of football.

Well, without further ado, let’s take a look at five notable talking points from last week.

(To check out a particular topic, just click on the headline for most of them, though the link is pointed out in two of them.)

MLS Expansion to a European-Style Format?

A couple of days ago, forum member GoRevsandManU posed a question as to whether Major League Soccer should go to a pyramid-style, relegation/promotion format involving the United Soccer League’s first and second divisions once it gets enough teams.

This particular topic (which you can check out here) hasn’t seen a lot of responses, but it’s one that I wanted to point out because it’s a good question.

MLS is currently slated to expand to 16 teams over the next couple of seasons, adding Seattle Sounders FC next season and a club in Philadelphia in 2010, and the league also wants to add a further two teams by 2011, with cities like Atlanta, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Montreal, and Vancouver in the mix.

Is it a feasible option for the MLS to go to the popular format in the future? Short answer, not in the near future. There’d have to be restructuring in the way that players go to clubs, the talent pool would have to be expanded to include not only more foreign players (thereby necessitating a change in some of the rules that MLS currently has), but also accelerate the formation of academies throughout America’s domestic leagues – something that takes time and money.

However, another potential complication could be the NCAA, which might have some objection to the MLS dipping into their pool of players, but that could all be solved by the two sides working out an arrangement where MLS prospects (much like is the case with NHL prospects that are drafted) can play in college if they so choose.

Now, MLS is building a nice little niche for themselves, but hypothetically, it could be something that works in the long run. Sure, MLS might prefer to see more American players in their ranks than foreign players, but a) variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and b) having academies and an expanded scouting pool/push to get more younger players involved with professional teams at an earlier point could pay dividends for the future for the national team.

The biggest issue in all of this, more so than talent, might be money. From sponsorships, to investors, to an increase in TV revenue (and viewership, on the same level), the money needs to be there, and that’s something that may take a little time. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Premier League didn’t get their big-money TV deals overnight, did they?

Certainly an interesting point that was posed, and one that bears some thought.

The FA vs. Joey Barton

Joey Barton is a pretty big pain in the ass hot topic right now, even though there are quite a lot of people who seem to wish that he would just grow up or go away already.

Ahmed started up a discussion about why it’s taken so long for the FA to get the ball rolling on punishing Barton for the assault on former Manchester City teammate Ousmane Dabo that took place in 2007, and he’s also expounded on Mr. Barton in a post, which you can see here.

When it comes to Barton, it’s as simple as this – whatever his malfunction is, it’s clear that there is (at least) one, and if he doesn’t get his act together, his football career could not only be finished in short order, but he could be staring at significant time in the slammer, where I don’t think he’ll be wanting to detach someone’s retina. We’re all a little hard-headed at one point, but most of us know how to stay out of jail, at least for more than the odd public intoxication or indecent exposure charges.

Premier League Predictions

The start of the Premier League season is just a couple of weeks away, so it’s never too early to start making predictions on who’s going to finish where this season.

I’ve put my predictions up on there, and so should you.

£20m Striker Challenge?

If you had to buy a top-class striker for £20m or less, who would you buy?

A lot of the big names are out of the equation, but there are plenty of options to choose from.

There are a couple of Premier League strikers who could probably go for around £15m in Roque Santa Cruz or Obafemi Martins.

But, if you want to go outside England, just take your pick – there are proven names like Real Zaragoza’s Diego Milito, Sevilla’s Luis Fabiano, Fiorentina’s Adrian Mutu, or if you want the oldie but still goodie, Bayern Munich’s Miroslav Klose.

If you want to go with youth or potential, you’ve got the likes of Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi (though his price tag may be more than £20m in the near future), St. Etienne’s Bafetimbi Gomis, or Turkey super-sub Semih Senturk, who plies his trade at Fenerbahce and is one to watch for the future (and the present, for that matter).

Those are just a few options that I’d go with, but there are many, many more who would be just as good.

Lyon and the Champions League

Our last forum spotlight is on a thread started up by user FrankF27 early in the week on the topic of whether Lyon can get over the hump and win the Champions League.

Lyon have dominated Ligue 1 for the last seven years, winning seven straight championships, but when it comes to the Champions League, OL have fallen a little short, making the quarterfinals and knockout stages multiple times, but not getting past that stage.

Only one French side has ever won the European Cup/Champions League, and that was Marseille in 1993 (the first tournament known as the Champions League), but there have been five runner-up finishes by French teams, most recently by Monaco in 2004.

Lyon consistently have world-class talent, whether they nurture it in their youth system or buy it with the money that they’ve received from perennially selling off a top talent or two, but they haven’t been able to get it done just yet.

Not only does the luck of the draw help out, but you have to get favorable results, whether it’s home or away. Continuity, however, might be a key issue with Lyon. They’ve switched managers quite a few times over the last several years (and are breaking in another new one), and the squad list is a revolving door of names – very, very good names, but a revolving door nonetheless.

These five are just a sampling of what’s up for discussion on the SL forum right now. So, if you’ve got an account and haven’t been making use of it, or you don’t have an account yet, head on over, facilitate, initiate, participate, but don’t instigate.

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