May 17, 2006

One minor setback: The United States dropped into a fifth-place tie in the May FIFA rankings, the last before next month's World Cup.

posted by lex2000 to soccer at 12:14 PM - 33 comments

How can this truly be considered a setback when the U.S. team is still ranked above England, France and Portugal, as well as being tied with Spain? Sure, this doesn't mean the U.S. team is actually better or will win against these teams in the World Cup, but still, this ranking isn't really a setback. Not even a minor one.

posted by lex2000 at 12:17 PM on May 17, 2006

It's far too late for this to affect the World Cup. The groupings are set, and I'd be shocked if anyone connected to the US team cared about this. That said, far as I can tell, this sounds more like a market correction than a setback.

posted by chicobangs at 12:26 PM on May 17, 2006

That is definitely true, I just thought SI's timing and wording was a little off the mark.

posted by lex2000 at 12:47 PM on May 17, 2006

The rankings are useless. Let's see how the teams do on the field. At least this change brings it a little closer to reality, but that's not saying much. The rankings are still deep in downtown Surreal Land.

posted by worldcup2002 at 12:51 PM on May 17, 2006

The US is the fifth best team in the world? Bullshit. These rankings aren't worth a toss (to coin a phrase from the 8th ranked English).

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:24 PM on May 17, 2006

Like I said, this doesn't mean they're better. I personally don't give a damn about the rankings, however I thought the SI article was worth bringing up. It doesn't give any background on how the rankings are determined, nor their importance in the greater scheme of things. I thought it was pretty weak.

posted by lex2000 at 01:44 PM on May 17, 2006

Here is how FIFA rankings are determined. Note that wins in the CONCACAF are factored to be woth less than those in UEFA. Seems like a pretty decent attempt at ranking teams, in that it does take into account levels of competition. Six of the top ten teams are from UEFA, the U.S. and Mexico dominate their region as Brazil and Argentina dominate theirs. Would Holland dominate CONCACAF, yes. Would they be ranked higher than third if they were in CONCACAF, I doubt it. Is the U.S. team better than Italy or the Czechs? We get to find out in a couple of weeks!

posted by tselson at 02:08 PM on May 17, 2006

Have a look at EloRatings. FIFA's ratings are consistently garbage.

posted by sellout at 02:29 PM on May 17, 2006

The elo's are much better, but still have problems. I can't see England at #3 any more than I can see the US at #5.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 02:45 PM on May 17, 2006

I dunno, sellout; what's the timespan on those elorankings? It kinda looks like they're lifetime rankings for the national team (the game counts are astronomical). Wouldn't it make more sense to start any survey of these teams from a point, say, when they hire a new coach? That wouldn't necessarily solve it, but it seems past performance (and by that I mean capital H Historical performance) is given too much weight. Just one more reason why most all of these rankings seem to me a little suspect.

posted by Hugh Janus at 02:48 PM on May 17, 2006

It takes into account every match played since 1872? I was kind of thinking that FIFA going back eight years was a stretch. On edit: what Hugh said.

posted by tselson at 02:53 PM on May 17, 2006

It's possible (okay, probable) that the US's rank is a little inflated just to give the American punters the impression that the US team has a shot. Frankly, their bracket is hard enough that if they get out of that, it'll be a pretty decent achievement. Now, given all this, and maybe it's just me, but it seems like the game (at the top levels, not at the amateur level, where it's always been big) is more popular in the States than it's ever been. MLS is slowly getting healthier, the Euro leagues are on the radar (by "on the radar" I mean SportsCenter is doing segments on the EPL and the Champions League final is on ESPN2 right now, which I never thought I'd live long enough to see), and I suspect the World Cup itself will be a bigger-than-usual deal even if the USA doesn't advance from their own pool. So I'm encouraged.

posted by chicobangs at 02:53 PM on May 17, 2006

Champions League final is on ESPN2 right now DAMN! (I forgot to record it.) Also, every World Cup game will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.

posted by tselson at 03:05 PM on May 17, 2006

Champions League final is on ESPN2 right now And its a great match!

posted by Folkways at 03:27 PM on May 17, 2006

"It's possible (okay, probable) that the US's rank is a little inflated just to give the American punters the impression that the US team has a shot." There are Americans that bet on soccer?

posted by outside counsel at 03:45 PM on May 17, 2006

It takes into account every match played since 1872? It is kind of an historical ranking system, yes, but older matches don't have as much weight as they might appear to. Take Turkey's 2002 World Cup run, for example. They began the tournament ranked #32, and by the end they were at #13. With a strong performance in a major tournament, they jumped well above their previous best mark. The new coach idea wouldn't really work, of course, as players last much longer than national team managers. I was kind of thinking that FIFA going back eight years was a stretch. Eight years includes two World Cups, two Euro Championships, and a bunch of other major tournaments and qualifiers. Got to have a decent sample size to have a decent ranking. Only using the last couple of years severely limits not only the number of matches taken into consideration, but the importance of the matches involved.

posted by sellout at 04:07 PM on May 17, 2006

outside counsel, Americans bet on everything.

posted by chicobangs at 04:21 PM on May 17, 2006

I wouldn't bet on that. Can I become a footie fan? The threads are so much better.

posted by yerfatma at 04:30 PM on May 17, 2006

The team rosters of this World Cup are quite different from those of 1998. Results that are eight years old should not apply to a current teams ranking. If we could find a super computer to rank each player and define a current strength of a team's roster that would be interesting. According to the article, FIFA is revising the system to reflect only the last four years. I kind of like that, four years is how long it takes to build a team. That gets you the previous World Cup and a more recent Euro. I enjoy both rankings, for what they are worth. Since no nation fields teams designed to only improve on these rankings, I guess they aren't worth much.

posted by tselson at 05:07 PM on May 17, 2006

As far as the EPL and others getting more attention, I certainly hope so. I am afraid it is more like ESPN is showing the EPL segments and things like that because the World Cup is upon us and the more people they get interested in football, the more watch ESPN and ABC come June. I will give them some credit, they have been showing Champions League matches for at least 7 years or so (maybe longer) and you can catch MLS games on the weekend (these games are looking better and better every year). When the Cup is over and they maintain a bigger soccer presence with the clubs in Europe, I will be impressed, but I don't see it happening. With any luck the US can get out of the group and get more people interested in watching.

posted by Ricardo at 08:00 PM on May 17, 2006

I see two reasons that telly coverage in the US will always be lacking. First, soccer is not advertiser friendly, no timeouts, no regular stoppages of play: it's 90 minutes of non-stop game play. No long breaks in the action means to adverts means no income for the network. The second, and this can be overcome with fan education into the nuances of the game to a certain extent, is the (relative to other popular US sports) lack of scoring. While a 1-0 result may be wonderful to those who appreciate the game (much like a 1-0 baseball final with two no-no's going into the late innings), or 10 clean sheets (Go Arsenal) it is not the average American television sports fan's cup of tea.

posted by elovrich at 01:59 AM on May 18, 2006

elovrich, I've heard those arguments a billion times, and frankly, they're uninformed bullshit. The no-ad-breaks problem is only a "problem" if you're stuck with the concept of 30-second full-screen commercials. Technology and ad agencies have advanced to the point where there are a million other ways to advertise things without interrupting game play unnecessarily. Watch a game sometime on commercial TV, and pay attention to the many ways people have come up with to sell ad space. Trust me on this one, but no advertiser misses out during a soccer game anymore. And have you ever watched a 1-0 baseball or hockey game? And liked it? Then put the "no constant scoring=bad entertainment" argument away for good. It's not only wrong, it's insulting to people who enjoy a good power battle and don't need a scoreboard that turns over like a pinball machine to maintain their interest in a game. (Also, not to burst your bubble, but there are more 4-3 and 6-4 games at the top levels than you might think.) One more thing: even the longest soccer match is over in two hours. Take that, baseball.

posted by chicobangs at 02:28 AM on May 18, 2006

Chico, as far as the low scoring. I did not say that I didn't enjoy it. Nor many people here at Spofi. But, if you do not think that high-voltage scoring is more popular than low in America then we are bound to disagee on this for all eternity. The "average" American sports fan; the one that watches only to root for the local club (and perhaps against the Yankees, the Cowboys, the Fighting Irish, you get the picture) wants non-stop action, action being defined as scoring in most cases, because this average fan does not necessarily understand the intricacies of the game involved and has been conditioned to having their entertainment in 6-10 minute blocks, with a chance to rest their weary brains in the interim by television in general. As for the advertisers. Yes, they have gotten creative in getting their names in fromnt of us at every turn, rotating billboards behind the plate, in front of the scorers' table, on the players themselves. But, how many of these contribute to the network's bottomline? None. The networks MIGHT go along with PIP ads in the corner, but do you think the advertisers will pay the amount of money they would for a 10-15 second spot stuck up on the corner that they would for a 30, run full screen, and not competeing with the game itself? Let's do some hypothetical figuring. Spot is 33% to 50% the length, takes up 17%-20% the screen and is competing againt the game itself, give it an attention-grabbing factor of perhaps 30%. Seems the network would get 1.6% to 3% of the revenue per ad, so they would need to run 35-65 times the ads to realize the same amount of revenue. At 10-15 seconds per ad, that gives us, figuring 8 minutes of advertising (or 16 30-second spots) per hour in an average sportscast, that gives is between 560 and 1040 ads per hour, oops that makes 90 to 170 minutes per hour of advertising. (figures are hypothetical and provided for entertain purposes only, you mileage may vary). Looks like you will have 2 ads running in corners constantly. Would you watch a match under those circumstances?

posted by elovrich at 09:43 AM on May 18, 2006

- The "average" American sports fan; the one that watches only to root for the local club (and perhaps against the Yankees, the Cowboys, the Fighting Irish, you get the picture) wants non-stop action See, that's why your argument doesn't hold water. You're speaking for other people, and metaphorical people in other places who are stupider than you at that. Speak for yourself and people you know, not some mythical idiot American. That person doesn't exist. Stop underestimating the stupidity of people you don't know. And I'll do you one better: I can prove your percentages argument is backward. The single most popular spectator sport in Middle America consists of people driving cars (every square inch of which are covered with little ads! That don't interrupt the action! And that were paid for! By advertisers!) around in a circle for three hours. If that's somehow compelling week in & week out, then I seriously doubt soccer is somehow genetically beyond your so-called "average" American, especially considering statistically, most of them are playing soccer as kids. So they know how the game works, and why it's possible to do the same thing for half the time of your average NASCAR race, and covered with ads if necessary.

posted by chicobangs at 02:10 PM on May 18, 2006

Spot on NASCAR argument chico...there is absolutely no scoring in racing until after the complete 3-4 hours of circling is over. Now in elovrichs' defense, most of the people that I talk to who don't watch soccer sound like those "mythical idiot Americans" he is speaking about. I actually grew up as one of the same idiots. I thought soccer was a sissy sport and didn't deserve the time of day. I happened to catch a few games of the 94 World Cup and was instantly hooked. I played in pickup games and leagues since about 98 until I tore an ACL lasst year and have come to truly love the game. Only my wife gets more attention (except next month)

posted by Ricardo at 10:14 PM on May 18, 2006

Chico: Not sure where you think I am from, but I am from Middle America, have been most of my life. I know what I am talking about because I talk to people all the time about what attracts them to sports broadcasts. As far as stock car racing being the most popuplar spectator sport in Middle America, while technically true, it takes into account the fact that every county fairground in the area has a track where they race one or two nights a week all summer long. At the professional level, while Nascar has improved its draw considerably recently, especially since Fox took over coverage of the first half of the season (I can't stand NBC's coverage with B.P pandering and gushing over Junior all of the time, but that is a personal issue and one for another discussion), they still do not draw the sheer numbers as the other major televised sports. It is the very fact that the scoring is not done until the very end of the race that allows the networks to cut away virtually at will for television spots during the middle af the race. Can you imagine the outcry if ESPN had cut away from the Arsenal/Barca game the other day just at the point the Arsenal got their lone goal? It would have been as terrible as the "Heidi" game. (for those that are not old enough to remember, in 1968, NBC cut away from a Jets/Raiders game with 1:05 remaining and the Jets up by 3 to air the new made-for-tv movie "Heidi". Fourteen Oakland points later the network had egg on its face and the pre-empted broadcast was born). You argue that advertisers paid for the ads on the cars in stock car racing. Yep thats true, they did, but WHO did they pay? The car owners, not the networks. Networks broadcast sports to make money, they get this money from advertisers, advertisers pay for commercials, if commercials are not run, no money. No money, no broadcast. I do not mean to make it sound like I am demeening you, I read and appreciate your comments enough to know that you are not an idiot. But, if you were the head of network sports at one of the majors, how would you handle running ads and generating income during a soccer telecast? Just lumping them all together at intermission won't work, except in the rare case of the Super Bowl, where the ads themselves have become part of the attraction. In a normal game, that is the time that fans get up to take care of other business. Would you care to be the one who went to commercial just as perhaps one of the few goals was scored? How long would you recommend that advertisers make their spots? You might be able to cram a 10 second spot in here and there, but how many times can you do that?

posted by elovrich at 11:30 PM on May 18, 2006

elovrich, it doesn't matter where you're from. You're the one who keeps bringing that up. And the Heidi Bowl was 1968. In TV terms, that's the Mesozoic Era. My point is that I'd be willing to bet that people continue to think they hate soccer because idiots on Local Sports Radio call-in shows tell them they should. It's a stupid cliche that may have been marginally relevant when those guys went to college in the 1950's, but nowadays the model is radically different, and their made-up reasons for why soccer can never work in America are outdated and wrong. My point about bringing up NASCAR was just to say that these mythical ADD-afflicted people you keep bringing up seem to handle stock car racing just fine, and that's twice as long and just as low-scoring. And advertisers have a whole raft of new ways to get their product on the teevee, especially if they stop tying themselves to outdated concepts like 30-second commercials every eight minutes and start thinking even just a little outside the box. Soccer is a much cheaper sport to produce than NASCAR, and have you noticed what logos are on the front of a pro soccer team's jersey? Or the nicknames of the actual teams? (And people know the game. A whole generation of American children have played it since childhood, in numbers that dwarf that of every other sport.) Who do the advertisers pay? Who cares? They'll pay anyone who gets their product into the field of a camera, whether it's a network or a racing team or a soccer club or a stadium facility or whoever. That's a fake argument too. I'm not the one painting all Middle Americans with the same fat stupid brush here. elovrich, your arguments would have barely held water in the days before CGI, HD, TiVo and Color Television. Now, they sound like you're choosing to stay ignorant about how things have changed in the last forty years.

posted by chicobangs at 11:50 PM on May 18, 2006

Also there is a type of revenue for the networks in the form of revenue not spent...All the networks fight every few years or so to pay huge fees to leagues for the "right" to broadcast them. MLS either has none or very low rights fees I would guess.

posted by Ricardo at 12:00 AM on May 19, 2006

Chico; I am not arguing that there are not other/better ways to advertise than commercials, and yes, I have seen all the ads on uniforms, stadium walls etc. What I am saying is that the networks do not get revenue from these other forms of advertising. It is the team or the stadum or what have you that gets the advertising dollars in these instances. And the reason they get as much as they do is BECAUSE of the telvision exposure. If the networks are not getting any of the dollars they have no incentive to carry the event. Yes the producer of the product does not care WHO they pay as long as the word gets out, but the network certainly does care if they are not getting their money. As far as all of the new technology that you bring up CG HD TiVo and all of the rest, these have NO BEARING on whether or not the network will carry the event, only on whether or when or how often it will be viewed. In the case of TiVo, ad revenue will actually eventually go down, if a majority of viewers are watching a broadcast after the fact, which if I am not mistaken is the purpose of TiVo, then do you think they will sit through the commercials or skip over them? If no one watches them, they become less cost effective. My argument is two-fold, the first is what incentive does a network have to carry the event? Ad revenue. Soccer does not lend itself easily to generating the amount of revenue that would be required for the broadcast networks to carry it on a regular basis. Do you agree that getting the time to run commercials during the game would be difficult at best? The second part of the equation is getting people to watch if you can get it broadcast to begin with. The true soccer fan will become irate if the network continually is going away from the action to run a commercial, and they WILL need to do this if they are to carry more than just the World Cup. In fact during the 1990 Cup quarter final between Italy and Ireland, TNT cut away at about the 37 minute mark for a commercial, and missed Schillaci's goal, the only one of the game. The direct result of this was ABC/ESPN running the ads in the upper corner in 1994. This is one way to get around having to break away from the action, but as I discussed in an earlier post, it is intuitively a less effective means of advertising than a full screen commercial. As for the reasons people like/hate (your word, I prefer dislike or do not undersatnd) soccer. It is you who are now using the broad brush in saying that it is caused by Local Sports Talk Radio. The largest demographic, when it comes to discretionary income, and the target of advertisers, is still the Baby Boomers. They did not grow up with the sport, for the most part, I would venture they do not understand the nuances of the game. Even among the Gen X-ers and younger, even if they DID play as kids, do you think they truly understand the nuances of the game? My daughter has played for 5 years now, at the youth level, and to her it is still run, kick, score. It is getting better, and someday soon, I think that soccer telecasts will be viable in the States. At least as far as this second part of the equation goes, that of having a fan base that understands the game on more than just the surface. As I said in my original post in this thread, the lack of understanding and appreciation of the game, can and hopefully will be overcome. The incentive for the networks to carry it is the hard part. You have yet to show me how a company can make money from televising soccer, other than running the ads in the corners. Granted my numbers in the first post were not scientific in any way shape or form, they were meant to engender discussion, if you see specific holes in them I would love to hear what you have to say. But bringing up non-commercial ways of advertising (ads on uni's, stadia, etc.) that do not put money in the pockets of the network does not give the networks any reason to carry the event, just the opposite, it detracts from the reason to do so. Take an NBA broadcast as an example of what I mean by this. The big names, car companies, beer companies, advertise in commercials, paying large sums of money to the networks to have dedicated, full-screen exposure to the consumer. THe networks love these guys because it PAYS THEIR BILLS. Now, consider ING, Nokia, and others that pay to have their logos put on the rotating banners on the front of the scorer's table. First, these are less effective for several reason, they are static; there is no message, just the company name; they compete with the game action for the consumers attention. Now, because they are less effective, they are less expensive. But regardless of who much money the company spends on this, none of it goes to the network. Do you think NBC would even show it if it could find a way not to? Without incentive to carry an event, a network will not carry it. And the biggest incentive is the dollar... Find a way for networks to make a buck on soccer and they will be all over it.

posted by elovrich at 03:06 AM on May 19, 2006

My daughter has played for 5 years now, at the youth level, and to her it is still run, kick, score. So, is Bruce Arena her coach as well?

posted by owlhouse at 04:25 AM on May 19, 2006

I seems to me that Tivo makes soccer more advertiser friendly because they get their ads across without commercials. Also, I think the two fold problem above is solved with the first problem (more people watching). This gives the network the incentive they need. Another solution (and I have no idea how the business end of all this works) is an advertiser gives money to the networks as well as to the league or team or stadium or whoever. Think about it this way. Advertisers can pay a small amount of money to have their product seen by the 5,000-15,000 who attend a match OR they can increase that money (with the increase going to the network) to have it seen by those same 5,000-15,000 plus whoever watches on TV. Since the network is directly responsible for any revenue generated from advertising seen on their medium they should (and probably already do) get a cut from any advertising that goes on.

posted by Ricardo at 04:31 AM on May 19, 2006

Um....ok off topic but scoreing in NASCAR starts at the drop of the green flag, not at the end of the race.

posted by Folkways at 09:39 AM on May 19, 2006

And, in the infield, usually two or three days before the drop of the green flag, depending on the pre-race festivities.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 07:51 AM on May 20, 2006

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