Do Soccer Teams Evolve or Are They Created?

MLS Cup winner ©

MLS Cup winner ©

by Luke James

It’s one of those questions that’s as old as the demise of the Spanish Inquisition; and who expected that? There was even a movie made about it. No, not Inherit The Wind, that was some 1960 courtroom drama starring Spencer Tracy about whether God created us or whether we evolved. This is a far more important question than that: do winning teams evolve, or are they created?

At the moment the question could readily be applied to Inherit The Manchester United starring Louis Van Gaal.

Well, let’s take a look at the fossil record (no, not Sting’s latest album.) If we dig down just a few layers into the soccer strata we come to a film called The Class of 92. This true life drama stars Beckham, Scholes, Butt, Neville, and Giggs. In this movie these perfectly ordinary, super-gifted soccer kids evolve into a perfectly ordinary, super team and win the English Premier League, the FA Cup, and the Champions League treble in just seven years.

Class of 92 ©

Class of 92 ©

On the other side of the debate are teams like Manchester City whose forty-year wait for trophies was ended with the coming of the Word. And the Word was Oil. In this version of how great teams come into being some multi-billionaire Sultanski points a Sistine Chapel-like finger at a blob of mud (Maine Road) and injects it with an endless supply of cash until it comes to life.

The two theories believe in widely different timescales. The evolutionists believe it can take a massive seven seasons or more for a winning team to evolve. The creationists on the other hand believe that enough cold hard cash will bring a winning team instantly into being, and that the Savior players can save whole teams.

The debate rages and only one thing is certain: there are more things under FIFA than can be conceived by mere players or head coaches.

Perhaps in the near future the closed-business model of MLS might provide some insight into how teams become winning teams. If you ask are teams created or do they evolve, you’re basically looking at the usually perceived polar opposites of Big Money stacked against player academies and development programs. MLS has only the bare bones of either. Academy systems are still developing and are a long way off the German Bundesliga model. Salary caps, the designated player system, and limited corporate sponsorship mean there’s not exactly a lot of cash flying around in the US game.

So whether winning teams evolve or are created, where does that leave MLS? Behind closed doors arguing the toss? Only time, or money, will tell.


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1 Comment

  1. Despite Manchester City spending £1,000,000,000 (that’s one billion!) since 2009, they have yet to emerge, eyes blinking in the UEFA sunlight, from the group stages of the biggest club competition, the European Champions League, let alone win the blessed thing. So although throwing money at clubs, promises glory on the field, it ain’t always so.
    Also, as a soccer fan of almost fifty years, I would rather watch a successful team beating all before them, with players who grew up in the club from the age of thirteen or thereabouts, who support the team as fans as well as players, and are honoured to play for “their” team. Not a bunch of mercenary foreigners who disappear back to their homelands after the demise of their careers, pushing a wheelbarrow of cash through customs.