Friday's soccer news opens with Europe's other club tournament. The Europa League began its group stage on Thursday. now facing a coverage issue in the United States. In English, the games are only available on B/R Live, the new streaming service launched by Turner Sports. In Spanish, Univision has coverage but mainly on their Deportes channel.
UEFA has tried to raise the status of the Europa League, adding a spot in next season's Champions League for the winner. They've benefitted from big teams in the finals since that move, with Manchester United and Atletico Madrid winning. Still, it's hard to shake what's clear to anybody paying attention. It's a second-tier tournament from the outset. UEFA doesn't help that perception by playing the Europa League group stage and then adding third-place Champions League teams.
What that creates is a grab bag feeling for the Europa League. On its own, it's not exactly a purpose-driven tournament. Now, what it mainly serves to do is allow a team into the Champions League that might not have gotten there otherwise. That's the Manchester United scenario, something that doesn't speak to a tournament of competitive teams playing for a trophy.
That's UEFA's problem, especially when they're talking about adding another European club competition. They used to have three before merging the UEFA Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup into the Europa League. Those tournaments didn't last into this century, though it's worth remembering that the Cup Winners' Cup had a clear purpose built into the title. Even for UEFA, it was hard to inflate that tournament. It didn't even have a group stage.
With the Europa League lacking the super club pressure that impacts the Champions League, it's worth asking why UEFA tries so hard. Why is it so important to make the Europa League a junior Champions League? Why not use a different system, perhaps the old head-to-head rather than the group stage? Maybe consider keeping the Champions League group stage losers out entirely.
None of these are new ideas, but they might help give the Europa League the identity it needs. Right now, it's the other European competition that only matters if your team is playing. Europe can do better than that.
SI.com's Avi Creditor with what else Toronto lost by having to play the Campeones Cup. MLSsoccer.com's Ben Baer with LAFC setting a points goal. The LA Times' Lauren Hepler explains the situation with player development in California.
World Soccer Talk's Christopher Harris with early returns from the new Champions League outlets in the US. The Washington Post's Josh Partlow reports on the response to Diego Maradona coaching Sinaloa.
ESPN has the Spanish Footballers' Association considering its options over a La Liga game in Miami. FourFourTwo's Andrew Murray profiles Leeds United manager Marcelo Biesla.
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