Mounties carry MLS Cup into Air Canada Centre.

Youth And Ambition

The MLS Cup began on just the right note Wednesday and it is staying the course marvelously.

You may have seen perfectly pressed Mounties parading the Cup into the Air Canada Centre. But you had to be there to hear a mirthful bunch of University of Toronto students jab at the trumped- up dignity of the event by improvising wonderfully disconnected snippets between speakers.

One minute it was We Are The Champions. As mayor David Miller left the microphone, they played something that might have been Louie-Louie.

There is your MLS Cup Final week, as majestic as its makers can make it with room for accidental anarchists to take the whole thing just a little of course.

It is a measure of the youth of this 15-year-old league that neither the Colorado Rapids or FC Dallas has won a title and the league is contemplating using orange soccer balls should the snow fall on Sunday, as it sometimes does in mid-November at 11 o’clock at night at a stadium situated a header away from the lake.

Now, aside from being perfect material for ribald jokes, orange soccer balls are easy to spot in the snow. They are not unknown: German teams have favored orange balls when the weather turns inhospitable.

But in North American, different colored balls are the staple of a new league looking to jazz up its profile. Think about the ABA and the image of Julius Erving in hyperspace with a tri-color ball immediately pushes itself unto your consciousness. Does anyone remember the Fox comet puck?

Big time teams would no sooner trifle with the ball than they would halt the all-star game and declare it a tie.

There is in this preamble to the game, all the trappings of the interest-stoking buildup.

The focus will sharpen on the stars, Dallas midfielder David Ferreira and Colorado strikers Omar Cummings and Conor Casey.

The coaches are busily claiming underdog status which, when you think of it, is a ludicrous position for two teams in the league’s ultimate game.

“We don’t like [not being the underdogs],” FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said in the coach’s conference call. “That’s a little unusual for us.”

Rapids head coach Gary Smith isn't buying it.

“You can’t be Coach of the Year, you can’t win 3-0 away from home [against the Los Angeles in the conference final] and you can’t break all the records they have and still be underdogs,” Smith said.

League announcements have been tiered to keep the train rolling. The expansion Vancouver Whitecaps FC were set to announce the signing of their first player, defender Jay DeMerit. There is a league MVP to be announced on Friday.

A ceremonial relighting of the CN Tower to reflect the colors of the MLS Cup is set for Friday,  but there is a limit to the showboating.
The Tower stays where it is.

What we are left with is a league that purveys the global game to a steadily-growing clientele, a league with a calibre of play unimaginable a decade ago, a league whose members are dipping into the perilous waters of big name signings, none more jaw-dropping, of course, than the acquisition of David Beckham in 2007 (with apologies to Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez).

Youthfulness and ambition defines Major League Soccer. The trick will be to resist the stodginess of the other leagues while aspiring to their revenues.

It’s worth remembering that the University of Toronto ensemble would have never been contracted for the National Hockey League or God forbid, the National Football League. An iron-fisted advance person would have squelched out any possibility of a dissonant note and ruined every element of fun that wasn’t on someone’s script.