Everyone in the soccer bubble shared a good laugh when a luckless reporter asked Bastian Schweinsteiger, the newly acquired Chicago Fire signing and global soccer star, if he thought Chicago could win the World Cup. Obviously only countries and their national teams can compete for the ultimate prize in global soccer, and that someone would assume a lowly club in a simple city could hoist that cup was, everyone seemed to agree, the height of stupidity.
I disagree. This reporter was not uninformed. He was, rather, an optimist and idealist. He used his ostensibly foolish question as a sort of performance art to shine light on a serious problem in world soccer, one which seems more and more obvious the more I ponder it.
The Earth does not have promotion and relegation.
Think about it. A fine city like Chicago, with everything from world class cuisine, art of the highest caliber, and the infrastructure to support soccer on the biggest stage, languishes as a “city.” Now think of some of the lousiest countries in the world. It shouldn’t take long. There are some absolute third-rate, third-world shithole countries on this globe without reliable access to water and shelter, where war and disease ravage the land, and where soccer is played on a pile of dirt and corpses. Yet these black holes of humanity get to go on being a “country.”
It doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
Here is my proposal. Each year in league play, the top four cities in each country would henceforth be considered countries and could play at the international level, while the four worst countries according to FIFA’s ranking system would be relegated and considered cities, forced to play for the infinitesimal glories of club soccer.
There are basically no counterarguments to this concept. Either you support the concept that the worthy should be rewarded, or you support the notion that those at the top should remain there simply because they paid more, or cover more land mass, or because it’s simply easier. You serve at the feet of what is right or you stand on the shoulders of what is wrong.
Of course, even if Chicago were promoted to a country, the Fire could never win the World Cup with them. Because the Fire play in Bridgeview, and Bridgeview isn’t going anywhere.