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Das Auto = Dollars in DC

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Looking around the league...

The Big News in MLS recently is DC United’s 5 year, $14 million deal to have Volkswagen as their jersey sponsor. According to Reuters News Service, it’s the second biggest jersey sponsorship contract in MLS (after Herbalife’s deal with the Galaxy) and means that now 9 of 14 MLS teams have such sponsorships.

This, like the stadiums coming on line, is very good news for MLS. Doing the math, the VW deal pays for the entire DC United roster (yes, including Marcelo Gallardo’s designated player contract). Nice. My favorite part of the deal: at future United games, the first 50 Volkswagens to enter a certain RFK parking lot will get to park for free. Better and better.

Meanwhile, down in Santa Clara, the Quakes have a “Colonel’s Corner” at the Buck Shaw Stadium, sponsored by KFC. But with all the food booths, I couldn’t find any fried chicken at the game. Am I missing something? Or is KFC?

The LA Galaxy traveled to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on Tuesday to play the USL1 Vancouver Whitecaps in an exhibition game. 37,104 came out to see Dave Beckham (Landon Donovan was not even on the bench) and a Whitecaps 2-1 win. Now, get ready for Alexi Lalas (or some other Galaxy suit) to start whining about how tough their schedule is, and how much they have to travel, etc., as soon as they’re done counting the money.

The Galaxy has defined “success” not as winning trophies, but as becoming a $100 million franchise, so as I see it, everything’s going according to plan. This is fine by me, if it weren’t for all the whining (they're the ones scheduling these games in the first place) and the fact that one of their starting eleven, midfielder Brandon McDonald, is being paid an intern’s stipend of $12,900 for the season.

The MLS brass defends such low “developmental player” salaries by saying they’re on par with what entry-level baseball players make in the Class A minor leagues. OK, but when a baseball player makes the majors (even without starting in 6 out of 7 games like McDonald has) he gets paid a major league salary. I hope Beckham (or Lalas) at least gives McDonald a ride to and from the games. With gas prices so high, that $12,900 doesn’t go as far as it used to.

With the Premiership season over, my Saturday mornings are suddenly empty. The season ended on an up note, as it was great to see Fulham survive the relegation battle, sparked by the return of Brian McBride (the most underrated, under-hyped, and under appreciated American player going) to grab four wins in their final five games. McBride scored the opening goal in two of those four wins.

With five Yanks on the Fulham roster (McBride, Kasey Keller, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, and Eddie Johnson), they’ve earned a spot in my heart (though I’m still a solid Liverpool supporter). It wasn’t that long ago that there weren’t five Americans in the entire Premiership – and four of those Fulham five came up through MLS. Sweet.

To finish this week's round-up: I was surprised to see MLS Commissioner Garber (on his blog on MLSnet.com) defend the practice of fans throwing streamers on the field. He says it’s a “unique phenomenon that happens all over the soccer world,” (unique in that it doesn't happen in sports like baseball and NFL football).

Sure, some jerks throw stuff on the field in other countries: streamers, coins, water bottles, baggies full of urine, and at least one lit road flare (launched from the upper deck of San Siro). Such behavior is one of the many "unique phenomenons" that plague the sport, like racist chants, violent battles between “ultra” supporters, and the occasional match-fixing scandal.

OK, throwing streamers is not anywhere near as bad as those other things, but as I see it, none of this crap has a place in the Beautiful Game. Yes, as the Commish says, the “fans are part of the game experience… and part of what will drive (MLS’) future success.” But go to a game at places like Anfield, and you'll see that you couldn’t ask for more passion, intensity, or a better game experience. And there won’t be one piece of paper on the pitch.

It’s called “respect for the game,” and throwing streamers at players taking corner kicks (yeah “1906” supporters, this means you, too) is bush league.