Europe’s Super League Is Gone. What Now?

The main difference between sports in the US and soccer in Europe is dynasty. Occasionally, dominant teams appear in the major leagues in North America: The Golden State Warriors will win three championships in four seasons; The New England Patriots will maintain their success for nearly two decades.

Usually, however, there are checks and balances – through player drafts and the presence of a salary cap – to ensure that today’s weak have at least a chance to become tomorrow’s strong.

Football has no such mechanisms. Instead, it is driven by the desire not only to be successful now, but to be successful in the long run. It is a sport defined by the dynasty. It’s what encourages not only teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid – which are theoretically member-owned and therefore run by presidents who must seek re-election – but also private entities like Juventus and Manchester United, ruthlessly in the US to invest pursuit of success.

The leaders of these teams know that it is not possible to skip a season. It is not possible to slowly and carefully rebuild towards a distant destination. Teams are expected to compete now, fight now, and win now. If not, managers will be fired and players will be sold and new managers will be hired and new players will be bought.

A season in which Bayern Munich does not win the Bundesliga is a disaster. Juventus could fire a rookie coach this summer for failing to win Serie A – not just in his first season at the club, but in his first season, period. Liverpool have been mocked at times because a long injury list prevented them from winning a second Premier League title a year after winning their first title in 30 years.

This is the prevailing ethos of the sport: as Alex Ferguson used to put it, once one trophy is won, you forget about it and try to win the next. But while that is part of the appeal of football – that one win is never enough – there is a problem for those who run its clubs: there is always another triumph to plan, always another climax to conquer, always another player admitted to buy. Ultimately, that’s what the fans expected, and that’s what they are asking for.

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