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Dear St. Louis, The MLS Isn't Coming To Town (Because 'The MLS' Doesn't Exist)

We all have that one friend that butchers a particular word within a quote/phrase/song lyric/idiom, to the point our blood boils whenever it resurfaces. And I'm not even talking about grammatical mistakes like theretheir, and they're or the difference between affect and effect. Those go largely undetected in speech; only ever showing up as egregious typos in a text or email. No, I'm talking more about painful linguistic attacks on the ear drums. 

These instances can be as innocuous as assigning a plural verb to a singular subject. I recently saw a commercial that aims to dissuade Illinois residents from driving buzzed or drunk. Nothing to really joke about there. And I'll admit that the music, voice-over, and simulated car crash are powerful enough to command attention. If it happens to follow an ad that is frequently mocked in your household, this ominous 30 seconds certainly re-centers the tone in the room. Or at least it should. So what is wrong with me that I now laugh every time this message comes on? 

Well, the narrator ends a particularly dramatic sentence with "... everyone you know, including yourself, are at risk." 

At first listen, I thought I must have heard it wrong. I did not. After three consecutive TV timeouts aired it, I wanted to throw my phone — the device I was watching ESPN+ college hoops on — across the room. C'mon, people. This is English in the 21st century. I understand that it's nuanced and evolving, but we should have a much better grasp of it by now. 

These days, I actually long for the spot to reappear. And not for the reason its creators hoped for. If it does pop up, I only pay attention to that one line. My brain receives "are" instead of "is" and triggers a similar sensation to that of eating salt & vinegar potato chips. The incongruity oddly leaves me wanting more. As it turns out, enjoyment is sometimes rooted in displeasure. 

Human nature is to poke and prod at things that are deemed altogether wrong. In its most extreme manifestation, we have bullying borne out of insecurity, jealousy, and/or hate. But I don't want to go that far down the rabbit hole. I wish to stop the train at the station immediately preceding that vicious right turn — in a relatively harmless land of trolling flubs and gaffes. While the former is subjectively making fun of another person, the latter is more objective. You're either using language correctly or you're not.  

Anything created in text form without proper proofreading deserves roasting at the highest possible setting. As leader of the free world, how can you put "scott free" or "covfefe" in a Tweet and be shocked when critics call you a sack of potatoes covered in human skin and horse hair?

Ribbing prominent people in this way does open me up to a world of scrutiny, which I fully understand and embrace. It won't require a fine-tooth comb to locate crimes against the English language within this, or any of my works. My writing is stylistically a stream-of-consciousness hot mess. Go ahead and point out the dozen or more grammatic fouls in this piece alone. I knowingly lob boulders at other culprits while residing in a single-pane glass house.

We've all become Mean Girls, willing to mock anything for a punch line. The threat of eternal damnation is no longer a neutralizing deterrent. The majority of us find the worst fail[ure] in another person's career hilarious and in no way sympathetic (see: "Boom Goes The Dynamite" video). This premise is half the reason Twitter still exists. And I'm clearly not above being equally trite

"Shitting on" just about everything is what we, as a society, now lives for. We can't wait to leave a party, in order to critique all the moments that got under our skin. Don't act holier than thou; you do, too. Yet, as unflattering this judgmental characteristic is, it does play a role in natural selection. Forget what your elementary school teachers hoped to instill, bringing down others does inflate self worth — even if it is an illusion. There is a psychological boost in intelligence, fashion sense, athletic ability, you name it, when a lower bar to clear is found. If you are low on the food chain, push people in the predator's way to appear faster than the slowest.

Social media has acted as lighter fluid to this slow-burning phenomenon. Simply rework found artifacts on the internet and you have yourself a popular blooper reel. Memes and GIFs are the newest generation of America's Funniest Home Videos. Adequately "torch" a celebrity figure and you just may become a legend. But I'm not here for the notoriety that comes with "putting someone on blast" or any of that nonsense. My focus is education and not humiliation. I want mistakes I've observed to get cleaned up, not gain attention for simply pointing them out.

Remember what Teddy Roosevelt famously said about complaining without a proposed solution? That's called whining. "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming." 

So, let's not get this twisted. The person in my cross-hairs is undeniably out on the front lines doing the hard work, personally investing millions of dollars. I'm not going to sit back and discredit that, like some troll who only ever feels bold enough to talk smack when it's shielded by a computer screen. I will be harsh, but I'll also provide solutions. 

The drunk driving ad really makes me think: That mistake had to get by an unforgivable amount of Illinois government employees and media recording personnel. Call me old fashioned or a huge grammar nerd (don't dare use that other n-word in today's climate), but I still value proper word selection when people speak. Choose poorly and the entire thesis can turn into background noise. That is my focus of today's piece. Going "grammando" has its place; one mistake can cost you your target audience.

What about when it's not an entire room of people not catching a mistake? What about moments where the person you hear is the sole writer/editor/producer?

Live speakers are inevitably going to have moments where they mess up. Bright lights and pressure to perform to an audience are real contributors to brain farts. There's also a fight against established defaults. Exhibit A: Nearly everyone associated with the National Football League still says the "San Diego" Chargers. We're wired a way that makes change tough to come by. So, after we get in the rut of a bad habit, it lingers for awhile.

The problem is when people who make a living out of talking come to work unprepared. When the database of knowledge on a certain topic is empty, the results can be disastrous to an "expert's" credibility. Look no further than the social media grilling ESPN's Stephen A. Smith took last week. Completely devoid of any substantive insights for a Los Angeles Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs game, Smith offered up an intriguing personnel matchup for fans to keep an eye on: Hunter Henry (Chargers' tight end who has been injured all season) and Derrick Johnson (former Chiefs' linebacker who hasn't been signed by any team in 2018). That, my friends, is the definition of talking out of your ass. 

Last evening, Monday Night Football's Jason Witten (who is having an objectively rough rookie year in the booth) said one of Cam Newton's best attributes is his "ability to run after the catch." If my soccer-exclusive fanbase is tuning in for this piece, the man is an NFL quarterback with one career reception (eight seasons ago). It is a gaffe that the great Howard Cosell likely made a handful of times per week. But those examples are largely lost and forgotten. Things are drastically different today. When everything is captured by a various recording device — and we're caught in a 24-hour news cycle — the same slips from brain to tongue that used to have short lifespans now stay up in that cloud forever. 

I lay all that out to hopefully prove my criticism is very different. I'm not going after a singular goof — either accidental slip of the tongue or word vomit to mask an area of expert deficiency. Instead, this piece is more about a consistent word/phrase/idiom that a person incorrectly hangs their hat on. It's like the $250 18-degree hybrid in your buddy's golf bag that is purposely overused. The gloating about its versatility is code for "I paid a lot for it, so it's coming out often." But that doesn't mean it is the right play, Mr. Driving Iron From The Fringe. 

These individuals are so proud to have cornered a unique page of the SAT vocab section. But each time the words are applied to a party conversation or press conferences, the speaker is completely unaware what they're saying is wrong. You know these people: The guy who says "I could care less" when they mean the opposite (LeBron James). Or worse; he or she who takes a person for "granite" — for all "intensive" purposes, by "in" large. 

And none of us are above this. I was in college before the proper "piqued" replaced "peaked" when it came to my interest. "Wreak" and "reek" still give me issues. I also pronounced "awry" as "AW-ree" (along with "pentultimate") for a time period that lasted longer than I am happy to admit. 

My list of physical miscalculations is just as bad. As part of a group looking to secure an MLS franchise for St. Louis back in 2016, I notoriously covered my six-foot-wide stadium renderings in black trash bags — as the only last-minute thing I could find before a hundred guests and every local news outlet got their first glimpse. I'm clearly not above public ridicule for any number of a hundred stupid things I've said or done. The difference is that I'm no longer the one on camera. I aim to learn and evolve; willing to openly accept criticism. That doesn't seem to be the case with the ownership group that did emerge victorious in the battle for local bid control. 

Once again, please picture that friend with a propensity for comically-bad, nails-against-the-chalkboard audible mistakes. Now, envision that individual is constantly on the news talking about a topic that promotes repeated use of that incorrect phrase. They are in charge of all speaking engagements pertaining to a passion project of yours. Hearing the mistake would start to irritate rather quickly. And it would cut deep, for he or she is your only representation to land something you really want. You would try your best to get that person to stop, right? 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to that attempt.    

As a blanket statement, the fine people of St. Louis currently sound like a bunch of bumpkins when they mention Major League Soccer. I want to coach this behavior out of them quick, before the sophisticated Manhattan-based league realizes we have no idea how to properly communicate in this town.

The issue: The MLS. 

You may have heard "the MLS" in a real estate context, standing for the Multiple Listing Service. Now, I'm not saying the housing compendium called dibs and Major League Soccer can't use it. This is not about identity confusion in the marketplace. This is about something much simpler; something I thought more St. Louisans would have learned in their $15,000/year high schools. 

MLS is technically not an acronym at all, though that is the term of art that has become synonymous with every all-cap word. An acronym is something more like NASA or SCUBA. You would never sound out each of those letters individually: N-A-S-A or S-C-U-B-A. Instead, they have the right placement of vowels to create a pronounceable new word.   

MLS is a first cousin of these "true" acronyms — dubbed an initialism. This term categorizes abbreviations that are similarly constructed by the first letter of the key words they contain. But the combinations lack a certain phonetic composition to be singularly pronounced. In many instances, the pieces are all consonants and could never become anything more than inarticulate sounds. Thus, initialisms must be pronounced one at a time. 

Some colloquial slang can go either way: ASAP can be A-S-A-P or "A-sap"; LOL is now in the same boat. Born in computer forums of the 1980s as an initialism, it has evolved into a fully-pronounced gerund ("I LOL'd at that meme for hours"). That sample sentence is especially frustrating to me because a person means to say they laughed out loud, which only changes the verb tense within the same three-letter abbreviation. Its exterior appearance shouldn't look any different, but millennial culture has made it acceptable to see suffixes slapped on acronyms. 

This sadly applies to something else I'm passionate about. You guessed it, baseball statistics. The RBI vs. RBIs debate rages on, and it gets fiercer by the day. Future big league broadcaster, and really good friend, Nate Gatter could spend hours on contemporary theory surrounding this one. By the letter of the law, "Runs batted in" and a "run batted in" should be the same initialism. Yet, for some strange reason, the plurality has become externalized. Yes, society has irrevocably gone off the deep end. 

These are the trickiest of circumstances; where the youngest generation of any era is foolishly given full authority to steer the grammar ship into uncharted waters. By repetitive incorrect usage, and the shear volume of their demographic flooding communication channels, "youths" are the arbiters of most newly-recognized words. 

But the problem currently plaguing St. Louis' potential ownership group is far more black and white than this. It is hardly up for debate or revision from the English textbooks of the 1800s.

Deciding how to attach parts of speech to an initialism is based on the full name (of the organization, secretarial shorthand, disease, etc.) for which it stands. It is a case-by-case basis, in which the creamy middle of the initialism shell must be examined. 

"The Major League Soccer" is not a thing, and it never was or will be a thing. "The Multiple Listing Service" is. That's how two initialisms — made up of the exact same letters — could have different rules on applying buttressing words. 

To be clear, this is not the same as opting for/against "the" prior to Eagles, Grateful Dead, Offspring, or Red Hot Chili Peppers — when saying each band name. There's not Preference A and Preference B, where each is an acceptable way to catalog your iTunes library. It's also not akin to The Shawshank Redemption or the name of this very blog, where you can go with or without the "the" in conversation. There is only one right answer.

Take it from any English professor or grammarian out there: Use a definite article with an initialism if the spelled out term begins with "the" but is not covered in the initialism. In other words, The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an entity where "the" is essential, but not grand enough to earn a letter in the abbreviation. Taking a case to the FBI is perfectly justifiable. Likewise, "the MLS" — coming out of a realtor's mouth — is grammatically as it should be. List your house on the MLS all you want. Just don't expect to ever be awarded a team to compete in it. 

Things like "the CDC" are correct, even though the unabridged title is "the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." Why the "P" is not represented is unclear. In any event, our government entrusts that entity to represent "the USA" at "the WHO" (World Health Organization) or "the UN" (United Nations), with the assistance of "the EIS" (Epidemic Intelligence Service). All proper applications of the rule. 

But you can't walk anything down to "the Major League Soccer." You just can't. It sounds as ridiculous as watching "the World Wrestling Entertainment" on your "the personal computer" made by "the International Business Machines" — the technology company's "the modus operandi." You can enjoy WWE on your PC built by IBM, their MO. That is the simple two-way test. If long-form nouns sound clunky with "the" in front, then their initialisms also go without. 

And it's so easy to escape a thought without this gaffe. Slap a "home office" onto the back side of "the MLS" and all your problems disappear. Walk whatever you want down to that place. 420 Fifth Avenue, 7th Floor; New York, NY 10018, just in case you were wondering.  

As an adjective, you can knock yourself out with "the." 
  • "The MLS SuperDraft, held on January 11, 2019, should be the last one in the league's history. It is no longer a viable pipeline for talent acquisition." 
  • "The MLS stadium rendering that local media uses for all its press releases is not the intellectual property of this current ownership group. Continually using that outdated imagery misleads the public into believing the MLS venue will look like that." 
  • "The MLS Cup Playoff format change is a joke for not re-seeding after the first round." 
Nothing in that vein is an issue whatsoever... from a grammar perspective, at least. All are serious problems not being discussed nearly enough. Sadly, they will have to wait their turn for a future write-up.  

Today, my grievance is solely in the use of the league abbreviation as a noun. Specifically, my target is Jim Kavanaugh — major general in the Taylor family's #MLS4TheLou army. In one recent FOX 2 News clip, he and his interviewer, John Pertzborn, combined to belt out four different incorrect injections of "the MLS" in under three minutes. And this wasn't the anomaly. You could turn any stop on Kavanaugh's promotional tour — even the older ones from 2016 — into a really nice drinking game if you wanted to. 

Saying "the MLS" isn't a momentary lapse for him. This is not a clip that gotcha journalists could crucify him for. Nor could any troll make a viral meme out of it. If the phrase was presented on David Letterman's "Is This Anything?" sketch, the answer would be unequivocally "no." It is nothing.   

But it is wrong. 

This man clearly believes that his grammar is correct when he continually spews "the MLS" out of his mouth. His entire collection of his audio clips (totally nearly 50) sound like a Sunday Night Football player introduction montage of former Buckeyes are Hurricanes. If you don't know what I mean by that, then you should turn in your sportswriting press credentials. 

This segues quite well to someone who should lead the way in forfeiting his right to ever talk sports again. That recent FOX 2 ordeal was especially cringe-worthy, thanks to a particular Stephen A. Smith type moment by the host. Pertzborn asked if San Diego (currently seventh in odds to land a bid) or Tampa (12th, and not even actively in pursuit) are in St. Louis' way. The real threats (Sacramento, Phoenix, and Detroit) weren't even mentioned at all. I'm embarrassed that one of the few good columnists the Post-Dispatch possesses, David Hunn, had to waste his time writing an article on who the bid competitors are — two and a half years into this current process; on the doorstep of getting in. If you care at all, people, follow along.

It was the level of precision one expects from basic-cable news and so St. LouisThen again, Kavanaugh didn't correct anyone at the studio when they misspoke or misprinted his company as World Wide Technologies. Fault lies with both parties. 

I even saw this article recently, which opted for a style not seen out of an initialism since 1914. Its author went full-on "the M-L-S" to identify the league. This is not to be confused with the archaic (yet tolerable) styling of the New York Times or Associated Press — where periods are placed after every letter in an initialism; e.g. N.A.T.O. or C.I.A. Abbreviating the league with dashes looks like it belongs in a book for small children learning to spell. Adding "the" is just icing on the cake.  

Guys, this isn't going to fly. We have to be better. This is getting sloppy across the board. The attention to detail should be razor sharp at this point. We're talking about one seat at the 2022 table and no guarantees it belongs to us. 

Being cavalier with the wrong words has trickled down to the Board of Alderman, debates on talk radio, and into casual conversation on the street. For the next five months, can we please button it up? Correct people at upcoming aldermanic meetings. Be snooty about it. Our fate as supporters of the future club depend on it. You're the collective mouthpiece that is in constant contact with the league. 

New York City, in all of its haut monde culture, has us under a microscope right now. Put more cosmopolitan Wash.U. professors on this team if you have to. 

I recommend more speaking engagements for local legend, Bill "Mr. Soccer" McDermott. Aside from the folks consistently packing Amsterdam Tavern every weekend, he is the most articulate and knowledgeable asset in this process. And he uses "MLS" like a boss. These are the people in the community that I long to see at home matches in the new stadium (regardless of their difference in European club affiliation). Allow their voices to come forward more.   

Trust me when I say they are not the first people to screw this up. Look at the fourth-grade reading/writing level of our current POTUS (another good acronym that never gets "the" used correctly). Is it any wonder there's a war on grammar these days?

I have written about this topic ad nauseam in regards to modern MLS expansion efforts. Many civic leaders in bidding markets have had equal issues with this particular three-letter word. But a strength in numbers doesn't correct the problem. Nor does following the others make St. Louis look any better than the uneducated lot. Each city that has publicly/repeatedly struggled with this (San Diego, San Antonio, Raleigh/Durham) is currently out of the running for franchise 28. Coincidence? 

If nothing else, it is a missed opportunity to differentiate our proposal. Using the initialism properly could make the league take note: This region is more abreast of the situation; already in tune with the in-house style guide.

You simply have to do your homework. These are savvy business men and women. How can they not understand the concept of doing the proper research on the company you claim to want to be a part of so much? The families involved have boundless sums of money, and thus an aura of sophistication, but then they go and sound like Jeff. County, Missourah residents the moment "the MLS" comes out.  

When I bring this up in conversation, I get retorts that go something along the lines of: "Stop being such a pretentious soccer douche" or "Screw you; it doesn't matter at all." That's as PG as I can put in print. I understand that my arrogance rubs people the wrong way. With all that is currently wrong with this crazy world, "the MLS" seems to be a rather bizarre (and catty) hill to die on. Eradicating its use certainly won't end wars or hunger. But that doesn't mean it should be granted a pass, either. I didn't choose to be passionate about this narrow-focused detail. It found me.

From where I stand, "the MLS" shows a level of disinterest — however diametrically off the mark that may be. It's about optics; akin to the mayor of a city that's just won the Super Bowl who says the wrong names of players in a very public postseason speech. Former Boston mayor Thomas Menino was notoriously out of touch with the people representing his town in the world of sports. To his defense, however, the fine people of Massachusetts voted for him to balance budgets, not cheerlead for the Red Sox to win the "World Series Cup." 

The expectation levels are different in this instance. This is the ownership group messing up the name of the very league they want to join.

I could go on a soapbox and further this diatribe that one simple "the" is indicative of an entire culture that has lost itself in character limits and Snap stories. But I won't do that. However, I will say that a little blind spot — in the collective knowledge of otherwise intelligent people — does show an apathy to the minutia. I definitely feel this is lacking today. We don't seek out others for help. Everyone wants to be the smartest person in the room. I'm not that. I could never run World Wide Technology or handle the business affairs of something as large as Enterprise Holdings. But I do know that "the MLS" is not a thing.

And I'm honestly not trying to stir the pot. Candidly, I write this because I still want to join Kavanaugh's team full-time; same as I did back in 2016. This is not someone who is against the revamped proposal. This is someone with constructive criticism to improve upon an already-stellar plan. But they clearly need the help in avenues that aren't capital fundraising and corporate sponsorship acquisition. Wait until that new stadium rendering gets released and isn't as good as it could be.  

My viewpoints are nitpicky and outspoken, but they're not wrong. They have value taking "good enough" to "great." 

We have to make a solid impression like we know Major League Soccer, we want Major League Soccer, and we belong in Major League Soccer. The little things matter. Uttering "the MLS" is as mind-numbing as hearing your mother say "the Youtube." 

They might not think it, but it really is that bad. After you finally pick up on it, I promise that any future "the MLS" occurrence will sear your brain. It shouldn't affect the outcome of MLS commissioner Don Garber's decision. But what if it does? If St. Louis is not selected, the unknown reasons will eat at the town's collective quality of sleep each night. Every little thing will be revisited in the mind. Could a simple grammar error tip the league off to a greater attention-to-detail shortcoming? I sure don't want to stew on that unanswerable question for the rest of my days.   

Like the board room for that Illinois impaired driving commercial, where is anyone in their camp that hears how off this is? If the ownership group is willing to listen, I'm here for that. 

Belaboring a flaw without anything constructive to offer is just trolling. That's not my goal here. I'm pointing out something I feel embodies a larger need for a person like me on an executive board like that. I've already outsmarted everyone in the league office in regards to a 28-team league. They are still reeling from how I've outflanked their lack of forethought. 

I'll now suggest the ways my experience has taught me to get around saying "the MLS." Take notes, local politicians and media personnel.

Say "Major League Soccer" or just "the league" a lot

Not as lucky as the NBA, NHL, or NBA. In the grand scheme of things, Major League Soccer isn't a bad hand to be dealt. Saying the entire drawn-out name isn't that difficult. It is hardly cumbersome or bulky: Only 17 total letters and five measly syllables. It's not like I'm asking anyone to say Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (37 letters; 15 syllables) with each usage. Anyone with that condition would get halfway through the "Deficit" and be on to the next thing.

The gold standard — and the brand in which MLS was originally derived — is Major League Baseball. While you can be "the MLB leader in saves," you certainly would never hear St. Louis Cardinals' play-by-play announcer, Dan McLaughlin say, "... more extra-base hits than anyone in the MLB." He'd opt for the full name if it's ever the caboose of a stat line. Get used to doing that more often. 

MLB is a prime example of an organization understanding that this was an issue; to the point where they made changes to our vernacular vocabulary just to make things easier. When journalists couldn't kick the "the" habit, they sought out creative workarounds. "The MLB" became "the Big Leagues" and "the Big Leagues" became "the Bigs." 

It is genius, as well as proof "the MLB" wasn't meeting an acceptable short-hand standard. Back broadcast teams, pundits, and players/managers into a corner, and they'll eventually come up with an escape hatch out of the grammar faux pas. Until someone comes up with an equivalent to "the Bigs," the best thing we can do is "the League." 

Start out with a different article

Articles are not the root source of this problem. That part of speech is fine. Utilizing "the" puts up a road block; the person delivering the message could likely terminate the sentence immediately after the noun that follows. But "a" and "an" provide public speakers with a way out. These small, leading words turn nouns into adjectives, which require more to be said. If the train of thought has left the station — without a clear endpoint — throw in this alternative article and "... hearing from the MLS" quickly becomes "... hearing from an MLS representative." [Phew] Crisis averted.

Note: Please don't substitute one error for another by saying "a" when you really mean "an." Not only does the first word of an initialism or acronym matter, but it's phonetic sound does too. "M" carries an "em" sound, so pairs with "an." Example there would be: "He has been an MLS sideline reporter for three seasons."

Have some rehearsed words stored up

When the bright lights of a TV camera come on and the brain locks, diarrhea of the mouth can happen to just about anyone. You gotta have those "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass" boxes stocked with. If the plane starts taking a nose dive, remember terms like board of governors, front office, and expansion committee. These can help pull up at that final moment — right before crash and burn.  
  • "I'm really encouraged by the feedback we've received from the MLS."
  • "I'm really encouraged by the feedback we've received from the MLS expansion committee."
You get clever with it the more you speak on the subject. Don Garber is a wizard when it comes to turning a phrase to avoid it. Ironically, using his name as a substitute for the league decreases the slip-ups. It also personalizes the narrative; "The MLS" doesn't make any decisions in this expansion process. Replacement words like "Don Garber" and "board of governors" do. 

Have a swear jar in the office specifically for "the MLS"

Condition the behavior out of your system. I infamously stated in 2016: "Dave Peacock could come up with $80 million if he had to pay a dollar for every time he said 'the MLS' in the wrong context." Terrible joke. But it played well in the news to drive home a sentiment.

Why would someone ask you to be a part of their exclusive club when you present a vibe that you just learned about this group yesterday? I'm not asking Carolyn Kindle Betz, Jim Kavanaugh to be MLS super fans. Betz has gone on record saying soccer is new to her. And I appreciate that honesty. I guess I expected more understanding out of Kavanaugh, who played the sport in college and had a cup of coffee professionally. 

You don't have to tune in every weekend in order to be granted an MLS franchise. It's a business; not a supporters' club. I get all that. But on some level, isn't it spitting in the face of the league that it's obvious you don't know much about it? 

It makes the whole thing feel like a charity golf outing, where a multi-millionaire has been pushed to the podium to donate a large sum. Before they grab the microphone, he or she whispers to a staffer "What organization is this for, again?" Inundated with causes, speaking engagements, and drives, they unfortunately came a tad unprepared to this one at the last minute. 

And in some ways, that metaphor is apropos. The Taylor family has joined #MLS4TheLou out of a genuine love for the city. Their beloved St. Louis was in trouble and they didn't ask questions; they ran to help, learning the backstory as they went along. To this point, it makes the current proposal to the Board of Aldermen the five-star grade it deserves. Any detractors of the effort should actually be encouraged that Betz is not a West County soccer mom. This is altruism in as pure a form that can be found today. 

I'll be the first to admit that the ownership group has done 99.3% of this process the right way this time around. Sorry for nitpicking the 0.7%. The substance of what they have said in their recent media tour is excellent. It just needs a coat of polish before that inevitable Ballpark Village pep rally redux — with Don Garber back in town — takes place. This will be the video clip that goes out to larger viewership than the St. Louis metro area. If you really want to grind the gears of Sacramento Republic FC supporters, come off like imbecile. Did you see that rally in St. Louis where their owners called it 'the MLS' twenty times?   

The owners should seek lessons from their new homeboy, Taylor Twellman. The man spends much of his life discussing Major League Soccer. (hey, see... not that hard). 

Hell, make a New Year's resolution. I'm not saying the entire bid hangs in the balance, but I'm also not saying it isn't. How do we know? Ownership groups in Sacramento and Phoenix don't have this current issue. Perhaps words matter to other people in this world, too; the ones about to decide the fate of an entire city's future economic growth.

Then again, maybe it's all moot. Grammar clearly isn't an emphasis in modern society. And the league that was once cool and unique in North America sports seems to be going off the rails. St. Louis will be getting an MLS franchise. Period. The only thing that is up for debate is when: 2022 or later? 

It took him long enough, but Garber is finally aware of how capping expansion at 28 teams would be idiotic. Hmm, wonder what ultimately got to him? In any event, St. Louis might not have to try nearly as hard as they initially thought. Even if they're not the next bid to be awarded (after Austin)clubs 29 and 30 are not too far behind... allegedly.  

30 teams with 16 making the playoffs — a staple format in the pre-Vegas NHL and modern NBA — looks like it could be the future of Major League Soccer. Exclusivity is now taking a back seat to chasing a buck. We might even see 32 teams by 2030. If that's the case, keep saying whatever you want, St. Louis. It's not going to matter anyway; you'll have your club. And if MLS does indeed grow that large, I won't be paying attention any longer. The "watered-down, Ponzi-scheme, joke league" will have no defense against these consistent claims from detractors. How can you turn a blind eye to competitive balance and on-field talent deficiency simply to appease 32 markets and prop up values on their entrance fees? Several somebodies need to be left out or else the product does not become worth watching. 

I sure hope it doesn't snowball that negatively. I have to keep the faith that 28 is the maximum quantity for the next decade at least — with St. Louis as that capstone market. If we get really lucky, we have relegation and reset the total quantity to 27. Here's to staying optimistic in 2019.  

There is also breaking (positive) news to bring this piece to a close. Credit where credit is due: Kavanaugh recently got one right. At the end of a "Scoops With Danny Mac" podcast, hosted by Dan McLaughlin, we finally got a "the"-free MLS sound byte. Kavanaugh and McLaughlin combined to go 0-for-5 in the first 18 minutes of the Q&A. However, in his final attempt at a sentence requiring "MLS," he used it properly. This is the ownership group's most up-to-date public recording and it finished on a high note. Sign of personal growth? Watch out 2019. The only road block hindering  #MLS4TheLou might have been removed. 

(Photo Credit: FOX2 News, KTVI)

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