The tradition of the summer friendly is nothing new. For decades, international clubs have been coming the United States to play trumped up exhibitions against one another and local clubs. Basically, they are a chance for teams to make a little extra money while they work through their preseason.
This summer has been especially busy, as no fewer than 10 teams from Europe and Mexico have toured around the country playing one another and various MLS teams. These games have drawn anywhere from a few thousand when West Bromowich Albion played in San Jose to more than 67,000 when Manchester United took on the Seattle Sounders. More than 270,000 people attended soccer matches on Wednesday, many of them friendlies. I'm sure most of these games turned a tidy little profit for MLS, as well as the various teams.
But a lot of these games ended up being a little more problematic than most hard bargained for, in the most extreme cases even causing significant inconveniences for both fans and teams. Some of these incidents have been extreme enough that whole concept of "Trophies, Not Friendlies" has been revived in some markets.
Here are some of the more notable friendly-related foibles that have caused at least some hand-wringing among MLS supporters:
5. Tim Howard skips out on Everton's friendly against Philadelphia Union: Just because a player's likeness is used in almost literally every promotion, it does not guarantee that said player will actually play. The Union found this out the hard way when they discovered, apparently much to their surprise, that Tim Howard would not be playing when Everton played the Union on Wednesday. As it turned out, the game was played by a heavy dose of reserves and academy players on both sides.
4. MLS teams' needs "not addressed at all": Bruce Arena is not so good at keeping his opinions to himself, and recently he expressed some displeasure over the formatting of these friendlies, namely that he felt it was set up with their international clubs' needs given precedence over MLS teams. He also made comments about how even if the Galaxy were to beat Real Madrid, it would be easily written off because of Real Madrid being in preseason form. Basically, he just pulled the veil back ever so slightly on the meaninglessness of these games.
3. Sounders "embarrassed" by 7-0 loss to Manchester United: Friendlies are supposed to make everyone feel good, right? Well, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid was not particularly happy with his team losing by a rather lopsided score, even if it was largely his reserves playing against the likes of Wayne Rooney when the game went all pear-shaped. Rather than Sounders fans talking about how cool it was to have the second best team in the world hanging out in their city, they are debating whether or not this was the worst thing to ever happen to the franchise.
2. Red Bulls fans upset that team values Emirates Cup over U.S. Open Cup: The Red Bulls, somewhat infamously, sent a skeleton team to last week's U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against the Chicago Fire. In contrast, they are expected to bring their first team to the Emirates Cup in London at the end of this month. This has not sat well with their supporters groups, who are now planning a silent protest at this Saturday's game against FC Dallas.
1. Whitecaps forced to postpone game because of temporary turf: One of the accommodations many MLS teams make when big-name teams come to town is laying down temporary grass over their artificial turf fields. Most of the time, it falls somewhere between annoying and less than ideal. When relatively normal rain fell on Vancouver last weekend, though, it turned into a bit of a nightmare. With little ability to drain, the field was rendered unplayable, meaning the match between Real Salt Lake and the Whitecaps had to be postponed. On the plus side, Monday's friendly against Manchester City went off just fine, save for the awful turf.