Finding a way to make the perfect preseason
especially Guadalajara -- is also popular. The training grounds are good, especially at the Primavera just outside the city. Sometimes you are not sure of your games until the last minute, but it usually works out. CD Chivas USA and the Chicago Fire are going there this year.
Portugal is being visited by Salt Lake this year. Again the training grounds are good there and it is priced reasonably. In the past Kansas City, Colorado and many others have gone.
Hawaii is usually reserved for vacations but Los Angeles and D.C. United are going there to play a game. The players are looking forward to that one.
Many teams are doing their preseason in the USA. Kansas City and D.C. United play in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and due to the March start they cannot really travel too far away.
It is important to pick a location that will accomplish your goals -- and the main goal needs to be games and competition. I also feel it is important to mix it up. I don't think you want to go to the same place every year. Even though your team has a good experience if you go back too soon the attitude of the players takes a hit. Some players like to get away, others miss their families a great deal, and some players do not travel well. But all players like to complain. It is not major complaining -- just little nagging things. The food becomes an issue, foreign language TV, who they're rooming with and many other little things. Sometimes complaining happens because of boredom. Changing where you travel to each year keeps this to a minimum.
I am a soccer junkie so I loved La Manga because of the television. You get the channels from England, Germany, Norway and Spain. You could watch soccer 24/7. Not all players like to watch soccer as a pastime, but many do, and as a soccer addict this was the best place for me.
Finally, going abroad forces the players to bond. They overcome similar problems of language and what to watch. They spend more time talking to each other and playing cards. We often had hearts or spades tournaments on these trips. Poker is popular now. The rookies get assimilated very quickly and the team building is accelerated on these trips.
On every trip abroad something happens or a buzz word catches on that stays with the team. Our China trip will always be remembered for the long bus rides and Alexi Lalas playing the guitar. In France, the day off became a trip for many to Monte Carlo which proved quite memorable -- if not profitable.
But there are good reasons for teams to stay here as well. I do like the different games that are popping up in places like Charleston, Austin, Las Vegas, Birmingham, Virginia Beach and others. Playing these games helps spread MLS around the country and gives many more fans a chance to see teams and players live. It helps the teams financially but also spreads the MLS footprint.
Preseason is a great time for the new players. Everyone gets a chance to play. This is where rookies earn playing time and the respect of veterans. Competition for positions is present and the newness brings out the best in most everyone. Some of the places teams travel to sound fun and exotic. But there is not a lot of idle time for sightseeing. Work is the order of the day, training and games are the focus.
Have I said this before? I love this time of the year.
Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.