MLS still looking to break through

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:45 PM ET

It's the game of the year, so far, in MLS.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Galaxy travels to Utah to face Real Salt Lake.

If the Galaxy win or draw, it extends its unbeaten run to begin a season to 13, breaking the mark of 12 set by Preki, Mo Johnston, Nick Garcia and the rest of the 2000 Kansas City Wizards, as well as the 1996 edition of the Galaxy, who set the mark in the shootout era.

Oh, and itís a rematch of last year's MLS Cup, which RSL won in penalties.

And Real Salt Lake has lost just one game at home in the thin Rocky Mountain air dating back to opening of the 2009 season.

It's a wow game.

We can talk as much as we want about how MLS has become mainstream in places like Toronto and Seattle; it can't claim to have broken through the ice until the big games pique interest in all the markets.

Soccer fans care when Liverpool faces Manchester United. They know when Barcelona plays Real Madrid. Basketball fans everywhere care about Lakers-Celtics. And baseball fans all follow the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

But, outside of papers in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, how big will this game be played? Will the highlights make Sportscentre or onto The Score?

Heck, even in Los Angeles, the game is being shown on the local Fox Sports affiliate on tape delay, five hours after the game kicks off in Utah.

Through 12 games, the Galaxy has 32 points. To put that into perspective, two MLS teams didn't get that many points all season in 2009. And it's just one short of the Kansas City Wizards' total of last season.

In MLS, the wisdom is that 40 points gets you to the playoffs. That means the Galaxy could likely get eight draws in its final 18 games and it would make it to the post-season.

Over the past two weeks, without MLS goal leader Edson Buddle and assist leader Landon Donovan ó who are both in South Africa with the U.S national team ó the Galaxy went into Columbus and beat the class of the East, the Crew, 2-0. It stomped on Houston by a 4-1 score.

Goals are coming from veterans like Jovan Kirovski and 19-year-old Tristan Bowen, who is a product of the Galaxy's academy system, the void left by Buddle and Donovan has been filled. And the Galaxy is still the best defensive team in the league.

But Real Salt Lake at home is a juggernaut.

Likely, this will be the only non-L.A. or Salt Lake City media outlet you'll read about this, even though one of these two teams will likely represent the West at BMO Field for the MLS Cup.

MLS deserves some of the blame, scheduling the game just two days away from the World Cup. You couldnít have predicted L.A.ís record pace to start the year when drawing up the sked, but this was an MLS Cup rematch. And everyone knew Donovan, the Galaxyís big star. was a sure bet for South Africa.

But, even if this game was held on June 9 or Sept. 9, how much change would there really be in how this tilt would be seen by the mainstream sports world?


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