Google launches up the MySpace race

Joga.com offers a social-networking site for soccer fans

Poor MySpace.

Ever since the startup was bought by News Corp. last summer, it’s been one thing after another.

First News Corp. faced questions over how it would monetize its impressively large but scattered audience, which now exceeds 65 million. Then MySpace had to fend off claims that it aids sexual predators.

Now it’s facing a challenge from two players who’d like to make the Web even more of, well, their space: Nike and Google. The pair teamed up last week to launch Joga.com, a social-networking site for soccer fans.

On its own Joga isn’t a huge threat, especially Stateside. But it suggests Google has hit on an idea that could work better than its own social-net experiment, Orkut.com. After all, no one’s better than Google at matching topic with user.

Then again, MySpace still has the clout to break out new talent. It contributed to the buzz for bands like the Arctic Monkeys, and is increasingly boosting new pics like “She’s the Man,” for which it prominently featured helmer Andy Fickman‘s MySpace page.

Which suggests that when it comes to influence, the world game is good, but the zitgeist is better.