Archive for the ‘Soccer in America’ Category

Whatever It Takes: AO’s Trip To SLC

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Thanks Matthew for picking up the torch in my absence this week. With a few hours before the Great American Beer Festival in Denver today, I wanted to post a long overdue (on my behalf) story from our friend Justin Brunken of The American Outlaws.

As we lament the lack of television coverage for the Honduras game, not to mention the hub-bub around the circumstances of the game in Honduras, there is always another way to guarantee you see the game.

Be in the stands.

That’s just what Justin and buddies try to do for each USMNT game. They’re the guys yelling, singing and supporting the USMNT. They’re the guys trying to make things just a little tougher for whomever the opponent may be. They’re the guys organizing trips across our country as well as to places where the term “military coup” is part of the everyday vernacular.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the story of Justin and friends’ now legendary journey to the recent match versus El Salvador in Salt Lake City. Not only will the tale make you laugh, but you begin to understand how eleven guys on a field wearing red-white-and-blue can bring folks from around the country together in a way that transcends merely cheering for a team.

It's all worth it!

It's all worth it!

Thanks for helping us understand, Justin.

Click here to read Justin’s story.

The American Soccer Landscape

Frankie believes that last pass is what separates MLS from the EPL.

Frankie believes "that last pass" is what separates MLS from the EPL.

[TSG: Thanks to @AOBoston on Twitter for passing along the link to the article.]

The Columbus Dispatch ran an interesting story today entitled, Soccer’s Footprint is Expanding. The wide-ranging article tackles a variety of topics including the popularity of MLS, the rising tide of support for soccer in the US, the influence of European clubs and television coverage of the sport.

A couple of the things in the article jumped out at me…

The Gap Between MLS and European Clubs

Frankie Hedjuk produced this opinion on the gap between MLS and European club teams.

“”The biggest difference is the (European teams) have pure finishers and that’s the next level for our game. We are physical enough and can run up and down the field with them, but it’s that last pass that is the difference maker between those teams and MLS teams.”

From the MLS and European soccer I have watched, the gap seems bigger than “that last pass.” I’d probably throw game speed (not fitness) and touch in there as well. What do you think?

The Rise of “Tribal Like Passionin the MLS

Perhaps I am just getting old, but it was surprising to read that the MLS commissioner Don Garber would remark that “[I was] walking around the field with Clark Hunt before a playoff game last year and I did not feel comfortable walking close to [The Nordecke] supporters section (and) I shouldn’t.” (Emphasis added by me.)

Believe me, I am all for the “tribal like passion” as Garber calls it, but I draw the line at suggesting that intimidation of other fans, and executives in this case, is somehow a good thing and what MLS clubs should be striving for. Please let me know if I am lacking some historical perspective here relative to Garber, the MLS, etc.

European soccer hooliganism is not something that should be emulated by American supporters of US club teams or our national team. Not to mention that such activities would just seem fake given the corporate upbringing of MLS clubs. Do we really want opposing fans / families concerned about attending MLS games given the current state of support for soccer in America? The sport needs all the fans it can get.

(Aside: I am a firm supporter of  heckling opposing players within bounds of decency.)

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USMNT: The “Yanks” Need a Nickname

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(Update: Thanks for all the commentary. Well appreciated. Keep it coming.)

(Update 2: Even more astute commentary still coming. Updated below)

(Update 3: We’ll have a follow-up piece in the next few days)

Sure, we’ve got the Yanks….but maybe that’s only because Nigeria took “the Super Eagles.” That’s a good one–man, that’s good.

T&T’s Soca Warriors, very cool.

Not what we're going for...

Not what we're going for...

Much better than “the Stars & Stripes.” (“All men starboard, we’re tacking due north! Man the jib!”)

Cue Larry Ellison. What is this the America’s Cup?

The Nats? Alluding to a pestering insect that often ends up swatted is not the imagery we want to conjure.

What should the U.S. soccer nickname be? Do we have it already with the Yanks or does that conjure up too much Ruth, Gehrig and Mantle and more importantly a game with a stick and gloves?

Vote in our poll on the right. We threw out some choices, but they’re probably way off.

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I Want My US MNT-TV!

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We might need another one of these to actually see the US qualify for the WC.

We might need another one of these to actually see the US qualify for the WC.

Another round of qualifying, another struggle to watch our beloved USMNT from the comfy confines of our own home.

August brought us US-MEX on a channel (mun2) that was beamed into approximately 16 households until a groundswell of outrage led to a free preview of said channel (along with some awful commercials).

Now, according to Steve Goff of The Washington Post, October will likely find American homes shutout completely from watching a game where they US could clinch a World Cup berth.  To make a long story short, the rights to the broadcast are owned by a closed circuit television distributor (which I had no idea still exist) and they claim that the networks had no interest in broadcasting the game even for less than $1mm.

So what can we do? As Jason Davis over at Match Fit USA points out, this isn’t the same situation as mun2-gate. as there is no “target” for our outrage; if a broadcaster doesn’t want to buy, they don’t want to buy it.

Yesterday, I had an email exchange with the Roger Huguet, CEO of Imagina US, who represents the closed circuit rights holder and was mentioned in Steven Goff’s article. Huguet told me that his clients may be open to the possibility of a live English broadcast if ESPN (or one of the other networks) were willing to negotiate. In other words, any fan campaign to try and get the game broadcast live into our homes should be directed at the networks. (In the event we are stymied, Roger offered to send me the list of all the bars throughout the country showing the game live to publish on TSG.)

I think the issue (at least for ESPN) is that the game is on a Saturday. While a Saturday game day is generally preferred to a mid-week tilt by US soccer fans, it runs up against the money-making machine of college football on ESPN / ESPN2. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that even if ESPN got the game for free, they still couldn’t broadcast it on ESPN / ESPN2 due to contractual obligations with college football games.

What about ESPN Classic? My guess there is that becomes a financial decision. A (“less than”) $1mm price tag may seem like a pittance to the World Wide Leader, but the numbers would still have to pencil out as a stand-alone broadcast on ESPN Classic. (I don’t think American Gladiator re-runs from the 1990s carry the same cost to broadcast.)

Seems like a perfect situation for Fox Sports Channel, no?

Given the run soccer has had in America the last 4-plus months, it would be an absolute step back for the sport if a game of this magnitude can’t be seen on broadcast television. Here’s where I think US Soccer or a major sponsor (the Swoosh, perhaps?) should step-up and do whatever it takes. Consider this a loss leader (USSF) or a marketing expense (Nike) and give the game away to whatever widely distributed channel will have it. In the end, no one cares if it is on ESPN, Versus, The Food Network or Oxygen.

We just want our US MNT-TV!

TSG’s March on Soccer House!

(Perhaps the words “march on” are a bit strong; “stroll towards” would be more accurate.)

Soccer House...where the "magic" happens

Soccer House...where the "magic" happens

As my brother alluded to in yesterday’s Benny Feilhaber post, recently, I found myself in Chicago for work. I had a few hours to kill before making the trek out to O’Hare and wondered what I should do. Being of Polish decent, I started thinking of kielbasa and pierogi and looking up Polish restaurants. But then I hopped on TSG and Matt had posted the YouTube clip of the Outlaws march (“march” is the correct term here) on Soccer House and my mind was made up. I would make my own pilgrimage to the seat of soccer power in America.

My walk in the sweltering sun turned into a cab ride and I quickly found myself in a nice, very quiet neighborhood. This was the famed Soccer House? I knew it was a historical building in an historical part of town, but I didn’t think it would be in a deserted residential neighborhood across from a gated park. Thankfully, I didn’t come empty handed because otherwise I would have just walked around the block, tapped on the US Soccer Federation sign and spent another $15 to return to my hotel.

After my Soccer House inspiration, I had emailed Matthew to solicit slogans I could write on signs to hold outside of Soccer House. Much to exactly no ones surprise, Matthew’s email back included 5 versions of sayings all including the words “Benny”. I picked one (which you saw in yesterday’s post), made up two more and had all three signs and a camera with in-front of Soccer House. Only one problem. There sidewalks were barren; no one was around to take a picture.

For the next ten minutes I looked like some creepy guy pacing back and forth along a quaint, but desolate block holding some signs. Five minutes into my lurking, a cop car pulled around the corner and parked 20 feet from Soccer House. I was doing nothing wrong, but actually started to wonder if someone had called me in.

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No B.S. – Simmons and Lalas Talk Soccer

UPDATE:  Support the petition to get Bill Simmons to the US qualifier against Costa Rica in RFK and sitting with the American Outlaws.

Simmons: This is the summer that I inexplicably fell for soccer. I can’t explain it. I don’t know why it happened now. I don’t know if it is like a mid-life crisis, but I have thrown myself into the US National Team and the English Premier League.

Lalas remains one of the most recognized faces in US soccer.

Lalas remains one of the most recognized faces in US soccer.

Lalas: You don’t have to explain it. It’s like…uh…love. You know, it just happens. You got to go with it.

And thus began a meandering, but interesting 58-minute conversation between ESPN’s Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) and Alexi Lalas early this week as part of Simmons’ B.S. Report podcast.

Say what you want about his motivation for covering the sport or knowledge of the game, but the increasing coverage of soccer by Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) can only be a good thing. This isn’t Simmons first foray into the world’s #1 game. A couple of years ago he wrote a two part piece about picking his EPL team—Tottenham Spurs. But, ultimately, Simmons lost interest.

Continue Reading for Highlights of the Conversation

Iran – USA, Not So Friendly on the Pitch Either

Do we need cap leader Kobi Jones to step in and make this happen?

Do we need cap leader Cobi Jones to step in and make this happen?

According to the Tehran Times (TSG has no idea the rep of this paper) this evening and Iran football personnel, the US-Iran friendly eleven match scheduled for the Fall is likely not to be.

Ali Kaffashian, Iran Football Federation president, “We have announced our readiness to hold matches with the U.S. team via letters but have not received any answer yet. In this case, the matches will be canceled.

Far be it from TSG to even slightly interpret fact accuracy, rhetoric and political correctness, however regardless of who, what or how, we feel it would be phenomenal for soccer to be the ambassador sport for opening up relations between the two countries.

In fact, chalk another one up for soccer in the US, it’s not like we can send an American football or baseball team to Iran, Indonesia or even Iraq and have a sport that involves the largest portion of the opponents fanbase.

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