Archive for the ‘Soccer in America’ Category

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.

Soccer in American: Creating Soccertown, USA (Part 2)

Soccertown Poll

There was some great feedback on the Soccer in America: Creating Soccertown, USA via the comments section, the poll and a blog post over at Soccer Soap Box.

The short story is that the vast majority of fans agreed that games should not continue to move around as much, but most were not enamored with the four cities I proposed (or even a “one city solution”).

Surprisingly (to me), Chicago was the “winner.” And the remaining cities (including “Other”) shook out like this:

Seattle  (20 votes), Denver (14), Columbus (12), Houston (10), New York (8),  Los Angeles (7), St. Louis (6), and then 14 other cities with 4 votes or less.

I’d be great to get some insight on all the love for Chicago. (Is it that much of a soccer town?) It is the headquarters of the US Soccer organization, but I don’t know what impact that really has on players (given they don’t train there).

Seattle is a strong contender given its support of MLS, but I’d like to see if that level of support is sustained beyond the inaugural season.

Meanwhile, in Bob’s post at Soccer Soap Box he talks about the buzz created when a USMNT match is played in your city. Buzz is great, but building fan support that shows up and creates a home field advantage should take precedence.

It is clear that there are passionate fans around the country, so perhaps a “one city solution” is a bit too restrictive geographically. However, US Soccer is doing the players on the pitch a disservice with the current strategy and should proactively focus on a few desirable locations throughout the country.

“Summer of Soccer” In the Eye of the Beholder

Meaningful or Meaningless?

Meaningful or Meaningless?

With the game at Azteca looming we are nearing the end of a great stretch of soccer in the US. If you search around the web you’ll find all sorts of retrospectives about the Confed Cup, the Gold Cup, the World Soccer Challenge, World Cup qualifying, international club friendlies and even the US Open and CONCACAF Champions League, so I won’t rehash all that. But I would like to touch on one thing I have learned watching, reading and writing about soccer this summer: sometimes perception counts more than performance (and that is unfortunate).

We are in a period in America where every result is judged not just on the quality of performance, but on how it is perceived by diehards, sportscasters/journalists, the casual fan and the disinterested American. While I don’t like it, I think it is just the reality we must live in during the current phase of Soccer in America.

Here are two examples.

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Soccer in America: Creating Soccertown, USA

Follow-up Post: Creating Soccertown, USA Part 2

What would it mean to US Men’s National Team to have an atmosphere at home like Wembley or Azteca or even Saprissa?

For the USMNT, playing on American soil doesn’t mean a stadium full of supporters. All too frequently it means that the crowds will be just less hostile than if the game was played on the home turf of their opponent. Although not surprising, it is a shame. The reasons for the home field disadvantage are many and well known, so I won’t go into those. The more important question is what can be done?

We need more of this...a lot more.

We need more of this...a lot more.

One could take the “rising tide lifts all boats” approach and assume that as soccer continues to gain momentum in the US more American fans will flood the stadiums on game day for the USMNT. However, the tide is rising steadily, but not fast. Another approach could be to creatively “direct” to whom tickets go by requiring multiple game purchases (like some NFL teams do). That wouldn’t work as US Soccer would take a hit politically as well as in wallet as attendance could potentially plummet.

I like an all-together different approach—stop moving games around. Develop the fan base in one city and designate the two stadiums in that city (the 70,000+ NFL stadium and the 18,000+ MLS stadium) as US Soccer National Stadiums. I know many of the soccer super-powers move the game around (including Brazil, Germany, Spain and Italy) but soccer is the national sport in those countries and geographically they aren’t nearly as vast as the US.

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