there’s more than one way to skin a cat

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I’ll start this by saying I know this post is going to inspire some ire. It will be taken the wrong way. Some will take it personally, even though that’s not my intention. Angry emails will be received, my mentions will see the same, and I’ll probably have to tweet out another 5000 words on Twitter to defend my intentions. Suffice to say, I know what I’m getting myself into.

What exactly is it that I’m about to get on about that requires such an opening?

My growing annoyance with the ever-increasing childish tendencies of American soccer supporters groups, that’s what.

Now, that’s a pretty broad brush stroke I just painted with: I’m well aware that not all supporters groups or supporters group members are bad apples. So when I mentioned earlier that some are likely to take this personally, if you already feel like I’m attacking you, take a deep breath and give me a minute. I might not be talking about you or your group specifically at all. I could be, but it’s statistically not likely. In truth, most of you are great. But some of you are annoying as all hell. Read on to learn on which side of the divide you fall.

Also, before I get too far into this, let me also dispel any thoughts of me being against supporters groups on the whole. I’m not. I’m actually a bandana-brandishing member of the American Outlaws — Chapter 154 in Dayton, Ohio — and a card-carrying member of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

In fact, I mostly love what supporters groups bring to American soccer: energy, passion and some absolutely fantastic human beings. The fanfare they provide makes for great atmosphere, and has been one of the largest contributors to the vastly improved match day experience at American professional soccer games.

But I mostly love that from afar. While I have plenty of close friends and acquaintances in supporters groups who I love to catch up with at the pre-match tailgate and post-match at the pub, I usually keep my distance from the actual supporters’ sections in the stadiums themselves.

Again, this isn’t because I dislike what those sections have going on — it’s just not how I personally like to take in a match.

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revealed: USL in Cincinnati

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WSOTP - Blog - Cincinnati USL.fw

Late last night — or early this morning, depending on how you want to look at it — some seismic news shook the Cincinnati soccer scene. As revealed by good friend Chad Hollingsworth from Scratching the Pitch, full-fledged professional soccer would be returning to the Queen City in the form of a new USL franchise.

No, this isn’t the long rumored move of the Dayton Dutch Lions to Cincinnati. Nor is it the USL PDL’s Cincinnati Dutch Lions stepping up a level in the ladder, either. I’ve also received confirmation that there is zero involvement from the already established Cincinnati Saints of the NPSL. This is a brand, spanking new club — admittedly with some loose ties to the Dutch Lions organization.

So who is this new club, where did they come from, and how this all come to be?

Word of a new USL franchise first came across my desk back in December of 2014, and I’ve been chasing information on it ever since. Admittedly, extruding any sort of information on the topic proved extremely difficult. Wrong paths were followed. Dead ends were discovered. Red herrings were hooked. But the wet weather of the last month has finally yielded spring flowers.

Let’s start with what we already know.

As Chad disclosed, the new Cincinnati USL club will be feature an ownership group fronted by Jeff Berding. He’s spent the last 17 years working for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, currently holding the title of Director of Sales and Public Affairs.

Jeff’s ties to Cincinnati run deeper than just his role with the Bengals. He attended the same high school as myself, graduating from Cincinnati St. Xavier in 1985. Afterward, he attended Xavier University. Berding also spent nearly five years as an elected official, serving as a Cincinnati City Councilman from 2005 to 20011.

As for his ties to soccer, Mr. Berding currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors of local youth soccer power, Kings-Hammer FC. For those who have followed the USL for some time, that club name may ring a very interesting bell. It’s the lovechild of a “joint-venture” between local youth side Hammer FC and former local USL Second Division franchise, the Cincinnati Kings. While that professional club may have gone belly up in 2009, the youth club has continued to thrive. Additionally, Berding’s LinkedIn profile indicated he’s also spent a spell on the sidelines as a youth coach for local parochial school St. Ursula Villa, too.

Also mentioned in the Scratching the Pitch article was another interesting soccer relationship: Berding served on the board of the Cincinnati Dutch Lions. More on that later.

While my sources confirmed the exact same information as what Chad wrote, aside from knowing that the team plans to begin play in Spring of 2016, that’s all we knew definitively about the prospects of USL coming to Cincinnati.

That wasn’t enough for me. So I, along with WSOTP Podcast partner Jeremy Lance, dug a bit deeper.

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promotion & relegation survey: personal reflections

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WSOTP - Blog - Promotion & Relegation Reflections.fw

This is the third and final article in a three part series based on the results from a survey that ran on the site in December and January that looked to gauge the actual fan and owner interest in the implementation of Promotion & Relegation in the US and Canadian professional soccer pyramids. 

Read part one: Supporter Results  |  Read part two: Owner Results

I have to admit that making the decision on whether or not to write these series of articles was not any easy one. The debate I’ve held with myself over writing about the subject of promotion and relegation stretches back for the better part of a year.

Deep down, I knew that doing so would bring me a windfall of grief.

My words would be twisted, my intentions distorted and my mind numbed by the incessant drumming of some of the debate’s largest figureheads. All that happened well before I’d ever written a word on the topic in this space, so it was destined to be worse once I voluntarily jumped in with the sharks. It has been.

But if I could imagine a world in a vacuum where one could talk about pro/rel in the US and Canada without igniting a firestorm and one’s name being dragged through the mud, it’s a fascinating topic to discuss.

Why?

Set aside the incendiary nature of the debate as it currently stands. A comparison of the positives and the negatives of promotion and relegation’s implementation against the pros and cons of the current system requires so many different layers of thought. Logistics, finances, structure, migration path, legalities, desires — all of these are key elements in the conversation. And when one system appears to be beneficial for one of those factors, it could be a huge detriment to one of the others.

I love reasonable, level-headed and cordial debates like these. And it’s for that reason that I considered writing about promotion and relegation long before I ever knew of anyone named Ted — I just never got around to it, other than stringing together the occasional set of 140 character opinions on Twitter.

But it’s probably for the best that I didn’t. Because the reality is, it’s morphed into a ridiculously combustible topic here.

It’s a conversation that features extremely passionate group(s) of supporters and opponents. Both sets seem to be growing, but so too are those that have grown annoyed with the discussion and its tone. The mere mention of the phrase “pro/rel” on Twitter can literally set off a never-ending stream of notifications on your cell phone for the rest of the night. It’s hard to not get caught up in it — particularly for someone like me whose passion for the game pretty much defines their existence.

Unfortunately, in all of the mudslinging that goes down, there’s lots of hyperbole and opinion that’s tossed in alongside it like they’re undisputed facts.

That drives me bonkers.

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. But if you’re going to broadcast yours and attack others unsolicited for theirs, you damn well better have more than a “belief” to back it up. To be honest, soccer is too important to me as a human being to allow potentially incredibly influential popular opinion to be established without it having some solid data to lean against.

That’s the reason I ran these surveys in the first place: to establish the most comprehensive data set on the opinions and desires of two of North American soccer’s biggest constituents. I didn’t care where the numbers fell one way or another — I just want something to refer back to other than hunches and speculation.

So with all that said, what is my opinion on the topic of promotion and relegation here in the US and Canada? What are my reasons for those thoughts? And did my thoughts change after seeing the results of the surveys?

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an interview with professional soccer social worker lawrence cann

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Street Soccer USAIt’s not an infrequent occurrence to hear someone describe soccer as their life.

For many that I know — myself included — that’s a fairly accurate statement. I run a soccer website and spend a majority of my free time watching and taking in the beautiful game. My sister and her husband are both college soccer coaches. A fair few of my friends make their livings training and working for youth clubs. And a privileged few of my acquaintances actually pay their bills by playing the beautiful game.

But it’s a rarity that you ever hear someone talk about how soccer has saved their life. Unless, that is, your name is Lawrence Cann.

Lawrence Cann is president and founder of Street Soccer USA, a non-profit that aims to “improve health, education, and employment outcomes for the most disadvantaged Americans by using sports”. Working most frequently with homeless youth and adults, the program currently operates soccer-based programs in sixteen cities around the country.

Probably best known for the team they send to the annual Homeless World Cup, SSUSA’s biggest project every year is actually the domestic Street Soccer USA Cup. At that, all sixteen cities in the program send a representative squad of program participants to take part in a national tournament.

And as it just so happens, the 2014 edition of the Street Soccer USA Cup kicks off this weekend in San Francisco.

So to help get a better understanding of everything that the SSUSA program and their annual big event does to help the disadvantaged across the country, I spoke with the Lawrence Cann to get the low down on how they’ve managed to use soccer as a vehicle for social change.

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#forcincy match poster 5: saints vs erie commodores

WSOTP - Cincinnati Saints Matchday Poster 5

This week has been a madhouse for me personally, so getting the things that needed to get for the website took a bit of a backseat. As such, I was way behind the eight ball when it came to getting up my next match poster for the Cincinnati Saints’ NPSL match posters. Normally, I try to publish them at least three days ahead of time; this week’s game is tonight and I’m just now publishing. Yikes.

Anyway, the Saints welcome Erie Admirals FC Commodores FC to town tonight for their fourth home match of the NPSL season. As such, I thought a nautical theme would be in order for the match poster this week, given that Erie’s crest and name focus on the same. And I thought there would be no better way to capture the mood for the match than to have the Cincinnati Saints be the “sea monster” to Erie’s ship. Those of you familiar with the Kraken Black Spiced rum commercial will see the inspiration with the design that I utilized this time around.

We here at WSOTP will once again be bringing you the live match commentary on the Saints live stream of the match, plus on ICRC local access television. So if you’re not willing to brave the rainy forecast, or you want to watch this split screen with the USWNT tonight, check out our Match Commentary page for links to the stream.

If you want to see all the designs from my season long series, click here.

pic of the week 6/22-6/28

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I know I’ve been a bit negligent around these parts lately. And for those of you who have been asking for additional Women’s World Cup coverage, I hear you too. Summer time is busy, what with a seemingly a game kicking off every 30 minutes over the last two weeks between Canada 2015, the Copa América in Chile, European Championship qualifying, Youth World Cups, international friendlies, the American domestic leagues and my broadcasting responsibilities. As such, finding time to scribe hasn’t been the easiest.

But if there’s anything that will wake me from my slumber, it’s commenting on others in the world of soccer making horrendous errors in judgement. Case in point, the English FA’s attempt at supporting their surprisingly plucky ladies’ team in Canada.

Yes, that’s real. No photo shop involved. In fact, it’s so real that the cast of the Bend it Like Beckham Musical — which is apparently a thing now — posed with it to help support the Lady Lions.

Look, I know it’s common place in England for a team’s supporters to shout “Come on you, ____!”. But you can’t tell me that at least one person in the chain of approval for this didn’t think, to themselves “Maybe this could be interpreted differently, no?” Did anyone look at this before they decided to give it the seal approval? And while I’m also aware that the English are suckers for a snarky pun or crafty joke, this would have to be a little too misogynistic to let fly, right? If not, why not go for the full monty and hire Ron Jeremy and Peter North as your spokesman and Milk as an advertising partner?

#forcincy match poster 4: saints vs detroit city fc

WSOTP - Cincinnati Saints Matchday Poster 4

It’s a Wednesday of a Cincinnati Saints match week, which means its high time for me to share the latest poster in my series of designs for the 2015 NPSL season. And while poster #3 of the series was for a match against our rivals to the north up Interstate 71, my fourth poster of the campaign is for the visit from one of our northern neighbors up the other highway — I-75 this time — in Detroit City FC.

If you’re not familiar with Detroit City, they’ve made quite the splash in the fourth tier of American soccer thanks in large part to their exuberant fans: the Northern Guard Supporters. The DCFC hardcores regularly pack their Cass Tech Stadium with thousands of supporters, and often show up with considerable numbers on the road too. Last I’d heard, they were expecting to send a bus load in our direction this Saturday.

So with Detroit so well-known for their support, I thought the perfect theme for Saints-City match poster would be to highlight the Saint’s own supporters: the Seven Hill Crusaders. No, they don’t have near as many members in their ranks as the visitors can contend. And they’ve not received near the same accolades or attention that their rogue-colored counterparts, either. But that doesn’t mean the Crusaders trail behind NGS in passion or love for their team. And as such, there seemed no better way to pay the Crusaders tribute for their fandom than to give them a poster of their own in the lead up to a match against one of the most well-supported lower league clubs in the country.

Of course, just as with all of the other 2015 NPSL home matches this season, you can catch the game — and yours truly and #Pondcast co-host Jeremy on the call —  live on local access television and via live stream online by visiting our Match Commentary page.

Want to see all the designs from my season long series? Click here.

#forcincy match poster 3: saints vs afc cleveland

WSOTP - Cincinnati Saints Matchday Poster 3

Next up in my series of match posters I’m creating to celebrate each of the 2015 NPSL home matches for my hometown Cincinnati Saints is a poster for tonight’s duel with AFC Cleveland. It’s a little later than when I had hoped to post it originally, but at least it’s up well before tonight’s kickoff.

The second leg of a “I-71 Cup” series between the Ohio fourth-tier foes — the opener which the Saints lost 0-1 on the road last weekend in Cleveland — provides the home side a real opportunity to claim their first ever silverware, at least when you consider their 100% record at the friendly confines of Withrow High School thus far in 2015. The name of the cup being contested between the two sides was clearly the driving inspiration for this game’s poster, which was fashioned to resemble one of the many highway signs that dot the 239 miles of Interstate 71 that separate the two cities. Admittedly, adding the reflective elements to the design was a huge pain, but it paid dividends in helping to give it a more realistic feel.

As always, we’d love for you to join us if you’re in our neck of the woods this evening, but if you can’t, you can always tune in and watch the game live online with match commentary provided by WSOTP by navigating to our Match Commentary page.

If you want to see all the designs from my season long series, click here.

WSOTP pod: a fifa summer spectacular

WSOTP Podcast - A FIFA Summer Spectacular

Well, the Season 2 finale didn’t last that long: two full weeks to be exact. But with a hectic summer soccer schedule — plus just a little bit of news about a supposedly corrupt world governing body — D.J. and Jeremy just couldn’t help but turn back on the mics. Though we did give you fair warning that would be happening several times throughout the summer. We just delivered earlier than anticipated. So in addition to the guys’ reactions to all things FIFA scandal, we also delve into the Champions League Final, the US men’s suprising shootout with Holland, and of course the ladies of summer and the Women’s World Cup.

Have anything you want us to cover over the course of the summer? Drop us a line at contact@wrongsideofthepond.com and we will likely happily oblige. And to make sure you don’t miss any of our summer audio offerings, automatically receive new episodes on your favorite mobile device or RSS feed by subscribing using the links below.

WSOTP Podcast on iTunes WSOTP Podcast on Stitcher WSOTP Podcast RSS Feed

the girls of summer

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This is a short excerpt from my latest featured post for the blog of Over-the-Rhine’s original sports bar, Rhinehaus, located in my hometown of Cincinnati and home to many WSOTP Watch Parties and Events. To read it in it’s entirety, please click here or click the link at the end of the post.

Last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil was a breath of fresh air in American sports. Freed from the constraints of rivalry with one another, fans coming from nearly every corner of American sports fandom convened together to cheer on the US Men’s National Team in spectacular fashion.

Bars across the country like Rhinehaus were packed wall to wall with not only their normal Saturday and Sunday morning Premier League patrons, but swaths of new fans ranging from casual supporters to die hard patriots. Public spaces in major cities filled with chanting fans by the thousands — as was the case in the Wrong Side of the Pond-hosted event down on Fountain Square with the Cincinnati Saints — to watch on jumbo trons. It was damn near impossible to not get caught up in the excitement.

And if you’re feeling nostalgic for the outpourings of love the beautiful game received in 2014, worry not: you can get a taste of that excitement in the summer of 2015 too.

Starting tomorrow, the FIFA Women’s World Cup will be kicking off another month long soccer extravaganza in cities dotted around our northern neighbors Canada. And unlike the men’s tournament last summer where we were belabored underdogs, our ladies are actually among the favorites.

Continue reading “The Girls of Summer” on the Rhinehaus blog. →

a way to track the ladies

I’ve been trying to publish this for the last three days. Check Twitter out if you don’t believe me. Unfortunately, the selfish jerks over at FIFA kept stealing all of the limelight. But despite their greatest efforts to upstage one of their own prestigious tournaments, I’m not going to go allow them to continue putting the ladies on the back burner.

So today, I’m pleased to announce that WSOTP is bring back our WSOTP World Cup Hub as a special space on the site devoted entirely to our Women’s World Cup coverage!

Whether it’s a new piece I’ve written that focuses in on the events transpiring in Canada, or a new podcast where Jeremy and I wax poetically about our love of Alex Morgan and the rest of the USWNT, you’ll be able to find it all in one convenient spot. And just as with the men’s tournament last summer, we’re launching the release of the WSOTP World Cup Hub with something special…

My original 2015 Women’s World Cup Wall Chart!

WSOTP - Bracket - Women's World Cup 2015 Wide

As was the case last summer too, you can download a hi-res (4080 x 2550 pixels) copy of the WWC Wall  Chart to hang on your cubicle wall, your fridge at home, or even blow it up huge and hang it in your soccer pub to help your patrons track the tournament! In addition to the blank version shown above, you can also head to the World Cup Hub page to download updated wall charts as the tournament progresses.

So be sure to give the WSOTP World Cup Hub a look, download your Canada 2015 Bracket, and check back regularly for ongoing coverage of the ladies this summer!

fallout

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It’s fun watching a car wreck, isn’t it? We’re given physical evidence of this every time there’s one on the highway, as a long line or rubberneckers slows as they approach the scene of the accident. Craning our necks even as we’ve passed in an attempt to take it all in, we take some morbid satisfaction having captured a glimpse of the carnage.

Well, so long as we don’t know anyone that’s involved.

Watching and commenting in the echo chamber that surrounded Wednesday morning’s FIFA corruption scandal and arrests, it felt an awful lot like the rubberneckers on the highway. But instead of a normal accident, it’s lbeen lies we’re passing a nuclear explosion a few miles off the express way.

Everyone’s slowed their roll, stopped to survey the damage, and offered up a hot take or twelve. Ooh look, Chuck Blazer did rat everyone out. And there were arrests in Switzerland at the FIFA Congress. The South African government has been implicated as well? Wait, Nike has been too? Jack Warner has been arrested, and then sent to the hospital, and now has a legion of children singing songs about him? Holy freaking crap! You get the feeling that the longer you look, the more you’ll be able to take in. I mean, it’s Friday and the highway is still backed up.

And we’ve all enjoyed it. Thoroughly.

The problem is, though we might be enjoying the carnage at the moment, it could end up engulfing US soccer, too. Well, some corners of it anyway. And the joy that many of my fellow citizens have felt at watching FIFA get smacked by the long arm of the American law, I fear that could quickly turn to ire when the fallout hits a little closer to home.

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ten words or less #110

Well, it’s fair to say a bombshell was dropped on world soccer yesterday. I’d hoped to get out a full-length piece on it last night or today, but the rapid developments with regards to the FIFA corruption scandal has made it difficult to stay on top of and write accurately. So I’m giving it another day or so to fester before unleashing the dragon. And while you wait, there have been hundreds of miles worth of online column space already written on the topic — so you won’t be wanting for reading material.

To hold you over, as usual, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite links from the past week or so. The first four of which are directly related to the ongoing firestorm. So enjoy reading the selections below while the world outside burns.

FIFA meets the long, bad ass arm of American law. – justice.gov

How to boycott FIFA without hurting soccer. – independent.co.uk

Sponsoring the World Cup is an endorsement of their practices. – theverge.com

The NASL is in some serious shit. – northernpitch.com

Adidas “smart ball” teaches you to bend it like Beckham. – androidpolice.com

The Minnesota MLS stadium situation is… tricky. – vice.com

Snow skiing plus soccer? Super impressed… if this is real. – youtube.com

An insurance plan to protect against missing the Champions League? – bloomberg.com

Beer and soccer. You don’t need to know more. – soccerbible.com
Thanks to my man @MPFaessler for pointing this out.

Wambach’s turf war paying dividends, just not how you’d expect. – soccerwire.com