ten words or less #109

While things on the writing front haven’t completely picked back up yet — I’ve had a few original pieces pop out of my brain recently — things on the design front have really picked up a bit. In addition to the recently announced Saints Matchday Poster project eating up gobs of my time, there’s also been work on the Women’s World Cup front too with at least one new shirt design and a Canada 2015 wall chart in progress too. So while I’m stoked to be working on all of that stuff, I wanted to apologize for the continued low output on the written side of things.

And as I normally do in these situations, I’ll attempt to bribe you to stick around a bit longer with some of my favorite links from the last week or so in the world of football. It’s working, right?

Other people think we’re worth following on Twitter! – northernpitch.com

Struggling with the end of the season? Here’s why. – theguardian.com

Heineken’s brilliant way to “watch” football at work. – docs.google.com

Serie A needs to do something to increase interest again. – football-italia.net

In case you wondered, “urban” USMNT looks like this. –  hypebeast.com

So far, exploding the Red Bulls front office has worked. – si.com

Ohhhhh… so it’s their fault you bit them. Got it.  – dirtytackle.net

“Brilliant arrogance” defined. – telegraph.co.uk

Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!! – prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com

Are Portland Thorns the first “real” club in women’s football? – theguardian.com

all hands on deck

If you hadn’t noticed, we’re currently at a pretty busy point in the annual professional world soccer calendar.

The European leagues are wrapping up, with Champions soon to be crowned, those doomed to relegation set go down, and various promotion processes all around. The UEFA Champions League semifinalists will be set after today’s final quarterfinal match ups, and by June 6th we’ll know the Kings of Europe. Latin American leagues are now in full swing. International breaks sporadically dot the calendar too, offering friendlies and qualifiers alike.

And that’s just all of the stuff going down abroad. Domestically, the top three tiers of the American soccer pyramid are now in action. The fourth division will start within the next month. US Open Cup kicks off in the next few weeks, too. And for the most part, things are going really, really well. Average attendance is up in all three top leagues, expansion sides are making a huge splash, and TV viewership numbers are up as well. Plus, the USSF is actually paying attention to their own FA Cup for once — hooray!

But even with all of that progress, there’s still work to be done. Compared to the other “big four” sports leagues, attendance isn’t near as steady in our professional soccer leagues. And on the TV front, non-World Cup games still pale in comparison. All that considered, and it’s easy to say we’re clearly still in a transitional stage from fringe to popular sport.

So what am I getting at?

I’ve written before about how it’s on us — the American soccer fan — to drag this sport to where we want it to be. If we want American soccer to succeed, to gain mainstream acceptance, we need to do everything we can to promote the game to those who aren’t yet indoctrinated. Drag people to games in person and at pubs, promise them a beer if that’s what a takes.

And as it turns out, tonight is one of those nights where we need you to do some promotion with us.

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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 35

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 35

“Yeah, yeah, yeah… there’s a lot of soccer to talk about this week, we’ve heard you say that on the Podcast around a million times.” Well, pardon us, but you’re going to hear it again. And really, it might be the most soccer we’ve ever tried to fit into one recording. We’ve got Premier League races, FA Cup shocks — including further professional trolling from Tim Sherwood — a very interesting round of MLS fixtures, a random international in USA-Mexico, plus the weekly Fantasy Update, Crap Football Watch and Winners & Wankers segments. And oh yeah, we did it all on a fancy new microphone set up thanks to friend of WSOTP, Adam Maloney. So we’ll be coming at you with “HD” sound… whatever that means.

Also, don’t forget to make our jobs easier by sending us your questions and topics to discuss on next week’s #Pondcast — the less content we have to come up with the better! You can reach us by email at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or hit the social media links at the bottom of the page. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe to automatically receive new episodes on your favorite mobile device.

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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 34

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 34

We’ve nearly reached squeaky-bum time in the Premier League season, and as such, most of the latest #Pondcast focuses in on the increasingly interesting races at the top and bottom of the English top flight. Who will go down? Who will go to Europe? And how will Spurs let D.J. down next? We certainly tackled all those questions, but also made sure to leave time for domestic matters too. A short preview of USA-Mexico, USMNT roster selections for it and an interesting few storylines worth watching in MLS all made the cut along with our other normal weekly segments. And we even managed to squeeze all that in without exceeding the hour mark for the first time in ages — you’re welcome.

If you have a question or topic for next week’s podcast, reach out to us by email at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or hit the social media links at the bottom of the page. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe to automatically receive new episodes on your favorite mobile device.

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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 33

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 33

Another full plate of football talk awaits you on the latest episode of the #Pondcast. The bottom and top of the Premier League were awash with interesting results, punctuated by a series of amazing goals. Major League Soccer’s early season might be proving inconsistent, but it’s also yielded some really interesting stories. And the tail end of the international break gave everyone a chance once again complain about how the US national team are supposedly in crisis mode. And what of our normal Fantasy Update, Championship Watch, and Winners & Wankers segments? Yeah, there in there too.

Questions and topics that you would like to hear talked about on the next podcast can be sent by email to contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or by reaching out to us on the social media using links at the bottom of the page. And don’t forget to use the buttons below to subscribe so that you automatically receive new episodes on your favorite device.

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ten words of less #108

A weekend of outrageous goals on both sides of the pond has me feeling a little like I have a football hangover. While there’s no doubt that I enjoyed myself and all of the breathtaking strikes, I definitely over indulged this weekend, too. Attempting to sit down and write last night, my mind felt like it was stuffed so full that I couldn’t even crank out coherent sentences. I’m not even sure that what I’m writing right now is readable — it seems like it is, right now anyway. So while I’m waiting for my brain to gain back some of its halfway decent writing ability, I present to you a sampling of other people’s works that I found enjoyable over the last week or so.

And stay tuned later today, as we’ll have the latest Pondcast up for your listening enjoyment, too.

The enigma that was Guti. Fantastic read. – thesefootballtimes.net

Who leaves first their club first: Sterling or Kane? – telegraph.co.uk

Cardiff City get another makeover their fans will gladly take. – designfootball.com

Time lapse video of San Jose’s Avaya Stadium being built. – theoriginalwinger.com

Box prices at Old Trafford are actually pretty reasonable. – reddit.com/r/soccer
Courtesy of user ‘Requiem01′

A unique perspective on Klinsmann’s approach. –  fusion.net

From no starts until November, to captain by April. – nbcsports.com

Photographic evidence of football’s awkward past. – guardian.com
Props to my cousin, Hunter, for sharing.

Digging the design of this new site. – whereisfootball.com

All in on FC Instagram in the Social Network League. – juanfootball.com

breaking new ground

Featured

WSOTP - Blog - Louisville City Opener.fwGoing into the 2015 season, there was a lot of buzz about a new American soccer team being forced to play in a facility that didn’t exactly suit their needs.

Soccer — after a decade of preaching that soccer specific stadiums was the way forward for the professional game here — would be returning to the baseball diamond for competitive matches once again, and there have predictably been calls for concerns on both sides of the equation.

Baseball stadiums, of course, aren’t really built with soccer in mind. They’re rarely long enough for a standard sized pitch and are just as likely to offer insufficient width at the length they can offer. And while some fans are fairly close to the action, usually down one of the baselines, others — like much of the outfield and behind home plate — are really far away from much of the action. And that’s not even dealing with the need to develop a feasible method for dealing with the infield. Playing on the dirt isn’t an option, and the pitcher’s mound has to be moved in some fashion.

All of that is just from the soccer perspective. Think of what how baseball teams feel about sharing their field.

A player’s need for a clean, perfect playing surface is nearly equal between soccer and baseball, and for the seam reasons too. Imperfections in the surface can drastically affect the direction a ground ball or pass will take. And a season of soccer does arguably chew up the turf far more than your average season of baseball would, even though there are normally three to four times the number of home baseball dates per season than there are soccer ones. And speaking of scheduling games, finding a way to fit soccer into the already packed baseball season schedule can be an arduous task, too.

Now to be fair, those issues alone are more than enough motivation for a club to go looking for a more suitable home. And luckily, the baseball stadium solution has been deemed a temporary one.

If you’re nodding along thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard about all of this New York City FC playing at Yankee Stadium mumbo jumbo before”… hold your horses, just a minute. I’m not talking about NYCFC.

I’m talking about Louisville City FC.

You know: the other, other City team that’s new to American soccer this year.

It’s a little confusing, so hang with me here. Louisville City FC wear purple, white and gold just like the other new City, Orlando City SC. And technically, Louisville City took over Orlando City’s franchise rights in the third division USL when Orlando City moved up to MLS this season. Further muddying the waters is the fact that there are further ties between the clubs, including Orlando City using Louisville City as their MLS-mandated minor league affiliate in USL this season. 

So now that we’ve caught you up to speed, many were not aware that the maiden voyage for Louisville City FC is taking place in a baseball stadium much like New York City FC.

But unlike NYCFC — who are playing at arguably the most famous stadium in all of baseball —  the new USL club are setting up shop at Louisville Slugger Field. For those not familiar with it, it’s the home of the Louisville Bats, the AAA minor league affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds.

I’ve had the privilege of taking in a baseball game at Louisville Slugger Field before — I lived in Louisville for two years, which is also when I founded this site — and it’s a fabulous, intimate, little stadium. The 13,000-seater stadium is a far cry from the cavernous 49,642-seat stadium the new New York team calls home in the Bronx, but still features many of the modern comforts we’ve grown accustomed too without losing its cozy feel. It’s in a great spot in Louisville, with easy access to ample food and entertainment options. And it’s easily accessible… well, it will be once the famed “Spaghetti Junction” of I-71, I-64 and I-65 is finally no longer under construction.

When it was first announced that Louisville might get a team at Slugger Field, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad home ground. So long as it was only a temporary one, that is.

But just the same, the concerns voiced about NYCFC’s use of Yankee Stadium were concerns that I shared about this arrangement, too. And just like the Yankees stars that voiced their own apprehensions about a ground-share agreement, the Bats have voiced their worries, too.

However, none of those concerns proved strong enough to deter Louisville being selected as the landing spot for Orlando’s former USL franchise, and plans proceeded forward with Slugger Field being the eventual home of the club.

So how did the opening day go, at least for the soccer club that is?

Pondcast co-host Jeremy and I made the 125-mile trip down I-71 from Cincinnati to catch the game against fellow USL debutant Saint Louis FC, and I can say with 100% confidence that it went “pretty damn well”.

First off, full credit must be given to the supporters for making opening day for soccer in Louisville the success that it was. Announced attendance stood at an impressive 6067. Although an extremely beautiful looking game with clear, sunny skies, the temperatures hovered in the low 50’s in the sun and a chilling wind blew across the length of the pitch. So it’s possible the weather kept that number from climbing higher than it already was.

The Louisville Coopers — a supporters group that predated the decision to give Louisville the USL franchise — were out in full force, numbering in the hundreds. Sat behind the third baseline goal, they chanted loudly, waved flags and bellowed dark purple smoke. They were further aided by a 80-member-strong contingent from St. Louis, a similarly founded supporters group that goes by the name of St. Louligans. Together, they injected a special buzz and energy that could be felt throughout the crowd.

For the home side at least, that crowd energy filtered down onto the pitch. Though Saint Louis FC looked sharp in the opening half, they never really troubled the home side’s goal. And thanks to a pair of goals on either side of halftime, City sealed the victory in their first ever match with emphatic, backheel-assisted, curling winner from 20-year-old Brit, Charlie Adams.

Did any of my or anyone else’s fears about the surface and small size of pitch play a role at all?

The pitch was certainly small; my guess is it was no more than 105 yards long and 70 yards wide. However, play didn’t look overly rushed or too crowded. So the impact there was minimal, but no different from other small pitches around the country. The surface obstacles, however, seemed a bigger concern.

The largest of those was the pitcher’s mound, which was modified prior to the start of the season to be lowered into the ground and covered with a smooth surface. It falls just outside the third base line penalty area, and is slightly raised when compared against the grass around it. I watched it like a hawk throughout the match, and didn’t once notice it interfering with play. The rest of the infield was surprisingly covered with old-school, traditional Astroturf. It looked decent enough from a distance, and didn’t seem to affect play either. I even pressed man-of-the-match Charlie Adams and Louisville manager James O’Connor after the match to see if either thought the field surface or smaller pitch size was a factor in the game, and both believed it wasn’t.

With a clear win in the stands and a win on the pitch, it’s hard to declare the inaugural professional soccer match in Louisville anything other than a success.

So where exactly does that leave my thoughts on playing in a baseball park?

Much like what we saw with New York City’s debut at Yankee Stadium a few weeks before, it seems that the venue is what the fans and clubs make of it. If you can fill it with impassioned supporters and put a decent product on the field, the limitations of the facility will be minimized. Sure, neither wants (or can) live there forever. But it will do for now.

What’s more important, particularly in the case in Louisville, is that new ground is being broken. There’s never been professional soccer in Kentucky before. Ever.

And even though the home that professional soccer plays out in isn’t ideal, I’m pretty sure the fans in Kentucky will take less than ideal over nothing at all.

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 32

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 32

You might be inclined to think that with this being the middle of an international break, we wouldn’t have much to talk about on this week’s “Pondcast”. Well, if you were so inclined, you were wrong. There were of course international matches to talk about, including a pair of European USMNT friendlies and European Championship qualifiers. Plus there was MLS, for some reason playing through a FIFA break despite having 10% of their players called up. And we even invited on Gary Wiggins of Copa to Cleveland to see what our neighbors to the North are doing to bring the 2016 Copa América to Ohio. The guys also spoke about their trip to Kentucky on Saturday to watch the inaugural Louisville City and St. Louis FC match in USL. Plus, our normal Winners & Wankers and Fantasy Update segments made appearances once again, too.

PSA: don’t forget that we want to talk about topics that are interesting to you! Feel free to send us your questions and topics to cover via email (contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com) or by social media using links at the bottom of the page. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes/Stitcher/RSS, too.

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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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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 31

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 31

Premier League recap? Yep. Champions League wrap? Uh huh. A look at domestic matters ranging from the US Open Cup field finally being set, Minnesota United’s impending announcement as the 23rd MLS club and the media frenzy swirling about one of the investors in the potential Miami franchise? Oh you better believe that’s in here, too. There was a lot on the #Pondcast team’s plate this week — including Winners & Wankers, Fantasy Update and the Championship Watch — and the boys did well to stomp their way through it all in a manner that only Steven Gerrard could appreciate.

Have a question or topic suggestion you want the guys to hear the guy’s tackle on the next podcast, shoot them our way by email  (contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com) or by social media using links at the bottom of the page. If you haven’t yet subscribed? Well, best get on that too using the links below to get the WSOTP Podcast on your favorite mobile device automatically.

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