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Columbus Crew Cincinnati Cleveland

while the crew would do well to make sure their new crest represents columbus, there are other cities the club can look to connect with potential fans, too.

There’s a quiet revolution happening in Columbus, Ohio. Despite years of near anonymity and near afterthought status, the city’s soccer franchise may finally be entering a renaissance of sorts. Under the guidance of new owner Anthony Precourt, the Crew are slowly starting to show signs of life after years of stagnation under the former ownership of the Hunt Sports Group.

Long-needed improvements to the stadium — including an updated jumbotron, speakers and upgraded “premier seating” on the stadium’s east side — should help to improve a match day experience that’s grown stale.

A partnership with USLPRO side Dayton Dutch Lions brings them in line with the league-wide development requirement and may pay dividends down the road.

Plus, the technical and playing staff assembled under the newly installed head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter are making some intriguing moves to improve the team’s on-pitch results in the near future.

But the work of Precourt’s making the most waves, at least in the press and on social media, is the Crew’s intentions to revamp their outdated branding. The now quasi-iconic crest featuring three helmeted construction workers — the only untouched original logo to survive since MLS’ inception in 1996 — will finally get an overhaul. And the following quote in a recent interview on mlssoccer.com on the subject was particularly interesting.

“We want to be representative. We don’t see Columbus in the [current] crest. There are many things we can do to represent the capital city better. It’s not a blue-collar, manufacturing, industrial town. It’s a smart, young, progressive university… town. We want it to represent the Columbus we’ve come to know.”

- ANTHONY PRECOURT, COLUMBUS CREW INVESTOR-OPERATOR

And he’s right: their current logo doesn’t even feature the name of the city they call home. That seems almost traitorous. But it’s not just about where their from, but also representing their existing and potential fans.

When I think of Columbus, I think of a city rejuvenated, reborn. Think of the German Village and Short North areas, each seeing an influx of new restaurants, shops and galleries over the last five to ten years. These redevelopments have helped to attract new residents back to the city, which in itself helps to spurn further investment.

And though it shouldn’t matter as much as it does, the Crew conveying themselves as something that many of the city’s young residents are trying to separate themselves from — the proletariat blue-collar workers staring cross-armed from the Crew’s logo — might well be enough to turn off potential fans. So alongside the improvements to the stadium and playing staff mentioned above, Precourt and president Mark McCullers believe that aligning the brand with Columbus and it’s growing young professional demographic will help to put more butts in Crew Stadium seats.

the old “blue collar” logo won’t be phased out until 2015.

Personally, I can’t believe it took the Crew so long to focus on this segment of the fan base. Even under the prior regime of the Hunts, it seemed fairly obvious. All you had to do was look at those packing the house each time the national team came to town. Though the traditionally-targeted “soccer mom” and “entertaining professional” segments were still represented, most of those in attendance were 20 and 30 somethings. The same can be said of the growing crowds filling American pubs for Premier League fixtures each weekend.

And while I agree that putting emphasis on the “Columbus” in Columbus Crew is rightly needed, I think the Precourt and company would be wise to not limit their thoughts to just Ohio’s capital city when trying to reach new fans.

Mr. Precourt: please don’t forget about Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and the rest of Ohio when trying to grow the club’s support.

As much as the Hunts neglected to invest in the club and it’s infrastructure, efforts to market the team outside the city have received just as little attention. Columbus isn’t an island after all; a good chunk of Ohio’s population is within a reasonable drive.

But driving distance alone isn’t the only reason why the rest of Ohio is important to the Crew. Cincinnati and Cleveland in particular have seen similar revivals to Columbus, especially when looking at their near-downtown districts of Over-the-Rhine and Ohio City. Already existing pockets of Crew supporters at the opposite ends of the state are there to build upon. You’ll find young professionals packing their bars Saturday and Sunday mornings to watch the European football, too. The traditional youth soccer target markets in those and other large Ohio cities are bountiful as well. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that much of the state is already pre-disposed to driving to Columbus to support some other sport’s team.

And yet outside of youth clubs partnering with the academy or the occasional Frankie Hejduk sighting, there have been practically zero attempts by the Crew to reach out to the rest of Ohio.

I live directly off of and commute on the I-71 corridor here in Cincinnati — a highway that literally leads directly to Crew Stadium — every single day. And yet in all my time living in this city, I can’t recall ever seeing a Columbus Crew billboard or advert. Three years spent living in Dayton went the same way. And friends in Cleveland and Toledo confirmed a similar dearth of Crew presence in their cities.

Perhaps we’ll see them reaching out to those of us outside Columbus, but signs of that kind of that haven’t really yet appeared as the upcoming MLS season fast-approaches. The closest I’ve seen to any hints of this kind of effort was in the announcement of the partnership with the Dayton Dutch Lions, which included a few vague statements on marketing cooperation.

Talk of the Crew investigating putting their own USLPRO side in either Cincinnati or Cleveland also shows they’re at least thinking about this subject, but they needn’t go that far to recruit fans to the capital. A cheaper option might be to throw some extra marketing dollars at a few strategically placed billboards and/or commercials in the state’s bigger cities. Additional club outreach — whether the popular “Find Frankie”, player appearances or just further TV/radio spots — might help to remind fans a little further from home base that there’s a professional team just a few hours away. Or if they’re feeling particularly benevolent, maybe throw the entire state a bone in the design of the new crest. That may be a bit much to ask for, but I’d think there’s merit to at least consider it.

It may take some experimentation to find out what’s effective, but it’s a risk worth taking. Just like there are fans that already supporters that come from all across Ohio, the Crew would be wise to attempt to speak to those that they’ve missed in pockets outside of Columbus.

So as Precourt, McCullers and the rest of the Crew front office look to choose a new image to make themselves in, let’s just hope they don’t forget that while Columbus should remain the primary inspiration, taking into account those on the outer fringes of their market deserve and need attention too.

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ten words or less #80

Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo meet at training

this is what it looks like when £166 million pounds worth of footballers get together.

I’ve been a little USA-Mexico heavy in this space for the last week or so, and understandably so. And predictably, a little bit of that spills over into this weeks TWOL posting. If you’re feeling a little burnt out on the subject, don’t worry… there’s still a further six links below that aren’t related to that match in any way. So the #USAvMEX talk is slowly dying down, if nothing else. And don’t worry, there’s more coming on the blog tomorrow that doesn’t have anything to do with it either.

However, if you’re wanting even more of the US Soccer coverage, be sure to check out Episode 5 of the WSOTP Pod — a.k.a. the Dos A Cero Special” — and you can hear all my thoughts on all of the festivities that surrounded the epic match in Columbus.

Insight into the USMNT’s most important and stoic star. – buzzfeed.com

Certifiably the worst corner of all time. – telegraph.co.uk

The cyclical rise and fall of Puerto Rican football. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Check out this family-friendly US Soccer supporters group. – redwhiteandbluesbros.com

Who wouldn’t want a Steven Lenhart Chia Pet? – kckrs.com

A.O. BACKTRACKING CONFIRMED. – sportsmyriad.com

The best looking kit in England this year, hands down. – footballshirtculture.com

I promise this isn’t from The Onion. – washingtontimes.com

The Mexican legend of “Dos a Cero de Columbus” explained. – dirtytackle.net

Watch as Fox Soccer dies a quiet, yet odd death. – deadspin.com

the WSOTP guide to #USAvMEX

WSOTP - USAvMEX Header

Are you counting down? I’m counting down. I can hardly stand the anticipation. It’s been eight long years since the last time I made the short drive to Columbus to watch the US Men’s National Team take on our hated rivals Mexico at Crew Stadium in a World Cup qualifier. And now we’re just a few days away from what will hopefully be the latest in a string of Dos a Cero‘s in favor of the good guys in red, white and blue.

As you’ve probably heard, Wrong Side of the Pond will be there — as an Ohio-based soccer site, it would be criminal not to be — along with another 24,000 rabid USA fans, including the lucky winners of my #WSOTPtix4U contest from a few weeks ago.

But for many, this is their first pilgrimage to Columbus’ Cathedral of Soccer for the match of all matches. Once in Ohio, they’ll find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings and unaware of where and when all of the events surrounding the match might be. But thanks to my close proximity and involvement in some of the action (and maybe some heavy Googling) I’ve got the low down on all of the happenings in Columbus for USA vs Mexico.

The best part about the growing list below? All the events, save attending the match itself, are free. So even if you can’t attend the game, there’s no reason you can’t still get in on the excitement. And if you haven’t done so yet, be sure to check out my full guide to visiting Columbus and Crew Stadium in the WSOTP Stadium Guide.

USAvMEX Friday 09/06/13

  • 3:00pm – 7:00pm: Official US Soccer Fan Head Quarters (#FanHQ)
    160 Easton Town Center, Columbus, OH
    Open the entire weekend prior to the match at the Easton Shopping Center on the Northeast side of Columbus, the FanHQ will feature all sorts of activities to help you get excited for USA vs Mexico… as if you needed more of a reason. You can have your picture taken and added to the fan photo wall, show your skills on a futsal court, a free Gatorade bar, and the chance to take part in trivia contests for some cool prizes by using the hashtag above.
  • 9:00pm – 12:00 midnight: #USAvCRC Watch Party
    Fado Irish Pub, 4022 Townsfair Way, Columbus, OH
    Located around the corner from the Fan HQ at Easton Town Center, watch the USMNT’s first Fado is one of Columbus’ most prominent soccer bars. In addition to offering specials, you can also play Bar Squares and have another shot at prizes.

USAvMEX Saturday 09/07/13

  • 11:00am – 7:00pm: Official US Soccer Fan Head Quarters (#FanHQ)
    160 Easton Town Center, Columbus, OH
    In addition to all of the offerings described above, the Futsal court will also feature Youth Play Hours on Saturday and a chance to meet and play with US and Columbus Crew legend Frankie Hejduk.

    • 11am – 12 noon: Ages 10-11
    • 12 noon – 1pm: Ages 8-9
    • 1pm – 2pm: Ages 6-7
    • 2pm – 3pm: Ages 4-5
    • 3pm – 7pm: Open Play

USAvMEX Sunday 09/08/13

  • 11:00am – 7:00pm: Official US Soccer Fan Head Quarters (#FanHQ)
    160 Easton Town Center, Columbus, OH
    See details above.

    • 11am – 1pm: Open Play
    • 1pm – 6pm: Frankie Hejduk Challenge Cup
      A limited number of local adult (minimum age of 16) teams will compete — for free — in a futsal tournament for the right to play Frankie Hejduk and his team and lift the inaugural Frankie Hejduk Challenge Cup. MORE INFO

USAvMEX Monday 09/09/13

  • 4:00pm – 2:00am: Hudson Street Hooligans USA vs Mexico Party
    Hedonc’s Pub, 2375 North High Street, Columbus, OH
    Hosted at the home pub for Columbus Crew supporters group the Hudson Street Hooligans, this 21-and-up USAvMEX party will feature a full slate of live music, food trucks, beer pong and cornhole. If that’s not enough, the gang from the Massive Report Podcast will be live recording a pod featuring USA media — potentially including Wrong Side of the Pond – Frankie Hejduk will make yet another appearance, and a giveaway including tickets to the match and signed memorabilia!
  • 5:00pm – 7:00pm: Official US Soccer Happy Hour and Pep Rally
    The Bluestone, 583 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH
    Building on the previous three home FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, the U.S. Men’s National Team will hold a happy hour and pep rally with supporters once again before #USAvMEX. Things will kick off with food and drink specials set to the tunes spun by DJ Paul Devro. The Pep Rally will also feature appearances from Coach Jürgen Klinsmann and select current and former USMNT players, including local legends Brian McBride and Frankie Hejduk.
  • 7:00pm – 2:00am: American Outlaws Night Before Party
    4th Street Bar, 1810 N. 4th St., Columbus, OH
    All ages are welcome to gather and enjoy the company of fellow American Outlaws and US Soccer fans from across the country. Music, beer, food and giveaways will likely feature, and some of the biggest names in US Soccer have been known to make appearances at events past. It’s always one of the biggest parties in town before a USMNT match.

USAvMEX Tuesday 09/10/13

  • 12:00 noon – 7:00pm: USA Mega Tailgate FEATURING WSOTP!
    Northeast corner of the Crew Stadium General Parking Lot, Columbus, OH
    General Admission Parking for $20
    The largest organized tailgate in the parking lot on match day is welcome to all-comers and will feature cornhole, music, tents, tables, chairs and grills, though all food and drink is BYOB. And though parking immediately next to the tailgate will fill up fast, feel free to walk over and join us. Be sure to visit the Wrong Side of the Pond tent at the USA Mega Tailgate to meet me, enter a chance to win one of three shirts from the WSOTP Shop… and if you’re impatient, even order one! MORE INFO
  • 2:00pm – 6:30pm: American Outlaws Pre-game Tailgate 
    4th Street Bar, 1810 N. 4th St., Columbus, OH (and the open lot on 17th Ave)
    Parking available for $20 at Cafe del Mondo, 659 N. 4th St., Columbus, OH
    Located a mile and half away from Crew Stadium and outside the parking lots, the official AO tailgate will take place at the same bar as their Night Before Party. In addition to the expected food and drinks, other attractions will include music, a dunk tank, a Jumbo Tron showing classic US matches, an “Add an AO Patch to Your Jersey” station, free swag and more. Off site parking will feature a pre- and post-match shuttle from the 17th Avenue open lot. MORE INFO
  • 6:30 – 7:00pm: American Outlaws March to the Match
    4th Street Bar, 1810, N. 4th St. and the 17th Avenue Open Lot
    Join AO as they make their march from their tailgate’s 17th Avenue Lot to Columbus Crew Stadium.
  • 8:00pm – 10:00pm: US Mens National Team vs Mexico World Cup Qualifier
    Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, OH
    What we’ve all been (impatiently) waiting for. The big show. The hopeful Dos a Cero. Bring your lungs. The official supporters sections will stretch around the entire Northern rim of the stadium (centered around the stage), as well span the entire South end line.
  • 10:00pm – 2:00am: Post Match Festivities
    TBD

That’s everything I’ve been able to uncover thus far, but I’ll be sure to add to the list as more events come to my attention. If you know of an event that should be listed, drop me an email at wrongsideofthepond@gmail.com.

so, who’s going to USAvMEX on WSOTP’s dime?

It’s been a crazy week here at Wrong Side of the Pond. Traffic has been through the roof on the site, I’ve picked up hundreds of new followers on my various social media platforms, and I’ve even sold a few shirts from the WSOTP Shop. All of those are things that really get my blood racing on their own. But given the news in this post, my heart is pumping like I’m watching the Landon Donovan’s last-gasp winner against Algeria at the World Cup nearly four years ago all over again.

WSOTP  USAvsMEX Ticket Giveaway

are you the lucky winner of two tickets to the usmnt vs mexico match in columbus next month? find out below.

I’m well aware too that for many of you, this is your first time coming across the Wrong Side of the Pond. Hopefully you have had a look around in our short time together. And though I won’t be able to give all of you tickets, here’s hoping that you’ll stick around even if you aren’t selected the winner in the paragraphs to come. Whether it’s to find or contribute to the list of over 260 soccer bars across the US and Canada in the WSOTP Pub Atlas, to prepare for an upcoming away day in the soon-to-expand MLS Stadium Guide, or to read my thoughts on the beautiful game… there’s something for everyone. And not to dangle another carrot in front of you just to keep you around, but I am announcing yet another giveaway tomorrow.

Anyway, now that you’ve been made to endure my pleas to come back and visit the site, let’s get down to the business you’re all really here for.

So, in total, I received just over five hundred entries into the week-long competition — 503 to be specific —  and they were surprisingly distributed nearly evenly across all three entry types of Twitter, Facebook and email. Entrants came from 21 different states, and from as far away as Portland, Oregon. The Facebook picture itself has been seen a whopping 10,640 people as I’m writing this. And though I would love to say that I didn’t get any of these, I did receive five separate offers to outright buy the tickets. One guy even had the audacity to offer me just $50 a ticket — less than face value.

But get one with it already, right?

Okay, okay… okay. The winner shown below will receive two free tickets to the US Men’s National Team World Cup Qualifier against Mexico at Columbus Crew Stadium on September 10th, 2013. Please don’t be a Mexico fan, please don’t let it be a Mexico fan…

WSOTP - Blog - USMNT Tix Winner

Congratulations, Jered! It looks like you’ll be joining me and 23,000 others in Columbus exactly one month from today!

Now, as promised in the first post, Jered now has until August 13th at 11:00pm to let me know if he and his guest of choice can attend the match. (Keep in mind that you will need to arrange and pay for all of your own travel and lodging needs to get to the match.) If at that point it is determined he can not attend, or no response has been received, a new winner will be selected from the remaining entrants.

Jered, I’m assuming you’re not crazy enough to pass up US-Mexico tickets… so you can drop me an email or send me a DM on Twitter to confirm your prize. And I look forward to catching you in Columbus!

As for everyone else: many thanks for entering the competition. Keep an eye on this space, though. I’ll do my best to make it worth your while.

growing pains

“Be careful what you ask for.”

the US fanbase has grown by leaps and bounds, but the growth has its downsides.

That’s probably what many European and South American supporters would say to us American soccer fans right about now. Other popular American sports fans would probably do the same too, if only they were capable of putting down their anti-soccer biases for a few minutes.

Long the American soccer fan has bemoaned the lack of a sustained presence of an electrifying game day experience to which many of our fellow North American sports can lay claim. We never could manage to get the numbers or display the passion demonstrated by our counterparts, or at least not both at the same time. The idea of a vibrant American soccer fan culture seemed to be just as pie in the sky as the chances of on field success for the national team.

But as has been well documented, the last six or seven years has seen a sharp transformation of the supporter culture landscape in this country. Tifos are hung and chants are sung like “proper” footballing fans would expect. And it’s not just during crucial national team World Cup qualifiers or MLS Cups that bars fill and stadiums pack, but also for various MLS and NASL sides. And on a regular basis, too. The country’s largest supporters group, the American Outlaws, continues to see rapid growth, as do those of many clubs around the country.

It’s everything we could have asked for even as recently as ten years ago, and probably more.

But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some serious growing pains in the process. And the upcoming US-Mexico World Cup qualifier in Columbus on September 10th seems a perfect example of such problems. Continue reading

the WSOTP soccer pub atlas project

Thanks to its rise in popularity over the last decade, it’s never been easier to watch football in the United States than it is today. Most Americans with a digital cable subscription have at least one full-time soccer channel at their disposal, meaning watching a load of live European matches per week from the comforts of one’s own living room sofa is a reality for a huge percentage of the country.

soccer pub

if you want to watch football, and you want to have a beer, but you don’t know where to go… you came to the right place.

But if you’re anything like me — aside from taking in a match in person — there really isn’t a better place to watch football than at a pub with your friends.

Now, I can understand why some might think that’s just me attempting adopt the customs of our European contemporaries on the other side of the pond. And while that’s true to a degree, taking in a basketball, baseball or the other football game at a bar is pretty much ubiquitous stateside too. The only thing that’s odd about my game day bar habit is the time in which my game kicks off.

Finding a bar that will open up for those early morning kickoff times, though, can be a bit of a task. Luckily, over the years nearly every major city in the country has answered the call for a pub that will open its doors early enough for us to come in, have a beer and support our football with others like us. I love soccer bars, the atmosphere they provide and the community they can create. I even interviewed one once. But while we all know the best local spot to watch our teams play, if you ever leave the safe confines of your home city… you might need a little guidance.

Now, there are loads of websites out there that are attempting to list every “soccer bar” in the country. Some of them are advertising based, others are free. But not one of them offers quite what I’m looking for in a football pub directory. My requirements aren’t that crazy, but they are rather specific:

  1. Does the bar open early enough for me to watch Premier League matches as early as 7:00am? If they do, you can pretty much guarantee it’s a solid place to catch a match.
  2. there are certain elements characteristics an establishment must have to be a great football pub.

    Are there any supporters groups that call the bar home? It’s always nice to know who shows up to watch the games there. You know, because as a Spurs fan, I’m at least slightly wary of getting my ass kicked if I accidentally stroll into a hardcore Arsenal supporter’s bar.

  3. Do they have a decent beer selection? Because while I can settle for a Bud Light if need be, I’d really prefer to get my hands on something a bit more tasty. The more taps, the better.
  4. Will the game I want to watch be showing on one of their TV’s? Do they carry any soccer specific channels such as the Fox Soccer suite, GolTV or the newcomer BeIN sports? And are those channels available in HD? Bonus points for having the ability to carry live streams!
  5. And lastly, I want a directory that’s map-based. Even better, the map should be easily accessed by phone so that I can easily locate and navigate to the closest establishment offering soccer enjoyment.

I don’t feel like that’s a lot to ask to know about when trying to find a bar to watch a game. But if you have a look around the tubes, none offer quite that combination.

Until now, that is.

Today, I’m launching a brand new soccer bar endeavor, a Google Maps based project called the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas. So far, I’ve kicked off this project by doing a short write-up including all of my requirements above for each of the soccer pubs that I’ve attended over the years. Each has its own placement on a map that can be accessed from any smart phone, tablet or computer. And I’ve added it to the site’s main navigation bar, making it even easier for you to find. Pretty slick, right?

Well, I’ve got just one problem with this task I’m undertaking. I can’t possibly visit every soccer bar in this country, even if I wanted to. And while I’ve got about 10 pubs on the list already, they’re mostly concentrated in the Midwest/Ohio. So — my dear readers — I’m inviting you to help get this project off the ground… the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas project will be a crowd-sourced one. All I ask is that you provide a short write-up including the information I mentioned above, and I’ll add it to the list. And hey bar owners, this is a chance for some free advertising if you hadn’t yet noticed!

So, about that map… do you want to have a look at what I’ve started so far?

So if you’re trying to find a spot to watch, take a gander at what we’ve got in store so far. But, even better, if you want to get more fans in to take a match at your local pub, why not share it with us? You might just make another soccer fans day, or at least mine if I’m ever out your way. Which would be awesome.

To submit a bar or pub to the directory, either fill out this form or send me an email. Please be sure to include the following information: Name, Address, If they Open Early, Beer Selection Comment, TV availability (channels/quality), and any other relevant information. See the map for examples.