ten words or less #96

Frank Lampard of Manchester City

just one of the cornucopia of stories that came out just this past weekend: frank lampard’s manchester city debut.

As Americans, we’ve reached a weird point in the soccer calendar. Just as we’re getting warmed up to and getting a feel for the European season, we’re getting to “squeaky bum time” in the MLS season with the playoffs just around the corner. And because of that, it sure seems like there’s more news pouring out of the sport than ever. But worry not, WSOTP has been scouring the web to bring you the picks of the litter. So dive into my favorite links from around the world of football from the last week or so, and stay tuned for even more content as the week progresses.

“Spurs are not for sale”, but a bid’s been received. – tottenhamhotspur.com

Joel Campbell has enough time to create a sports website. – sports.bycampbell.com

Robbing the rich and giving it to the… rich. – independent.co.uk

Gothamist get’s Don Garber to dish on all things MLS. – gothamist.com

Lighting up a pitch by capturing power from the players. – cbsnews.com

The 50 best players according to FIFA 15. – theguardian.com

Every USLPRO side pays for playoff travel expenses. – recklesschallenge.net

Don’t expect a soccer specific stadium in Boston anytime soon. – boston.com

Finally an alternative solution to watching Bundesliga in the US. – bundesligafanatic.com

So “Chivas TBD” might take a year or two off. – si.com


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ten words or less #90

Columbus Crew forward Dominic Oduro and his pizza hair

yes, that is pizza shaved into dominic oduro’s head.

I have to admit that I have been a really lousy writer lately. The last full length article I wrote was published over two weeks ago, and it was nearly a fortnight in between that one and the article previous to it. Yeah, I’ve been giving you guys semi-regular Pic of the Week posts, the occasional Ten Words or Less, and a smattering of new shirts and other posts bloggings — not to mention Jeremy and I have continued to deliver our weekly podcast — but I’ve really gotten away from what this site was originally all about: the writing. For those of you who come here for that, I’ll aim to deliver in the near future and thanks for your patience.

That said, I have been working behind the scenes on some really big projects. Need some proof? How about the just-released 2014 NPSL and WPSL schedule posters for the Cincinnati Saints, which I had the privilege of designing. And tomorrow, the Saints and I will also be revealing an even bigger announcement that has been in the works for some time now. It’s seriously huge, so be sure to stay tuned.

In the mean time, below is a choice selection of my favorite links from the past week or so to hold you over.

Dani Alves eating the banana that was thrown at him. – vine.com

Call me boring, but I’d pick to be Philipp Lahm. – youtube.com/nikesoccer

Financial Fair Play’s true intent? Wage and fee inflation control. – thescore.com

Dear Atlanta: do NOT use any of these names. – bizjournals.com

Yes, Barcelona have developed some great players, but…  – bleacherreport.com

My birthday is in June, in case anyone was wondering. – camporetro.com

Dr. Evil’s boardroom or FIFA Executive Committee boardroom? – dirtytackle.net

This should please the Everton faithful. – metro.co.uk

Choosing the right league at launch: easier said than done. – mlssoccer.com

All things considered, Ryan Giggs’ dad seems like a prick. – bleacherreport.com

ten words or less #86

toronto fc have officially won the MLS offseason.

Even though we’ve exited the hectic Christmas/New Year’s schedule that normally bombards us with more soccer than we can stomach, the last few days have been ridiculously busy in the world of the beautiful game.

Of course we still had a normal round of weekend fixtures around Europe to deal with. The opening of the January transfer window has also brought a cavalcade of news, ranging from complete fodder to legit breaking news. And of course today we were treated to not only the naming of FIFA’s 2013 Ballon d’Or winner — a very deserved win for Cristiano Ronaldo — but also the unveiling of two massive signings by MLS side Toronto FC in Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley.

None the less, I’ve still managed to survive all of that and pump out a new TWOL for you. So enjoy it, minions.

The top transfers from each country in Europe… and elsewhere. – reddit.com/r/soccer

I could live with these purported USMNT World Cup shirts. – todosobrecamisetas.com

Ten theories for why AVB was sitting Adebayor at Spurs. – dearmrlevy.com

MLSsoccer.com get’s called out on taking the easy route. – hottimeinoldtown.com

Not renewing this guy’s contract seems suicidal. – theoriginalwinger.com

Bob Bradley’s first interview as manager of Stebæk. – youtube.com

Comparing preparations for Qatar as a road to hell? Accurate. – 8by8mag.com

Um… what? – leedsunited.com

US Soccer seems to have forgotten its history pre-1994. – beinsport.tv

Rumor is the next Mercurials will be quite revolutionary. – soccerbible.com

judging from afar

Sometimes I really wish I was a full-time journalist. You know, the type that works for one of the major media outlets and possesses an exponentially larger amount of clout than I currently posses. I’d be lying if I said the prestige and benefits of such a position weren’t some of the many reasons I’d love to be that kind of writer.

But another, less greedy reason I dream to be a professional is because I’d also have the ability to occasionally finagle access to some of the biggest names in the game. With that kind of access, I could potentially find answers to so many of the innumerable questions I have about the sport.

Sepp Blatter Ignores You

would sepp even be willing to hear my question? probably not if it has to do with MLS.

It’s cliché, but anyone who’s ever wanted to be a reporter has dreamt of asking those hard-hitting questions that nobody seems to ask. Of course, you can only ask so many of that type of tough questions before those in the game no longer want to talk to you. But every once in a while, there comes a time when you’re allowed to bust someones balls and demand answers to the questions that never seem to get answered.

And if you ask me, right now is one of those times where an important question needs to be answered by one of soccer’s biggest names.

So who is this name I wish I had access to: soccer’s biggest whipping boy, FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Ignore for a few minutes that my desire to ask hard-hitting questions of Blatter would place me at the end of an enormously long line of others with pertinent questions for FIFA’s head honcho. It’s a line that never gets any shorter, and the questions many would like King Sepp to answer are wide-ranging and ever-changing. But I feel I have question for him that is extremely relevant right now.

You see, almost exactly a year ago Mr. Blatter slated Major League Soccer in an interview with Al Jazeera TV for what he perceived as a lack of effectiveness in growing soccer’s popularity in the United States:

“There is no very strong professional league (in the U.S.). They have just the MLS but they have no professional leagues which are recognized by the American society. It is a question of time, I thought — we had the World Cup in 1994 — but it is now 18 years in so it should have been done now. But they are still struggling.”

For anyone who even haphazardly follows MLS, that quote just ground a thousand gears. No professional leagues recognized by American society? Clearly Blatter has missed out on the league’s steady increase in attendances over the last five years. It appears, too, that he’s missed out on the US television networks tripping over one another in their efforts to secure Premier League, Champions League and World Cup broadcasting rights. Yeah, it’s not the domestic league they’re clamoring over (for now). But show me a league that doesn’t have issues its trying to overcome, and I’ll contemplate calling MLS a failure.

Predictably though, MLS commissioner Don Garber was quick to lodge a response to his royal highness’ condemnation. But instead of just refuting the FIFA president’s claims, Garber did one better:

“I look forward to having the president and other FIFA executives attend an MLS game. I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how far the league has come.”

Now if you didn’t think to keep track of whether Sepp would accept and evaluate the MLS in person, worry not — I did. And surprise, surprise: Sepp has yet to take up the Soccer Don’s offer. Despite making his proclamation nearly a year ago and publicly receiving the invite shortly thereafter, he just couldn’t find the time to spend 90 minutes at a match in an North American city.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber

don garber would have been more than happy to entertain sepp anytime.

Now to be fair, Garber’s initial offer was to host Blatter for one of the 2013 season’s First Kick matches in early March. After all, Sepp is a busy, globetrotting guy. So I’m willing to forgive him for not being able to make it to one of the seven opening weekend games.

But there were 331 other MLS matches played this year between the regular season, playoffs and the All-Star Game that he could have attended instead. That’s eight months of matches. Not that he or FIFA can’t afford it, but I’m sure the comish would have been more than happy to spring for tickets for any one of those games. I’d even guess that Garber and Co. would have rolled out the red carpet, thrown another semi-pointless press conference and held a Google Hangout with pre-arranged soft questions for him, too. Yet he still couldn’t find time to attend just one.

You might be thinking, “Blatter could just be saving his appearance for the big shebang at the weekend!” Well, I hate to break it to you, but he’ll almost certainly be missing the MLS Cup Final, too. With the World Cup Draw scheduled for tomorrow afternoon in Brazil, it’s highly unlikely that Sepp will grace Kansas City’s Sporting Park with his presence.

In fact, the last and only time the FIFA president has taken in an MLS match in person? The 1996 All-Star game. And it’s not as if that match seven years ago should have tainted his opinion of the league: nearly 79,000 fans packed the old Giants Stadium to see the East All-Stars beat the West 3-2 after a sparkling performance from el Pibe. 

Added up, it seems like Blatter’s opinions of Major League Soccer are based exclusively off of secondhand accounts, hearsay, and a lone game from 1996. And he’s thus far proven uninterested in finding out first hand if any of his thoughts were true or not. Hell, I can’t even dig up any evidence of Blatter even responding to Garber’s offer.

So, that question I would ask Blatter if I were a journalist deemed significant enough for him to answer:

“So when are you coming to America, Mr. Blatter?”

Sadly, it’s probable that I already know the answer: never. The king is more than content to sit on his throne in his Swiss castle and judge us from afar.

ten words or less #84

2010 World Cup Draw

the brazil 2014 world cup draw is one of just many events taking place this week in the world of football.

Well if anything’s for certain, we’re most definitely in the middle of what you might call a “busy stretch” in the world of soccer. Just have a look at the upcoming calendar for this week: the 2014 World Cup Draw is on Friday (more on that below), the MLS Cup Final is this Saturday (more on that below too), and there are two full rounds of matches for the Premier League to play out (with some of those kicking off as early as today)… not to mention the rest of the club fixtures to play out throughout the rest of the world (nothing here, as I’ve only got so much attention to spread around). Never mind all of the other holiday madness here in the states. To be honest, it’s almost too much to keep up with.

And just to crowd things up a bit more, today’s also one of those rare days where I’ll be posting twice: Episode 16 of the WSOTP Pod will be up later this afternoon. I’ve also got some new shirt designs dropping for the WSOTP Shop later this week, too. Just think of it as the opportunity to enjoy a late Thanksgiving feast of footie.

Watch MLS Cup with me; you might win a shirt! – wrongsideofthepond.com

Some teams are going to get SCREWED by the draw. – forbes.com

It appears that Thomas Gravesen is living the life. – yahoo.com

Why MLS should be looking to add more Eastern teams. – massivereport.com

Nike strikes gold yet again with their latest Brazil ad. – youtube.com

Donovan’s best commentating skill? Impressions. – kckrs.com

FIFA’s beautiful new app is as buggy as you’d expect. – play.google.com

A new USLPRO club in Colorado Springs? Not so fast… – csindy.com

The epic trailer for Bob’s upcoming PBS documentary. – theoffsiderules.com

I wish my child would be born Friday in Brazil. – theoriginalwinger.com

ten words or less #82

it’s fair to say that mexico are feeling very thankful this morning.

So, about last night? Pardon my french, but last night was fucking crazy. While World Cup qualifying drama reared its head in both Europe and South America, the real drama was saved for those of us here in CONCACAF. In a space of just two minutes, Mexico — who lost 2-to Costa Rica — went from not qualifying for their first World Cup in 24 years to being back in thanks to an injury time equalizer by none other than their hated rivals to the north. The unexpected swing in fortunes induced the now-famous maniacal response from Mexican commentator Christian Martinoli, which just so happens to be the first link below. And it felt eerily similar to Manchester City’s last-gasp title-winning goal in the Premier League two seasons ago.

Anyway, the magic of yesterday’s moments serves as yet another excellent reason for why this is such an amazing sport. If you couldn’t get into that madness, then you likely lack a pulse.

“We love you forever and ever! God Bless America!” – businessinsider.com

De nada, México. De nada. – bumpypitch.com

Will the US bid for 2026? If rules are redefined. – si.com

Why Januzaj likely isn’t United’s next Pogba or Morrision. – strettynews.com

8bit Football drops a killer historical USMNT effort. – 8bit-football.com

Chivas USA are actually looking for their own home. – mlssoccer.com

Qatar just sounds delightful, doesn’t it? – spiegel.de

Spain’s national team more like the USMNT than you’d think. – soccernet.com

Did Arsenal’s 2014/2015 Puma kits just leak out? – footballshirtculture.com

Organizing and finding pickup games is about to get easier. – kckrs.com

a case FOR qatar

Whether you want to believe me or not, I’ve really made an effort to avoid beating a dead horse when it comes to World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Finding opponents of the decision to award the small Arab emirate with the world’s most popular sporting event has never been difficult, and miles of column space has already been devoted to denouncing it. Calls for the Qataris to be stripped of the tournament have been circulating pretty much since the day they were awarded it. So really, it just would have been overkill for me to allocate even more space to either subject.

Qatar Slave Labor Conditions

the slave like labor conditions in qatari construction project should be something that FIFA requires host countries to abolish.

And though it seemed for a moment that Qatar could lose the 2022 World Cup as pressure has mounted on FIFA, yesterday’s announcement that UEFA’s 54 member countries have backed a winter World Cup in Qatar seems to have stopped that momentum dead in its tracks. (A quick aside: the headline that “UEFA Support a Winter Qatar World Cup” was extremely misleading. UEFA’s members aren’t exactly endorsing that solution, but rather are uniting against a summer World Cup in Qatar. Very different)

But outside of the Qatari FA and the usual statements of support from Blatter and FIFA, finding supporters of a Qatar 2022 has been about as easy as finding Republican supporters of Obamacare.

That said, the overwhelming opposition to hosting the World Cup in the Qatar’s oppressive summer heat does seem a little statistically skewed. There has to be more supporters out there than we’re hearing from, and I’d wager that many of them have excellent arguments.

But believe it or not, there are actually a number of reasons why hosting the World Cup in Qatar is a good idea. And ironically, many of those reasons are the same ones that people are using to object to hosting it there.

Continue reading

ten words or less #71

Champions League Tifo at Borussia Dortmund

believe it or not, the reason dortmund fans put up this awesome tifo was to use the dude’s giant binoculars to see when my last TWOL post was.

It’s been weeks since I put out my last Ten Words or Less, which I suppose is a good thing for you readers considering that means I’ve been dropping original content for you instead of shoveling you content from other sources. But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel like I’m neglecting the long-running links post. Or the fact that some of the links I had originally collected for this have since become irrelevant.

So now that you’re done buying a shirt from the brand new WSOTP Shop, I figured I’d get things back to normal with a freshly updated edition. And if you’re looking for original content, I’ll probably have something else for you before the weekend. In the mean time, enjoy some of my favorite links from around the world of football from the last week or so.

Terrible April Fools joke, but a great idea for real. – qatarliving

A refreshing dose of clarity from Spurs’ wordsmith, Spooky. – dearmrlevy.co.uk

Sexiest Puma shirt they’ve put out in quite a while. – football-shirts.co.uk

The first supporters to ever fly to an away match. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Abou Diaby: the man-made of glass. – talksport.co.uk

Chelsea’s creepy blue man group kit launch. – youtube.com

A very well executed dead horse beating. – regista-blog.com

Those poor globe-trotting scouts have it awful. – guardian.co.uk

One designer’s line inspired by retro soccer design. – hypebeast.com

So, bicycle soccer actually exists. – kckrs.com

wake up call

Much in the world of football is cyclical. Each leagues’ yearly seasons are the easiest examples of this. But larger scale tournaments happen over longer, repeating periods: World Cups, European Championships and Asian Cups all take place in four-year cycles, while the rest of the world’s confederations operate on two-year ones — well, most of the time anyway. Many leagues have eras of supremacy within them, with one club hoisting themselves to the fore for a few years, succeed that dominance to another club for a period, and then regain it again down the road.

Doha Qatar Stadium Complex

will club football’s greatest event soon find a home in the middle east?

Even rumors within the sport are full of repetitive eras. Transfer rumors seem to rise exponentially in the months leading up to a transfer window, then quickly die off after, only to arise again a few months later. We accept these as normal aspects of the game, the ebb and flow nature giving us a yearly rhythm to follow and look forward to.

But there are some recurring, cyclical aspects of soccer that pop up from time to time that actually disrupt that rhythm. This despite the fact that we’ve seen it pop up time and time again.

One example of these recurring disruptions is the long-mooted “super league”. A specter that’s long haunted the UEFA and FIFA, each variation of the rumor has its own unique twist. This time it’s going to replace the Champions League, or this incarnation will include teams from all over the world. Regardless of its shape or form, it’s nothing that the suits in Nyon or Zürich have any interest in seeing come to fruition… and thus we see this cyclical rumor’s disruptive nature. But each time the idea gains some steam, it’s ultimately brushed off.

However, when Oliver Kay of the Times — one of the most respected writers in the English media — devoted an entire piece to the latest incarnation the rumor last week, everyone curiously sat up and took notice. That likely had something to do with the supposed backers being from the same group that’s already shaking things up in Europe: the Qataris. You know them. They’re the same ones that are funding the extravagant, bank-busting project at Paris Saint-Germain. And they’re also the same guys throwing so much money at Barcelona that the Catalunyans finally caved in to pasting a for-profit company’s name on the front of their shirts. And with all signs pointing to the tiny Persian Gulf nation having actually bribed their way to landing the World Cup 2022, their pedigree for being able to buy change in the sport is both well documented and proven.

So it’s really little wonder that when Kay dared to publish the words “Qatar” and “Dream Football League” in one headline, the rumor we’ve heard a thousand times before suddenly became a little more credulous.

Qatar's Dream Football League

though the DFL rumors might not be true this time around, that doesn’t mean that they never will be.

As the article outlined, sixteen permanent clubs would be lured to compete every other summer in Qatar’s searing heat by a $270 million bounty, with eight additional invitees each tournament.  Chelsea received $60 million for winning the Champions League last season, so a guarantee of over three times that amount just for participating would be something that Europe and South America’s elite would have a hard time saying no to.

Now if you’ve followed the story at all, you’re likely aware that a satirical French football site quickly debunked the rumor, claiming Kay had based his piece on a hoax they had run earlier in the week. And though Kay initially refuted the Cashiers du Football rebuttal on Twitter, by Monday he and the Times had fully retracted the piece saying they had been well and fully duped.

So even though the rumors proved untrue once again — at least for the time being — just as they had every time before, that doesn’t mean that FIFA and UEFA should remain idle on the threat of a Dream League. Let’s imagine for a second the proposition was true. The effects on world football would be both numerous and far-reaching: 

  • Top clubs these days subject their players to upwards of 60-70 matches a season. And with most of those players also being drafted in for national team matches, that number could soar to 80-90. Asking players to spend a month of their summers, the time normally used for recuperation to play additional games in the conditions in Qatar seems borderline suicidal. 
  • Fixture congestion is already an issue between the club and international calendars, but adding this tournament into the mix would certainly make the task significantly harder.
  • With the money being offered at clubs’ disposal, the already gargantuan gap between the haves and the have-nots would be certain to grow even larger. Right now, there are only a handful of clubs in the world that can offer $300k/week wages. But all of the teams taking part in the dream team could offer that up. This would likely result in most of the top talent around the world being siphoned off to a limited set of clubs.
  • Considering one summer’s participation would see most clubs pull in revenues that it would normally take several years to produce, you could easily see a number of the top clubs mailing it in their domestic leagues/competitions. Equally so, the Champions and Europa Leagues would surely suffer as teams no longer find their “paltry” prize money worth the efforts.
  • And if this Dream Football League does ever see the light of day, I’m pretty sure it will also lead to us seeing “human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”

So while the problems outlined above are all very serious, the one I didn’t name is likely the most concerning of them all: me and you.

Yes, it’s our never-satisfied thirst for more top-level football that makes this threat something the powers that be should be paying attention to. The demand from fans to take in this type of event would likely be staggering. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to about the potential league was excited by it. The TV rights alone would surely fetch ridiculous sums, not to mention ticket prices. And with the potential revenues like that dangling out there, the incentive to actually turn this from a cyclical rumor in to a cyclical reality becomes that much harder to ignore.

just because the qataris have said they’re not planning the DFL now, doesn’t mean that they won’t be buying their way to another tournament in the future.

And for the first time, the money to back such an endeavor could be there too. Coupled with the demand from the fans, that might be enough to actually pull things together, whether the Qataris are ready to admit it or not. If there’s money there to be made, someone will eventually attempt to capitalize on it.

So what should FIFA and UEFA do to respond to this threat? For organizations prone to sitting on their laurels, the bigger issue might be getting them to act in the first place. But a rethinking and retooling of both organizations’ marquee club events seems the easiest place to start. The Champions League has become a bloated affair that could see some of its fat trimmed, while the FIFA Club World Cup could sorely used a complete overhaul (see: more teams). Including the clubs in the revamping processes seems a no brainer, but of course, we’re talking about organizations that are known for their incompetence. After all, keeping the clubs appeased is the most simple way to ward off the threat of a breakaway league.

Look, Kay and the Times got it wrong this time. But it won’t be long until this rumor has cycled its way back around to us again, and next time, there may be more truth in it. And whether Platini, Sepp and company are willing to proactively prepare for that inevitable reality, well that may make all the difference. Otherwise, brace yourselves… we’re in for a turbulent ride.

ten words or less #65

Thus far, 2013 has been a whirlwind. As with most years, there’s been the expected absurdity that accompanies the holiday season to keep me busy: the annual cornucopia of fixtures, plus the ensuing avalanche of (faux-)headlines that is the January transfer window.

inter milan's wesley sneijder

the only person who’s had a busier start to 2013 than WSOTP is wesley sneijder’s agent.

But, unlike previous years, things have been especially crazy around the imaginary WSOTP office during this already hectic time of year thanks to the eclipsing of a number of major milestones for the blog. First, I had the privilege of having my first ever article published by legendary blog In Bed With Maradona. Next came the announced partnership with the stalwarts at the Free Beer Movement. And then piggybacking off of that, over the last week I’ve seen the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas get further attention from at least three major MLS blogs… which has left me buried in pub submissions.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. If these were problems, they’re good ones to have. And thanks to the vast increase in exposure for the blog I’ve also seen an influx of new followers and likes from the social media channels. And if you happen to be one of the n00bs, don’t think I’m just a “soccer bar specialist” — as if that kind of specialization actually exists. I also write a bit, too. So make sure to check back regularly to read my musings on the world’s game.

So as I put some finishing touches on my next original treatise, let me kick the new year off in truly lazy fashion by sharing a few of my favorite links from the last week.

Sign this petition to end USSF support for Sepp Blatter. – theshinguardian.com

Kevin Prince Boateng takes a stand… and might walk away. – guardian.co.uk

“He eats other chairman sprinkled on his morning corn flakes.” – dearmrlevy.com

Want to find and watch an old match? Check this out. – reddit.com/fullmatch

A theory explaining why Gooners are the way they are.
– beardedgeniusofftwitter.tumblr.com

Is Baines just good, or good because he’s at Everton? – espnfc.com

Ben Olsen is a D.C. icon. – kckrs.com

My new year’s resolution to read more books got easier. – forbes.com

Checkout any time you like, but you can never leave. – dirtytackle.net

The true centennial crest for US Soccer. – thebeautifulgear.com