promotion & relegation survey: personal reflections

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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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promotion & relegation survey: supporter results

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WSOTP - Blog - Promotion & Relegation Fan Resultsfw.fw

This is the first 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 two: Owner Results  |  Read part three: Personal Reflections

Supporters — as I’ve written before — are the lifeblood of the beautiful game.

In the most basic of senses, the professional version of the game couldn’t even exist without us. Every dollar that is pumped into the machine that is modern professional soccer comes from you and I. We pour our money directly in by way of purchasing tickets, gear and other club paraphernalia. And we also indirectly fund the billions that broadcast providers are willing to pay to air games, both through the subscriptions we pay to use their services and via advertisers willing to pay ungodly amounts of money to have their names in our faces while we’re watching.

So as the primary client for football — or ultimate end product that the soccer entertainment companies sell, depending on how you want to look at it — it would be natural to assume we are entitled to have a say in how the game is run and delivered to us. You see it all the time. Fans calling for a manager’s head. Demands for new players. Cries about the limited access to watching games on television. Calls for lower ticket prices. It’s so common place that you probably don’t even notice it.

Yet most of the time, our requests and demands fall on the intentionally deaf ears of those that run the game. Even when the powers that be do decide to bow to the demands of the supporters, their concessions are often small and/or ancillary. But just because we don’t often have the desired power to make the changes we would like to see in the game, that doesn’t stop the debate from raging on amongst us.

The amount of whining and whingeing within American soccer circles right now is at an all-time high, both in diversity and in volume. Hot button topics range from how Klinsmann runs the national team to hemming and hawing over a particular team’s new kits. More fans, more opinions, more debates: growth is good right?

But if I had to single out just one topic that’s caught the most attention over the last year? That would have to be promotion and relegation in the American and Canadian professional soccer systems. Or more specifically, the lack thereof.

I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say the fires fueling the “pro/rel” debate are burning out of control right now. No matter your stance on the issue, it’s practically impossible to have not yet been dragged into the mire at least once in some forum or another. Heated arguments unfold on message boards, Twitter, Facebook and occasionally even in your local soccer pub. It’s unavoidable. The rhetoric is thick, the instigators aggressive and the sides entrenched.

Should we use it or should we not use it? I’m not particularly concerned with that in this post — I’ll do my best to leave my own opinions on the debate for Part III of this series.

Instead, I want to know not only what people actually want, but also how much people actually want Promotion and Relegation. No more generalized statements, no more inferences, no more room for interpretation. Cold, hard data.

You see, one of the oft utilized arguments put forth by the supporters of promotion and relegation’s implementation is that the “majority of soccer fans in this country want promotion and relegation”. Depending on how it’s being phrased, you might also hear that “they demand it”, too. And those arguments are often issued with such an air of infallibility that many just accept it as fact.

But is it really? That’s what I intended to get to the bottom of with the WSOTP Promotion & Relegation Survey.

Did we get that? Well, read on and find out.

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you wanna talk about progress?

Jurgen-KlinsmannThree years ago this week, the hiring of Jürgen Klinsmann as the new US men’s national team head coach was to be a watershed moment in US soccer history. The German legend was charged with taking a plucky, overachieving American side and turning us into a dominant force in world football.

In his introductory press conference, Klinsmann took the bull by the horns. He pledged not only to help take US soccer to new heights, but also promised to help define and proliferate a new style of American soccer.

“[We want to play] a more proactive style of play where you would like to impose a little bit the game on your opponent instead of sitting back and waiting for what your opponent is doing and react to it… We want to start to keep possession, we want to start to dictate the pace of the game, we want to challenge our players to improve technically in order to keep the ball”

But despite helping the US to escape a Group of Death containing the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portagal, long-time nemesis Ghana and tournament champions Germany, not to mention pushing a Belgian side many fancied as Brazil 2014’s dark horse to the brink… those words have proven to be the noose by which many have tried to hang Klinsmann.

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With Jürgen’s three year anniversary of taking charge of the national team passing this week, the US Soccer Facebook page asked fans to weigh in on the German’s progress thus far.

As of the time of publication, nearly 2600 responses had been fielded. A decent number of them were positive and supportive. But an overwhelming majority of them weren’t.

It was an echoing of the sentiments expressed by many in the wake of the elimination by Belgium in the Round of 16. Too, many of the complaints submitted actually were hollered after the original roster announcement prior to the World Cup when Landon Donovan was cast out in the cold.

“We aren’t any better or worse than when he got here.”

“What happened to the offensive game he promised?”

“He is the reason we didn’t go farther in the [World Cup].”

“There has been no progress.”

A veteran internet user, I should have known better than to go to the comments. While there will always be grains of truth among the mire, it was mostly filled with naive and baseless drivel. Those complaints would be easier to ignore if it weren’t for the fact that they were inescapable. Anti-Klinsmann tirades were voiced on my favorite podcasts, Reddit posts were littered with the same thing, and of course they were all over Twitter, too.

And while I understand everyone’s frustrations at not advancing further, believing that Klinsmann has done a poor job during his tenure in charge is just way too far off base to let go unchallenged.

Where to start? How about with the noose of a quote that everyone keeps trying to hang Klinsmann with.

Yes, he committed to attempting to bring in and define a new American style. It was to be an offensive style of play based on possession. But while everyone is willing to hem and haw over how his side at the World Cup decidedly did not play in that fashion — thus “breaking his promise” — they also outright ignore entire portions of that very same press conference. For example:

“If you play Brazil or Argentina, you might [have to] play differently than maybe a country in CONCACAF.”

What Jürgen so clearly stated here was that, depending on the opponent, it might not be possible to play the way he desires to. If you try to play possession-oriented football against Spain, they’ll likely boss you off the pitch. If you try to take it to the Italians and fail to finish, they’ll probably exploit the one mistake you make on the counter. Even the best sides adjust their standard game plans against top opponents; the Netherlands did so three times in this tournament alone.

Furthermore, adopting a new identity isn’t something that will happen overnight. In fact, doing so in the three years Klinsmann has been at the reins is pretty much implausible as well. And low and behold, he even addressed that point in that press conference as well:

“Barcelona was not born in the last couple of years. It was born, the style of play now, in the early 90’s through Johan Cruyff. It took 20 years for that moment today that we see and all admire. Expectations are always based on what was built over the last 10-15 years.”

Translating that, it would be foolish to think that Jürgen could simply declare “WE’RE PLAYING OFFENSIVE FOOTBALL STARTING NOW!” and then do so with this current crop of players. They were all brought up in the old systems that played to various different ethos and mentalities. This World Cup was evidence of that fact.

Now, I would argue that Klinsmann was attempting to make small tweaks in the direction he wants to take the national team in the lead up to this World Cup. We saw the US men playing in more of a 4-3-3 set up in the tune-up matches, a formation geared towards offensive, possession-oriented play. But as I explained in my defense of Michael Bradley immediately after they were knocked out, that entire Plan A went out the window when Altidore went down because there was no like-for-like in the US pool of players who could slot in to those shoes. Plan B had to be different because of the tools Klinsmann then had at his disposal.

So really, the man’s commitment to changing the US style of play is one that is a more of a long-term goal. Klinsmann spoke at length in that press conference of the need to make vast changes in the youth game to achieve that goal — both at academies across the country and in the youth national team system. At the earliest, 2018 in Russia is where we should see the fruits of those labors start to come to fruition.

Klinsmann and Julian Green

julian green’s presence in brazil helped to lay the groundwork for what could come in the future.

Perhaps ironically, before the first ball was even kicked in Brazil this summer, people were already complaining that Klinsmann was focusing on 2018 too much.

Based on the youthful selections he made, the masses were enraged how the manager appeared to be writing off 2014. Which was a bit harsh. Given the hand we were dealt in the first round, most fans had written them off too. Few supporters or pundits actually believed we had the talent to make it out of a group that featured heavyweights like Germany, Ghana and Portugal.

And yet we did.

However, when Klinsmann “abandoned” the new philosophy of attacking and possession to make a run at actually getting out of the group — a tactic that achieved that feat and proved the doubters wrong, no less — everyone hung him out to dry. Once out and no longer just satisfied with the prospects of “just” advancing out of the Group of Death, many went and moved the goal posts on him.

Did they prefer he stick to his guns and get battered, or did they want him to play to this squad’s strengths and a chance to advance? Style over success? Aesthetics over glory? It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario for the German.

Ultimately, Klinsmann chose the later of those variables. And luckily, it worked out.

We advanced out of a group most countries wouldn’t have, we bled in youngsters who will likely feature in four and eight years time in a system likely to be more offensively-oriented, gained a larger following, and gave the sport a boost it wouldn’t have obtained otherwise.

If you ask me, that’s absolutely progress.

And that’s ignoring that Klinsmann and his staff have also instituted a massive change in our youth set up. Working with — and identifying — the 15, 16 and 17-year-old kids to imprint with the new style of thinking that is necessary to achieve a stylistic change require a total rethink of our approach. They’re the kind of changes necessary for changing the team’s style over a period of time that is far more viable. He’s pushed through a new national training center in Kansas City that heavily focuses on coaching this new style. The new training center also helps to lay the groundwork for the technical skills necessary in that system with a slew of futsal courts. He’s also helped to establish a broader and more comprehensive youth academy system that will implement them as well.

That’s progress, too.

And yet still, a sizable chunk of American fans think Klinsmann has done nothing for our national team, running him through the ringer for a partial quote. They choose to ignore the level of difficulty of the things he’s achieved. And they only care to look at a portion of the bigger picture.

So if you’re one of those throwing the man under the bus for a perceived lack of progress, make sure you open your eyes a little wider and remember that progress isn’t always a matter of wins. And just in case you’ve forgotten, there have been plenty of those, too.

south america heading north

2013 Copa America Champions Uruguay

if the rumor mill is to be believed, the copa america will be migrating north in 2016.

I don’t often like to talk about my rather lengthy soccer bucket list. The reason for that is that — barring a sudden explosion in popularity of WSOTP, a major network picking me up as a pundit or me hitting lottery — being able to check off most of the items on the list is not really financially viable.

So when fate occasionally re-adjusts circumstances in a way that might allow for a slim chance to actually cross one-off the list, I get a rush of hopeful euphoria similar to one that most people might experience when they find out that they’re expecting their first child.

And yesterday’s news “confirming” that a special 100th anniversary edition of South America’s premier international competition, the Copa América, would be coming to the United States in 2016 gave me those warm fuzzy feelings of expectation.

Alongside such lofty goals of attending a Champions League final, a Spanish Clásico, a Boca-River match and other similarly influential matches, attending a match for the Copa América is easily one of the most important soccer-related events that I have on my bucket list. Admittedly, attending one in South America was the original goal. But given that it will be far easier — not to mention significantly cheaper — I’m willing to bend the rules.

This isn’t exactly that new of news, though. The rumor has been doing the rounds now for quite some time, with CONMEBOL even going so far as to prematurely announcing the event last year, much to the dismay of US Soccer and CONCACAF. But as with all rumors, nothing is official until it’s actually been announced as official by all of the parties involved. And while beIN Sports’ Phil Schoen seems rather confident in the tournament actually being hosted in the States, USSF President Sunil Gulati has already rebuffed the rumor as not “yet” agreed to. Key word being “yet”.

My guess? It’s going to happen, at least once all of the wrinkles in the planning are ironed out, even it’s not the best scenario for all parties involved.

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the makeover that never was

USMNT Centennial Crest

the centennial u.s. soccer crest is so well liked that many want it to be worn all the time. but is that dream a reality?

Appearances, they say, are everything.

It’s a saying that’s normally applied to the world of business, but apparently it’s also one that’s recently become very important to a large segment of US soccer supporters. Well, maybe they’re not so concerned with overall appearances, but at least as it pertains to crest that adorns the national team’s shirts. And for many, they’d rate its appearance somewhere between poor and complete and utter crap.

Admittedly, the current crest isn’t a great one. There are eleven stripes on the crest and three stars: what is the significance of those numbers? Last I remember, it wasn’t the “Original Eleven Colonies”. Plus, the only correlation I can find with the United States and the number three are the three branches of government. Which seems a stupid reason to have three stars on a soccer crest, and is most definitely not the inspiration… I hope. And why aren’t the stripes red and stars set in blue, like on the flag? And the bit that seems to cause the most contention within the fan base is the remnant 90’s era US logo in the middle. Was that ball shot out of a cannon? A ball being kicked over the crossbar? Or does the ball just have eight triangular legs?

Of course, the crest we have now is little more than a dress slipped over that 90’s logo by Nike after they took over the kit responsibilities after the 1994 World Cup. The previous logo, horrid on its own, just didn’t have the marketing power that  Lipstick on a pig at best, yet it’s managed to hang around for nearly two decades.

And the slight modification of the crest ahead of this year’s World Cup — ditching the gold adornment and a fading of the color palette — has proven a huge disappointment for a vocal portion of the fan base.

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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

ten words or less #85

Eddie Johnson is leaving Seattle for DC United

EJ heading to DC highlights a busy off season week for Major League Soccer.

With the hectic Christmas football calendar about to kick off and the transfer window to follow shortly after, it seemed prudent to get a Ten Words or Less in so we’ll have ample room in the next one to cover the all of the upcoming commotion. But that doesn’t mean this week has been devoid of anything interesting. There’s been Spurs drama to deal with, MLS offseason player movements, and a barely even a peep out of not just me about the FIFA Club World Cup going on in Morocco.

And just in case you missed it, I’ve also opened up a competition for you to win a free, personalized retro Tottenham kit from the good folks over at Campo Retro. Just registering will net you a discount, so it’s worth a punt.

The new Nike Boca Juniors kit is the stuff of dreams. – 101greatgoals.com

The latest chapter in the Book of Daniel (Levy). – dearmrlevy.com

He likely isn’t the first, and won’t be the last. – theoffside.com

DC United letting their fans pick their beer’s can design. – dcunited.com

Kompany couldn’t do this again if he tried. Unlucky. – imgur.com

Wahl just dropped a peg or two in my book. – awfulannouncing.com

Defoe to Toronto for $10 million? SOLD! – torontosun.com

Players association trying to revolutionize the transfer system. – fifpro.org

Google the front runner for the next MLS/US soccer TV deal? – prosoccertalk.com

This is David Nugent… chasing a squirrel. – kckrs.com

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

growing pains, part II

This won’t last forever. I know it hurts, but the pain will go away. Everyone has to go through this. 

Growing pains, my mother contended, were just a part of growing up. The persistent throbbing and aching, she promised, wouldn’t last and the pains would eventually fade away. And if I wanted to grow up to be a big, strong man, this was something I — like everyone else — would have to suffer. So I soldiered on, heeding her words, knowing that all was worth it and better days were to come.

USA v Jamaica 9/11/2012

last time i checked, this isn’t seattle.

So when I wrote that US soccer was experiencing growing pains back in mid-July, I did so thinking that things would get better. My complaint at the time? That the planning for and communication of ticket allocations for the US Men’s National Team World Cup qualifier against Mexico in Columbus were a collective train wreck.

It all started with a vague announcement from the American Outlaws about their ticket pre-sale that “won’t sell out”. That was followed by missing several of their own deadlines to announce who would not be receiving the tickets that supposedly wouldn’t sell out. And since the next pre-sale — for US Soccer’s separate “Supporters Club” — began before the AO winners were announced, everyone freaked out and tried to get in on that pre-order too. Which makes sense, because nobody wanted to miss out on tickets and then have to rely upon the extremely slim odds of winning a ticket in a first ever general sale ticket lottery… which, by the way, also missed it’s originally announced decision date.

Combined, these huge ticket grabs ate up far more of Columbus Crew Stadium’s already limited capacity than AO and the Supporters Club ever had before. That left current Crew season ticket holders and supporters groups with poor seating options and even less tickets than they were led to believe they would be receiving. And that meant even fewer tickets would go into the General Sale Lottery, thus decreasing everyone else’s chances.

Furthermore — despite the fact that the Crew and US Soccer have been touting this match as sold out for the last month –the Crew are still holding back even more tickets with the hope that they can bundle them with season tickets for next year.

At the time, I posited that both the American Outlaws and US Soccer were both responsible for the entire snafu. AO were to blame because they jumped the gun and opened their pre-sale before they knew their exact allocation of tickets. And US Soccer were at fault for not having ticket allocations determined months in advance for a match that even the most dimwitted of American sports fans knew would inspire enormous demand. It stunk of a lack of communication between all of the involved parties from start to finish. And ultimately, it meant hundreds to thousands of fans would probably miss out just so AO could get what they wanted.

Despite all of that, I still held out hope that there was nowhere to go from here but up. How could they possibly mess things up further? 

As it turns out, that was a foolish assumption.

Instead of things getting better after all of the ticket sales closed, AO and US Soccer have continued to screw the pooch with a number of further gaffes.

First came a further ticketing headache. Though AO was able to give a majority of those fans who applied through their pre-sale tickets, some winners were notified that they would be required to either pay more or not go at all because they were placed in more expensive corner seats. Nothing like finding out you’ve won tickets, only to find out they would be $15 more a piece than what you had originally committed to. Though admittedly, this issue wasn’t anywhere near as frustrating as the process for landing tickets in the fist place.

The second indiscretion, however, has proven far more high-profile and could potentially have far larger ramifications beyond just the US-Mexico game.

I won’t outline every detail here — as BigSoccer user Dan Loney did excellently here — but I’ll do my best to summarize:

  • A now redacted Facebook post from American Outlaws Seattle president, eexplicitly threatened that the next USAvMEX match would be in his city if Columbus didn’t do things AO Seattle’s way. (Courtesy of @shoplifter110)
  • Two separate reports spilled out to the press, one from Columbus-based Massive Report and the other from Goal.com’s Keith Hickey, outlining the below claim
    • AO Columbus/Crew Supporters were told in a conference call with AO National and the USSF that, due to what was considered a poor showing in Salt Lake City, that AO Seattle would be charged with leading the support in Columbus.
    • AO would be instituting capos — or stands at the front of the supporters with designated leaders to guide the crowd in cheering — for the USAvMEX match, despite the fact they’ve never been used in Columbus before for any of their previous USA-Mexico matches or Crew games.
    • These capos would potentially be run by fans from outside Columbus/Ohio, and allegedly be flown in on USSF’s dime.
  • Angry fist shaking commences on social media.
  • AO National, and later USSF, posted a reply stating that both articles were incorrect. Oh, and they also confirmed that there would be capos at the match.

So let me get this straight. Not only did AO screw over everyone by instigating a ticket grab, but now they have the gall to tell Columbus how to run their own qualifier? Excuse my language, but what the fuck!?!?

It’s not as if Columbus has a piss poor record of supporting during pivotal matches. In fact, the atmosphere the Ohio capital provides for the National Team is part of the reason we’ve been handed the match four straight times. La Guerra Fria — or the Cold War — match back in 2001 was named so not just because of the physicality on the pitch, but because raucous fans turned out in freezing weather to inspire the Yanks to a 2-0 win. The crowd was rocking in 2005‘s edition, and 2009’s February match was no different. When Tim Howard called Columbus Crew Stadium the “one real true home advantage we have in America”, he wasn’t talking about the playing surface. He was talking about its supporters, and that was after the far-less-prestigious match against Jamaica in Columbus last September. So I’m pretty sure Columbus is more than capable of handling things on their own.

You might be willing to forgive AO and US Soccer for forcing AO Seattle and their capos upon this match if prior results in Columbus hadn’t measured up. But as the term “Dos a Cero” so elegantly illustrates, that’s not exactly been the case either.

Twelve years of hosting has provided ample time to develop our own culture, and it’s clearly proven fruitful. And besides, if Crew Stadium had hosted anything as bad as mixed results, don’t you think USSF would have yanked it from us ages ago?

if nothing else, the one thing seattle can’t offer the us soccer that columbus can? how about a proper grass pitch.

As for AO’s claims that having “20-plus supporters sections” — a problem they created themselves, by the way — has presented “unique challenges” for providing a unified support, I think that’s probably true. I also understand that what Seattle/Cascadia has going on is pretty special within the American soccer landscape. But does that mean that Seattle’s way of supporting is the best way… or even the only way, as AO and US Soccer purportedly decided?

I don’t think so, and Columbus themselves capable of providing adequate atmosphere. That’s not to say that there’s nothing Columbus can learn from AO Seattle: a little collaboration never hurt anyone.

But giving them the keys to the car moving forward? That’s crossing the line.

Ask AO Kansas City how they would feel about letting a bunch of Seattle fans come in and run their Cauldron in October. Or better yet, how would AO Seattle feel if AO Columbus came in and ran their next World Cup Qualifier? I doubt either home fans would be happy with either.

Look, I don’t know what’s going on with US Soccer right now. Maybe they’re still reeling from the growing pains themselves. But shoving Seattle’s way of supporting down Columbus’ throats, when there was no clear reason for doing so, is clearly overstepping the previously established boundaries. While I understand AO’s desire to unify the support in Columbus next month, who are they to decide how that should happen? Seattle had their game back in June, and nobody strolled into Centrury Link and told them how to support. So where do they get off thinking this is their show to run?

But perhaps more importantly, how did AO and US Soccer not realize that forcing such a move — at a time when we should all be unified and working together to back the team on the field in just a few days time — would cause dissension within the ranks? We shouldn’t be angry with each other, exchanging virulent comments online and creating animosity between fellow supporters. We should be focusing that kind of energy into helping put the fear into the hearts of the visiting Mexican players.

And though that may still be the American Outlaws’ end goal with sudden switch in supporting protocol, once again, they’re stomping all over some their fellow fans to make it happen.

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