Posts Tagged ‘ NASL ’

Scarf Collection

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I’ve become a groundhopper, not to the extent of Paul Gerald or Peter Miles or Tony Incenzo, but I take pics, talk to people and write posts about teams, supporters and venues in the United States. But what about swag? As a big kit nerd, the obvious choice would be to get a shirt at each match, but that strategy has a couple of problems: 1) not every team has a merch store or even jerseys for sale; 2) at $55 to $100 a pop, a one stop/one shirt policy could get pricey; and 3) where would I put them all? I don’t have a mancave (yet) and as much as I would love to wear a different jersey every day, society and my workplace frown upon that.

So my solution has been to pick up a scarf at each game I attend. This strategy has paid off in several ways. Scarves are almost always available at games, and if not, readily available on club websites. Plus at $25 to $35 each, this is the better option financially. On top of that, scarves are packable and easy to display.

Here is my current collection:

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Favorite Teams

Manchester United–The club team I have been supporting for 20 years. One day I will make it to Old Trafford. C’mon you Reds!!

US Soccer–I have seen several US games over the years , and I continuing to engage my own country instead of wishing I was Croatian or Dutch or almost anything else.

Atlanta United–MLS club kicking off in 2017. I’m a season ticket holder and can’t wait for the team to launch and play their first game at Mercedes Benz Stadium.

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Groundhops

Seattle Sounders–One of my first trips and had an awesome time.

Chicago Fire–Used to watch them at Soldier Field. Saw the new home out in the middle of nowhere.

Portland TimbersStood with Timbers Army in a very unique environment.

Columbus CrewSaw one of the first games at this Soccer Specific Stadium and have been several times since.

FC DallasAnother facility out in the middle of nowhere but Dallas Beer Guardians more than made up for it.

DC UnitedGot to see DC United at RFK before they move to the new ground.

Houston DynamoAmazing venue and hopefully the team returns it past glory.

Atlanta Silverbacks–Former NASL team playing in NPSL, I have been to many games and worked for the Reserves team.

Charleston Battery–Fantastic USL team with great supporters playing an intimate venue filled with soccer memorabilia.

Lansing United–The club launched the summer before I left Lansing and is doing things right on and off the pitch.

Detroit City FC–My first taste of real supporter culture. It has been wonderful keeping an eye on this team from the first days.

Nashville FC–Vanderbilt Stadium wasn’t the greatest venue but wonderful fans.

Chattanooga FC–Love going up to Chattanooga. Real passion behind a successful NPSL club.

Birmingham Hammers–Met some fired up supporters for the Hammers’ first season. Looking forward to going back.

Georgia Revolution–Under new ownership, this club is providing players a stepping stone to next level.

Knoxville Force (Scruffy City Syndicate)–Growing club with ardent supporters, playing right in downtown Knoxville.

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Miscellaneous

Juventus–Fell in love with Alessandro Del Piero and followed the bianconeri until I decided to focus my soccer supporting efforts.

MSU Spartans–Went to many a game at DeMartin Stadium during my time in Lansing.

World Cup 2022–My wife won this in a raffle. It’s the scarf from the US 2022 World Cup bid.

American Outlaws Atlanta. I love hanging out with these passionate supporters of US Soccer.

Terminus Legion 2015–Joined this Supporter Group at the intersection of Atlanta and Soccer in 2015 after moving to Atlanta in 2014.

Terminus Legion 2016–Re-upped and run the soccer team and host the Terminus Legion podcast.

The General–Special edition summer scarf produced by Terminus Legion to celebrate the history of Atlanta.

Soccer in the Streets–An amazing organization that brings soccer to underserved youth in Atlanta. Just launched Station Soccer, a pitch on top of a transit station.

Castleberry Hill AC–An organization looking to use soccer to improve their community. Currently trying to build Old Trenholm in the shadow of Mercedes Benz Stadium.

 

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Top three scarves I have come across. . .

fire-scarf

I usually buy the team scarf at each match but when I was at the Chicago Fire tailgate, I saw people walking around this scarf and knew that I had to have it. The scarf tweaks the Chicago city flag, using navy blue bands to frame the edges instead of the sky blue and then uses the four red stars through the middle. Great looking piece.

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While standing with Timbers Army, I spotted a Battlestar Portlandia. Having just come out of my Battlestar Galactica geek phase, I really loved the merging of pop culture and sport. Doubt I will ever get my hands but one of these but a really slick design.

dcfc-scarf

A scarf from Detroit City FC’s inaugural season is one of my favorite scarves. All the design elements come together, with of color scheme of rouge and dark yellow, a clean font and the argyle print adding a wonderful touch. DCFC has absolutely crushed it from a brand and merch perspective from day one.

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If you want to see a real scarf collection, visit Kenny’s Football Scarves. He has over 2000 pieces organized by league and region.

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Read more about my groundhops and supporter group interactions at the SoccerNomad blog. Also check out the SoccerNomad podcast, which focuses on Supporter Groups and kit design. Finally follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

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Personal Kit Collection 2016

Inspired by a series of tweets late 2012, I took stock of my kit inventory and put together a post documenting my personal kit collection at the time. As you can see my collection was all over the place in terms of teams, manufacturer and style. Since then, I have had a couple of realizations (read: interventions) and talks with myself. Combine that with a big move and my collection is now under 30 jerseys. I have probably owned over 50 shirts through the years but things happen. My collection pales in comparison with others, especially JR Francis, as we discussed on one of his appearances on the SoccerNomad podcast, but I love collecting and talking about kits.

Manchester United

Home

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Away

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US National Team

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National Teams

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FC Barcelona

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Juventus

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Atlanta Silverbacks

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My current plan is to follow my self-created rules.

  • Since I’ve narrowed my focus to just following Manchester United at club level (and Atlanta United when they take the field in 2017), only buying a shirt every three years or ones that match my tastes. I’m currently back filling my Manchester United collection.
  • In terms of national team kits, only buying ones of the United States Men’s National Team. Why? Because I’m American, if only by an accident of birthplace. (Of course, thanks to Nike, this policy has been a real problem as they keep designing crap shirts.)
  • Only buying personalized jerseys (printed with JUNIOR 7) and not buying “hero jerseys”.
  • Only buying shirts on sale (promotional or otherwise) or wait until the release of the following set of kits.

Since I put these into effect a couple of years ago, I have done quite well, only breaking the rules once, and that was to get an authentic Holland Away jersey from Euro 2012. It was 50% off at Classic Football Shirts and I couldn’t pass it up. However I’m close to breaking several of the above rules for the new Croatia Euro 2016 away shirt.

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For all the posts on kits that I have owned, own currently or want to own, please visit the Strip Club page of the SoccerNomad blog.

Here are some good resources, especially if you’re looking for vintage or retro shirts:

Feel free to share your faves/collections or great sites for shirts in the comments below.

Paging Gianni Infantino

About a year ago the state of the US Soccer Pyramid consumed me. At that time I really thought that the NASL was on the way out due to the lack of a national footprint, MLS moving in on possible markets, and the development of USL as a feeder league for MLS. The NASL is still fighting the good fight bringing San Francisco into the fold and maintaining a Midwest presence with Rayo OKC. Time will tell if the league survives.

Recently the lower tiers of US Soccer and the ever present #ProRelforUSA conversations have been bubbling up in my twitter feeds. I started reading the American Pyramid blog and I was introduced to dozens of clubs/groups looking to fill a need, which is one of player development and local support. So I had American Pyramid creator John Pannebaker on the SoccerNomad podcast and one item he focused on was building critical mass at the lower levels. The day after I edited a rough cut of our conversation, I came across an article by Denis Crowley who started Stockade FC. Several times he mentioned the idea of “If something doesn’t exist, create it”, which is similar to what John said on the podcast.

The something is pro rel. It doesn’t exist in the US, at least not yet. Thanks to FIFA’s exemption and the powers that be at USSF and MLS, a concept that is used around the world (except in Australia) is non-existent in the US. But what if the lower leagues said, we’ll just do it, show how it’s done, build critical mass and change things? Might be a pipe dream but you never know.

These recent conversations and articles were reasoned and passionate with a real desire for a change that will benefit everyone from the clubs to the players to the supporters. The tone was in contrast to a lot of the chatter on social media demanding change. All of these things made me ask myself, Do we want Pro/Rel or do we want to yell about something or do we want to be like the rest of the soccer world?

I’m not against Pro/Rel. Don’t necessarily think it will be the magic bullet but it could help. Again the US has no frame of reference and the moneyed interests at the higher levels, especially in MLS, have no interest in changing. Only way this changes is if FIFA changes their special exception and then wins the ensuing legal battle.  No way these owners give up their fiefdom with a fight.

If people need something to yell at, I’m all for that. If you need a topic other than Pro/Rel, might I suggest fixing roads, improving the quality and decision making of drivers and improving customer service at fast food establishments? If you need more, I’ve got a whole list.

In terms of being like the rest of the world, we are America. We are the world. If we want to be like the rest of the world, does that mean #SingleTable and #LeagueNotPlayoff and #InternationalBreak? And does that mean we start petitioning FIBA and whoever is in charge of American Football worldwide and the World Baseball Softball Confederation and the International Ice Hockey Federation so that my local team can progress to the highest level? Who is the Ted Westervelt for those sports?

Again I’m for Pro/Rel but I’m tired of being yelled at by the most ardent supporters. Also I have enough in my life to complain about so I don’t need to add screaming at FIFA/USSF/MLS to the list. And finally I want to know how far people are willing to go to emulate the rest of world soccer. Whoever you are, carry on, but I’m going to keep going to games, having a beer or seven and enjoying myself.

Sounders FC: Authentic Masterpiece

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Sounders FC: Authentic Masterpiece, Mike Gastineau

Ahead of the kickoff of Atlanta United, I checked out this book and I’m so glad I did. Gastineau does a wonderful job taking the key movers and shakers and weaving their stories together. From supporters to players to media to management to ownership, he provides context for the evolution of the team from the old NASL to the kickoff of the first game in 2009.

Beyond that he analyses the importance of a balanced and effective management team with a shared vision towards a goal and the tricky concept of team dynamics, which are dependent on the attitude of the stars and presence and contribution of “glue guys”. As with every success story there is a lot of hard work and desire combined with some luck and fortuitous timing, and Gastineau reflects on all of these.

A fascinating and informative read, well worth picking up.

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For a full list of my book reviews, please visit the Recommended Reading page. And reach out to me with your suggestions as well.

Summer 2015–Recap

My move to the ATL has provided many opportunities to interact with fellow fans of the beautiful game—pick up games, watch parties, Silverback games, you name it—and this summer I got a taste of it all.

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(Photo courtesy of Atlanta Silverbacks)

Starting with the Atlanta Silverbacks, the spring started off with the season opener for the home team as they hosted Indy Eleven. A late penalty saw the visitors get a share of the points but the Silverbacks had a strong start to the season, with a rock solid defense keeping the ‘Backs in most matches. Raul and the NY Cosmos were shut out in the following match and it was an honor to see such a legend, which I got to discuss with the Pena Madridista Atlanta.

section 904

(Photo courtesy of Lariana Michelle Photography)

Later in the season, the Jacksonville Armada came calling and we got to interact with Section 904 during the tailgate. (Full post here) The last home match of the Spring Season saw the San Antonio Scorpions roll into town. A single goal from the defending NASL Champions won the match and the Silverbacks finished the season dead last after the opening 10 games.

footgolf

(Photo courtesy of Terminus Legion)

3 v 3

(Photo courtesy of Atlanta Silverbacks)

To distract from the woes of the home team, Terminus Legion put on several events including a FootGolf Tournament and a 3 v 3 Tournament. Larry and I paired up at Steel Canyon and had a great afternoon. We helped raised money and awareness for Soccer in the Streets and played with an awesome group of guys. In June, TL teamed up with Red Brick Brewing and DragonGoal USA to put on the first ever Gold Pint 3 v 3 Tournament. I put together a team of TL members and local bloggers and . . . we went 0fer. Managed one draw against many, many losses, but at the end there was beer, so all was well.

 

us v nigeria

 (Photo courtesy of Jorge Alonso)

With the Silverbacks on break or playing away from home, the summer saw the focus turn to the Women’s World Cup and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Made my first trip to Diesel, a bar located in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta for the USWNT game against Nigeria. Not the greatest 90 minutes of soccer but we had the Silverbacks US Open Cup game and Copa America to distract us.

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 (Photo courtesy of Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves)

The Silverbacks Reserves were also in action this summer, and I was able to get involved with the team. Instead of coaching or playing, I got to experience the administrative side of the game, taking care of paperwork, communicating with other teams and managing game day operations for home games. The squad, playing the National Premier Soccer League, was a mix of recently graduated college/university players, players looking to climb the ladder and veterans. Jason Longshore and I recapped the season.

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xelaju fans

(Photos courtesy of Reto Sports)

The squad finished the season against Guatemalan team Xelaju MC. The five time national champions visited the city as part of the Reto Cup. Terminus Legion got there early to tailgate and watch the US/Cuba game, but we were nearly drowned as a torrential downpour lasted almost an hour. Once the rain cleared, hundreds of Xelaju fans streamed into James R. Hallford Stadium and provided amazing support with chants and flags and banner and smoke. The visitors ran out 2-0 winners and were good value for money, especially #10 and #24.

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(Photo courtesy of Alynne Carol Grace)

barnes

(Photo courtesy of Goal.com)

A couple of days later, Atlanta hosted the Gold Cup Semi Finals and I totally made a hash of it. With two games at 6pm and 9pm ET, I thought for sure the US would play the later game. Plus I thought that tickets would be easy to get with the seating situation, shall we say, fluid. No, no and no. The US was locked into the 6pm game, which did several things: made it impossible for me to tailgate, made it impossible to go home first and made it almost impossible to get there from work, even though I work just minutes away. By the time I realized my error regarding timing, all the tickets were sold out, which scuppered my chances of just buying a cheap ticket and then standing with Terminus Legion or the American Outlaws. CONCACAF was very clear that your seat was your seat. Combine all this with important kickball commitments and you can see how I got it all wrong. I followed the match during my kickball game and was shocked at the 2-0 halftime score. An update provided the news of the Bradley goal, and I was able to watch the last 15 or 20 minutes at a local bar.

Another summer full of soccer and can’t wait for the European Leagues to get into full swing and the playoff pushes in NASL and Major League Soccer.

What did you do this summer? Let me know in the comments below.

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Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

Old Futbol Buffet–Burnt to a Crisp

Saturday was filled with soccer. And fellowship and a couple of adult beverages and a nice sunburn on my face and arms. My day kicked off with twitter blowing up due to Mane’s record setting hat trick. Thanks to the wonder of the interwebs, I was able to watch all three goals and move on with my life.

I headed to Silverbacks Park for the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves game against Chattanooga FC. I am the Operations Manager for the team and am excited for this opportunity and for the season ahead. The squad is filled with youth and experience and their first competitive 90 minutes showed glimpses of what is to come.

game day

(Pic courtesy of Chattanooga FC)

Granted I didn’t get to see the whole match due to my duties, but here were my impressions of the visitors’ 1-0 victory. Chattanooga is good. Solid defensively and blessed with a wonderful winger in Jose Ferraz. This was their third game as they had a league match and US Open Cup game under their belts, and their cohesiveness was noticeable. Fatigue looked to be setting in during the first half on a hot afternoon, and I thought the Reserves would be able to take advantage of this. However Chattanooga came out strong in the second half, and it was a balanced affair with chances for both teams. Late in the match Ferraz got free on the right wing and fired in a cross.  The initial save was made by Xavier Audergon but Chrispin Ochieng fired in the rebound.

game shot

(Pic courtesy of 10Soccer.com)

The Reserves changed to more of an attacking 4-3-3 in the second and lack a #9 right now, but Milthon Duarte did some nice things up top and on the left side of midfield. The team travels to Knoxville next weekend.

tailgate jax armada

(Pic courtesy of Laraina Michelle Photography)

After the match I head to the Terminus Legion tailgate. With members of SoccerFest and DragonGoal in attendance, there was a lot going on. Right before the match members of Jacksonville Armada Supporters Group Section 904 came down for a beverage and I was able to talk to several of them about the new team.

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First of all, I love their jerseys. They wore an all-white strip in the match against the Silverbacks but the club’s home strip is predominantly navy blue with a wide white band across the chest. Their club badge is attractive as well with a two tone background behind an artistically designed anchor.

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In speaking with the fans on site, they can’t believe how well the team is doing.  The side attacks and is fun to watch. I was curious about the team’s future and asked if their ownership group has a plan. Yes, ownership’s goal is MLS, which led to a conversation about a recent post on my blog.

Game time approached and both supporters groups got their marches ready. I stayed behind to help tear down the tailgate and missed the first goal from Hans Denissen. I ended up watching most of the game from the parking lot, cleaning up, chatting, and rehydrating myself and my son, who was with me the whole day. All in all a great day.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the Silverbacks game, so let me know in the comments below.

Not Inverting the Pyramid

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Recently I listened to a couple of podcasts and read several articles:

  • Jason Davis asked what the NASL is supposed do as MLS continues to grow and possible tries to pick up NASL teams interested in “moving up”.
  • Bill Archer examined how the NeoCosmos possibly caused the NASL collapse again.
  • Andrew at Boys in Rouge reposted Tom Dunmore’s article from XI Quarterly about the pure numbers game possible for Professional US soccer.
  • Two Daft Yanks interviewed Jasun Cohen, President of the Atlanta Silverbacks Alliance Council.
  • HF Atlanta Football Weekly did a podcast about the MLS structure (couldn’t find the recording on the interwebs).

These got my brain churning about several topics–the future of soccer in the ATL, the future of US club soccer and the future of MLS in terms of structure–and it is the last two topics that I would like to focus on.

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I’ll be honest, before I moved to Atlanta, I knew nothing about the new North American Soccer League (NASL) outside of the fact that Eric Cantona was the New York Cosmos Technical Director for about five minutes. But since I am learning more about US soccer and since I was moving to a city with a NASL team, I figured I should see what was going on. So I watched a few games and highlight packages and read some articles and went to a few Silverback games once I got into town.

Looking at recent events in the NASL—the Silverbacks barely hanging on (the league stepped in and is running the team for at least one more year), Minnesota going to MLS in a couple of years, and the struggle to maintain Second Division status, I don’t think the NASL will exist in five years. With the re-launch of the league, it tried to up the ante with MLS and I really believe the league tried to force an AFL/NFL type merger with MLS, but unfortunately these efforts failed and the result will probably be the second failure of this league.

On the other hand, the United Soccer League (USL) is strengthening their position with a greater footprint and the development of MLS reserve sides or MLS partnerships. Their stability and acceptance of their place will allow them to fulfill the US Second Division slot in the long term.

As for the NPSL and USL-PDL, my guess is that US Soccer will tweak the requirements to modify what the Third Division looks like and then the two leagues will serve this role, providing soccer to regional and niche markets. I didn’t bother to look up the regulations, I just know that they exist and will be used to squeeze out the NASL.

us-soccer-pyramid

So currently the US Soccer pyramid looks like this:

USSF Division 1

Major League Soccer (MLS)

17 US clubs and 3 Canadian clubs

USSF Division 2

North American Soccer League (NASL)

9 US clubs and 2 Canadian clubs

USSF Division 3

United Soccer League (USL)

21 US clubs and 3 Canadian clubs

I imagine it will look like this:

USSF Division 1

Major League Soccer (MLS)

17 US clubs and 3 Canadian clubs

USSF Division 2

United Soccer League (USL)

21 US clubs and 3 Canadian clubs

USSF Division 3

Premier Development League (USL)                                              National Premier Soccer League (NPSL)
      63 US clubs/8 Canadian clubs                                                                         78 US clubs

That brings us to MLS. The league is in a growth phase and is slowly building towards the next benchmark, which is a 24 team league.  Totally makes sense, is reasonable at this point and time, and appears to be sustainable. A 24 team league was something I could get my head around as I can remember the days of 10 or 12 teams in MLS, but I had a guest on my podcast who said his belief was that, in the end, MLS will be a 30 to 32 team league very similar to the other major sports leagues in this country. When he uttered those words, it blew my mind. The more he talked about it and the more I saw potential markets either developing or lacking a team, I started to come around to the idea.

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Now how does MLS get from 24 to 32 teams? One way would be for NASL teams looking to make the jump ponying up the necessary franchise fee (Indy Eleven and New York Cosmos come to mind). Another way would be for USL teams to continue their progression up the ladder (thinking growing markets like Sacramento, Phoenix and Charlotte). There are also several top media markets without a team in MLS.

With that in mind, what would a 32 team league look like? I’m a single table guy but that will never happen, especially with this many teams. I’m a League Championship guy but that’s never going to happen either. This is America dammit. The playoff champion is the champ.

Following other American sports, I propose Western and Eastern Conferences with two eight team divisions each. Since we don’t know the teams, it’s hard to guess how they would be organized but Divisions probably something like West, Midwest, Southeast and Northeast. The schedule would be home and away against every team in your Division, and games against two of the other three Divisions on a rotating basis. This would create a 30 game schedule and allow for more flexibility in terms of summer tournaments, International friendlies and Club friendlies. (Tangent: the March International Break and recent joke friendly against Mexico really set me off but I won’t rant about it here.)

16-team-tournament-bracket

Another American phenomenon is the post season playoffs and since nearly everyone in the US is a winner and gets a participatory ribbon, half the teams would make the playoffs. Haven’t quite decided if it should be West Division 1 versus West Division 4 or West Division 1 v Midwest Division 4 or Western Conference 1 v Western Conference 8, but home and away games to produce two Conference winners who would play a one game Final at the remaining team with the highest amount of points from the regular season.

Eventually MLS will become like every other league in the US, which is fine. And AMAZING considering how many failed leagues have come before and how much ground the game has had to cover. That’s my view of Professional US soccer over the next 10 to 15 years. Am I prescient, off my rocker or maybe on the right track? Let me know what you think in the comments below.