Posts Tagged ‘ National Premier Soccer League ’

Summer of Soccer

Another busy, wonderful, hot summer is in the books. 2016 truly was the summer of soccer with Copa America Centenario, Euro 2016, and the Olympics, plus all the levels of US Soccer in season. Here’s a quick look back at my summer.

forrest

(photo courtesy of Forrest Collins)

May saw me check another team off of the list. I headed to Birmingham to see the Hammers first ever NPSL home game. They hosted Chattanooga FC and fell 1-0, but something special is in place both for the team and the supporters group Magic City Brigade.

atl-mufc

(photo courtesy of Atlanta Manchester United Supporters)

The following weekend was exhausting as I watched the FA Cup Final at Fado Midtown with the Atlanta Manchester United Supporters and Crystal Palace ATL. An amazing crowd and a thrilling victory for the Reds. Voice gone, memories made.

atl-cl

(photo courtesy of Soccer in the Streets)

The next day was the Atlanta Champions League, a fundraiser for Soccer in the Streets. I played with Madridistas ATL and while the results didn’t go our way, we had a great day.

The month wrapped up with the Champions League Final, which I watched downtown at Bottle Rocket with my friends from Castleberry Hill. Real Madrid secured Una Decima on penalties with CR7 sealing the victory.

IMAG0586

Started June by taking in another NPSL games. Larry and I headed to Knoxville for the Force against Nashville FC. A spectacular goal won the three points for the hosts and earned them a Volunteers Shield win as well. Despite the weather, we had a great time and met some great people.

der-biergarten

(photo of Alex Quispe)

Big tournaments on two continents kicked off, with the United States hosting Copa America Centenario and France welcoming Euro 2016. Work got in the way and I tried to catch as much as I could. Besides watching the summer tournaments at home, I was able to catch games at Rose and Crown and even got to watch Germany v Italy at Der Biergarten with Mia San ATL. I watched the final of both competitions at Fado Buckhead with hundreds of soccer fans.

With the Euros and Copa America in full swing, Erin and I joined Terminus Legion at Wild Heaven Brewery and then went to the Georgia Revolution/Knoxville Force friendly in Conyers. It was a full day of beer, Panini sticker albums, fellowship and footy.

Saw the Revolution again the following weekend against the Atlanta Silverbacks at Silverbacks Park. The Silverbacks won the game and eventually made it all the way to the Regional Semi Finals before losing to Miami FC.

I celebrated five years of the SoccerNomad blog in July. Hard to believe it’s been that long. The blog has seen several changes in terms of frequency and topics but two topics are always on tap: memories and kits.

asc

(photo courtesy of Lariana Michelle Photography)

Towards the end of the month, I was lucky enough to be part of the organizing committee for the first ever #ATLSoccerCon. This event brought together soccer fans from around Atlanta andthem  a chance to look at kits, play Subbuteo and hang out. The afternoon was highlighted by a Meet and Greet with the US Paralympic National Team. Photos here.

The month ended with the MLS All Star game in San Jose. Terminus Legion got together at Rose and Crown to watch the Gunners defeat the best of MLS 2-1.

13880144_10209908504847112_2356696984655910453_n

August saw the Terminus Legion soccer team win their first ever playoff game in the Sons of Pitches Sunday Supporters League. We defeated LFC Atlanta in the quarter finals after a penalty shootout. Unfortunately we lost in the next round but another great session for the team. Later that month, European soccer started back up and I watched the Community Shield with the Manchester United Supporters of Atlanta the Brewhouse.

A great summer of footy action and looking forward to another great season. Have a couple of trips in the works so look for posts on those.

——

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

I’m Only Happy When It Rains

IMAG0586

The Knoxville Force faced off against in state rival Nashville FC not only for three points in the NPSL Southeast Division but also as part of the Volunteer Shield.  After an opening day loss at New Orleans Jesters, the Force rebounded with a win against the Hammers (sorry Forrest and Collin). Nashville were 1-2 in the conference with a win against New Orleans and losses to Chattanooga FC and Memphis City FC. Those two losses also impacted the Volunteer Shield, which is a supporter group created trophy recognizing the club with the most points in head to head games between the Tennessee NPSL teams. Think Cascadia Cup for the Volunteer State.

We pulled into the hotel under threatening skies. I immediately checked the weather and saw that there was a 94% chance of rain at kickoff. Being a fragile flower, I asked Scruffy City Syndicate if umbrellas were allowed in the complex, which they were, so game on.

IMAG0580 IMAG0581

I wouldn’t say I love college football, but I’m a fan so had to see Neyland Stadium. We drove by in a torrential downpour, snapped a couple of pics and headed to the tailgate. Turnout was low due to the weather but the Scruffy City Syndicate had fired up the grill and had hot dogs and beers ready for anyone ready to brave the downpour.

Ben Winder greeted me and gave me a brief recap of the group. Founded in 2014, SCS has a close relationship with the Front Office and has secured an area in the stands to support the team. Plus they got a deal on season tickets that allows them to offer a great membership package. As for the club, the Knoxville Force combined efforts with the Emerald Youth Foundation ahead of the 2015 season. This season the team has a new coach, Bradley Camp, and a revamped roster.

IMAG0582 IMAG0583 IMAG0584

After meeting everyone, SCS showed me the pièce de résistance—Vanimal. Complete with a sound system and grill, the beast is a beauty to behold. Not only can it carry all the supplies but it also seats several loyal fans. Terminus Legion needs one of these ahead of 2017.

IMAG0587

IMAG0593 IMAG0594 IMAG0595 IMAG0597

SCS packed up and headed in. Their tailgate spot is right across from the complex—super convenient. Sansom Sports Complex is a relatively new facility and features a clubhouse, a covered small sided practice area (which came in handy this night) and two turf fields. A grass field is under development as well. The complex is easy to get to and visible to the community around them.

IMAG0589

IMAG0591

The match started off with a bang as Knoxville Force scored just two minutes in. NFC recovered and took control of the match, with Elliot Goodwin (#23) constantly running at the Force backline. He scored the equalizer (offisde?) and Nashville FC punished poor defending to go into halftime up 2-1.

Knoxville came out and were on the front foot in the second half. Yinka Lawal (#9) was a force up top but wing play was a real strength. Midway through the second half the Force knotted things up and with the game creeping towards a draw, this happened. Cameron Schneider received a cross at the top of the box and chested it to himself for the acrobatic finish. One of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen live.

The Force subbed and reorganized after a late red card to close out the match. Huge win for Knoxville as they go to 2-1 in the league and the Volunteer Shield standings. Next up is Chattanooga FC at Finley Stadium on Tuesday.

knoxville-force

(Pic courtsey of Erica Waggoner)

Scruffy City Syndicate put a great show. Small in numbers but huge in terms of attitude. Plus the next generation is getting involved, complete with costumes and a pyramid. Big props to El Beasto!! It was great to stand with them and many thanks to Ben and the gang for letting me hang out with them.

If you were at the match, let me know your thoughts. As always, check out the rest of my groundhops— past and present—on the MatchDay Memory page and hit me up on twitter @austinlong1974.

—–

Resources

Emerald Youth Sports

Knoxville Force website

Knoxville Force Wikipedia entry

Match Recap via Emerald Youth Sports

Volunteer Shield

Scruffy City Syndicate

Nashville FC website

Hammer Down

mcb post game

(Pic courtesy of Magic City Brigade)

Imagine. Imagine your first event. Imagine hosting a notable guest. Imagine a perfect night.

For the Birmingham Hammers Saturday night was another step in their journey to bring professional soccer to the Magic City. The club was founded in 2013 and after playing friendlies over the last couple of years, the club was accepted into the National Premier Soccer League, and is part of the Southeast Conference along with Chattanooga FC, Memphis City FC, Nashville FC, Knoxville Force and New Orleans Jesters.

2 chattahooligans gathering

May 14, 2016 was their first ever NPSL game and the Hammers hosted Chattanooga FC. CFC is one of the most successful teams in the NPSL, consistently challenging for conference and league titles. On top of that, they are supported by the Chattahooligans, a group that has gained a reputation for vocal, entertaining and passionate support and must be seen to be believed.

I touched based with the Magic City Brigade, the supporters group of the Hammers, in the days leading up to the match and got the low down on the group and the tailgate. My wife and I made our way to Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex, which is a really nice facility but not the easiest to find. Tucked away in a corner of Vestavia Hills, make sure you bring your map app/device on your trip.

tifo

shac 1

mcb 1

shac 2

The complex is quite nice with several pro turf fields. Fans are allowed to sit on a hill behind one of the goals, which is further supplemented by a walkway so that fans can stand and watch the game from a higher vantage point. Most fans sat in the stands along one side of the field and were filled with fans of all ages and bracketed by the two supporters groups. A stand alone press box allows the media an excellent view of everything and being relatively close to the action.

forrest

(Pic courtesy of Forrest Collins)

Forrest Collins, founder and President of MCB, introduced himself once we arrived. After trading scarves, we had a quick chat ahead of the match. Everyone made their way to the field and MCB was in fine voice. Several of their number lead the cheers along with drums and a cowbell.  Small in number, they make up for it in noise and enthusiasm.

As for the match itself, Chattanooga really showed their experience. CFC took advantage of a corner midway through the first half to go up 1-0 and that’s all they needed. Hartley was rarely challenged goal as the Hammers had a difficult time finding much success in the final third. Birmingham certainly has some weapons and I thought #7 Karl Chester and #17 Kevin Francis could cause problems for future opponents. CFC were well organized and very clear and how they wanted to attack and consistently got into good positions but the Hammers’ rearguard held firm.

3 flag 1

4 flag 2

In the end, the Hammers did not get the perfect ending but gave a good account of themselves and look to have a solid foundation from which to build.

Additional Resources

——

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

SoccerNomad Podcast: American Pyramid

american pyramid

American Pyramid

John Pannebaker, creator of the American Pyramid blog, came on the SoccerNomad podcast to discuss lower league football in the United States. His blog focuses on the Front Offices and supporter groups of amateur teams in either the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), the Premier Development League and the host of regional leagues around the country.

Find out more about American Pyramid:

Lower League Links

——

Thanks for listening! You can also subscribe via iTunes and please leave a rating and review. Follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Summer 2015–Chattanooga FC v Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves

My son Larry and I travelled to Chattanooga, TN for the NPSL Southeast Conference Final between the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves and Chattanooga FC. The teams had split the regular season meetings, with both teams winning away, and after big wins in the Semi-Finals against Georgia Revolution and Nashville FC respectively, the Final was set.

IMAG0345

Chattanooga FC, founded in 2009, have had a lot of success over the last couple of years.

Year Division League Regular Season Playoffs Open Cup
2009 4th Tier NPSL 3rd, Southeast Did not qualify Did not enter
2010 4th Tier NPSL 1st, Southeast NPSL Runners-Up Did not enter
2011 4th Tier NPSL 3rd, Southeast Did not qualify 1st Round
2012 4th Tier NPSL 1st, Southeast, West NPSL Runners-Up Did not enter
2013 4th Tier NPSL 1st, Southeast Regional Final 1st Round
2014 4th Tier NPSL 1st, Southeast NPSL Runners-Up 3rd Round
2015 4th Tier NPSL 1st, Southeast In Progress 3rd Round

The Reserves, originally formed as Atlanta FC, have had two solid seasons since coming back from hiatus for the 2014 season.

Year Division League Regular Season Playoffs Open Cup
2008 4 NPSL 1st, Southeast Divisional Round Did not qualify
2009 4 NPSL 2nd, Southeast Did not qualify 1st Round
2010 4 NPSL 5th, Southeast Did not qualify Did not qualify
2011 4 NPSL 4th, Southeast Did not qualify Did not qualify
2012 4 NPSL 2nd, South-Southeast-East Did not qualify Did not qualify
2013 On hiatus
2014 4 NPSL 2nd, Southeast Divisional Round Did not qualify
2015 4 NPSL 2nd, Southeast Conference Final Did not qualify

IMAG0361

The match started at a high intensity as both teams looked to gain an advantage. Chris Ochieng caused a lot of problems for the Reserves while the front line of Massiah, Cruz and Duarte kept the Chattanooga defenders on their toes. Challenges came thick and fast and the referee tried to maintain control of the match.

The Reserves fell behind 1-0 in the first half as a ball over the top was chased down by Luke Winter and looped over the visiting goalkeeper Xaiver Audergon. The hosts kept up the pressure and nearly added a second while the Silverbacks nearly scored through Riley Sumpter.

The second half started with the same 22 players as the visitors attacked from wide positions and kept Chattanooga pinned back. Three substitutions were made by the Reserves at the hour mark as they searched for an equalizer. Chattanooga defended well and started to get more opportunities on the counter attack.

The hosts sealed the game with a quarter of an hour remaining, winning and converting a penalty. The Reserves continued to pour forward and gave up a third goal late in the match. Chattanooga FC will now play Miami Fusion for a chance to advance to the Southeast Regional Final.

A crowd of over 3300 was on hand, with the Chattahooligans in fine voice. The supporters meet in a pavilion across the street from the stadium and then march in just ahead of the match. The group, which sits behind the visiting bench, is quite a presence, supporting their team with a sustained series of songs and chants.

Finley Stadium, home of the University of Chattanooga, has train tracks in the distance and is just outside the historic Southside District. Easy to get to, this facility provides a great venue for soccer. The surface was in good shape and the locker room facilities were quite nice, especially for this level. The club leaves the opposite stand closed to pack the fans in the main stand, which made for a much better atmosphere. There was a real sense of community around the place and provided a wonderful evening of soccer.

IMAG0348IMAG0352IMAG0357IMAG0362IMAG0363

——

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.

w17276_jacksonville-armada-fc-replica-jersey_nvy_detail

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.

jax badge

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

2015_Professional_Soccer_Teams_in_USA_Canada

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.

nasl logo

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.

MLSMap2

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.