Posts Tagged ‘ North American Soccer League ’

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

IMAG0528 IMAG0530

US National Team

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National Teams

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FC Barcelona

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Juventus

IMAG0493

Atlanta Silverbacks

IMAG0491

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.

croatia-euro-2016-away-kit-3

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.

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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.

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.

MatchDay Memory–History of ATL Soccer (Part III)

Recently my family moved to Atlanta to start the next chapter in our lives. As part of settling in I started researching the history of soccer in Atlanta, expecting to focus on the Silverbacks and the new MLS team which starts play in 2017. To my surprise I learned that soccer has been in city since the 1960’s and is full of interesting stories and characters. So here we go . . .

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nasl logo

In 2011, the Atlanta Silverbacks were part of the new North America Soccer League, which became the second division of the US Soccer Pyramid.  In reading about the formation of the league, I learned that a group of USL teams wanted to break away to create their own league, which eventually received USSF sanction and started play in 2011.  The original 8 teams were:

  • Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • Fort Lauderdale Strikers
  • Atlanta Silverbacks
  • Carolina Railhawks
  • FC Edmonton
  • Minnesota United FC
  • Montreal Impact
  • Puerto Rico Islanders

silverbacks

After two unsuccessful seasons, the Silverbacks won the Spring Championship in 2013.  Because of this, Atlanta hosted the New York Cosmos but lost in the 2013 Soccer Bowl.  The NASL now runs with a Spring Season and a Fall Season, and teams make the playoffs as follows:

As of 2014, the NASL Spring Season and Fall Season champions qualify for the playoffs (excuse me The Championship) and host a semi final match.  If the same club wins both seasons, the clubs with the second, third and fourth best overall records from both seasons combined will qualify for the playoffs.  Their opponents are the clubs with the next best overall records from both seasons combined. The semi final winners then compete in The Championship final (aka the Soccer Bowl).

The current roster of the NASL includes these eleven teams:

  • Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • Fort Lauderdale Strikers
  • Atlanta Silverbacks
  • Carolina Railhawks
  • FC Edmonton
  • Minnesota United FC
  • San Antonio Scorpions
  • New York Cosmos
  • Indy Eleven
  • Ottawa Fury FC
  • Jacksonville Armada

Once I knew I was moving to Atlanta, I started researching the Silverbacks and this is how this post came to be.  In order to familiarize myself with the team, I ponied up $5 for a NASL video subscription and sat down to watch the Silverbacks’ clash with the New York Cosmos.  The match featured a great free kick by Burgos, but then after 22 minutes, the game was delayed about three and a half hours due to rain.  I didn’t wait around but saw the highlights next day. I watched a little bit of game against Fort Lauderdale and watched most of game away to San Antonio.  The match against the Scorpions was 0-0 at the half but two goals gave Scorpions win.  Sandoval scored a fantastic goal late to insert some drama into game.

sunset at silverbacks park

My next step was to attend a game, so the family went to down to Silverbacks Park to see the hosts play one of the top teams of the 2014 season—San Antonio Scorpions.  The club plays its home games at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, which houses a 5000-seat stadium. Based on attendance figures from Wikipedia and the Doherty Soccer blog, the club has been averaging over 4000 fans for the last three seasons.

In advance of the game, I reached out to Terminus Legion about hanging out with them at their tailgate.  They welcomed us with open arms and we were able to share a beer and a hot dog on a glorious fall evening.  May I say that the Brown Ale from Red Brick was quite tasty.

After cleaning up we marched to the stadium and took up our seats in section 301.  The weather was perfect and the group was ready to go.  Our capo was losing his voice during the match but we powered through. The Home Depot tool caddy, which served as our drum, was not so fortunate, and didn’t even make it to halftime. The Silverbacks played well and were unlucky to be on the wrong end of the 1-0 scoreline.  The hosts nearly scored in front of us on the Scorpion goalie, alternately called Barney and Grimace due to his purple shirt.

TL halloween

All in all a wonderful evening.  Picked up another scarf and made plans to make it back to Silverbacks Park before the end of the season.  I was able to attend the final regular season home against the Carolina Railhawks.  Again I tailgated with Terminus Legion, who had invited the die hard Railhawk fans who had made the trip over.  Another defeat but a great atmosphere was created by Terminus Legion, who got a girls youth team that was sitting next to us involved in some cheers.  The game ended with the Legion leading chants based around the theme keeping the Silverbacks, with the team’s future uncertain at that point.

During the 2014 season the team finished 8th with 3 wins 1 draw and 5 losses in the Spring.  The Fall campaign was not much better, with the Silverbacks at the bottom of the final combined table.

SOS banner

After the season Atlanta supporters groups came together in an effort for #SOS Save Our Silverbacks.  Several meetings were held both on and off line and it was great to see the creative juices following and arguments developed and assessed.  Efforts were made to increase awareness and be part of the solution, and a rally was held in early November to show the NASL, the media and the Atlanta Soccer community that there was a desire for a team, and the cause was picked up  on social media by supporter groups, who showed their support. The result of those efforts was that the league will run the team in 2015 while a search is made for a new ownership group.

SOS march

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These posts are based on internet research so may be incorrect or incomplete. Please reach out to me at austinlong1974@gmail.com with any comments or corrections.

MatchDay Memory–History of ATL Soccer (Part I)

Recently my family moved to Atlanta to start the next chapter in our lives.  As part of settling in I started researching the history of soccer in Atlanta, expecting to focus on the Silverbacks and the new MLS team which starts play in 2017.  To my surprise I learned that soccer has been in city since the 1960’s and is full of interesting stories and characters.  So here we go . . .

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atlanta-chiefs-logo-1968

In 1966 the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball received a franchise in one of the many incarnations of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL).  First tangent, the baseball team had started as the Boston Red Stockings in 1871 and eventually became the Boston Braves in 1912.  The team then moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1953 before finally ending up in Atlanta in 1966.

Chiefs 68 Warmup Phil WoosnamOne of the Atlanta Chiefs first signings was Phil Woosnam as coach. The Welshman had played in England for Leyton Orient, West Ham and Aston Villa.  After one season in the NPSL, the team became part of the newly formed North American Soccer League (NASL).  Woosnam led the Chiefs to the first NASL Championship in 1968, defeating the San Diego Toros 3-0 in a two legged final, before becoming US National Team coach and then commissioner of the NASL.

kaizer chiefs

Another early figure was Kaizer Motaung, who was in the squad for the first four seasons, winning Rookie of the Year in 1968 and making the All Star Team in 1969 and 1971.  In 1970 he returned to his native South Africa and formed the Kaizer Chiefs, a combination of his name and the Atlanta Chiefs.  Over the next 40 plus years, this version of the Chiefs became the most successful team in South Africa and won the African Cup Winners Cup in 1991.

Chiefs 71 Team Road

Back on the field in Atlanta, the team made the 1971 NASL Final but lost the three game series to the Dallas Tornado.  The team would compete as the Chiefs in 1972 before becoming the Atlanta Apollos for the 1973 campaign.  The team then folded until being revived in 1979 as the Chiefs after the Colorado Caribous franchise moved to Atlanta.  Scanning the roster I noticed that former Manchester United player Brian Kidd suited up for the Chiefs for the 1981 season, which turned out to be last outdoor campaign for an Atlanta team in the original North American Soccer League.

In 1982 the Cleveland Cobras franchise in the American Soccer League (ASL) moved to Atlanta and became the Georgia Generals.  The team only lasted one season, finishing third in the regular season and losing in the semi-finals of the playoffs.  My research revealed that leading scorer Jose Neto played in the 1961 European Cup Final for the winning side Benfica.

AtlantaAttack9091

After this soccer returned to Hotlanta in 1989 as the Atlanta Attack played in the American Indoor Soccer Association (AISA) which became the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) (The re-use of names and acronyms can be confusing.) in the Attack’s second and final season. Anyway, the club relocated to Kansas City, became the Kansas City Attack and had some moderate success before folding in 2005.

The next part will look at different indoor and outdoor teams that bridged the gap until the emergence of the Atlanta Silverbacks.

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These posts are based on internet research so may be incorrect or incomplete. Please reach out to me at austinlong1974@gmail.com with any comments or corrections.

MatchDay Memory–1974: Part 7 (United States)

Forty years ago I came into the world and while I may not have made an impact on the game of soccer, it has surely made an impact on me.  Playing the game from a very early age, I didn’t start following the game until my early 20’s.  Starting with Manchester United, I eventually started reading everything I could get my hands on and watching whatever game was on, learning about the rich and complex history of the game.  My MatchDay Memory posts over the next few weeks will focus on events in world soccer during the year of my birth, 1974.  It is in no way a comprehensive summation but rather an examination of teams and incidents that I was drawn to in my research.

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Wrapping up with domestic matters, after reading David Wangerin’s Soccer in a Football World, 1974 seemed to critical moment in the history of US Soccer. From an organizational point of view, the United States Soccer Football Association changed their name to the United States Soccer Federation and the USSF appointed their first full time coach—German Dettmar Cramer.  Unfortunately he only lasted six months, leaving the US for Bayern Munich, but a step in the right direction.

The National Team failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup and played very few games that year, which is in marked contrast to the number of games the USMNT plays these days.  Strangely enough Haiti qualified for the World Cup from the CONCACAF region, a thought that seems almost impossible today.  Haiti lost all three games but their goal against Italy ended Dino Zoff’s run of 1142 minutes without conceding a goal.

As for the American soccer scene, the American Soccer League (ASL) was still hanging around and the North American Soccer League (NASL) expanded westward, adding teams in Vancouver, Seattle, LA and San Jose, with these teams laying the groundwork for future MLS teams.  Reviewing the rules and point system of the league revealed some interesting tweaks of the traditional model. From Wikipedia:

If a match was tied after 90 minutes, it was to be decided by a standard penalty kick shootout and would appear in the standings as a ‘tie-win’. The tie-winner would gain three points, plus goals in regulation, while the loser of the tie-breaker received no points, except for regulation goals.  As for the point system, teams earned 6 points for a win, 3 points for a tie, 0 points for a loss, 1 point for each goal scored up to three per game.  As a result, the LA Aztecs had the best record with 110 points.

74miator-aztecs-8-25-232x300

LA defeated Miami in the NASL Final on penalties after a 3-3 draw in regulation.  As Wangerin noted in his book only 15,500 people showed up, the TV audience was poor and “not a single American-born player appeared in the match.”  The NASL, formed in the years after ABC televised the 1966 World Cup Final and American professional sports began their expansion, was barely surviving.  Things would change the following year with the arrival of Pele.

At the collegiate level, Saint Louis University was the dominant team of the late 60’s and early 70’s, appearing in seven of eight National Championship Finals, winning five of them.  But in 1974 the Billikens fell to Howard in the Final and their era of dominance came to an end.

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I chose 1974 simply because it was the year I was born, yet in reviewing the events of those 12 months it was interesting to see how many precursors and foundations and glimpses into the future were present.  The eternal battle between disciplined defenses against attack minded opponents; players and clubs searching for the next dollar/euro/monetary unit; shock results;  the constant emergence of new and dynamic talent from all around the world.  In 1974 I imagine that there were unknown pockets of activity around the world, complete with rich storylines and regional influence, and stories these days are now part of the worldwide narrative thanks to the internet and globalization.  Teams, players, coaches and cultures are more familiar and are part of a global fabric, with the game belonging to the world and being shared with the world.  Part of the sharing is this project, which was hard work, but informative and enlightening, and I hope you have enjoyed this look back into footballing history.

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Bibliography

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