Belgium versus United States: What Does It Mean?

Tomorrow is the big day. The United States men’s national soccer team advanced from group play to the first phase of knockout play: the Round of 16. The US faces Group H winner Belgium which figures to be a daunting task; of the six Round of 16 matches so far, all were won by group winners which doesn’t bode well for the States.WC_BelgiumvUSA

Social media and the nature of instant shoot-from-the-hip reactions will proffer expert interpretation on what it means if the USA wins the game or what it means if they happen to lose. Major League Soccer will either be the reason the US won or the reason the USA loses. In reality, all that tomorrow’s result really means is that either Belgium or the United States will advance to the next round.

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USL Pro-hibited

You only have one chance to make a first impression. This past Saturday – on March 29 – fledgling USL Pro club Sacramento Republic FC made their regular season debut against another new league member who were playing their second match of the season. Supporters in northern California were eager to watch the live stream of the match on the interwebs, as were fans of parent MLS franchises San Jose and Portland. In January the third-division league announced that it would stream all matches live on the internet so with a brand new team playing their opening match on the road, viewing parties were organized and the anticipation was high.

Folks gathered around their internet-connected devices or, as your humble writer is wont to do, around their televisions connected via HDMI to their internet-connected devices and anxiously awaited the kickoff. Upon dialing up the web site – as the host side they were responsible for the stream – just before kickoff, folks were treated to the following image.

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McMajor League Soccer

A few days ago it was announced that Major League Soccer team Montreal Impact will be signing Uruguayan forward Santiago González via a newly revealed roster mechanism called the Special Discovery rule. The gist of this rule is that … well … I don’t care.


In most soccer leagues around North America and the world, teams acquire players by signing them to contracts, trading with other teams, or working out a transfer of a player from one team to another. There’s an odd quirk here and there but for the most part the rules of acquiring players are transparent to the public. Supporters of clubs benefit from this openness as they can bandy about possible players moves based on known player contract lengths and worth. People also can be relatively confident that the league their club plays in isn’t manipulating rosters to the benefit of certain clubs depending on which is currently in favor, owed a favor or for what is in the purported best interest of the league. There is clarity. Then there is Major League Soccer. Continue reading

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Finally, Some Compelling Hockey to Watch!

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics begin tomorrow. On Wednesday, February 12, 2014 the men’s hockey tournament begins. This – to me – is the beginning of the Olympics.

I remember being a kid in my first year of high school when the United States beat the Russians on the way to their Miracle on Ice gold medal. The Olympics were really special in those days for a lot of reasons. The Cold War was still going on. Americans were being held hostage in Iran. Olympic hockey was still a sport for amateurs even though the Russian hockey players were not quite as ‘amateur’ as the spirit of the tournament intended.

Parutakupiu / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Parutakupiu / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The tournament ceased to be strictly for amateurs in 1988 and the National Hockey League allowed its players to compete beginning in 1998. Once professionals began participating, however, the Olympic hockey tournament lost some of its gloss for me. During this time frame the Canada Cup, which eventually became the World Cup of Hockey, became the tournament that really acted as the true World Championship. It featured the best players on the planet competing for their national teams to see who would come out on top.

That’s really what I want to see: a tournament that is hockey’s best players battling each other for a true World Championship. At this point in time, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic tournament is that World Championship. This may not be the case going forward as there is speculation that the NHL will longer allow their players to participate in the Olympic games afar this edition concludes. We may instead see a return of the World Cup of Hockey to decide a true best versus-best-champion. But I digress. Continue reading

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Book Review: The Passion and the Fashion

The Passion and the Fashion: Football Fandom in the New Europe, edited by Steve Redhead

book_PassionAndFashionI consider it a healthy exercise to step outside my comfort zone now and then. Engaging with the unfamiliar enables me to reinforce my perspective on certain things, expand my understanding and even change my opinion on a topic. Sometimes I am just kidding myself.

My latest treadmill time-killer was plucked from the island of little-publicized books. The Passion and the Fashion: Football Fandom in the New Europe is certainly in book form but it is a collection of academic research papers examining the changes within the soccer supporter crowds in parts of France, Italy and the United Kingdom. As an academic endeavor, the tenor and language tends to be a bit more obtuse than I typically find in the books I enjoy. Continue reading

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