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The Lowdown On Lower Levels In The US Open Cup

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After hearing the clamoring for years from a vocal minority that changes needed to be made to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the United States Soccer Federation announced a sweeping set of changes to the country’s oldest soccer tournament yesterday.

Among the changes for the 99th competition: the biggest field in the tournament’s history (64 clubs), with all US-based professional sides (from MLS, the NASL and USL Pro) in the tournament proper for the first time; an increased representation by amateur sides; and an increased chance of lower-division sides hosting matches, something traditionalists feel is critical to enhance the charm of the tournament and increase the chance for upsets. Instead of a straight bidding situation to host Cup matches (which has been the case for years), a random draw will take place through the quarterfinals whenever two teams are matched up who both apply to host and who both have stadiums that meet USSF criteria. It’s not a pure 50/50 shot for all matches throughout the tournament, but as long as a lower-division side is interested in hosting and has a decent stadium, they’ve now got a better chance of bringing an MLS team to town.

Today, USSF tells us the lower-division teams are stoked to have a better chance to host MLS teams in the Cup. So I figured I’d look to see how they’ve done, historically, when an MLS team comes to town.
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January 12th, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Pay Attention, Kids…

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April 20th, 2011 at 11:42 am

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Solution: Take A Nap

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I love Fake Sigi and find him to be incredibly thorough and thoughtful when he decides to post something (which is far too infrequently), but I can’t get behind him on this one.

I honestly can’t work up sympathy for anyone who thinks it’s a hardship that they have to watch soccer for 20 hours on a Saturday because they want to wake up early to watch games from Europe and then have MLS games played on this continent until late at night (ironically enough, this past Saturday was one where MLS action was completed before 10pm Eastern because there were no west coast games). If you choose to get up early to watch West Ham, that’s great. But if you then also want to see Los Angeles against Chivas USA at 11pm, well, I figure you have some options, but complaining about your lot in life or how MLS is out to screw you probably aren’t two of them.

Lots of people want MLS to do lots of things the way The Rest Of The WorldTM does them, only most of the rest of the world’s Division I leagues aren’t in countries that span four time zones. And MLS’ first priorities are – and are going to be for a while – the ticket-buying public and the programming needs of its television partners. Not always in that order (Outsourcing Kansas City fans, enjoy that 9pm local start on a Thursday night for the opener for your new park), I grant you.

But here’s a very specific example of where FS’ rant takes a hit:

Last Thursday, April 14th 2011, MLS famously went with an 8:00 Pacific Standard Time start for Portland’s first ever home game.

“I know a lot of people between Chicago and Miami, and let’s face it, that’s about 3/4 of the entire country’s population, looked at that 10-11pm start time and said, ‘What the fuck? I’m not even going to bother watching that game.’ Games that finish at 1 a.m. on the east coast are exactly what we’ve been trying to do, and if we can put as many of those on Saturday as possible, where we can force people to stay awake for 20 straight hours or choose between which league they’re going to support, so much the better. Not to mention we can tap the Hawaiian and early morning Australian soccer dollar.”

(First off, it’s Pacific Daylight Time this time of year, but that’s just nitpicking, innit? And it’s a pet peeve of mine.)

Secondly, oddly enough, despite 3/4 of the country’s population ignoring the Timbers/Fire game, the telecast drew a .2 rating, 183,000 TV households and 214,000 viewers nationally. And here’s the key part:

“That was on par with ESPN2’s broadcast of a Philadelphia-Toronto MLS game that aired on the corresponding Thursday last year.”

That Philadelphia-Toronto game, on April 15, 2010, took the air at 7pm Eastern, by the way.

Now, do I think a steady diet of west coast TV games does MLS a lot of good? No, but if we’re going to have New York at Los Angeles on national TV and the Superclasico and if the Cascadia teams are going to give us things like The Great American Soccer RivalryTM, these things are going to happen. I guess it was much easier when the league only had 10 teams and (basically) one national English TV outlet. ESPN also makes college football teams play at 11 am local time on Saturdays, seriously cutting into your Friday night partying if you’re a college kid at a Big Ten school.

Every other major sport in this country has games on a given day that go from East to West coast, from daylight to night owl territory. What those other sports don’t have is serious competition for TV eyeballs from games being played 3,500 miles and six or more time zones away. I get that.

But what would you have MLS do? They’ve already dumped overtime and the shootout, brought in a bunch of “FC” names (and worse), embraced the “traditions” of supporters’ culture, brought back the reserve league and imported Englishmen to broadcast the games. I know you want single table, promotion and relegation and no playoffs, too, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on those. Do you want them to start every game at 3pm on Saturday as well, so your weekends can be a little more diverse?

The solution? Take a nap. Or prioritize.

Lastly, of this from the end of FS’ rant:

Unfortunately for those few retired people yearning to watch professional soccer at a reasonable time, MLS attendance took a beating with the early start times.

As well as a shit-ton of bad weather in the East. There’s no pleasing the gods sometimes, I guess.

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April 19th, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Saturday’s Soccer Scores And Crowds

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Seattle 2, Chicago 1 (36,223)
Philadelphia 1, New York 0 (19,027)
Real Salt Lake 2, New England 1 (7,970)
DC United 1, Los Angeles 1 (26,622)
Chivas USA 0, Columbus 0 (13,385)
San Jose 1, Toronto 1 (8,928)

Tampa Bay 1, Montreal 0 (3,693)
Minnesota 2, Atlanta 1 (3,543)
Edmonton 2, Ft. Lauderdale 1 (6,402)
Puerto Rico 2, Carolina 1 (2,016)

Richmond 2, Pittsburgh 1 (1,385)
Charleston 1, Charlotte 0 (4,083)
Orlando 3, New York 0 (7,933)

Boston 4, Atlanta 1 (4,500)

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April 9th, 2011 at 7:28 pm

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Strange Trip

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The whole MLS Cup Playoffs were a strange trip, capped by Colorado’s 2-1 overtime win over FC Dallas last night in Toronto.

First off, having looked at it several hundred times, I’m no longer sure Jair Benitez clipped Conor Casey’s ankle on the controversial non-penalty call. He did kick him (or try to kick him) in the shoulder, perhaps in retaliation for the shot from the grassy knoll that felled Ugo Ihemelu, perhaps just because it was a chippy game that referee Baldomero Toledo had no interest in policing from start to finish.

David Ferreira‘s goal was gorgeous, Casey’s goal was opportunistic, the winning own-goal was unfortunate, and the guy from Volkswagen – flown to Toronto and put up in a hotel to do one thing and one thing only – was a dipshit. That’s pretty much MLS in a nutshell, folks – brief moments of brilliance interspersed with grit, pathos and people who haven’t the slightest idea what they’re doing.
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November 22nd, 2010 at 11:29 am

North By Northwest

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I had a fun time in Portland calling the Premier Development League championship match. Saw some friends I hadn’t seen in a while, made a couple of new ones, saw some good soccer and experienced PGE Park, which is going to be a unique MLS venue next year.

While Portland will leave Division II for the bright lights of The Major League Soccer in 2011, the future of the second division remains a bit up in the air. Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer has reported on the tough (some might say draconian) standards USSF is apparently going to impose on all second-division suitors going forward.

My thoughts are simple: good.

The standards should be stringent. It should be expensive to do this. In my opinion, the single biggest reason for the repeated failure of lower-level clubs in this country has been under-capitalization (followed by lack of brains, but while money doesn’t ensure intelligence, let’s start with the rich guys and go from there, okay?). So it would require a $750,000 bond payable prior to the season? Good. You want to play? You gotta pay. $20 million net worth of ownership? Good. The last thing we need is more used car salesmen like the guy in Virginia Beach who said “You can’t control the attendance.” And requiring soccer-specific stadiums within five years? I support that, but that may be the hardest part in this economy. Still, all of these things have to happen if we’re going to be a real soccer nation.

If the proles who insist that there just has to be promotion and relegation in American soccer could see past their Europosing, they’d see that this is actually better for their cause. A stronger second division (and, by extension, third division) is a prerequisite for their Holy Grail of pro/rel.

A soccer executive told me recently, “There aren’t eight teams right now who could live up to those standards.” I think that’s a fair read. It may very well be that there is no second division sanctioned for 2011, and that the clubs that are left after Vancouver and Portland move up and some others (likely St. Louis and Baltimore) disappear compete in a Division III league with regional play.

A step back? Sure. But a necessary one, I feel. Unlike most, I tend to think long-term. And strict standards for the lower levels of the game would be a long-term win for soccer in this country.

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August 10th, 2010 at 9:25 am

Posted in soccer,Uncategorized,Work

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Team Handball Highlights: Germany vs. Poland, 7/17/2010

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The “Battle of Chicago” matched the national handball teams of Germany and Poland at the UIC Pavilion last Saturday afternoon. If you missed it, various Comcast regional sports networks will be showing it (and the USA/Los Angeles match) over the next few weeks, so check your local listings. But here are some highlights of the Germany/Poland match, which was a rematch of the 2007 World Championship final.

There may be more team handball on TV before year’s end. I’ll keep you posted.

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July 23rd, 2010 at 3:55 pm

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This Sort Of Thing Wouldn’t Happen In A Real Footballing Nation

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You know how Americans kvetch when EPSN or Fox Soccer Channel do anything that’s screwy when it comes to soccer on television (trust me, they do)? Good to know it happens in other countries, as well. Per Soccer Insider, here’s what the folks watching ITV in the UK saw just as England was about to score their goal today against the USA:

Jolly good there.

By the way, the US tied England 1-1, making their road out of the first round a whole lot easier. You’ll read a lot of things over the next 24 hours, but here’s as simple as I can make it: England is probably a better side overall, the US got some breaks, but getting a result is terrific. The objective is to get at least 4 points and get out of the group, and anything can happen after that. The US has some things to work on before Friday’s game against Slovenia, but so far, so good.

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June 12th, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Taking Attendance, 6/7/2010

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After a couple of weeks off, here’s a look at attendance figures for the familiar leagues:

Seattle Sounders FC 7 253,020 36,146
Philadelphia Union 2 59,908 29,954
Toronto FC 5 102,687 20,537
Los Angeles Galaxy 6 117,811 19,635
Houston Dynamo 7 116,798 16,685
New York Red Bulls 7 113,975 16,282
Real Salt Lake 5 75,386 15,077
DC United 7 103,139 14,734
Chivas USA 5 72,503 14,501
Chicago Fire 5 72,022 14,404
Columbus Crew 5 71,221 14,244
Colorado Rapids 5 63,935 12,787
FC Dallas 6 62,685 10,448
New England Revolution 6 61,914 10,319
Kansas City Wizards 5 49,198 9,840
San Jose Earthquakes 6 56,303 9,384
MLS TOTAL 89 1,452,505 16,320
Boston Breakers 3 15,749 5,250
Atlanta Beat 2 10,360 5,180
Washington Freedom 5 22,785 4,557
Chicago Red Stars 5 21,987 4,397
Sky Blue FC 3 11,656 3,885
Philadelphia Independence 4 14,279 3,570
FC Gold Pride 4 13,354 3,339
Saint Louis Athletica 4 12,109 3,027
WPS TOTAL 30 122,279 4,076
Montreal Impact 5 62,921 12,584
Portland Timbers 7 60,685 8,669
FC Tampa Bay Rowdies 3 16,991 5,664
Rochester Rhinos 5 26,048 5,210
Vancouver Whitecaps 6 30,113 5,019
AC St. Louis 3 12,082 4,027
Austin Aztex 4 15,081 3,770
Puerto Rico Islanders 3 10,257 3,419
Carolina RailHawks 3 6,348 2,116
Minnesota NSC Stars 5 6,828 1,366
Miami FC Blues 6 7,647 1,275
Palace Baltimore 4 4,437 1,109
USSF2 TOTAL 54 259,438 4,804
Charleston Battery 6 21,550 3,592
Richmond Kickers 6 12,090 2,015
Harrisburg City Islanders 3 4,925 1,642
Charlotte Eagles 4 3,640 910
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2 1,620 810
Real Maryland Monarchs 6 3,602 600
USL-2 TOTAL 27 47,427 1,757
New Jersey Wildcats 2 1,853 927
Long Island Rough Riders 2 1,358 679
Colorado Force 1 598 598
Laval Comets 1 558 558
Rochester Ravens 1 415 415
Hampton Roads Piranhas 3 1,214 405
Ottawa Fury 1 363 363
Colorado Rush 1 350 350
Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues 1 312 312
Seattle Sounders 1 274 274
Northern Virginia Majestics 1 246 246
Buffalo Flash 1 240 240
Kalamazoo Outrage 2 445 223
Hamilton Avalanche 2 425 213
Toronto Lady Lynx 1 200 200
Chicago Red Eleven 2 242 121
Tampa Bay Hellenic 2 223 112
Washington Freedom Futures 2 135 68
W-LEAGUE TOTAL 27 9,451 350
Des Moines Menace 3 10,615 3,538
Carolina Dynamo 1 3,243 3,243
West Texas United Sockers 4 12,550 3,138
Fresno Fuego 2 5,082 2,541
Toronto Lynx 1 2,000 2,000
Forest City London 1 1,725 1,725
Dayton Dutch Lions 3 4,900 1,633
Victoria Highlanders FC 3 4,394 1,465
El Paso Patriots 2 2,555 1,278
Los Angeles Legends 2 2,500 1,250
Laredo Heat 3 2,983 994
Western Mass Pioneers 1 991 991
Michigan Bucks 2 1,773 887
Cincinnati Kings 2 1,737 869
Portland Timbers U23’s 4 3,352 838
Vermont Voltage 2 1,588 794
BYU Cougars 2 1,528 764
Mississippi Brilla 2 1,318 659
Ventura County Fusion 5 3,262 652
Long Island Rough Riders 3 1,708 569
Rochester Thunder 1 567 567
Hampton Roads Piranhas 1 557 557
Central Florida Kraze 3 1,385 462
St. Louis Lions 2 770 385
Ottawa Fury 1 354 354
Ironbound Express 4 1,335 334
Yakima Reds 1 329 329
Southern California Seahorses 2 601 301
Bermuda Hogges 2 565 283
Hollywood United Hitmen 1 276 276
Reading United 3 755 252
Dallas Fort Worth Tornados 3 735 245
Nashville Metros 2 478 239
Albany BWP Highlanders 4 950 238
West Virginia Chaos 2 475 238
Rio Grande Valley Bravos 1 225 225
Ocean City Nor’easters 1 216 216
Washington Crossfire 2 423 212
Springfield Demize 3 585 195
Kalamazoo Outrage 3 520 173
Abbotsford Mariners 2 300 150
Houston Leones 1 150 150
New Hampshire Phantoms 1 150 150
MPS Portland Phoenix 2 294 147
Atlanta Blackhawks 3 434 145
IMG Bradenton Academics 3 375 125
Ft. Lauderdale Schultz Academy 2 230 115
Orange County Blue Star 4 430 108
Brooklyn Knights 4 400 100
New Jersey Rangers FC 2 183 92
Westchester Flames 3 275 92
Kansas City Brass 1 82 82
Vancouver Whitecaps Residency 2 154 77
Central Jersey 1 70 70
Chicago Fire 1 55 55
Cleveland Internationals 1 50 50
Real Colorado Foxes 1 50 50
PDL TOTAL 126 87,833 697


  • This was a good weekend for MLS, with eight Saturday games averaging 19,525. Even Dallas (14,331) got in on the fun.
  • After seven home games last year, New York averaged 10,966 per game. This year it’s 16,282. Yeah, it would be nice if Red Bull Arena was sold out every game, but the place has certainly improved the fortunes of the NY side.
  • WPS continues to hover around the 4,000 mark. Even the presence of Marta can’t help FC Gold Pride draw fans. I’ve said before that putting her in a small college stadium in the East Bay is like having Pavarotti sing at a dinner theater in Jupiter, Florida.
  • Remember when Rochester used to draw 9,000+ per game? Yeah, those days are over.
  • A lot of teams in the W-League and PDL haven’t been real good about reporting attendance numbers, so those are catch-as-catch-can. They’re not complete, but they’re better than you’re going to find anywhere else.
  • As always, errors and additions are welcome.

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June 7th, 2010 at 12:02 pm