Pitch Points plays in Germany

Welcome to Pitch Points, wherein I round up some of the interesting links around the world of Nashville SC and US Soccer. As always, if you have something you want me to share, let me know in the comments or through social channels on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Photo by Reto Stauffer (Creative Commons license).

Bundimericans. The Bundesliga’s official site is perhaps not an unbiased source when it comes to why the Bundesliga is a good fit for young Americans, but the point remains: it has proven to be in recent years. One of those reasons is fairly obvious:

There are several factors that make the Bundesliga more suitable for American players than Europe’s other top leagues, and one of them is purely administrative: it is easier to get hold of a work permit in Germany than in the UK, where non-EU players are required to have featured in a certain percentage of their country’s recent competitive matches to obtain an endorsement from the English FA.

I wonder if that’ll change when the Brexit fully extricates England from the EU. The British are going to have a ton less access to top European talent (in the way they currently have limited access to American talent), and while that won’t bring about an untimely death of the Premier League, of course, it could certainly help the other four of the Big Five leagues strive to surpass it in global reach.

Of course, our most well-known export to Deutschland in recent years will end his German adventure in the Summer Transfer Window. Christian Pulisic is headed to Chelsea. The style/fit is one thing Pulisic cited for being interested in the move, and how he adjusts to what many consider a higher level of play will be one of next season’s most interesting storylines.

Ayre Force One. Quick quote or two from Nashville MLS CEO Ian Ayre, though the entire article is behind a paywall that’s probably not worthwhile for somebody who’s overseas. The difference between building an MLS club versus heading a Premier League team is obviously a large one. How Ayre navigates it will write the story of the club’s early days.

Speaking of whom, a little bit on how the CEO role was diminished with the hiring of a sporting director, which partially facilitated his departure from Anfield. Ayre announced he was leaving the club no so long after that, and retired even earlier than was scheduled. The personnel on the front-office side – and what he learned about how that should be structured from his trials and tribulations at Liverpool – will be informed by his time there.

Personnel. MLS Multiplex covers the Cameron Lancaster signing. Speedway Soccer has its profile of the USL’s single-season goal-scoring record holder. It’s almost easy to forget how exciting a signing this was, only a couple weeks removed from its announcement.

Another signing (and one that I think was both under-heralded at the time and remains so) is Kharlton Belmar. At least from a fan perspective, seems like it made sense for Sporting KC to unload him to Nashville, to allow Swope Park to give minutes to younger kids. That’s always the intriguing tightrope walk that MLS2 sides between trying to win and trying to develop players for the first team.

What’s in the USL’s future? The league made vague hand motions toward “pyramid structure” and what that might mean in the long-term when announcing its rebrand, but this story is as definitive as I’ve seen in suggesting (from an official league source) that pro-rel is not only something they’re aware of, but actually interested in, if feasible.

Discussion of a new cup competition that would include all Championship and League One clubs to launch in 2020 has already begun, with long-term potential for promotion and relegation between the two professional divisions.

It remains vague, yes, but does demonstrate a willingness to consider in the long run. Obviously I’ve been a skeptic on the topic, but a limited scope (like between two USL divisions) beginning at a lower level is certainly a path toward a long-term future including promotion and relegation.

Etc.: It appears Ramone Howell is playing domestically in Jamaica during the offseason. … MLS Combine is this week. … One Pittsburgh Riverhounds game to catch? When they host Nashville SC. … Doesn’t directly relate to us, but the 2019 MLS schedule will be released this afternoon. … Ropapa Mensah held a mini-tournament in his hometown over the Christmas season. … University of Tennessee senior Khadija Shaw has an incredible (at times heartbreaking) story, and was The Guardian’s female footballer of the year. … How will NYCFC compensate for the loss of MLS all-timer David Villa? Nashville SC will be among the first to find out Feb. 22.

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Nashville MLS stadium update

Did you think the Nashville MLS stadium was a done deal when every relevant piece of Metro legislation passed the Council Sept. 6? You should have been right! But you are not.

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Let’s get it saved, folks. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Quickly, let’s run through the established timeline before getting into the updates (skip to below the bullets if you just want the latest):

  • May 19, 2016: Nashville SC acquires Nashville FC’s intellectual property with intentions of taking the club from NPSL (amateur) to USL (professional) ranks.
  • March 4, 2017: John Ingram acquires majority ownership of Nashville SC, and his bid to bring Major League Soccer to Nashville is unified with the club.
  • November 7, 2017: Metro Council approves initial resolution to issue revenue bonds for the purpose of building a Major League Soccer stadium at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.
  • November 29, 2017: MLS announces four finalists for expansion: Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, and Sacramento. The four bid groups present their proposals at the league’s New York offices Dec. 6.
  • December 20, 2017: Major League Soccer announces that Nashville will be the 24th franchise in the league (Miami – which had previously been promised a team – would be announced as the 25th on Jan. 29, 2018, and FC Cincinnati would become No. 26 with a May 29, 2018 announcement.
  • March 20, 2018: Metro Council strikes down a resolution proposed by District 12 councilmember Steve Glover to rescind RS2017-910.
  • March 22, 2018: Stand Up Nashville organizes a community benefits meeting (this would ultimately lead to the Community Benefits Agreement that earns SUN’s endorsement).
  • April 10, 2018: District 20 councilmember DeCosta Hastings hosts a meeting in his district to discuss the potential of locating the stadium in Metro Center, per a bill co-sponsored by anti-stadium zealot Glover (Hastings does not realize he’s the patsy in a delay tactic, for what it’s worth).
  • May 22, 2018: The final of three community planning meetings in regards to stadium design is held at the Fairgrounds Expo Center. No Save Our Fairgrounds members (save WSMV “journalist” Nancy Amons) are present.
  • June 21, 2018: Architecture firm Populous is selected to design Nashville’s MLS stadium.
  • August 21, 2018: Metro Council’s Budget and Finance committee votes to recommend disapproval of stadium legislation. (A quick aside here to get into the weeds in terms of the difference between what that was, and why it wasn’t all done when RS2017-910 passed: These pieces of legislation are the individual components required to build the stadium: 2018-1289’s purpose was to recommend demolishing of certain buildings on the property to prep the construction site, and to approve the establishment of a ticket tax on events at the stadium to pay back the loans required for its construction).
  • September 4, 2018: Stand Up Nashville announces signed Community Benefits Agreement, including provisions related to minority hiring, minimum wages, and workforce housing for stadium project.
  • September 4, 2018: All relevant Metro Council legislation required to build the soccer stadium (Bills 1289, 1290, 1291, Resolution 1328) gets final approval.
  • October 29, 2018: Construction begins on new Expo buildings (to be completed before stadium construction commences).

Now, the stuff that has happened since mostly involves Save Our Fairgrounds, having lost a political battle, attempting to wage a legal one. The initial filing date of the lawsuit is September 4, and I believe it was actually filed prior to Metro’s approval of the relevant legislation at that evening’s Metro Council meeting.

The fate of that lawsuit is the primary ongoing drama in regards to the stadium at this point. If Save Our Fairgrounds is successful in suing the city to prevent changes to the Fairgrounds, that’s yet another legal hurdle. The lawsuit has been dismissed once, but in a manner (“without prejudice”) that allowed it to be re-filed.

The plaintiffs – collectively “Save Our Fairgrounds,” for the sake of simplicity here – have requested a temporary injunction from Chancery Court Chancellor (“judge” for simplicity’s sake, with Chancery being the branch of the judiciary that decides on matters of equity, rather than law) Ellen Hobbs Lyle. That injunction is to halt all construction activities at the site of the Fairgrounds pending the outcome of this lawsuit. That injunction was denied Friday (a previous attempt was denied Oct. 26), meaning construction can go on.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 30. That is a Rule 16 conference, for the purpose of selecting a trial date. That is to say – barring an unlikely settlement prior to Nov. 30 (or a rescheduling – the court’s dockets aren’t updated in as timely a fashion as I’d like) – that is the next date on which there will be an update.

What are the grounds of the lawsuit?

SOF alleges that Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee is in violation of the Metro Charter. Specifically, they claim that Metro’s proposed changes to the Fairgrounds site, particularly the construction of a stadium is a violation of 11.602(d) of the Metro Charter. That’s the famed “2011 Referendum” that must be “honored” per the t-shirts of the SOF group. Let’s read the language:

All activities being conducted on the premises of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds as of December 31, 2010, including, but not limited to, the Tennessee State Fair, Expo Center Events, Flea Markets, and Auto Racing, shall be continued on the same site. No demolition of the premises shall be allowed to occur without approval by ordinance receiving 27 votes by the Metropolitan Council or amendment to the Metropolitan Charter.

So, let’s unpack it here: The State Fair, Expo Center events, flea markets, and auto racing events may not be moved from the Fairgrounds site. HOWEVER: there’s a pretty obvious caveat included in the language of the Metro Charter: without approval by ordinance receiving 27 votes by the Metropolitan Council or amendment to the Metropolitan Charter.

Your spoiler: the Metro Charter has not been further amended, so we’re dealing with the other stipulation: approval by 27 members of Metro Council. It seems that unless the legislative action (1289, 1291, RS1328) that involve moving one of those four activities from its current location didn’t pass with 27 votes, there’s no legal grounds for this suit.

  • BL2018-1289 – passed 31-8.
  • BL2018-1291 – passed 30-9.
  • RS2018-1328 – passed 28-6 (5 not voting).

So… as I’ve harped upon regularly over the course of this unnecessarily protracted legal battle, there is no violation of the Metro Charter, and indeed, to prevent construction on the site would be a failure to “Honor the 2011 Referendum.” With a caveat that I Am Not A Lawyer, it seems there’s no grounds for the suit.

Presumably, with one dismissal of the case already in the books, the judicial side of the law sees it that way as well. I would expect another dismissal (again: not a lawyer, this is common sense analysis, not necessarily the legal nitty-gritty), and likely with prejudice this time, to prevent SOF from continuing to file frivolously.

What’s going on with construction now?

While construction begins on the new Expo Center buildings (which will be completed prior to demolition of the current Expo Buildings, allowing for uses thereof to continue), the Fair Park site is getting a makeover, as well. This is a separate item, but helps turn what had been mostly wasted space into community parks, including a trailhead for the greenway network, a dog park, and community athletic fields. (If you’re unfamiliar with the Fairgrounds site, the primary areas under dispute are at the top of a hill, facing toward the North. This is essentially at the bottom of the other side of the hill, on the South and East portions of the Fairgrounds site).

Construction on the Expo Center buildings is taking place on the Fair property lot across Walsh Road (which will be closed during construction). Walsh will be re-routed to remain East-West – it currently bends to the North at its eastern terminus to meet Nolensville Pike – when it re-opens.

Pitch Points really doesn’t like Bruce Arena

“Pitch Points” is a phrase which here means “Geoff Cameron.”

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Yes, it bothers the hell out of me that this isn’t centered, why do you ask? US Soccer Federation.

USMNTalk. New US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro penned an open letter to the soccer community in our country:

With the election behind us, I want to help unite us as one soccer family.  The individual passions that fueled each candidacy can help us fulfill the vast potential for our beloved game in the United States. I believe that, playing as a team, we can be unstoppable.

In my remarks on Saturday, I made a pledge to all of you.  I will be your partner. I will listen.  I will be inclusive.  I will work with you to deliver the change we need, together, as one united soccer community.

Certainly, those are some of the things important to ask. There’s obviously a need to re-establish some unity in the United States, and that ranges from the lowest levels all the way up to the men’s national team.

What’s that you say? The USMNT doesn’t have a unity problem? (Side note: yes, I’m aware nobody said or thinks this). Geoff Cameron, for the second time in about a month, did some rantin’:

[M]aybe I’m not the guy you’d expect to be saying this, but it needs to be shouted from the mountaintops: The powers that be in U.S. Soccer have created a poisonous divide between the MLS players and the so-called “European” players, and until that culture is torn down, the USMNT will continue to slide backwards.

I wouldn’t say there’s been much mystery around that – and based on Cordeiro’s coming from within the US Soccer organization, I would assume that Cameron’s not a huge fan of how the election turned out.

I will say, however, that I’ve seen some “well, Cordeiro really was a reform candidate” takes in the past several days and dismissed them. Catching up on some old podcasts today though (I was focused on things like Speedway Soccer to make sure I didn’t fall behind on my Nashville SC media consumption as the season approached), I realized that there was more talk of that before the election than I’d realized. Certainly some of that was campaign strategy from the Cordeiro camp, but it certainly sounds like he didn’t see eye-to-eye with the man he’s replacing (his good friend Sunil Gulati) on a lot of things, including Soccer United Marketing’s relationship with USSF.

It’ll be interesting to follow and see how much is show and how much is legit policy planning. (For the record, everyone complaining about grassroots should know that even the established soccer countries have grassroots issues (not that England is the national team you want to try to match)).

MLS wyd bro? The MLS schedule only has the briefest of hiatuses during the World Cup: all of nine days (June 14-22). This, obviously, is stupid. I hadn’t previously realized that even the more extended breaks in the past still didn’t encompass the entire group stage, but what is the purpose behind that?

Give players a bit of an extended break, let American soccer fans watch the group stages (when they won’t be watching MLS games, whether or not MLS games are on television), have something like an East v. West All-Star game with only players under 24 (maybe only American/Canadian-eligible players under 24 – appeal to the USMNT fans who are dismayed about not making the World Cup and who are looking forward to the future) halfway through the break, and get back in action during the big gap between the end of group play (June 28) and the beginning of the knockout rounds (July 6).

Given that there’s at least one World Cup game every day for two weeks, play a fairly heavy schedule July 1, 3, 4, and 5 (a Sunday after two days with no World Cup, and then the three-day stretch spanning a major holiday), and you make up for some of the lost time that would otherwise see the season extend.

Added benefit? Those internationals who will make their nations’ World Cup squads miss less time – especially if they crash out after the group stage, though they’ll almost certainly take a few additional days to recover anyway – so the amount of diluted product you’re giving to fans is reduced.

Since I have this MLS section, here’s an MLS-related tweet I very much agree with:

Giving the casual fan the ability to watch games (or even stumble upon them) more than a couple times a week is an extremely important step for the league. That wasn’t a possibility with the proprietary platform – which also happened to be a lot more expensive for a lot less content. I’m extremely interested to see what other soccer leagues end up on ESPN Plus.

Gary in Nashville. Nashville SC coach Gary Smith and USA Today Network Tennessee‘s Joe Rexrode tour the city. It’s not particularly good #content, but you get to know coach a little more. The resulting column is a lot more enlightening.

Etc.: When hosting World Cups is primarily about being the best at bribing, well, you end up playing in places that are human rights nightmares. Good on you, FIFA. Nailed it. … I’ve talked MLS academies before and I’ll do it again, but for now, just read up on Atlanta United’s vision. … “Four guys who could be the next Jonathan Gonzalez” seems like a pretty depressing sales pitch for a story. … Never accuse DeAndre Yedlin of setting the bar too low. … Who’s trying to donate to a GoFundMe to send your humble writer to Ireland? Or, uh, North Carolina? … Same.

Pitch Points goes D-3

The USL’s second division moves toward its 2019 launch with its first team announcement, pro-rel on the horizon, women’s soccer, and much more!

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Soccer-specific stadium on the way for the first official US D3 squad.

Who will be in USL D-3? For starters, Tormenta FC will move up from the PDL. SB Nation’s Orlando City blog has a few other likely choices. A healthy third division is important for the growth of soccer in this country (in addition to a healthy second division – the NASL never was, which is why the league to the “fail then sue” business model), and yes, for the dream of pro/rel to even be a reasonable consideration, much less realistic future.

Speaking of USL and pro/rel, league president Jake Edwards is making some noise about a potential future in it between the two divisions once D3 is launched:

I think it would be very interesting to look at pro-rel between those two divisions. We certainly could do it now and I think there’s an interest to do it among our board. We are going to experiment with precursors, such as maybe some sort of inter-league competition, an inter-league cup. We’re going to look at options like that to see if that works.

To be sensible, we’ve got to get the structure and the quality right first at the Division 3 level. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right owners; stadiums that are the right size and the right quality; and we’ve got a number of teams, and maybe a structure, that’s maybe a bit more aligned and mirrored of the second division.

That second paragraph is a major important piece (as I alluded to above), and one that is often overlooked among the zealotry fringe.

Edwards also spoke with Four Four Two, though there’s a lot of overlap between the two pieces.

MLS makes a positive change. I haven’t seen this officially announced anywhere, but evidently teams are allowed to keep 100% of profits for selling homegrown players. My rough translation of the French (by which I mean “Google’s rough translation of the French”):

Better, the Impact will not have to share the transfer money with the league. Until last season, MLS kept 25% of the total sale of a club-trained player. A rule that has obviously changed to reward training clubs, which today change the face of the Garber circuit.

With 100% of the transfer money in their pockets, the Impact will be proactive, with President Saputo having decided to use it to strengthen the squad … to the extent permitted by the league. Indeed, the MLS rules only allow clubs to reinvest a maximum of $ 750,000 (formerly $ 650,000) of the amount of a transfer in the improvement of the first team. This sum then takes the form of a basic monetary allocation (GAM).

An incentive to develop players and sell players will help the league enrich itself and grow.

Piggybacking off that, an interesting take on why German clubs seem so much more willing to play youngsters (including several well-known young Americans):

It used to be that coaches were scared of throwing in new players. Older players got priority and older coaches stayed in the system. An interesting development is that in the meanwhile there is less reliance on older coaches and the older coaches aren’t automatically hired. To the chagrin of the older coaches, who don’t believe that’s good at all.

But young coaches are arriving in their early 30s and late 20s, because those in management have realized that’s the better, the right, the innovative way.

There’s going to be a point in the development of the American soccer culture where the coaches are people who have come up through academies, have been coaches by those who picked up interest in the game when it boomed in the late 80s (and when they came up, the access to high-level coaching was even lower), and I think that inflection point is going to see more of a boom than many realize.

It won’t be like a switch flipping, but it’s certainly an area where college soccer – giving people the ability to remain involved in the sport even if they don’t have professional playing options in the long-term, for example – is going to play a crucial role in developing the next generations.

Obligatory USSF presidential section. In Four Four Two, Beau Dure runs through a comprehensive look at the eight presidential candidates’ performances (word choice intentional by me) at the Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia. He doesn’t make it clear whether his consideration of Wynalda as the front runner is just the vibe he gets from their appearances at the event, or actual discussions with voting delegates (which seems unlikely to me).

The role of Soccer United Marketing has been a hot topic in the presidential race, and SI’s Grant Wahl seems to have gotten some straight answers (at the very least as enlightening as we’re going to get) from MLS commissioner Don Garber. I don’t know that there’s a whole lot in there that Garber hasn’t previously explained – and folks have already made up their minds on whether they want to believe what he says and what the intentions of SUM are.

Advanced stats in soccer. I’m big on advanced statistics (and you’ll find that over time with me here if I haven’t already made it obvious), and Opta is obviously at the forefront in this particular sport. An over-arching stat is difficult in a sport such as this, though, and I’m super-excited to see how it develops.

Opta does provide official stat-keeping for USL, though at least based on last year’s numbers, I’m not sure how much depth they provide. Tons and tons of individual passing, shooting, etc. stats (as you’ve likely seen in my player profiles), but is xG going to be available, for example? I’d love to see the data continue to develop, at the very least.

Whatever’s available, I’m hoping to bring it to the coverage here.

Women’s soccer ups and downs. NWSL club Boston Breakers has folded. If the United States is to remain the hegemon in international women’s soccer, a healthy pro league is important. It provides career opportunities for the outstanding athletes who otherwise wouldn’t be able to devote as much time to their craft in keeping the USWNT globally dominant. With other countries starting to catch up to our emphasis on girls’ youth sports (and in some ways, passing us on the women’s professional side), there are potentially dark times ahead for remaining on top of the global structure.

It’s tough with MLS teams not cracking a profit other than the money that comes through SUM, but I’d like to see every MLS squad own and operate an NWL side – with the full youth structure below it, as well. Soccer has been one of the few sports (tennis is the only other I can think of) that has comparable economic viability for women as for men in the United States. Having twice as many events to fill a soccer-specific stadium in the Summer seems like a good economic opportunity – and of course leads to a closer-knit soccer culture in the places that are fortunate enough to have that chance. I think Nashville SC’s ownership group in particular should get into the NWSL game as quickly as possible (it would be one of my top priorities after establishing an academy structure that services youths of both genders).

All of this is actually a topic I’ve been planning to write an entire post about for a little while, but since it seems I’ve jumped right into it, there’s an interesting exploration of where NCAA women’s soccer (which obviously is part of what set us ahead of the world on the women’s side in the first place) appears to be at a bit of a crossroads itself.

North Carolina Courage draft pick Morgan Reid crafted a story for Players Tribune highlighting the complicated tightrope walk that being a high-level female athlete can entail. Is being considered sexually appealing a good thing (the sports information department at Duke certainly saw ways that was the case), bad thing (that it overshadowed her sporting achievements is probably not positive), irrelevant? It’s something that is so much less a consideration for men.

It’s a combination of a societal topic and one that relates directly to soccer, and there are no easy answers for anyone involved in the discussion. Hopefully, we can progress to a point where stories like this don’t have to be written for people outside of that scrutiny to understand.

Etc. Gregg Berhalter for USMNT manager? … The MLS Draft isn’t going anywhere, though a de-emphasis of it inherently means better things for soccer in our country. … Speedway Soccer Podcast coming your way soon. … I’m with Music City Soccer on the (non-sporting) importance of the Martim Galvão signing. … NSC in the top five USL teams on Twitter. … Linking this story primarily so I can use my Anthony Precourt insult tag. Also because he’s bound and determined to demonstrate on the daily that he’s just a piece of human trash.

What will NSC’s youth setup look like?

Zions Bank Real Academy. Photo courtesy Real Salt Lake. MLS Soccer
Zions Bank Real Academy. Photo courtesy Real Salt Lake.

Per USSF rules, each Top Division team must have a development program at the youth level, and must at least participate in player development beyond the youth levels. From the USSF Professional League Standards (and in reverse order that I just mentioned them):

Each U.S.‐based team must demonstrate a commitment to a player development program. This requirement may be satisfied by supporting either an amateur or professional reserve team competing in a USSF‐sanctioned league or by the league itself.

Each U.S.‐based team must maintain teams and a program to develop players at the youth level. This requirement may be satisfied by fielding teams in a Federation academy program.

So let’s get into it.

Reserve team

The first paragraph is a little more confusing, not least of which because the sentence structure is wanting. Basically, it means that the MLS team have to support an amateur or professional league below the top flight, and the recommended way of doing so is by fielding a reserve team. It’s not clear how USSF intends to have teams support the leagues without running their own reserve squad

That means at least one of a USL/NASL/PDL/NPSL/Etc. team has to be part of the senior setup. The U-23 team is on hiatus this year, though I expect it to be back eventually (more on that in the youth discussion). Owner John Ingram has also said that his long-term intention is to have both MLS and USL franchises playing in Nashville:

How would this work? It’s set up in a few different ways, though I like the vision that Atlanta United is taking with its new B-team in the USL: operate a team in a nearby suburb (for the record, there’s a lot to like about the way Atlanta United runs its franchise at levels below MLS – pay attention). That Atlanta and Nashville have some similarities in the way the city/suburb split is laid out is all the more beneficial.

A USL team in Williamson (Franklin/Brentwood), Rutherford (Murfreesboro), or Sumner (Hendersonville) County, rather than Davidson, would help create a regional identity around the organization, and make it more of a Middle Tennessee thing – with reach well beyond that, obviously – than a Nashville thing.

Youth structure

The USSF rules are very clear that teams must run youth academy systems to meet the Professional League Standards. Every MLS team except for one – Toronto FC – does this through the US Soccer Development Academy, which has emerged as probably the top system for youth development (with other competitors, like ODP, still around). TFC’s Academy is based in the PDL (U-23) and Canadian domestic leagues, rather than the US Soccer structure. In fact, it’s a little weird that Vancouver and Montreal have their youth setups run through the American federation rather than Canada’s, but who am I to judge.

There is not currently a boys’ or girls’ DA program in the state of Tennessee, so following Atlanta United’s method of absorbing a few youth clubs and convincing more grassroots organizations to feed into the academy is going to be tough (there are two girls’ clubs, including one in the area, in the ECNL, which until the establishment of the girls’ DA leagues had been tops at the youth level). However, NSC has already paired with the state association in the past, and it wouldn’t be surprised to see those two team up to create the youth structure.

From my perspective, youth teams at every level of the DA system, with good relationships with clubs throughout the region and state (a la ATL UTD) are a priority. If they were to run out of the facility for the USL squad mentioned above – like Real Salt Lake’s palace for its USL team and youth academy – that would be a solid way to support not only NSC’s self-interests in the youth academy, but also soccer throughout the state. Imagine an 8,000ish seat stadium for NSC B, with plenty of practice and competition fields on the same campus, for plenty of use by the state association for tournaments, leagues, camps, and more.

Another possible youth structure for academies (though one not likely to avail itself to NSC) is to partner with a fake high school sports factory that already exists. Orlando City is pairing with Montverde, a school that basically started to compete with the likes of IMG Academy (though its focus, in my experience, is primarily on basketball).

What will happen?

These decisions are quite a ways off: NSC suspended operations for the U-23 team – to say nothing of an academy structure at even lower levels – in order to shift all available resources into preparation for the debut of professional soccer (and the quick transition to MLS, no doubt). I’ve previously mentioned, and still believe, that it was a mistake to do so, because there’s not only an air of abandonment about it, but also you’re turning away from the grassroots aspects that the team was founded upon, to an extent.

Regardless, a U-23 team (and hopefully teams/programs at every age group of the academy program and beyond) will eventually return to NSC, but it appears we’ll have to wait some time to see just what the plans are for them.

Pitch Points has projected lineups

There are enough players to make a team. The official USL website hazards a lineup with the current NSC signings. I make it into graphics:

NSC-USLproj
USL lineup
NSC-TimProj
My lineup after cheating and waiting for more players.

I’d been planning to do a little of the same sort of exercise, but frankly I didn’t (and don’t) see a way all the players they had before this morning fill out a lineup. I sort of cheated by waiting to put this post up and then having four more players available; I went with a 4-4-2 diamond thanks to the influx of defenders and midfielders making that far more reasonable.

Putting a pure scorer like Shroot (and a striker like Cox) on the wing for the simple matter of “this is who they have now” seems to me to be more like a “wait until they have more players signed” try-again-later sort of deal. Unless you think a seven-foot dude is not the target striker. In which case you’d be wrong. Yes I know Tucker Hume is not seven feet tall in a literal sense.

Speaking of personnel… Nashville Golden Goal looks at the offensive firepower for NSC. They probably need to add more (and there’s kind of a weird concentration of guys with similar attributes). Will we see U-23 standout Martim Galvao on the USL side? That would be popular among the existing fanbase, but reading between the lines, it’s unlikely to happen.

Owner John Ingram is The Tennessean‘s sports person of the year.

The US Youth Summit in Florida this weekend is interesting. You can see the rosters and a bit of analysis from American Soccer Now here.

While I do think there’s value in getting players from multiple age ranges (U-16 to U-20) together at once, it doesn’t feel like something that expands the player pool so much as it works on the already-discovered players in it. Developing those guys is a good thing, as well, but I feel like a wider net might have been a more important priority than multiple age ranges coming together.

Stars and Stripes FC has a few players to watch at the event.

The development of the American footballer. Fifty Five One lays out a case that radical reform isn’t necessarily needed in US Soccer. Some of the arguments are compelling, others elicit little more than a shrug from me. I sort of agree: there’s no need to burn the whole thing down. Radical change because “what we do now doesn’t work” without analyzing whether the new idea will work is unwise. Still, some pretty significant change – with an eye toward making things better, rather than saying “screw the old guys!” (cough cough wynalda cough) – is probably warranted.

Speaking of which, American Soccer Now has some ideas for a bit of reform in MLS. Here’s a big part of the lede:

IN THE RECRIMINATIONS that followed the US national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, nobody escaped blame.

Major League Soccer certainly did not escape the line of fire. The league has invested heavily in youth development but it cannot be ignored that top American and Canadian teenagers have found minutes in the league extraordinarily hard to come by.

There’s an extremely important distinction that needs to be made: it is not MLS’s job to look out for the US Men’s National Team (insert $UM joke here). It’s MLS’s job to look out for MLS, and specifically for its franchises’ owners. Any change proposed has to first and foremost be for the good of the league. While some seemingly counter-productive changes for the league could help the USMNT and ultimately benefit MLS because of that long-term, unfortunately it’s important to keep in mind that the owners are going to be resistant to anything that’s designed to aid USMNT without simultaneously helping them (and in more obvious ways).

That said, some of the ideas Jamie Hill puts forth are good ones, including some I’ve mentioned in the past. Letting teams keep 100% of the transfer fees for homegrown players – a profit motive and also increasing the incentive to give them first-team minutes while they’re young – is a big one, but he has some others in there that fall under the “good idea for USMNT, no damn way the owners will go for it” category.

It’s gonna suck when he picks Mexico. A little fluff on US starlet Jonathan Gonzalez, whose Monterrey finished runners-up in the Apertura portion of Liga MX this Fall. Mexico is (predictably) now trying to poach him for its national team. Not calling him in for the Portugal game (whether or not he would have actually been able to play) was dumb.

Etc. New Year’s resolutions for the US Soccer fan. I co-sign ’em. … The Nashville Ledger on some Nashville SC stuff. … Two of America’s top-50 most-attended soccer games of 2017 took place in our fair city. … Interesting take on the possession style of Man City and others in the Premier League turning anti-possession into a viable tactical choice (as a counter-attacking philosophy). … Memphis goin’ USL. Announcing it Monday. … Always have to keep tabs on MLS. Goal‘s Ives Galarcep with the top prospects for the SuperDraft (including Michigan Wolverine Francis Atuahene). Soon enough, The Boys in Gold will be picking the the draft.

 

 

What can I do now?

New Year’s resolution time.

Nashville SC will compete in MLS, and whether that’s in 2019 or 2020, it’s still a long ways off. “Self,” you may ask yourself, “what can I do to support the team now?”

You should have asked me, instead of yourself, frankly. I’m butting into that private conversation regardless. My apologies.

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Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Understand that NSC is already around

And it has been for awhile! Whether the NPSL team of years past (as Nashville FC) or the U-23 outfit that competed in the PDL last year, there’s been a presence for several years now. Avoid being called a bandwagoner in the future, and understand that there is already a team to support. That team will play its first professional season this Summer, competing in the USL – currently the third division of the sport in our country, but likely to receive Division-2 sanctioning (if only on a temporary basis for the second year in a row).

Buy tickets

This is the most important one, and would be first if not for the fact that it can’t be made clear enough that there is already a team. Buy season tickets for the inaugural USL campaign, or plan your schedule and prepare to pick up single-game tickets when they enter the open market. It’s important that Nashville __ what was indeed a leap of faith by MLS – which didn’t have much external evidence that Music City is indeed a soccer city before rewarding the franchise. Averaging 21,199 like Cincinnati did last Summer is out of the question (First Tennessee Park can hold only half that), but the closer to it, the better.

Join a supporters group

To my knowledge there are only two prominent ones: The Roadies and The Assembly. You can join them both! You can start your own! I recommend starting with the Roadies (the original supporters group), and doing as you wish from there. Supporting the team is great. Officially supporting the team is better.

Get some swag

A team just a week removed from announcing an MLS franchise probably should have prepared a bit better than to have almost everything sold out from their team store, (and to have the physical location completely closed the entire period between Dec. 22 and the New Year), but if your sizes are available, gear up. I can’t wait to see what the team comes up with when their offerings extend beyond “replica jersey” and “training shirt.” By buying gear, you’re helping support the team financially, and by wearing it you’re providing support from an advertising perspective, as well.

Get to know the team

Read up on the personnel with breakdowns in their introduction posts here. Get to know the guys we’ll be seeing on the field come Feb. 10 (of course, with many more signings to come before the opening game). Also check out a bit on head coach Gary Smith with the breakdown of his history by our friends over at Golden Goal (with more to come in this space soon).

Follow soccer media

On a larger scale, don’t forget to follow this site on Twitter, as well as some of our other friends that are going to be taking a look at NSC going forward. The more informed you are the better, and the more support soccer media receive, the more opportunity there is to not only show just how serious the city is about soccer, but make for even more coverage going forward.

Know thy enemy

Brush up on some of the top teams (and the other new teams) in USL, like Swope Park Rangers, FC Cincinnati, and Louisville City FC before the Boys in Gold take them on this year. It might be wise to take a look not only at friendly opponent Atlanta United, but the top of MLS as well, just to be prepared for the future.

The following will be less direct ways to support NSC specifically, but if you’ve ever read the site, you know about my belief in grassroots and a soccer culture’s importance to the game overall.

Play

Whether you’ve never played or are a former college/semi-pro/pro, get out and play somewhere. It’s that building of a soccer culture that we simply don’t have enough of. There are multiple rec leagues in the area (in my experience, I’d recommend against Nashville Sports Leagues, though in fairness I haven’t compared to their competitors – it’s just the only one I know, and I know it’s literally four times as expensive for a worse product than when I’ve played in other states), you can join a club through the state’s governing association,

Watch

You don’t have to wait for our home team to arrive to support the game in the Mid-State. Head to a soccer-friendly bar, join one of the many supporters’ groups for Premier League squads (or supporters of teams from other leagues), and show that Nashville isn’t a soccer city only because a pro team is almost here, but rather because the city simply supports the game.

Contribute

Whatever your cause, do some good in the world. Soccer-related charities (or totally unrelated – you can do good without it having to relate to soccer) are always looking for help whether via donations or volunteers. Learn to coach and contribute time to a local youth team, donate balls, goals, cleats to youth who can’t afford them, anything to help grow the game and win lifelong fans not just for the good of NSC or the future of soccer, but for your local community. Get involved with #OurClubOurCause if you want to tie it more directly into soccer.

What else do you have planned to support soccer in Nashville before Feb. 10? If you have an idea I didn’t share it in the comments.