Carlos Cordeiro is the president of US Soccer

There was an event of some note in Nashville this weekend, so I haven’t yet had time to discuss this, so here we go. First reaction: at least it wasn’t one of the two candidates who are utterly horrible.

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“Is friend of Chuck Blazer:” not a good start. Courtesy Chuck Blazer.

Kathy Carter was not an option in my mind first and foremost because she was going to do nothing to unentangle the MLS/SUM/USSF web. In fact, she would have been extremely likely (as the outgoing CEO of Soccer United Marketing) to not only emphasize that relationship, but probably also make it a little more opaque to the outside observer. She also lost any and all feminist cred she may have had – and this was a fairly important issue to me in this particular election – by not condemning The Reprehensible Sal Rapaglia for calling her “the girl” or “Gulati’s girl” exclusively in an extensive interview. “Welcome to my life” is not a remotely adequate response to that, and she should be embarrassed not only as a US Soccer presidential candidate, but on a personal level for that to have been the entire strength of her response.

Eric Wynalda was an absolute non-starter for me for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost the one he championed. That is coming from the opposite pole as Kathy Carter. His ideas to revolutionize US Soccer were bad, from forcing MLS to change seasons or agree to a pro-rel structure. His campaign strategy (at least until we got pretty close to the end) was also repulsive and indicative of a major cancer in our society. Instead of having an actual platform early on, his entire pitch was “I have personal animosity toward Sunil Gulati, Go Go Eric Wynalda 2018” and that type of discourse needs to leave our country ASAP – wherever it exists right now. He was also the most clearly in it for his own personal brand advancement over the good of the federation (“I won’t help our soccer nation if I’m not elected president” and “I won’t reveal my platform until everybody else reveals theirs first so they don’t steal my terrible ideas”), which is not the sort of person who should be picked for any voted-upon office, full stop (and for the second justification in a row, I swear I’m referring only to Eric Wynalda, not any obvious analogues you want to draw). Declaring personal bankruptcy multiple times – and being very open about it with the New York Times – is a bit of a humanizing deal for Wynalda, but again indicates a lack of expertise in something (general finance) very important to the federation and its president (I swear I’m not doing this on purpose, by the way).

Hope Solo is also in the “do not want” category for two reasons: alcohol/violence issues, and a similar “I have personal animosity to Sunil Gulati” campaign strategy. It’s unfortunate, because a better strategy for her might have really helped – she has some important ideas for women’s and youth soccer (I would have been more willing to overlook personal

So, who did I want? I’ve been pretty open throughout that Kyle Martino was my choice, though he lost me a bit when he tried to grab onto the populist support of Wynalda’s campaign (among the very vocal, very stupid minority) by insisting on promotion/relegation as a key part of his platform, when he had previously been very committed to the “we’ll evaluate when I’m elected after I can hear all sides” stance. Frankly, I think that shift could have cost him the election. He was very strong on youth and grassroots, had an absolute commitment to spending some of the US Soccer surplus but doing it wisely, and wanted to stress transparency from the federation going forward. Dear Kyle, bad things happen when you let yourself get too close to Eric Wynalda.

So how about the dude who actually won?

Now-outgoing USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro was the far less dangerous-seeming of the two entrenched establishment candidates, and based on the voting, it’s clear one of them was always going to win, so at the very least we got the best case scenario out of those two options.

There have also been rumblings (and I’ll certainly admit they seem a little revisionist to soften the blow of an establishment candidate winning) that he and Sunil Gulati didn’t see eye-to-eye in a lot of ways. That’s not necessarily a positive in the specific – as Gulati also did good things for the federation, the actual issues would be important – but in the general sense of “he’s not simply going to be a puppet of the previous president,” it’s important. Given that some of the issues he apparently didn’t care for were a president overreaching with power and a lack of transparency in his boss’s administration, the specifics are indeed a little more refreshing.

By all accounts, he sounds like he’ll be a little more hands-off, without making unilateral manager or technical director hires for the men’s and women’s national teams, etc. Letting soccer people do soccer jobs (and I know there’s been a debate over what constitutes a “soccer person,” especially for somebody who’s been involved with the federation, but he doesn’t present himself as an industry expert so he shouldn’t be considered one) is a nice step forward.

There are still red flags. “Goldman Sachs executive” doesn’t exactly conjure an image of the highest level of integrity – whether that’s fair to present and former Goldman Sachs employees or not, there are certainly reasons behind it. He’ll have to work quickly to prove that the stink of that position doesn’t follow him to his new (unpaid) gig. That should be something he can do fairly easily if he is who the electors believed him to be. The stink of “close personal friend of notoriously corrupt Chuck Blazer” is disheartening in a similar way. We’ll see if that reputation can be shed.

He was also famously media-shy during the election process, which (believe it or not) is almost as big an issue for me as anything else. He wouldn’t do interviews if he didn’t have the questions in advance – even in a low-leverage situation like the US Soccer Coaches’ Convention in Philadelphia – and somehow managed to be elected to a job that 1) has long been a very glorified spokesman, and 2) he intends to strip away some of the specific non-spokesman duties from. That is bad. He opened up a little bit late in the process, but there’s a long way to go to change his reputation there, and it’s a far more important part of the gig than he evidently realized (and that he didn’t realize it is a part of that red flag).

What’s the hope?

First and foremost, Cordeiro is going to be judged primarily on the basis of general manager hires for the men’s and women’s national teams, and the resulting manager hire for the USMNT. Even though the job is much more than that, it’s what the layperson will see and judge. And it is indeed important.

There are other things that should have near-equal importance for the federation. Quick, who’s the head coach of the USA Basketball team? Or even Hockey? With health through the core functionalities of a federation, the other aspects get put into a bit of perspective. I know it’s not a great comparison because of (relative, at least) American dominance in those sports and the visibility of global soccer, but the business of USA Hockey is getting kids playing, improving safety at youth levels, etc. At a certain point, that’s what sporting federations are for, more than simply being a conduit for people to view national teams.

So: how will Cordeiro deal with pay-to-play, academies, other development issues, incorporation of NCAA into our culture, multiple lawsuits brought by Eric Wynalda’s moneyman (and Hope Solo herself in separate suits) against the federation, building grassroots, dealing with issues between leagues at different levels in the pyramid? And doing all this while wisely spending federation reserves? We shall find out what his plans are, because more than any other candidate, the potential disconnect between what he said on the campaign trail and what he actually intends to do can be huge.

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Pitch Points is so… close…

Rounding up the latest in Nashville SC, USMNT, and the world of soccer in Middle Tennessee and beyond…

Nashville SC season approacheth

Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post for quick access to everything I put up after Thursday’s media practice.

The homies over at Golden Goal discuss how Atlanta United’s fast start in MLS should be the blueprint for NSC to follow. “Sell out a 70,000-seat stadium” is not something you can just snap your fingers and do, but certainly some of the mechanisms through which ATL UTD achieved that are replicable.

The USL website rehashes a bit from NSC’s official media output (y’all looking for an actual reporter on the ground? Kik me) for their pre-season runs through the league.

FC Cincinnati New York Red Bulls US Open Cup
Cincinnati’s Open Cup run was a good story in 2017. Let’s do it more. Courtesy FC Cincinnati/Brett Hansbauer

US Open Cup

This is a tournament that I – like many in the soccer world – would like to see become more meaningful in our country. I don’t have any power, but one of eight fellow Americans will at least have some sway in the near future.

TheCup.us polled the USSF Presidential candidates about their goals for the US Open Cup, and what the national federation can do to help achieve them. Allow me to cherry-pick some of the better ideas:

Paul Caligiuri: “I think visibility is a key aspect of it and when we start looking at visibility and maybe we could look at broadcasting at earlier stages.”

Carlos Cordeiro: “If elected—and as streaming costs go down over time and as technology improves—I’ll push for even more matches to be streamed live. We should also work with U.S. Soccer’s broadcast partners to increase the number of matches that are televised.”

This is something I’ve harped on a bit: if you broadcast it, they will come. Especially once MLS teams get involved, every game should be available on television, and at least a mainstream streaming service (i.e. ESPN3) once the professional leagues enter it. USSF has to flex a bit of its muscle with broadcast partners (through the bogeyman of SUM, if necessary) to get exposure for the tournament. It’s an A-1 way the federation can drum up interest in the sport writ large, and potential fans’ local clubs that they might not even know exist until they catch a game on TV.

Kathy Carter: “Modifying the ownership structure of the tournament so it is shared between USASA, US Soccer and the Professional Leagues.”

That’s a horrible idea. Not because of what the Pro-Relots on Twitter say (“omg you are trying to give MLS all teh powerz”), but rather because that’s not the spirit of the Cup. Look at the word “Open” right there in the title and try to figure out what this means.

Carlos Cordeiro: “Finally, we should increase prize money at all levels. As we refine the competition, we should look for more commercial opportunities, which would, in turn, allow us to offer larger prizes.”

I think this is also important. Make the tournament more meaningful for both the little guys and the big clubs by making it worthwhile to win. “$150 million surplus” seems a little at odds with “we need to find ways to fund bigger prizes,” though.

Kyle Martino: “So we need to fund, open up and encourage investment into local communities that have teams that want to grow and want to invest and then we need to market, invest and cover this great tournament.”

His focus on grassroots is the key here, and as I alluded to above, that’s an important part of building the soccer cultre (a bit of a chicken-and-egg argument there). A little disappointed that so much of his response was about how he likes the US Open Cup and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves – though to be fair, that was the entirety of Steve Gans’s response. Like re-stating the question for two paragraphs is not the same as answering it.

Hope Solo: “I want to focus on growing the prize money for the various divisions. This prize money will be equal for the men’s and the women’s tournament creating an opportunity for women’s soccer players to have another avenue to make a living wage. These winnings will serve as motivation to drive interest back to the sport.”

I’m guilty of not even thinking about the women’s tournament (called the USASA National Women’s Cup, though professional teams are now eligible for it I think? Definitely an area in which there can be major growth in our country). As much as Solo’s personal life is potentially disqualifying as a presidential candidate, she is walking the walk when it comes to gender equality as a key to her platform.

Michael Winograd: “And I think one of the other things that would help the amateurs getting exciting about it is making a commitment to scouting, making a commitment to saying ‘hey, listen … if you’re participating in this, you’re going to feel like you’re participating in the … Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.’ For those who are amateurs who are still trying to play competitively, maybe [they want to] get out of the amateur ranks, there are scouts there.”

That’s actually a really good point – though the improvement of the scouting department (of USSF, of MLS most teams, of DA/ODP, etc. – all of it) – is in need of an overhaul before it can commit resources to yet another event.

Eric Wynalda: “I think one of the biggest problems that we’ve seen is that MLS is protecting their product by disallowing any money to come in through the federation to incentivize or give more visability to or create maybe a window of hope for some of the smaller teams that deserve the attention they are certainly not getting.”

I feel like I rip on Wynalda too much (especially for a guy as popular as he apparently is in the election), but this is a classic example of his campaign: say nothing substantive, complain about MLS, rinse and repeat. It’s even better if you click through, so you can see that another box on the Eric Wynalda bingo card (“namedrop for no reason”) gets checked off, as well.

That was like a 10-20% snippet of each person’s response, so I encourage you to click through and read the full context of what each person said.

USMNT-Bosnia

With the fast approach of the Nashville SC season, I haven’t had as much time to break down the lone January friendly for the US Men’s National Team (and share those thoughts here), so now that it’s almost a week in the rearview mirror, I’ll just share some of the reactions I’ve had open in browser tabs since the game:

As he showed last November against Portugal, Adams can offer something getting forward, but he is at his most effective working as a box-to-box midfielder, setting up deeper in midfield where he can see threats developing, as well as opportunities to race forward and join the attack. In the first half against Bosnia, Adams found himself in the final third a few times, but never with teammates around him to combine. In the second half, playing deeper in midfield, Adams was able to cause more problems as a defensive presence while also seeing more of the ball.

I was very impressed with Tyler Adams as well. A box-to-box midfielder who can develop into more of a pure 6 is probably what the US needs right now. The take on Gyasi Zardes is the opposite (which has sort of been the long-term trend with dude’s MNT career), and while I’ve been a big defender of Zardes over the years, it probably is time to let him stay out of the national team picture for a little while, focus on his club career, and if he continues to develop, give him another shot. As it stands, he’s going to be on the older side when the next World Cup cycle rolls around, and the technical ability just isn’t there if the physical gifts start to fade.

MLS has goalkeepin’ talk:

Hamid’s ability to remain calm in tense situations has grown in the past year or so, and he’ll continue working on that with Midtjylland.

“That’s something I’ve preached to him, and I know he’s talked to his goalkeeper coach in Denmark about that, too,” Reis said. “Trying to be calm in those situations. I think he’s got the enough athletic ability and power, it’s just those times where he can be calm and needs to be calm.”

Dude was singularly responsible for one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s lone scoring chances with a terrible pass out of the back, let’s calm it down on the “calm in tense situations” narrative. He’s a good ball-stopper, but wasn’t really tested outside of his own mistake.

Stadium talk

With no plans (yet) for Nashville’s MLS stadium, I’m keeping a keen eye on other new stadia around the country. DC United’s plans are of interest. The specific plans I’m discussing here, however, are about what the city plans to do with their former site, RFK stadium.

DC United plans to move its base of operations (and a USL reserve team) to Loudon, Va., so they aren’t particularly involved in the project. It’ll be interesting to watch what happens here, though, if for no other reason than keeping a macro view of soccer in our country – and what impact a departing franchise can have on an area, even when they’re only moving three miles. It will not surprise you to know I’m pleased that the plan includes continued soccer use – and for the public.

Nashville SC obviously hasn’t even broken grounds at the Fairgrounds yet, much less outgrown them (and in fact, I’m hopeful that stadium design includes the opportunity for growth if the fanbase takes off). If that happens long down the road – I’m not expecting it, since that’s part of the idea of building soccer-specific stadia – hopefully there will be the opportunity to service the soccer community at the site.

Etc.: Maryland’s top amateur league partnering with the UPSL. Such partnerships could help strengthen the grassroots level, but outside of the pro/rel aspect (that seems to be a minor portion) of the partnership, it doesn’t seem all that ground-breaking to me. … USSF potentially hiring separate men’s and women’s general managers for the national teams. Probably helpful in the long run… while not having one for either side right now is less than ideal. … Some new USL rules. … Nashville moving forward with plans to make itself available for a potential 2026 World Cup. … Support soccer in the area, buy a dope scarf. … NY Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso sort of comes off like a dirtbag 99.9% of the time. This is that 0.1%. … Liga MX and MLS meeting up for a battle of champions? Couldn’t possibly turn out worse than the CONCACAF Champions League always seems to.

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.

Pitch Points has problematic public statements

Wait no I don’t! But somebody does…

USSF president. Not delving deeply into the topic for now (that’s a post for another day), but it’s clear that the Eastern New York State Soccer Association – which has voting power fo the USSF President – is run by people who shouldn’t be allowed to vote for anything.

Rapaglia said he was impressed that Carter had not just worked on the business side, but has also played soccer in college and in one of the leagues in his association. “She played soccer,” he explained. “She’s not just a housewife.”

That the organization has not only not apologized for these comments, but doubled down by insulting Grant Wahl for… I don’t know, quoting this moron word-for-word? Seems like a pretty standard journalistic practice to me… is repulsive. I don’t even know what else to say. That they went back and deleted all the negative tweets, etc. is an example of cowardice and trying to cover one’s tracks, nothing more or less. ENYSSA, you suck.

When an organization run by a man who calls a 48-year old multi-millionaire businesswoman exclusively “the girl” in an extensive interview is voting for US Soccer President… something is deeply, fundamentally broken about this whole process and indeed, our country.

The crux of Wahl’s story is that outgoing prez Sunil Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber are openly campaigning for Kathy Carter while publicly stating they aren’t. He points out that it’s not illegal (nor should it be), but since that’s the case, why are they brazenly lying about it? Just bizarre behavior on their respective parts. I disagree that Garber’s lobbying is demonstrative of conflict of interest: it’s just politics. You lobby for the person who advances your interests, and he thinks (probably pretty damn safely) that she’s that candidate. The conflict of interest is well upstream from the lobbying itself.

MLS Expansion. The topic is one of Soccer Stadium Digest’s top stories of 2017. Get ready for Nashville’s MLS future by acquainting yourself with the moves made by each of the other teams in the league so far this offseason.

John Ingram plans to be a pretty hands-off owner, and the day-to-day operations will be handled by staff to be named later. I would imagine the current technical and management staff will remain when the club makes the leap from USL to MLS, just with a lot more manpower around them (of course, just my speculation).

A very refreshing tone from Ingram, who’s encouraging a welcoming atmosphere around the team. Soccer newbies, Nashville newbies, et al: everybody should hop on board, there shouldn’t be any judging. That’s not always the case (unfortunately, especially true among American soccer fans), and hopefully his wishes come to fruition.

Atlanta rivalry? Not so fast, my friends. We Music Citizens are just too lovable, according to Atlanta United blog Dirty South Soccer:

Maybe I’m just being biased, but it’s hard to hate a place like Nashville. Walking down Broadway — the city’s main strip full of flashing lights, southern sounds and watering holes — is a unique experience and almost impossible to dislike. Of course, Nashville will be a “rival” due purely to geographical factors, but it will be a much different rivalry to the one Atlanta has with Orlando City. While Orlando is impossible to love, Nashville is impossible to hate.

“It’s impossible to dislike walking down Broadway” is a pretty obvious statement of “I’m probably not being truthful about having lived in Nashville.” Almost no local enjoys that, much less finds it impossible to dislike (maybe the pre-bachelorette era was better to him). Atlanta people seem to really like Nashville, we’ll see what happens when it’s something other than a tourist Xanadu in their minds.

Speaking of Atlanta, what have you got going on the evening before the game Feb. 10? You can hang out at Tailgate Demonbreun with The Assembly.

Cincinnati rivalry? Until the MLS launch actually happens (there still hasn’t been clarity from the league or team on whether 2020 is still the date or if 2019 is a possibility, as hinted by Garber at the announcement), or hopefully concurrently with it, Cincinnati will also be a rival.

If you were living under a US Open Cup rock last year, not only are you part of mainstream America, you missed a great story with FCC’s run in the US Open Cup. Don’t forget that it does seem like dome i-dotting and t-crossing sounds like the only thing between Cincinnati and a January announcement of their own MLS leap.

Etc. US Soccer year in review from the Washington Post. Spoiler alert: some crappy stuff happened! … Really cool story on growing the game in West Africa. … If you love listicles and soccer storylines entering 2018, here you go. … Starting pro/rel from the bottom up? My take on the grander scheme of pro/rel in our country is well-founded and similar here. The pro/rel zealots and soccer-only people advocating for it are trying to start down a path that ultimately ends pro soccer in this country (not a super-great idea, IMO).

Pitch Points schedules friendlies

france football federation logo soccerAcross the pond. The US Men’s National team will take on France shortly before the World Cup. The June 9 fixture in Lyon will probably be paired with another UEFA away match against a team preparing for the big stage. With England set to take on a CONCACAF side (Panama) in their opener, that’s a pretty good bet. This likely means any sort of NIT-type tournament in the US is not gonna happen, which is fine.

Dave Sarachan will continue to coach the team at least for the January camp, which means Bruce Arena’s replacement will probably be appointed after the US Soccer presidential election. SI’s Avi Creditor with a look at who might be called in by Sarachan’s staff.

Am I alone in thinking that Clint Dempsey needs to be called in as much as possible going forward until he gets a goal to break the deadlock with Landon Donovan? The sooner you get that out of the way, the less obligated you feel to bring in a guy whose contributions to even 2022 qualifying are in doubt, and you can call him in because you want to, not because US Soccer wants him to have the opportunity to be the all-time leading scorer (a mantle of which he’s absolutely deserving, by the way).

World Cup ratings. They are not going to be super-great in the United States. This still has too many confounding factors to be super-meaningful.

The U.S. television audience plummeted for the World Cup draw without the presence of the Americans in the 32-nation field.

English-language coverage Friday on Fox’s FS1 averaged 65,000 viewers from 10-11:05 a.m. EST, down 87 percent from a record average of 489,000 for the 2014 draw televised by ESPN2 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EST on Dec. 6, 2013.

“I don’t want to tune into a network that employs Skip Bayless” is a totally legitimate explanation for a big part of the drop. Obviously I’m being a bit cheeky with the language there, but ESPN2 is always going to have better ratings than FS1 for a comparable event. Don’t believe me? ESPN’s post-draw special which didn’t have the advantage of the draw itself as a lead-in did significantly better numbers (double!) than FS1’s.

The ratings are going to go down without the United States in the World Cup: duh. But the implication that the Yanks’ absence is the lone reason for a major decrease in ratings is really bad writing.

Hashtag save the Crew. FailSon may be in for a legal battle. Now, not only can you thank the Cleveland Browns for giving your local NFL team many victories in recent years (unless your local NFL team is also the Browns), but also for making it significantly tougher for America’s Ugliest And Worst Man to pack up and move the Columbus Crew to Austin:

The basis for the action, he said, is a 1996 law that says no owner of a professional sports team in Ohio that uses tax-supported facilities or gets public financial assistance can move out of town unless the owner gives six months advance notice and gives the city or local individuals who reside in the area the opportunity to purchase the team.

Please please please let this happen. Anthony Precourt can do whatever the hell he wants with his money. Using it to try to hold a municipality hostage for his own financial gain is a bush league move, and thankfully the state has at least some mechanism for slowing things down.

Make dude pay expansion fees if he wants to own a team in a different market. Don Garber’s comments at the State of the MLS address was pretty repulsive: “he bought a struggling team that is still struggling” in financial terms. Why is it the job of the league to protect him when he makes a bad investment? Just bad business and bad PR all around.

Brian McBride not thrilled about the potential for a move.

Hope for president? One of the USWNT’s best-known players of all time has thrown her hat in the ring. That brings us to nine candidates (she’s the second woman, behind SUM president Kathy Carter). Like with most candidates, there are positives – she’s been a powerful influencer in the USWNT v. USSF battle, for example. There are also negatives of a different type than other candidates, namely multiple instances of legal trouble.

One of her cornerstone issues is something that is not only an obvious touchpoint of this particular election, but also one of the topics I’m passionate about:

Yes, most club teams ‘scholarship’ kids in, but it is the responsibility of the USSF to develop the best youth in America. The system has been set up to discriminate and to overlook the disadvantaged because of an arrogant belief that the United States possesses the worlds best athletes, so therefore we can get away without having the world’s best soccer players. It is an outdated and a painfully evident reality that the National Teams currently face.

Red flags exist, yes. She will still have support from the corners that matter, and her campaigning platform is solid (hit the link to see the rest of it). Will legal issues be disqualifying? I doubt it. They may still turn out damaging, though.

I’ll do a deeper dive into the presidential candidates after the Tuesday deadline and we know who is actually going to be in the running. Before Solo’s announcement, the Washington Post’s Steven Goff unscientifically estimated the order to be Carter, Wynalda, Cordeiro, Martino… a little surprising to me that Carter and Cordeiro don’t cannibalize each other’s support as the two establishment/Gulati candidates. Still, plenty of time to go, likely some more official debate-type substances, and we don’t even know for sure who will be in the running.

Etc.: Russia corrupt? You don’t say! Taylor Twellman on various subjects. Danny Williams on success in the Premier League and his USMNT future. Germany building a new national team training center. Atlanta United built a soccer culture in its inaugural year.

Pitch Points has its stadium location picked out

Nashville SC Nashville Fairgrounds stadium
See? It’s right there!

We don’t want MLS anyway. I’d probably chalk it up to curmudgeonly columnist being curmudgeonly, more than an accurate local sentiment (and the one-sentence paragraphs and random usage of bold and italics throughout would underscore that), but there’s at least some expression of “MLS shouldn’t pick Cincinnati” coming directly from the Queen City.

Of course, that I almost feel guilty linking it because that’s tacit support of… well, you ca read for yourself if you so desire, and make judgments about the quality of the writing yourself. Can’t possibly imagine why newspapers are dying out, though.

Meanwhile the only people complaining about Nashville’s stadium – and don’t get me wrong, there may be some salient points in between all the idiocy – are those who are upset about the city giving away a 10-acre parcel (fair), and those who are too stupid to realize what the state referendum in 2011 entailed (which I’ve already covered, and if you sue the Metro Council because you are incapable of reading, you should be shot into the sun).

We should know relatively soon – the MLS meeting is in two days – the result of the next wave of expansion.

A bit more on pro/rel. If you haven’t yet listened to the hour-plus podcast from the debate we had the other night, I’d encourage it.

In somewhat related news, the Rochester Rhinos will suspend operations for the 2018 season.

This comes as the community rallied to generate increased support over the past two weeks, yet not to the extent needed. Significant gaps remain, including Capelli Sport Stadium’s exclusion from receiving a portion of the Hotel Occupancy Tax.

“Our business cannot exist because it did not receive a subsidy it almost certainly didn’t deserve” is an indication that you do not have a viable business. That isn’t changing if you have a promotion/relegation system. Fans aren’t going to pack that stadium simply because one day, there’s a chance their team could be in the top flight.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: American fans are not going to support such a system. Soccer fans? sure, especially those who also enjoy overseas leagues. But the majority of them are already interested even in lower-division sides. You need money from outside the system to keep clubs like this afloat. A pro/rel system simply puts more clubs in danger of folding when they drop to a lower division, and does nothing to inject more money into the system. The end.

Like I said on the debate, I’m not an anti-pro/rel zealot. Just a guy who understands the reality that it’s not viable (especially for dollar and cents purposes, the most important of all) in American sports today.

Meanwhile, even Liga MX, with  far more established soccer culture in its country, has teams getting promoted that can’t even meet the requirements for the top flight. That sounds… less than ideal. Would a Rochester be able to survive financially even in a top flight? How about NASL champion San Francisco Deltas, which won their Division-2 league then immediately folded? Pro/rel isn’t keeping that team afloat: it’s a path to having a top flight that sees teams folding all the time.

MLS’s place in developing domestic talent. …is obviously a topic this site will talk about regularly. I have a large post on the way sooner or later with some of my big-picture ideas. In the meantime, I agree with the general thrust of this Four Four Two story:

Instead of punishing teams that don’t field young Americans or Canadians, MLS should reward clubs that develop and field their youngsters. The league could give extra General Allocation Money to teams that give significant minutes to their domestic U-21s. The incentive system could operate on a sliding scale, with the team that gives the most minutes to American or Canadian U-21s getting the most allocation money, the second-placed team getting slightly less, third-place slight less and so on down the list.

That’s on the right track, no doubt. An expansion of homegrown player rules – vis-a-vis the salary cap, especially – allowing clubs to keep a greater percentage of profit from selling players who come up through their systems (this is one of my big focuses), and a subsidy from US Soccer for developing YNT and MNT talent would be wiser incentives for playing young Americans (frankly, I could give a fuck whether Canada gets talent coming up through MLS, but CSA would be wise to follow suit is USSF did that).

As noted in the article, it’s not necessarily MLS’s job to look out for US Soccer – the murky world of Soccer United Marketing collusion notwithstanding – but the national federation can do its part to incentivize. A bit of deregulation of the single-entity structure of MLS is important, as well.

Got (some) players. Nashville SC’s first signing, Matt Pickens, profiled on the USL website:

Q: What made a move to Nashville the right one for you at this point of your career?

MP: There are many elements that played a part in my decision to join Nashville SC. The most important of all is that of a new challenge with the opportunities in Nashville. I try to continue to challenge myself so that I do not fall victim to comfort in my playing career. I know that this project of building a successful club in Nashville will be fun and challenging at the same time. From the ownership group to the staff and front office persons at Nashville SC, I envision this club will be another gem in the American soccer landscape. I am excited to see the city of Nashville get behind us on this ride we’re about to set off on.

Much more at the link, not much of it particularly interesting int he king of softball interviews. Rowdies management shows support for him on his way out of Tampa.

Looking forward to seeing more signings to know who we’ll be supporting in the team’s inaugural season. You can see my breakdowns on the first four signings here.

Etc. Soccer United Marketing’s World Cup NIT is a legit possibility… If you have to specify “I’m not a bad candidate for the office I’m running fore because my personality is actually very different from how I publicly present myself,” you’re not off to a hot start… Much more on USSF elections in coming days. NPSL looking at a longer season… Soccer-happy markets instead of big ones move more merchandise in MLS… Development and exposure and supporting the growth of the game at youth levels.

Pitch Points has a weird Anthony Precourt fixation

I really have STRONG FEELS about the Crew. I really don’t care about how the team actually performs, but when something is Not Right (and extremely damaging to the game in our country, not that MLS commissioner Don Garber gives one half of one fuck), it is Not Right. First of all Anthony Precourt looks like this:

AP-CrewSC
Photograph me like one of your French girls

That’s the “this is a photo my employees took and is as good as I can possibly look.” Verily, we live in the age of the #failson. Anyway, now that I’ve gotten the immature rips on his appearance out of the way, let’s make fun of him for being a walking, talking dumpster!

“As attendance league-wide continues to grow [at] a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus’ situation is particularly concerning. Despite [Precourt’s] significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the league in all business metrics and the club’s stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS.”

That’s Garber himself, criticizing the fans and municipality of Columbus for not taking care of Crew Stadium. I can’t believe those evil owner-operators of the stadium are doing the tenant so wrong! What’s that you say? Soccer’s FailSon is the owner-operator of the stadium? Since that’s the case (and it’s worth noting his stadium lives rent-free on the Ohio Fairgrounds), what is Garber’s – and by extension FailSon’s – argument here?

“I did a bad job protecting my investment, so the local government should give me a new investment. And if not, a different local government will buy me a toy instead YOU’RE NOT MY REAL STEPDAD ANYWAY.”

Alas, such is life in American sports, when we let Anthropomorphic Human Excrement Men own sports teams by simple virtue of having grown up rich and bored, and then move the teams when they fail to hold hostage a locale and fanbase that has supported their FailSon hobby (to a city that has already failed to support a pro soccer team, albeit at a lower level). Why does American soccer need pro/rel when owners can simply pro/rel the cities they call home? …he asked, only half-sarcastically.

Also I’m not joking in that if dude didn’t look so much like the Platonic ideal of FailSon I probably wouldn’t make fun of him so much. He’d still be garbage (acting, if not looking like said FailSon), but I would make fun of him less. Also it’s annoying that, as long as you start rich, you can be pretty bad at a lot of things and still end up president of the country or proud owner of Austin’s MLS team or whatever.

Also go back and read that whole Football Times story because it’s way better than just the pullquote I took from it.

Anyway, his Hans Gruber-ass hostage tactics are at least compelling Columbus to try to make deals that he’s roundly ignored to date. I know it’s little more than a one-way ticket to not having an MLS team, but if I were Columbus, I’d let dude take a hike and bankrupt the sporting arm of his FailSon empire. It’s repulsive (more so than his appearance, even!) that a billionaire tries to hold cities hostage just because he knows he can. What a piece of trash this dude is.

Taylor Twellman on TV ratings. Here is a video:

A guy saying “people lie, statistics don’t” is inherently saying “don’t believe me, because I’m probably lying,” but Twellman is not. Premier League viewership in the United States over the past four seasons: 438,000, 479,000, 514,000 and 423,000. I would imagine this year’s television viewership will reach an all-time low thanks to the NBC Sports Gold deal, but if Twellman’s tablet-watching point is accurate (at least to some extent it’s not, by the way: if you watch through your cable provider’s app, they report to Nielsen), it might not be the overall viewership decline that it appears to be. His ad sales discussion is a trade secret that ESPN is not going to release any hard data on, so we’ll take him at his word for the time being.

A couple years ago, Liga MX was doing 1.1 million per broadcast, while MLS is at about 2/3s of the EPL numbers this season. It is important to note the primetime slots v. Premier League’s weekend morning airings – so the league is certainly still much more popular (which from a quality-of-play standard it should be). The most recent numbers show a timeframe that didn’t have a single MLS game played in it, but the period before that had five of 23 top-rated games coming from MLS (including the first legs that will finally be completed tonight).

One of my big picture – rather than link-oriented – story ideas relates to improving the MLS TV product and ratings, but that’s quite literally for another day.

Kyle Martino for US Soccer president? I haven’t done all the research required to know who exactly I think is best for the position (and who I’d endorse), but I like a lot of what I see from Kyle Martino’s positions:

In addition to encouraging more participation in adult soccer leagues, Martino is a huge proponent of investing money in getting good soccer facilities into as many schools and public parks as possible.

A future post I’ll be making is outlining my platform for an imaginary candidacy for the position, and there’s not a whole lot different in my ideas than what Martino’s pitching. The specifics are different in ways, of course, and the emphases are not perfectly aligned, but I like what I’m seeing so far.

Convincing clubs that youth development is worth investing their money in is a big part of Martino’s platform.

A thousand, infinity, googolplex times yes. Like, of course. Yes. As a disclaimer, this is far and away the most in-depth third-party breakdown I’ve seen with one of the candidates, so others have an opportunity to impress me. I don’t like the cornerstones of Eric Wynalda’s platform (pro-rel and changing calendar), while another candidate, Paul LaPointe, doesn’t seem to be conducting himself like a serious candidate so much as GUY on the INTERNET with OPINIONS (that’s my niche, bro!). I’ll have to listen to the US Club Soccer roundtable before forming takes on the remaining candidates.

Building a team. This profile on Nashville SC Technical Director Mike Jacobs is particularly prudent, given that his first four signings became public today. The former Assistant Technical Director of Sporting KC (where coach Peter Vermes was the Technical Director) and then top dog at Swope Park Rangers, he built a team from scratch just a couple years ago:

“Everyone in our city is excited about the prospects of a future in MLS, but we have a franchise that is going to be competing in USL and my job is to populate a roster that will help [Nashville SC coach] Gary Smith succeed,” Jacobs said. “We’re going to be as competitive as possible this next season, and we’re going to do so in a vision that is entertaining and attractive to fans. How that relates to the future of our franchise, we’ll see, but the full focus is about the 2018 season. All we can control is the season ahead.”

Vermes has made a huge impact on his philosophy – a good thing, given his success at SKC – and Jacobs seems comfortable with the potential dual role of building a USL roster at the same time he looks toward an MLS future.

Obviously front-office USL personnel are going to fly a little under the radar, but it does seem like NSC couldn’t have found a much better TD.

Etc.: Michelle Akers has some takes on soccer development, and while one of them is pretty clearly “I don’t care; leave me alone,” her emphasis on kids just having opportunities to play is important. Official MLS release on expansion finalists. I’m with Alexi Lalas (ducks): Michael Bradley deserves criticism for captaining the first U.S. team to miss the World Cup since the year I was born, but that also doesn’t erase the positives he had in more than a decade with USMNT, either.

(I do disagree heartily with these somber thinkpieces on how fans aren’t doing anything by booing him and Toronto FC: they’re being drunk and having fun, with an easy target. Reading anything more into it than that is seriously reaching).