Saturday, May 19, 2007

Busy Saturday

Busy Saturday over in the old Continent:

FA CUP FINAL: Chelsea defeated Man Who? 1:0 at New Wembley taking the FA Cup and the chance for a Double away from Manchester United. Before this month, Man U looked forward to a possible Treble, with the Champion's League and FA Cup in their sights, but losses to AC Milan and now Chelski means that the Red Devils has to console themselves with the Premiership title. Poor sods.

GERMAN BUNDESLIGA: VfB Stuttgart roared back from a 0:1 deficit to defeat Energie Cottbus to win 2:1 and stay ahead of FC Schalke 04 to win their first Bundesliga title since the 1991/92 season. Stuttgart are also in a hunt for a German Double, facing 1. FC Nurnberg in Berlin in the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) Final.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Miami FC to Play Games at Orange Bowl

MY DREAM COMES (partially) TRUE as USL side Miami FC will play two home games this weekend at the venerable Orange Bowl, near Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. The grand old stadium, which has hosted a plethora of international matches, club friendlies and even an AC Milan friendly, is set to host its first regular season professional American league soccer match ever. It also marks the first time that a soccer team with the name "Miami" in it will actually play within Miami city limits, as the old MLS Miami Fusion played in Broward County and the current Miami FC plays its matches in the Miami suburb of Kendall.

Miami will take on the Minnesota Thunder Friday night at 8 (which will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel) and on Sunday will face the Atlanta Silverbacks.

Hopefully these matches will generate a good turnout and give notice to the MLS that perhaps Miami should have a team once again. I always thought that the Orange Bowl would be an ideal location to host a Miami MLS franchise because of its central location within Miami-Dade county, where, in theory at least, the majority of potential fans reside. I remember in the old Miami Fusion days, that the majority of the members of the supporters club resided in Miami-Dade and made the lengthy trip up to Lockhart Stadium to support the Fusion. The distance made regular attendance to Fusion games hard for many fans and thus hampered the potential success of the club. Even though the OB is an American football stadium, it isn't the ultra modern ones that used to awkwardly host all of the MLS teams and actually would do quite nicely if an MLS team with a (impossibly?) large fanbase can plant roots within our fair city. We can all hope, yeah?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Toronto FC 1 Rest of MLS Nil

It's official...Toronto FC is Major League Soccer's best the "tangibles department" at least...

SO IT TOOK THE FLEDGLING EXPANSION CLUB FIVE GAMES to even score their first goal. But when Danny Dichio placed the ball in the back of the net for the first time in Toronto FC history, TFC's supporters let the entire country know who was the best supported club in Major League Soccer. The avalanche of giveaway seat cushions was simply an exclamation point of what American MLS fans sort of knew all along but had brushed aside with each of the first four Toronto losses: an MLS club finally got it right, and it's not even an American one.

I say that Toronto had it right all along because they considered the mistakes that all the previous Major League Soccer clubs, founding and expansion alike, had made before and was smart enough to make sure that TFC did not repeat history twice, as the old saying goes. First they made sure that they had one of those newfangled "soccer specific stadiums" ready for the franchise by the time it was ready to play. Okay, give one for the MLS in general for making sure that soccer specific stadiums are a priority and a prerequisite for new expansion teams. Second, they got the name right finally! The only other examples of "good names" in the MLS belong to D.C. United and (perhaps) FC Dallas, with the latter being a name change (from the Dallas Burn) and the former squeaking by, using a traditional football club name (United) as an American-style nickname (luckily singular nicknames have been in place in American sports, otherwise it could have been the Uniteds, you never know!)

But what really impressed me is the amount of support TFC has from it's fans. Perhaps it is the culture already in place in Toronto, with a high percentage of immigrants and Canadians born of immigrant parents, thus already having a base of fans interested in football beforehand, but this is the case with many MLS cities. It seems that the difference in Toronto's case is that the club seemed to focus its attention on these people first and to accommodate these fans, rather than to try to convert Americans (and now Canadians) who are unfamiliar with the sport, as was the case with the MLS for most of its short history.

But ultimately it seems that Toronto was able to do what previous clubs haven't been able to: make Toronto FC's the team for all Toronto. There seems to be a connection with the city that most MLS franchises don't have with theirs. Even the name reflects the importance of the city, just Toronto Football Club; no silly mascots or nicknames attached to it and thus focusing all the attention on the city itself. Rather than being a soccer team within the city of (enter name here), TFC is Toronto's team and Toronto is TFC's city.

And the results are obvious. For example, when was the last time you heard chanting like this in a MLS match?

In my experience with MLS games, chanting usually only occurs in one section of the stadium, so for a stadium of 20,000 to be this loud, well more than one end of the stadium has to be singing, and with this being an MLS regular season match makes it that more impressive. But what really solidified TFC being the best supported team in the MLS was the reaction from the crowd after they (finally!) scored their first ever goal:

So here's to Toronto FC, you may be the newest club in the MLS, but you have quickly become one of the best in this young league. Now if only you could win a few more games...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

World Cup 2010

FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME, FIFA President Sepp Blatter confirmed the decision that South Africa's hosting of the 2010 World Cup will occur. Despite rumours about South Africa's inability to host the world's biggest single-sporting event, South African organizing chief Danny Jordaan has stated that the country is on or even ahead of schedule. Blatter has stated that the only reason for not having the World Cup being held on South African soil would be a natural disaster. Possible alternative venues, in case of such a disaster, would be the United States, England, Japan, Spain, Mexico and Australia.

Qualification rounds for the 2010 World Cup begin later this year.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Football Association Gets What the Football Association Wants

And the FA wanted a Man U-Chelsea FA Cup Final...and got it.

IT'S NO SECRET. The Football Association clearly had it's favourite during this year's FA Cup. As the teams dwindled down to the final four earlier this month, it was apparent which two teams would get the support of the FA. Although I personally would have enjoyed to see Watford and/or Blackburn Rovers in the final, just the possibility of those two teams making the final would have caused the FA enough heartburn to bother them all summer.

And it's easy to see why. This season's final will be the inaugural Cup Final to be held at the brand new New Wembley Stadium, and to have one or both of the English Premiership's marquee clubs to miss out on the party would have surely spoiled the FA's parade. Imagine this scenario playing out: Watford vs Blackburn Rovers for the FA Cup, a duel between a mid-table, regional Blackburn club and a Watford club that performed so poorly in the Premiership this year that they'll be relegated to League football next season.

Which is exactly why the Football Association sighed a sigh of great relief when the results of the semifinal round had Manchester United and Chelsea coming out on top. By having the first big match at New Wembley feature the two biggest clubs in English football, the many parties with a stake in this match will come out happy. Just consider how many people, companies and organizations has a marked interest in this match, financial and otherwise: the various television networks broadcasting the match, the sponsors on the jersey, the advertisers on the sidelines, the management at New Wembley, the clubs involved and the Football Association themselves all stand to gain from a high profile final. Additionally, with such popular clubs in the final, interest in the match is high from within the United Kingdom and especially outside it's frontiers. The fan clubs of both Chelsea and Man U. outside the UK are numerous, especially in the lucrative East Asian market, and this match will surely have television sets from Boston to Bangkok tuned in, something that neither Watford nor Blackburn could promise.

But although this might delight the movers and shakers at the Football Association, as well as Chelski and United fans alike, this is not necessarily the best result the FA Cup could have provided, when football is concerned. Surely, the money made and media exposure will be at its greatest with these two facing off, but it will be at the expense of English football and for that matter, world football in general. It's no secret that money has a tremendous influence in contemporary football, and has been for a long time, but the way the pursuit of the pound, euro and dollar (or yen, won and yuan for that matter) has basically overtaken any other factor means that football is becoming increasingly less competitive, that the large clubs will have even more influence and that the results of competitions will become more predictable. (Question: Who won the English Premiership this season? Answer: Manchester United...) The days of when Provincial Town FC from the Division Three Regional League had a chance to make it far in the FA Cup are long gone; those who support underdogs now root for mid-table clubs from the top league (e.g. Blackburn, 10th this season). Now the FA and its financial backers support the top clubs, because that's where the real money is at. Not to mention the FA's desire to reach middle class fans(read: more money), while alienating (abandoning?) the traditional working class fan base. And the result will be that the European football leagues will follow in English football's transformation into an "American style league," following the footsteps of the mega-rich pro sports leagues of the United States, especially the National Football League. What will that mean to Joe Public, football fan? Only time will tell if the FA's gambit will pay off or if there will be a backlash from the regular folk...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The WNT versus the World.

The United States women's national team ("The WNT") just learned about it's draw for the women's World Cup, which will happen this September in China. The Stars and Stripes will face off against North Korea, Nigeria and 2003 women's World Cup runner-ups, Sweden. More posts on the women's World Cup to come as the event comes closer.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Congratulations to the Celtic Football Club for winning yet another Scottish Premier League title
With Japanese ace Shunsuke Nakamura's stunning injury minute strike from a free kick, the Bhoys where able to defeat Kilmarnock 1-2 and secure their 41st(!) league championship with four matches to go. The three points earned at Rugby Park meant that the 81 points accumulated this season by the Celts is too high of a plateau to reach by the second place (and eternal rivals) Rangers.