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North American Soccer League Archives

The Big Pitcher: Open and Shut Case

Editor's Note: Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but It bends toward justice”. Sometimes we American soccer fans get wrapped up in the day-to-day, Monday morning quarterbacking (or centerbacking), knee-jerk reactions and miss out on the big picture. This weekly column will focus on picking out the larger themes and issues of Major League Soccer and the American game.

By Eric Betts / Senior Crystal Ball Correspondent

The third season of this particular iteration of the North American Soccer League kicks off this weekend, and for those of us whose interest is more in the league as an entity than in the fortunes of any particular team, the big story to follow is, naturally, the schedule?

The league announced last fall that they would split their schedule this year, play one season in the spring, another in the fall, and let the winners face off to determine the league champion. Apertura and clausura. Inicial and final. Invierno and verano. A format widely used in Central and South America, and one destined for success even in the hemisphere’s northern latitudes. Right?

Maybe. Truth be told, I’m at a loss; I don’t understand the reasoning behind the switch. The pros thrown out in press releases from the league and its teams sound weak. The change seems to be happening because the apertura/clausura schedule format, like George Malloy’s mountain, is there. 

Is it the weather? Does the modicum of home-field advantage cold weather in late November might provide for teams in Edmonton and Minnesota make up for the league deciding that the comfort of those fans who might want to actually attend their games in October/November was less important than that of fans in San Antonio or Ft. Lauderdale in July?

Saying the break helps the league sync with the international calendar is a nice little jab at MLS, except the only dates on the international calendar that the NASL’s break will free its players for is the Copa America and every other Gold Cup. (Though if any NASL players want to wait til the break to join their national teams for the World Cup, they’ll be able to meet up with the squad in time for the semi-finals).

Is it an attempt at outreach, a way of drawing new fans in? I found arguments from half a decade ago suggesting MLS adopt the A/C model to draw in Latino fans who have grown used to the model watching leagues in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and especially Mexico, which sounds like if Pepsi decided the best way to gussy up sales would be to start loading their product into red cans and boxes and hoping nobody noticed the difference on the inside.

Of course, sometimes marketing does work that way, be it subtle or painfully obvious. A change to something minor like the packaging can have a big influence on how a product is consumed, but when that does work it typically means there was something wrong with the package in the first place. Which, granted, some think might be the case.

To talk about the structure of the season in American sports is to talk about playoffs. (Say it with me, everyone. There I’m glad we went ahead and got that out.) Win or go home. History will be made. You can’t script October. Peyton’s a choker, etc. For the sake of excitement at the end of the season we discount excellence throughout it. In exchange for seeing the top teams reach a higher level of play at the end of the season, we discount slightly the early and middle portions of it.

That’s the Faustian bargain American sports, MLS included, have made: one part of the season for another. Plenty of soccer fans here think it’s a stupid arrangement for their particular sport, and plenty of others think that first group are stupid for thinking it’s stupid. We have a lot of this sort of argument in American soccer, and I have no more interest in debating single-table vs. playoffs than I do telling you which end to break your eggs on. But this third model that NASL is trying strikes me as a worst of both worlds approach.

NASL teams will play twelve games during their apertura,  There’s not a lot of time for teams to pull away from the pack, but at the same time, if someone falls into an early hole, a comeback will be nigh impossible. And so the best teams will be fighting tooth and nail for a spot in the league’s championship game, while the dregs and the mathematically-eliminated middle-class try to fine-tune themselves for the clausura, trying new players or new tactics with an eye towards winning in the future rather than the present. Which, considering each team plays the others only twice per -ura, could have big effects on what’s going on at the top.  

To be fair, this happens in sports leagues all around the world, but not seven games in, and not twice per year. Some teams will have renewed hope in August when they get their second crack at the championship. Many more will find they’ve been raised back up to 0-0-0 parity only to tumble to the basement again, continuing the cycle.

And the returns from this? A one-off championship, the Soccer Bowl, pitting a team that may have peaked four months ago against one that couldn’t beat them before they stopped caring. Potential for a classic championship, but one that lacks the momentum that builds during the playoffs or the stakes that come attached to something like the most valuable game in the world. 

What am I missing? What are the benefits? Those questions aren’t rhetorical; I really want someone to explain it to me.

What’s that? The Cosmos were only going to have their team ready in August anyway? Ohh. Never mind, then.

About Eric

Eric Betts is a freelancer writer who lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and his dog Lando (yup). He is a contributing writer for "The Other 87 Minutes", their brilliance featured every Tuesday on the Free Beer Movement in the form of "the Tuesday 10" or the "Tuesday XI". While attending Emory University he won "College Jeopardy"

Tags: Big Pitcher, Eric Betts, North American Soccer League

National Free Beer Movement Weekend 2013

Soccer newbies demand you buy them a beer.

This Sunday is "National Beer Day," the unofficial holiday in which Americans celebrate the return of delicious beer and spirits to the nation's bars and stores with the end of Prohibition in 1933.

Millions of Americans lined up at their local bars, pubs, and taverns ("New Beer's Eve") awaiting this moment when at twelve midnight they could drink again without fear of their suds confiscated or their speak-easys shut down. Happy days were here again. (In fact, 4,207 liquor licenses were issued in Milwaukee alone on April 7th!)

To celebrate the resurrection of beer drinking in the United States we are encouraging each American soccer fan to exercise that Constitutional right to drink beer and do it this weekend at a soccer game with a soccer newbie.

Celebrate "National Beer Day" by making this weekend "National Free Beer Movement Weekend".

Without the repeal of the 18th Amendment we wouldn't have delicious, delicious beer. And without said beer we wouldn't have the greatest motivator in the world to build American soccer.

This weekend when you're attending a Major League Soccer game or a North American Soccer League game or a USL PRO game or any live game... bring a friend. When you're watching English Premier League match Saturday and Sunday mornings.... bring a co-worker. When you're pulling up a seat to any soccer game that's live on on TV anywhere in this great nation or from anywhere in the world.... save a seat for a family member.

All of these people, in all of these situations, are potential soccer fans and they just need the proper setting, the proper education, and the proper brew, all provided by you, for them to be exposed to the wonderful world of soccer.

This is the perfect weekend to participate. All across Europe there are matches that will make-or-break title contenders and games that will decide the survival of other clubs. And, of course, in our domestic league, the love of our life, the MLS season (and the NASL is kicking off) is in full swing. First Kick has come and gone, but the newness of the season is still alive. Every team is still alive and optimism still reigns supreme.

There are tailgates galore to grab a brew, bars abound ready to fill your pint, and fridges fully stocked to host a gang so why not bring a few new fresh faces along and expose them to the beautiful game?

We want your to share your beers and buds with us. Share the beers you're drinking across the country and the friends that you're introducing soccer to with us.

Tweet or Facebook us with your photos of FBM in action this weekend, National Free Beer Movement Weekend 2013.


Cheers!

Historical Note: For many beer nerds, December 5th is the ultimate Prohibition-ending holiday called "Repeal Day" in honor of the final necessary 2/3rds of states (Utah, of all places) ratifying the 21st Amendment. For the Free Beer Movement we're going with this day to honor when President Franklin D. Rooesvelt signed Cullin-Harrison Act became law, official ending the failed Prohibition experiment and allowing beer and other alcohol to flow freely again. Also, since this date falls during the MLS season it makes even more sense.

Tags: Beer, FBM In Action, Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League, Public Service Announcement

Your American Soccer Weekend (October 27-28)

It's the closing of the Major League Soccer season. Get your American soccer fix this weekend! All the satellite, online, local, and national TV listings so you can spread the free beer love.

Graphic Courtesy of Major League Soccer

Get MLS LIVE for all the great out-of-market MLS Action.

 

Additionally, the second-leg of the North American Soccer League "Soccer Bowl" is tonight from Tampa Bay as the Rowdies host Minnesota Stars FC at 7:30pm CT. The Stars hold a 2-0 aggregate lead from the first leg and could win their second NASL Championship tonight. Watch online for free.

Tags: Major League Soccer, News, North American Soccer League

Your American Soccer Weekend (Oct. 20-21)

Get your American soccer fix this weekend! All the satellite, online, local, and national TV listings so you can spread the free beer love.

Graphic Credit: MLSSoccer.com

Get MLS LIVE for all the great out-of-market MLS Action.

Additionally, the first-leg of the North American Soccer League "Soccer Bowl" is tonight from Minnesota as Stars FC host the Tampa Bay Rowdies at 7:30pm CT. Watch online for free.

Tags: Major League Soccer, News, North American Soccer League

Your American Soccer Weekend (October 6-7)

 

Get your American soccer fix this weekend! All the satellite, online, local, and national TV listings so you can spread the free beer love.

Graphic Credit: MLSSoccer.com

 

Get MLS LIVE for all the great out-of-market MLS Action.

Additionally, the North American Soccer League playoffs continue this weekend (Saturday: Carolina Railhawks vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, 6pm CT; Sunday Minnesota Stars FC vs. San Antonio Scorpions, 7:30pm CT). Watch all of the action for free.

Tags: Major League Soccer, News, North American Soccer League

Your American Soccer Weekend (Sept. 28-30)

Get your American soccer fix this weekend! All the satellite, online, local, and national TV listings so you can spread the free beer love.

Graphic Credit: MLSSoccer.com

Get MLS LIVE for all the great out-of-market MLS Action.

Additionally, the North American Soccer League playoffs begin this weekend. Watch all of the action for free.

Tags: Major League Soccer, News, North American Soccer League

Your American Soccer Weekend (Sept 22-23)

Get your American soccer fix this weekend! All the satellite, online, local, and national TV listings so you can spread the free beer love.

Graphic Credit: MLSSoccer.com

Get MLS LIVE for all the great out-of-market MLS Action.

Additionally, the North American Soccer League finishes its regular season this weekend. Watch all of the action for free.

Tags: Major League Soccer, Media, News, North American Soccer League

The Best of Both Worlds: NASL Champion Minnesota Stars FC Get Their Own Beer



When the Minnesota Stars won the 2011 North American Soccer League championship cup last fall we're sure they weren't thinking they'd be able to drink a beer made especially for them when their title defense kicked off the following spring.

The Twin Cities-based Northern Brewer, a home brewing store with over 17 years experience and the web's number one retailer of home brewing supplies, just announced a partnership with the club that will put a Stars-specific beer in the hands of their supporters.

Meet "Shining Star" Pale Ale.

In the words of Northern Brewer:
Bright and intrepid, great hops on a grassy backdrop, and superb interplay between all the elements. Wait, are we talking about the beer or the Stars Soccer team? The two converge in this tribute beer to The Minnesota Stars FC, the 2011 North American Soccer League Champions.
To support their worthy efforts we've developed a hop-forward pale ale of the American school. Palisade hops lend a smooth bitterness while Centennial and Columbus provide brisk citrus, pine, and grassy flavors. A measured contribution of crystal sweetness from Bairds Light Carastan rounds out the flavor and makes for a
A sessionable ale, perfect for watching the latest match or unwinding after a game.
Northern Brewer is donating 10% of profits from this kit to the Sanneh Foundation, a charity that focuses on soccer as a way to make a difference in the lives of inner city kids.
Stars FC now join an elite group of teams and/or supporters that have beers made in their honor, but the first home brew that fans can make themselves.

Sporting KC has their "Drop Kick" Amber Ale from Weston Brewing, while supporters of Seattle Sounders have two beers to their name ("Brougham Bitter" from Big Al and soon "No Equal" Amber from Redhook), and Columbus Crew have a pair of local beers renamed for their team.

The beer is now available from Northern Brewers online shop. Even if you're not a Stars FC, but you are a home brewing soccer fan, why not try and brew up this batch?

Get the NEW Free Beer Movement "Pint Glass" shirt! Only from Objectivo.com

Tags: Beer, North American Soccer League, The Best of Both Worlds