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Why American Soccer - Supporters Supporting Supporters

Editor's Note: This anecdote is from our journey from FBM HQ in Austin to Frisco to take in the FC Dallas vs. Sporting KC match. But it is also heavily influenced by the awesome openness we've seen on our USMNT travels to Denver, Seattle, and Salt Lake City this year. Local fans welcoming "outsiders" with open arms and being gracious hosts.

The fans clad in red had picked their spot next to the stadium. This was their sport. They were always here before a game. Grills lit. Kegs tapped. Territory staked out.

Before long supporters wearing various shades of blue arrived. At first there were only a few, the men and women in red paid little attention to them, but then the chartered buses pulled up. The hiss of each of the two buses loudly announcing their arrival. One-by-one.... more blue. The supporters of each, now their numbers more equal, stood toe-to-toe sizing each other up. A mild breeze flapped each groups' flags.

This was Texas so if it was an old Western movie one could imagine a tumbleweed rolling across the scene along with a pan flute and "wa-wa-waaaa".

The hesitation was slightly, but the two groups moved toward each other... and embraced.

Backslaps, handshakes, scarves shared, the clinking of beers, and gentle banter of the evening's match ensued.

These are the supporters of American soccer. More friends than foes.

On this particularly hot and breezy Texas afternoon the one of the supporter groups of FC Dallas, the Dallas Beer Guardians, welcomed a travelling band of Sporting KC supporters, the Cauldron, to their tailgate.

No f-bombs or knife fights. The only blood spilled was from one FCD supporter to another when he accidently caught an elbow to the nose from a fellow fan as the Hoops made a dramatic, two-goal comeback late in the night's game.

The relative short history of Major League Soccer (and even less so in the leagues below) means that the deep-seeded rivalries of a Chivas-America, River Plate-Boca, Liverpool-Manchester United, or a Barcelona-Real Madrid have not yet evolved. And while we won't know if any of these clubs' supporters shared beers fifty or a hundred years ago the camaraderie of the majority of MLS supporters now bodes well for the future.

Sharing is caring.

There's a sense among soccer supporters in the United States that "we're all in this together". That even the rivalries, while emerging, are mostly in good fun. Supporters can separate what happens on the field for ninety minutes from the tailgates before and the bars afterwards. The greater goal is building American soccer and fans of the league are keeping their eyes on the prize.

There are certainly very intense rivalries in MLS (Portland-Seattle, LA-San Jose, Philly-NY, etc) and the passion of each set of supporters from those teams is palpable, but overall when the road team's fan travel they're usually welcomed with open arms by the home side's fans.

For the traveling Cauldron the eight-plus-hour drive down Interstate-35 represents the closest road match they're able to attend. Why spending a night in the Frisco Police Department lock up over a brawl when you can sample the DBG's local craft beer selection they provided for themselves and their new KC friends? It's probably why one of the Beer Guardian's flags is emblazoned with "#BeerFamily". That's what is should be mostly about anyway; a cold brew and a little polite conversation over which state makes the better BBQ.

Saturday was no different and this is what makes American soccer great. Two teams facing off on-the-field, but their supporters enjoying each other's company off-the-field.

No one is asking for sanitized, family-friendly supporters, but just the idea that we'd much rather share a beer than a fist-fight. A war of words and wit (and their team backing it up on the field) can be just as effective.

It's what sets American soccer apart from the rest of the world. We don't have to resort to hooliganism to support our teams; to violence and vitriol to prove who is better.

As the Sporting supporters prepared to re-board their buses after conceding two late goals to draw the match there were the FC Dallas supporters. Not to rub the tie in their faces, but to offer up one more local beer, well-wishes, and safe travels home.

This is American soccer. This is why American soccer.

Tags: Supporters Groups, Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

 
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By Alexi Lalas /   Do you REALLY need us to tell you who he is and what he does?
 
It hasn’t always been easy to love this game in our country. When someone says, “I’m an American soccer fan,” they often have the scars to prove it. 
 
But the history, culture, and lifestyle behind our sport is real, and it has helped us survive. And now, it will help us thrive. 
 
Soccer is no longer a niche sport in America. Yet it still remains an alternative to convention. It’s like Nirvana after Bleach — as cool and alluring as a hipster band, yet as dorky and naïve as a teenager.
 
Here’s what I believe:
 
I believe American soccer will only get bigger and stronger because it is becoming a way of life for more and more people. I believe that the game will increasingly influence the style, talk, politics and even morals of the American soccer fan. I believe that groups like the FBM and the American Outlaws are evangelizing fans in creative, organized, and intelligent ways that reflect the actual game. 
 
Because the experience of being inside the American soccer culture is unique, inclusive, and contagious.
 
I’ve been lucky to be a part of American soccer for a long time. I’ve seen the sport grow and I’ve grown with it. Through it all, I’ve come to realize that, no matter how hard we aim for the ideal, it’s not perfect and it’s not infallible. But it is ours. 
 
Eventually, the teenagers grow up and the best bands graduate to mainstream popularity. So I know that soccer will become an accepted major American sport. 
 
But for now, it is simply our way of life. A life we choose or maybe a life that chose us. Either way, it is a life we love. And now more than ever, we are not alone.


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

Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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Local, live soccer. Austin, 2009. (Photo by Free Beer Movement)

By APR and Teucer / "Juggle the Numbers"

We take the "Why American soccer?" question a step further and ask: "Why local soccer?"  We live in a world of instantaneous communication, where we can all theoretically know about soccer results as they are happening. Indeed, as a pair of amateur statisticians we keep abreast of all the results in the leagues that interest us. Every soccer aficionado has easy exposure to the best teams in the world, which means we can be fans of them from anywhere. If you want to watch the best quality soccer in the world, it’s at your fingertips; if we wanted to analyze the best and most followed leagues, we would be quite able to do so.

But we follow the domestic game, because we favor local soccer. There is nothing like being a part of the excitement and feeling a part, however small, of your team’s victories. A win for a team you happen to enjoy, playing in a stadium you will likely never see in your life, is far less engrossing than the energy of a supporters’ section at a local match. We rejoice in the tension of the buildup before a quality chance, in the unbridled joy that comes from the stands as the home team sinks a late goal to get a result, in the stunned silence that follows a particularly damaging away goal. We delight in watching as the wins pile up and our local teams move up the table, and in the pain of watching as they are in near free-fall to the bottom, in the camaraderie that develops between your friends at the stadium and in the shared hatred of the local rivals. These are all things which have a much more profound effect when it is something you can identify with. Compared to the best teams in the Premiership or Serie A, we’re watching second-rate sides on second-rate fields - but as long as they are our second-rate sides, playing at our second-rate fields in our hometown stadia, this will always be more satisfying than anything we might see on a broadcast from Europe.

Stepping back from "Why local soccer?" to "Why American soccer?", we can then take our passion for our individual local team, and use it to build passion for our "local" league.  Whether that league is a fully national league, or a recreational league in a small city or town, passion for the league will help it to grow and improve.  In the long term, that builds up the quality of play, and improves not just the local soccer environment, not just the national one, but the worldwide one.  A stronger local recreational league improves exposure and talent level on the local basis, which in turn increases it on the national level, and eventually up to the global level.  By having better local leagues, we have the facilities to expose more people, young and old, to the sport.  As soccer becomes more ingrained in our culture, the quality of the top players produced by our nations will continue to improve.  If you are a fan of your national team, even if just for the World Cup, then it is in your interest to help improve your national league structure.

American soccer is nothing more nor less than the sum of all the local soccer in all of the United States. It unites thirty-two professional teams and their thousands of eager fans, along with countless amateurs competing on every level from backyard pickup games to the US Open Cup. To embrace American soccer is to embrace local soccer, and vice versa - and once you’ve dipped your toe in those waters, you never leave. We might have our favorite teams abroad as well, but it is our local clubs to which our hearts truly belong. We stand in our supporters’ sections and chant, or we volunteer our time to help our teams make the season happen. We follow our teams by high-def television or by low-resolution webcasts, by busing to rivals’ stadia, by social media on the web and by the old-fashioned web of real social interaction with other fans. We endure torrents of rain we hope may let up any minute and summer heat we know will not break until the next game, if then - because when we feel our hearts race with every goal and every near miss, we know we’re precisely where we want to be.

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

Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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"Why American Soccer for Chuck and I"

By Ted Westervelt / SoccerReform.Us

It’s almost embarrassingly American in scope and scale.  It’s an epic packed with gritty underdog performances, spectacular superclub failures, mind-boggling international upsets and it even features a few world record-setters.   It’s marked by spectacular club highs and bottomless league lows.  It’s a tragedy that our passion for the game and our great soccer legacy remains largely untapped, uncelebrated, and unrecognized.  It would be a comedy if we sacrificed that narrative for the financial needs of a few.

Like every sport, and every footballing nation, the story of our game – and Why American Soccer for Chuck and I, is rooted in old nationalist agendas, powerful passions and brash characters.  It’s also chocked full corny clichés and examples of our incredible stubbornness, remarkable resilience and dramatic passion for the game.   I wish we showcased a few more of them, and shrouded a few less.

Here’s one.

May 6, 1916 - Pawtucket, Rhode Island:

Coats Field stands filled to the gills for the third annual National Challenge Cup Final – a competition known today as the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.The Fall River Rovers are in a pickle in the 89th minute.  Any Red Sox fan would recognize the anger building the partisan New England sports crowd.  Their team was in the process of getting robbed.    Bethlehem Steel, FC - the first great behemoth of US club soccer - had converted a dubious penalty nine minutes before to make it 1-0.   Since then, Charles Schwab’s Pennsylvania Steelmen, stacked with highly paid British talent, weathered wave after wave of underdog yankee pressure from the hotheaded Rovers - American born to a man.  On top of that, Pawtucket is barely twenty miles from Fall River, making it a virtual hometown crowd.  The referee looks down at his watch just as an attacking Rovers player is sawn down in the box…. And there is no whistle.

10,000 pour onto the field – some of them literally from the rafters.   The final whistle blows - in the midst of a full-blown riot.

That’s Why American Soccer for me.  It’s coffee with three sugars in a seedy diner, not lukewarm tea with curdled cream at your auntie’s.   No, it’s not New England hooliganism, or lax building codes, but it is scrappy underdogs fighting against all odds, not two teams limited in quality to produce a close match.   It’s a team of American club stars from teams like the Providence Clamdiggers and the New Bedford Whalers taking us to the semifinals of the first World Cup in 1930 – without giving up a goal.   It’s guys from teams sponsored by local laundries and car dealers in St. Louis and recent immigrants from NYC that stung the great English two World Cups later.   It’s a mullet headed mob of Cosmos fans that that led us back to the competition again forty years later.  It’s the lowly LA Blues taking a one-goal lead on David Beckham’s LA Galaxy in the 2011 installment of the competition, and the look on Bruce Arena’s face when they did it.  It’s the bloody mug of a lanky forward from Schaumburg, Illinois.   His left eye swollen entirely shut, he’s pouring everything onto the field in match between two teams limited by nationality, but not a salary cap.

We are separated from the star spangled events in Pawtucket - and Why American Soccer for me - by time, space, and philosophy.   In 1916 our first bona fide top-flight league, the ASL, was still eight years away.   Two years after FIFA sanctioned US Soccer, owners like Charles Schwab top were not limited to a certain caliber of club, or painted into a caste system of leagues. Leagues were simply amalgamations of teams – much like their European cousins. Teams moved freely in and out of them based on the quality of their play, support from fans, and the resources of their owners.   There is no evidence that our federation had official conversations on codifying this status quo with an official system of promotion and relegation.  Neither did they discuss any possibility of leagues owning and limiting the quality of independent clubs for competitive balance and a hedge against owner financial risk, like MLS does today.

Schwab built arguably the greatest club in US history - and a soccer specific stadium to boot – to make his company and community proud.  By all accounts, his employees and Bethlehem residents were pretty psyched that he financed the best soccer club in the US – and arguably one of the better clubs in the world.   As evidenced in Pawtucket, there no doubt whatsoever that Schwab’s superclub stirred the passions of rival supporters.  If you recognize his name, chances are it’s not for his fiscal recklessness.

According to some reports, Steel games were often sparsely attended - but Bethlehem wasn’t Pittsburgh or Philly in size and scope.   Wily old Chuck must have gotten something out of building that first US superclub.   He certainly didn’t subscribe to slow, responsible growth.   I bet he figured his shrewd supporters wouldn’t take to a club limited for parity and competitive balance by an agreement he signed with Rockefeller, Carnegie and Astor.   I think he was probably right.

Some may point to the demise of Bethlehem Steel FC a decade and a half later as an example of Schwab’s financial folly and the unsustainable nature of unlimited soccer clubs.  To them I pose this caveat:  On the eve of the Great Depression, European federations were lining up behind the FA to open their leagues and implement promotion and relegation.   It was a brilliant move that ushered in a period of remarkable stability.  Leagues couldn’t financially collapse if clubs were true independent entities.   Eighty years later, that system has never allowed the financial irresponsibility of any one club to collapse an entire league.

In contrast, after the crash of ’29, top flight American club soccer suffered a financial implosion so complete, even Charles Schwab couldn’t escape.   It would be the first of many.  By themselves, corny cinderella stories of rag tag local teams fighting their guts out against behemoth superclubs like Bethlehem Steel couldn’t sustain the US club game.

In order to maintain the Why American Soccer narrative that Chuck and I appreciate - and a stable system of leagues - brave leadership from our federation was required.
We’re still waiting.

It pisses me off that Europeans figured out how to accommodate Why American Soccer for guys like us almost a century ago.  It’s kooky that US Soccer still hasn’t.  Thank goodness the US Open Cup remains alive.  God Bless the Pacific Northwest for caring about it, because today our federation and leagues hardly lift a finger to promote the legacy-laden competition.  They even scheduled a regular season MLS match on top of the Final this year – an incredible oversight considering the fact that an MLS executive runs US Soccer in his spare time.

Mad as I am that Europe beat us to Why American Soccer in the age of jazz, I’m not going to hold it against them.  It’s time to be forthright and magnanimous about this, give them full credit, and come in last in the race to promotion, relegation, and independent clubs.  That way our unlimited teams can battle theirs for first place on the pitch.

Chuck wouldn’t send his team into a match limited for competitive balance.   That wouldn’t be Why American Soccer for him, and it definitely isn’t for me.

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

Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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By Miriti Murungi / NutmegRadio.com
MLS has been around for almost 5,700 days. That’s it.
On Day One, April 6, 1996, the San Jose Clash squared off against eventual champions DC United. At kickoff, the Internet as we know it today was a pipedream, analog cell phones were only in the pockets a few people who had hobbies like collecting classic cars and wine appreciation, Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg was an eleven year old harboring dreams of being sued, and #Twitter was ten years from launch. So many products, services and ideas that are now integral parts of our existence were isolated in the minds of science fiction writers and dismissed by countless others as utterly ridiculous. But that’s the story of human history, isn’t it?
If you tried to articulate what American soccer would look like in 2011 back on April 6, 1996, your family and friends wouldn’t be crazy to consider checking you into a facility where you would share sessions with the Lindsay Lohan of 1996, Robert Downey, Jr. But time has a way of catching up, and soon, our ridiculous science fiction fantasies become reality. That’s true in technology and soccer.
In context, five thousand seven hundred days isn’t a long time. In fact, one hundred years isn’t a very long time. One hundred years sounds like an eternity for many of us who are only several decades old, but one hundred years is also the age of a number of really old people, people who have seen society evolve in remarkable ways over the past century.
My surprisingly mobile, Kenyan grandmother is at least one hundred years old, but probably closer to one hundred ten. Calculating her exact age, aside from being unnecessary, is close to impossible because she doesn’t have a birth certificate. Nevertheless, we do know that she has lived through seeing her first white person, which is the equivalent of a person today sauntering around a corner and running into a green person; she heard English for the first time, and then saw English, a language she doesn’t speak, become an official language of Kenya, which, by the way, wasn’t even a country when she was born; and she saw a plane for the first time when she made the full-day journey (now a three hour drive) to the airport in Nairobi where she saw off her sixteen-year-old son who was embarking on a very random excursion to go study in some place called the United States. The next time she would see or speak to her son would be almost a decade later because there was no money for him to get back home and she didn’t have a phone. It would be decades until she got electricity.
In her century-plus of life, my grandmother has experienced independent rural living, then colonialism and the end of colonialism, the rise of metal boxes cruising around without animal assistance, and grandchildren, born to her son and Kenyan daughter-in-law in a land far, far away, who began visiting her about sixteen years after her son’s departure, oddly, speaking a language that was completely alien to her at a point during her adult life. And now, she periodically rides in her American, English-speaking grandson’s rented Toyota Corolla with her other Kenyan grandchildren, telling us tales of corruption and asking questions in Kimeru (her native language) about Obama's foreign policy and why people flew planes into buildings. That's a hell of a hundred years.
What’s all this have to do with anything? Good question.
To think that anything is out of the realm of possibility when we are only sixteen short years into a growing league shows a lack of appreciation of history and time. If we’re being honest, given how much can change in a relatively short period of time, guessing what American soccer will look like in just sixteen more years is about as difficult as my grandmother predicting that she would be comfortably riding in a Japanese car with me and my cousins in the 21st century.
Although the future is difficult to predict, we can recognize that American soccer has made phenomenal strides, morphing into a present that in many ways is unrecognizable from its form sixteen short years ago. We have financed and built major, sophisticated stadiums just for soccer. Real ones. That is unbelievable, science fiction fantasy on par with the Internet and personal cell phones to the average mind in the early to mid-1990s. It’s as mind-bending to an early 90s mind as my brother and I must have been to my grandmother.
These days, every summer, major clubs from around the world – Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Inter Milan – come to the United States to play our teams in our stadiums. We hear complaints, year after year, about how these friendlies are meaningless, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that similar mutterings have come out of my mouth, but the fact that they regularly exist is truly remarkable if we choose to operate with any measure of context.
In the last sixteen years, arguably, no soccer landscape has evolved as quickly as the US soccer landscape, a point those perpetually focused on shortcomings might miss. Of course, there is still work to do, but the foundation is already impressive. In context, so are the numbers. In 1995, average MLS attendance was zero (0). Today, league-wide attendance numbers hover around a much-more-than-respectable 17,000 spectators. In context, those numbers are at least admirable and, at most, fantasy numbers.
So, why American soccer? Because the greatest show on earth may be developing right in our backyard. That my sound asinine now, but perhaps not so much if you consider the rapid expansion and development that has taken place over the last sixteen years.
 
Twenty years from now, you'll be watching a documentary chronicling this period that's so compelling you'll wish you were there. Well you are. Now. Here’s how the documentary begins:
 
The growth of modern, professional American soccer is a fascinating tale of invisibility, failure, failure, North American Soccer League, failure, Major League Soccer, resilience, globalization, immigration, identity, curious models of competition, and meteoric ascension, all being told through a ball and some grass, or in the case of the Seattle Sounders, some sort of synthetic grassy stuff. At the beginning, few could confidently say that Major League Soccer would succeed; few could envision a US men’s national team consistently in the knockout stages of the World Cup; few could envision a Women’s World Cup. But against the odds, all of these fantasies have become reality, and we’re only at the beginning.
 
I’m not so sure my grandmother would enjoy the documentary. She doesn’t even have a television, and even if she did, her vision would prevent her from reading the subtitles, as would her inability to read. But I’m sure she could appreciate and attest to the value of supporting someone or something that has shown great potential and has made massive strides in a very short period of time, even if that person or thing at times seems thousands of miles away. As she is well aware, incomprehensible futures have a habit of quickly becoming reality, and the ride is often just as rewarding as the destination.

That's why American soccer.

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

Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

 
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By Chris Billig / "Gay 4 Soccer"

Why American soccer?
 
Because no other sports culture is such a testament to its nation’s great diversity.
 
America is a nation of immigrants, and true to that tradition, Major League Soccer is a league of immigrants. At the start of the 2011 season, 38 percent of players on the league’s rosters were born outside of the United States and Canada, adding the first players from China and Israel and representing 57 nations in total. These figures make the MLS the most diverse league in our country. Clubs get high marks when it comes to diversity in hiring in national studies. But forget the statistics; for me it’s more about the feeling of pride I get when I see the series of flags representing players’ home countries adorning PPL Park’s River End during Philadelphia Union home games.
 
It’s the pride in diversity through displays like this that really makes us special. Major League Soccer made “Embrace the Colors” the cornerstone of a past marketing campaign. The delegation making the case to FIFA last fall for a World Cup in the USA boasted the diversity of our nation and within the sport as a part of their efforts.  Even our Commander in Chief acknowledged the Colorado Rapids’ diversity when they visited the White House this summer:  This is like a mini United Nations right here,” President Obama remarked. “You’ve got players from Argentina, England, France, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Scotland, and Senegal.”
 
The diversity in soccer’s fan base is something special too, even for the tensions it can sometimes bring. There are the vansful of suburban youth soccer players herded by their parents and coaches and the scores of latino fans who bring along the traditions of the soccer fan communities of Mexico, Central, and South America. And for me as a fan, diversity amongst the fan base means being welcomed as a gay man by the local soccer supporters groups to which I belong.  
 
And when it comes to the LGBT community, all sports have far to go, but America’s soccer community has taken some great strides this year and achieved some notable firsts. This July the Columbus Crew became the first American pro sports team to co-host a gay sports tournament with their Pride Cup. Chivas USA’s Michael Lahoud and Justin Braun are the first pro sports teammates to pose together for a NO H8 Campaign photograph leading up to Major League Soccer’s first Equality Night at the Home Depot Center. (Braun scored a hat trick against Houston that night.) The Sounders participated in a Seattle-wide pro sports video for the It Gets Better project and DC United became the first MLS team to make one on their own supporting LGBT youth. These efforts make me proud beyond words to be an American soccer supporter.
 
So from race and ethnicity to gender and sexual orientation, diversity within the sport will always be a work in progress. But right now it’s the biggest answer I have to “Why American Soccer?”
 
About Chris
 
Chris Billig is a soccer supporter in Austin, TX, where he helps run the city's American Outlaws chapter. He is working on starting a blog with a gay slant on American soccer, currently Tweeting at @gay4soccer and posting at gay4soccer.com.

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Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews And Views Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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By Eric Betts / The Other 87 Minutes

Or rather, why soccer?
 
Soccer isn’t my favorite because it’s the lovable underachieving sport, or because the cool kids, the beautiful people, the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies or dickheads love it and think it’s a righteous sport, Ed.

I love it more than the others because I believe the mechanics of the game are more refined, more entertaining to watch and participate in. The game is better, the same way Monopoly is better than Battleship or the jungle gym better than the see-saw. And because I believe that, I also believe that the game can speak for itself; that the key draw beneath the advertising and the branding and even the free beer is the soccer. That the game will spread as the understanding of it spreads. That to know soccer is to love it. 
 
Because make no mistake. Our game is superior.

It’s not just because the action is continuous, with fewer and shorter breaks than nearly every other major sport, though that certainly doesn’t hurt. I’ve already written on our site about how the average football telecast features 11 minutes of gameplay and 17 minutes of replays and the average baseball game consists of somewhere between 55 and 500 distinct moments of gameplay, each lasting between 0.396 seconds, in the case of a 103-mph fastball, and 30 seconds, in the case of a David Ortiz home run waddle, which we’re generously counting as gameplay in order to make a point. Compare that to soccer, where it’s 90 - (TAS - STA) or 90 minutes minus (time actually stopped minus stoppage time allotted). The common complaint from the non-fan — “But they’re not doing anything!” — really means they’re not doing anything that can be quantified for the non-fan to understand. But continuous play is just the means to an end, not the end in itself. That we have so much action makes soccer better; it isn’t why soccer is better.

The key to all ball sports is the manipulation of space. From billiards to basketball, tennis to team handball, controlling the space in which the game is played in the surest way to victory. We don’t always think of sports this way. Even the kids on the U8 team I’m coaching this fall see it in the negative, as the absence of opposition from a particular zone rather than the positive, the presence of open space. We talk of shaking your man, of getting open; of pulling your opponent around the court, of hitting it where they ain’t. We’re talking about space.

Teams battle to control that space within certain limitations of their game. This limitation, in my experience, is the sticking point for many of soccer’s detractors, at least the ones who aren’t just complaining that soccer players aren’t doing anything. This prohibition on the use of hands seems to them to be insurmountable.

Football has limits built throughout its rules — about the forward pass, about receiver eligibility, about the ball not being allowed to touch the ground — but the biggest is one of time. Play is so easy to stop that there is very little time for the offense to accomplish anything before they have to start again, hopefully a little bit further down the field. The time limit is so brief as to constrain independent thought; that’s why football teams leave the thinking up to their quarterbacks and coaches, and require other players to merely execute or follow their own decision trees. A football player doesn’t have time to figure out what his teammates are doing; he has to know immediately, and so the sport is prescribed and decisions assigned according to its caste system.

In basketball, the limitation isn’t time but space. A basketball court is a small area for ten large men to run around in, one that’s getting smaller as the players get larger, and so the challenge becomes about overcoming density. The space required to operate is at a premium, but basketball is also the sport that requires the least amount of space. The most common way for players to create space is to use the z-axis: can’t go around them, can’t go through them, have to go over them. Another is to take advantage of that density with plays like pick and rolls, backdoor cuts or three point specialists who run around four different screens before catching and uncorking their shot. They collide bodies into one another in order to ensure there isn’t a body waiting at the point where they wish to score.

Soccer’s limitation is actually less constricting than either of these. It only checks how you can manipulate the ball, not what you can do with it or where or when. There is space for players to exploit not just as individuals but as a unit, and there is time for them to think and solve problems rather than simply executing someone else’s dictum before the man with the ball gets killed.

That freedom leads to what was called earlier in this series “moments.” Moments are better than highlights; a highlight is impressive, a moment makes your jaw drop. Typically moments have something extra about them. Usain Bolt’s 9.58 in Berlin in 2009 was a highlight, but his 9.69 in Beijing, the one where he started celebrating with 20 yards to go in a race for the Olympic gold medal, was a moment.

In soccer, that something extra is not just that the stakes of scoring are so much higher, it’s often an idea. The highlights of other sports are typically physical, a combination of athleticism and technique. With the time and space limitations, that’s what those players have the ability to do. The highlights of soccer often have a mental component: a nugget of creativity at their heart. It’s the defense-splitting pass, the crossfield ball that sets a man 40 yards away free on goal, the two touches taken to get around three defenders. The way the physical blends with the artistic.

These moments aren’t limited to the soccer you watch on TV. You can have them in pickup or in indoor play, kids can make their moments in rec or travel ball. They’re a little slower, a little sloppier, but they’re the kind of plays you remember for the rest of the season, if not the rest of your life.

It’s great that American soccer is on the rise; it’s fun to get to root not just for a team, but for an entire sport to succeed. But ultimately, that means little. If our sport was as popular as water polo, jai alai or korfball, we’d still be there to coach, watch and play it.

It’s the best game in town.




[1] With the exception, interestingly enough, of dodgeball, where the spaces are rigidly defined between teams. When I was 11, some friends and I invented a version of dodgeball that we played after Boy Scout meetings. I’ll go to my grave convinced that our version is superior.

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Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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By Abram Chamberlain / "Front Office Blog"

There’s nothing more American than bad sports movie clichés: the undisciplined team in search of a coach, the player who’s personal faults get in the way of his own success, and thelittle team who shocks the world.  Yet finding these tropes playing out in real life is difficult, if not near impossible.

As heroic as Willie Mayes Hayes looks jumping up the wall to save his team from a homerun, it’s not the same feeling we get while watching Carl Crawford do the a similar job. We watch sports movies and ignore their clichés, because we want life to imitate art, but it rarely does. Yes, we know that Woody and Wesley will always make up in time to beat The King and Duck, Hickory High School will always win the Indiana State
Basketball Championship, Ricky Vaughn will always get Clu Haywood swinging, but the climaxes are enthralling every time.

We care for these players and they're not even real.  In those worlds these fictional characters make less money than us. In those worlds these fictional characters make everlasting memories that get engrained in our consciousness.  In those worlds the actions of these fictional characters draw everyone, the crowd, the team, the communities, the families – except for Rosie Perez- back together.  The only sport that comes close to the clichés is American soccer.

This is why Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria is better than Roy Hobb’s homerun.  It is why the 2009 Confederations Cup against Spain was more powerful than Rocky Balboa finally taking down Apollo Creed.  It is why RSL’s loss to Monterrey in the second leg of the 2010 CONCACAF Champions League Final was more devastating than watching the Permian Panthers fall just short of their ultimate goal -poor referring and all. And
while MLS is not the best league in the world I cheer for them, because as sports movies have shown us repeatedly everyone loves the rough, rugged runt. Just look at Tanner in The Bad News Bears.

Why American soccer?

Because everyone doubts America’s abilities as a soccer nation (Gridiron Gang).  Because Spain is better (Miracle).  Because of second half comebacks in the 2010 World Cup (Diggstown). Because of the failures at the 2011 Gold Cup (Sunset Park). Because of last second hail maries to Juan Agudelo against Argentina (The Replacement). Because everyone loves an underdog (every sports movie since the original Karate Kid).

Everyone loves the sports movie cliché, and no sport brings these clichés to life better than the beautiful game as played by Americans in America.


About Aaron

He is a soccer contributor for "Front Office Blogs". You can follow him on Twitter as well.

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Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

 
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"American Soccer: A Dissident, A Dissident Is Here"

By Matt T / "The Shin Guardian"

A few weeks back I took a listen of Coldplay's new single "Paradise."

With it's first release, Yellow, way back in the 1990's, Coldplay had some promise. They weren't quite Radiohead-ish in their approach and analogies to Scottish-band Travis popped up for them as they got going, but soon it was the full, near-oppressive marketing force or power or whatever that thrust them through the MTV channel on the box and into every kid's earbuds.

Before that moment, it was of course, Coldplay and it's raw music arrangements. The band had talent and even at the moment after the song "Yellow" and it's accompanying video screamed up the charts, there was a feeling that the band still could choose the path it wanted to take.

Christ Martin & friends as we know took the fortune and fame route. I don't begrudge them that at all, but the release of their second album oozed with "stadium-fillers." What are stadium-fillers? Anthemic songs that play well to large audience in massive arenas and...stadiums.

At that moment they lost me, they choose their route and I choose mine; a route not unchoosen by many early adopters of a band. I choose the wistful, "I remember when" and thought of songs like "Sparks" whenever "Clocks" and "Green Eyes" would emanate from the ceiling speakers at my dentist's office.

Now, I take a listen of new Coldplay singles in the hopes they'll one day return to their roots, flush with cash and settle back into a more anonymous existence producing the music that I hoped they'd make. They'd backtrack and take the path not taken.

But, before I even listen to the new singles, I've already pre-determined their personal failure and listen more with amusement imagining how this song or that song will be tweaked at the O2 in London or at Red Rocks in Colorado. My predetermined expectations have never been bucked.

Pearl Jam turned 20 years old recently and they may as well have choosen Frank Sinatra's "We Did It Our Way" as their anthem.

Igniting out of Seattle as "The Grunge Scene" was taking grabbing a foothold in the early 1990's, Pearl Jam's "Ten" was strong, nay, it was fierce, flush with musical accomplishment.

The band's follow-up "Vs." only hit harder, ironic in that it was acoustic piece "Daughter" that resonated the best. The album sold the most copies at the time of any album in it's first week.

Then the band hiccuped. It went toe-to-toe with Ticketmaster who had marked up tickets for shows on their tour. The band in-fought and the product suffered. The next releases underwhelming into the late 1990's--the album "Yield" had every Pearl Jam fan scratching their heads wondering if the tombstone had already been etched for the Seattle crew fronted by Eddie Vedder and backed up by Stone Gossard.

The previous album No Code had been experimental but Yield was supposed to illicit the pleasures of yesteryear. It didn't. But Pearl Jam kept toiling and kept toiling.

The band overcame the loss of band members and the Rokilde tragedy (when a compressed crowd led to 9 deaths at a show in Denmark). They perservered...and in hindsight now appear better for it.

They did things their way--releasing recordings of what felt like all of their live shows to keep fans engaged as well as make some coin.

Lead singer Eddie Vedder explored the depths of himself as did the band, staying true to their landscaping sweeping rifts while introducing new wrinkles.

They arrive at their 20th birthday this year with a sense of class, a grizzled meaty tale of true artistic success and a brand that conjures up every antonym of the word "sellout." Why American Soccer?

The parallels between MLS and Pearl Jam are there. With a squint, they look identical.

The difficulties in filling stadiums without adequate promotion, the cultivation of the game without losing its identity, the gradual but measured success.

Because of ambassadors like "Lalas," "Wahl," and "Twellman," who remained true to the cause like Vedder and Gossard did to Pearl Jam, the US game arrives near it's 20th birthday (2013) with its own meaty tale that will resonate through the rest of my lifetime and with those that I sang "Jeremy" with at my prom (yes, um, that unfortunately did happen.)

With Coldplay I'll reminesce about what could have been. With Pearl Jam, 20 years in and I'm still rocking and believing in something meaningful. I'm sure I'll feel the same in 2013.

 


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Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews And Views Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

 
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By Jason Davis / Match Fit USA and the NEW "Best Soccer Show"
 
As my response to Dan’s call for answers to the question “Why American soccer?”, I could regale you with emotional arguments draped in the tropes of the American spirit, the idealized inclusive nature of the sport itself, or the undeniable fact that local is always better than distant. It is, by the way. Maybe I should leave at that.

But I won’t. I won’t leave it at local is better than distant, even if our televisions serve as portals to other lands whenever we want them to, or trot out the good, but over-cited reasons for “Why American soccer?” (which I myself have cited in this very space some time back), which mostly boil down to notions of community and identity. Instead, I’m not going to try to convince you at all. You’re here, reading a post at The Free Beer Movement, which means you’re most likely one of those that has already declared themselves a proponent of American soccer. Why should I preach to the converted?

Your answer to the question might be the same as mine, or it might be something wholly different. The answer is as personal as any of the myriad choices you’ve made in your life (and specifically your sports life). Far be it for me to imply that your particular answer is either A.) trumped by another answer (namely mine) that won’t resonate with you on more than a philosophical level or B.) needs any augmenting to be really real, supremely true, and completely defensible. Your answer is as good as mine, and I don’t even know what yours is. From hipsterism to jingoism and everything in between, it all brings us to the same place.

Instead, and in the spirit of The Free Beer Movement, let’s talk about what it will take for those of you already on the bandwagon to increase the numbers of our flock. Proselytizing? Nope. Nothing so aggressive. Debate, as arguing the merits of the American game with someone wearing Sky Sports brand blinders, thereby (hopefully) turning an existing soccer fan to our side? I think not. That’s a fool’s errand with a low rate of return and the guarantee of unneeded frustration. Nowhere outside of politics and religion are people so married to their beliefs as they are with their sports. The worldview of the American sports fan - soccer fans included - solidifies at some point in adolescence/early adulthood and cannot be moved except of their own volition. If that worldview has no room for soccer or is soccer-friendly but only for non-American versions of the sport, no one is going to change their minds. No one but themselves, that is.

Which is why the FBM is brilliant. It’s a proactive way to expose the unconverted to the sport, and to our version of it, without applying any direct pressure. It doesn’t require a dissertation on the joys of supporting American soccer in America. It doesn’t mandate that the FBMer do anything to the FBMee but provide a tasty beverage in the presence of a live or television soccer match. It doesn’t assume that the person on the receiving end of the free beer is wrong, or that they need to be “enlightened.” They don’t need anything, but their life could be enriched if they discover - on their own, because that’s the only way the worldview is going to shift enough for it to happen - that American soccer is the S-H-I-Z-N-I-T.

And it will. Believe in the power of the sport to transform people into fans because of all that it is, not because you have a solid rhetorical point. You can tell people that they should love American soccer, but you can put it in front of them - tasty fermented libation in hand - and let it do it’s work.

Okay, okay, I’ll answer the question. I owe that to Dan for including me in a series littered with great soccer people. Why American soccer? Because it’s awesome, that’s why. Categorically, one hundred percent, with zero equivocation, as it is and as it will be, totally and completely, undoubtedly and to my great benefit, awesome. No explanation necessary. I reached that conclusion totally on my own, not because someone told me it was so.

American soccer is awesome. I know this. You know this. Soon enough, the people will, too. Buy them a beer and watch it happen.
 
About The Author
 
Jason is an award-nominated blogger (Match Fit USA), a columnist for the US Soccer Players website, a writer and editor for the soccer culture blog KCKRS, a podcaster for the newly launched The Best Soccer Show, and a guy that needs to slow down a little bit. Sheesh. 

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Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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"The Invisible Foot, A Culture of Competition."

By Corey Bennet / "Church of Soccer"

Irony shadows "American soccer." How is it that those socialists across The Pond have embraced The Invisible Foot of the Free Footy Market, while Americans - we poster-children of free market capitalism - have never had our promotion/relegation cherry popped? If resistance is futile, then soccer will inevitably crumble under the weight of hypocrisy and the Blasphemous will forever watch the "pure" beautiful game from a distance. We will marvel at that spectacular status quo and wonder what could have been had we only taken the blue pill.

And yet our heretical brand persists and, yes, grows. It does so in a competitive landscape, where predators have mere seconds to feast before the hyenas and vultures arrive to scavenge for scraps of market share. American soccer patiently circles overhead, and then perches nearby, waiting its turn, angling and scheming its way to the carcass of our collective sporting consciousness.

This is not the case elsewhere, where football is more than the main course; it is the meal. Exceptions aside, football does not have to compete with "other sports" for top billing in Europe and South America. Much like Chopin need not compete with Adele. In the United States, with the NFL and NCAA football behemoths, NBA, NHL, March Madness, golf, tennis, NASCAR, and the rest, soccer is forced to be optimally resourceful just to survive, let alone command attention and advertising.

Nonetheless, that is a good thing. This culture of competition is open to new, thoughtful, ingenious ideas for developing and marketing the sport. It is what should keep fans and leaders hungry to innovate and excel. Nevermind the many reasons we have to be frustrated. Those unbearable commentators will always find work somewhere, but eventually they'll get pushed aside for better talent. The pecking order will change and soccer programming will slowly gain priority over the Little League World Series and PBA Tour. The MLS playoffs will emerge from under a pile of "more interesting" sporting events in October and November.

Or maybe not. Perhaps soccer will evolve too slowly, too quickly, or too oddly for mass consumption. Perhaps soccer fans, bloggers, journalists, business partners, professional staff, investors and owners will fail to stay competitive - relegating the beautiful game to the deep rough of American sports. If that is the case, it won't be for a lack of opportunity.

Why American soccer? Because we have opportunities to grow and experience the sport in ways that exist nowhere else. We have the freedom to imagine, create, destroy and try it all over again. We can merge, eliminate, contract and expand leagues. We can exploit multiculturalism, import in high definition and cross-market with global sports and pop culture icons. We can tinker and experiment to our hearts' content. We can invent whatever it is we envision the modern game to be, for better or worse. se puede.

Is there another place where this is possible?

We don't have to paint by numbers. For all the risks and growing pains associated with such latitude, there is reason to be optimistic. Even if we continue to reject promotion/relegation in our leagues, the prevailing culture of competition is as likely as any other to make substantial contributions to the beautiful game in the 21st Century and beyond. Thus, we forge ahead with tools to succeed and the knowledge that The Invisible Foot will guide us.

If you really have to ask, "Why American soccer?" I'm afraid you just don't get it. 


Corey is Co-Founder of Church of Soccer - a creator, curator, and collaborator that serves a global congregation of faithful footy followers.TwitterFacebookEmail. Amen.

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Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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"American Soccer: The Revolution Has Only Recently Been Televised"

By Elliot Turner/ Futfunatico.com

In my younger years, I fell in love with the band "Built to Spill." Why? In the roaming fields of perpetually bored fly-over country, individuals with a disdain for commercialism clung to bands with independent labels and non-formulaic song structures. The two things largely coincided. We cluttered into foul-smelling college town dive bars, due in equal part to the band's originality but also the relationship's intimacy - we looked around and felt we were the only fans of these poor touring folks. Then Pitchfork happened. And by Pitchfork, I mean the internet. Geography eliminated, local talent more easily identified, financial success re-defined, another Pacific Northwest band floated out of my radar and into chorus-driven commercial oblivion.

This is the indie dilemma. In success, there is a threshold, a line to be crossed with care. Contrary to popular belief, soccer has had a loyal fan-based in America for decades. But, as David Wangerin noted in his book "Soccer in a Football World," the sport belonged largely to well sprinkled and unconnected immigrant communities. Those communities are now pretty connected. In particular, Hispanics have stepped to the forefront. But as the soccer revolution enters a new era, the looming specter of "gentrification" rears its ugly head. Will soccer challenge the mainstream or be gobbled up by it? 

First, let me admit that, in principles, MLS probably needs to increase revenues in order to acquire more talented players. However, my most serious concern is also personal - I personally enjoy watching two 45 minute halves of uninterrupted sporting goodness. Television timeouts in American football and basketball pose an ominous threat to the joy of flow and the delight of continuity. The NBC broadcast deal could be the smoke before the fire - can a major network and its sponsors cope with so little time & space to shout about tangentially related products? The great danger is that MLS will go the way of Modest Mouse, blandly accepting redundant choruses to the tune of bigger bucks. 

Second, as attendance steadily grows at MLS games, how much longer until we see significant ticket price spikes? Right now, an MLS game is per seat the best deal in town. For a Red Bulls regular season game, tickets generally vary from $25 to $65 dollars. Hockey prices are comparable but a bit higher. Baseball tickets range from $75 to $330 dollars. Basketball tickets range from $22 to $1770 dollars (note: I think this StubHub quote includes corporate suites). American football tickets go from $54 to $600 dollars. Basically, the cheap seats are about even between MLS and other sports, but the huge disparity in prices between bad seats and great seats is very limited. A decade from now, will you still be sitting with your kids at the halfway line? Only time will tell. 

I give lots of credit to Don Garber for getting rid of frills like the walk-up-penalty kick and focusing on simply selling the product to people who want to buy the product. If the rest of American businesses had followed this model, they would similarly be selectively expanding amidst domestic economic stagnation. But the temptation to water down the product is about to grow from a trickle to a tsunami. Some day, we may be subjected to John Madden cleaning his own drool and Terry Bradshaw shouting to the backdrop of animated robots who alternately explode and play soccer. Let's try not to let that happen. 

Elliott blogs about soccer at Futfanatico.com. His recently published first eBook, "An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish," is available on the Kindle and the Nook.

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Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

 
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Today's contribution comes from Lucas Lohr. Lucas is the founder and leader writer of "MLS Reserves" an up and coming site covering the American soccer world. Check out his site for great interviews with loads of MLS players and his coverage of our domestic league.



Why American soccer?
 
The answer to that is simple: if we as Americans don’t support our leagues and teams, who will? Since I was very young I’ve been a fan of Major League Soccer not because it’s the most talented league in the world, but rather because it is a league in my country working towards the betterment of the sport…the betterment of people.
 
Soccer is the world’s game and until the 1994 World Cup and the subsequent launch of Major League Soccer in 1996, the world’s game was effectively absent in North America. Sure, the old NASL and the various iterations thereafter brought soccer to the continent, but these leagues proved largely ineffective at creating soccer culture.
 
It has taken MLS over fifteen years to create soccer culture in our country. The additions of teams, academies and stadiums have begun to alter the perception of soccer throughout our country. Less and less has it been considered a taboo sport for those who couldn’t embrace the norm of football, baseball or even basketball.
 
The national team has reaped the benefits of this as well. MLS plays a major role in the success of American players at the world stage.
 
So I return to the question of why American soccer? I feel I’ve grown up with it. MLS has developed as I have matured. I was 12 when the league was formed. As it has gone through growing pains of player development, survived recessions, natural disasters and criticisms at others; I feel I’ve done the same. I have a personal connection to this league. While it went through changes, so to did I. I’ve done most of my maturing while the league did the same. It’s only reaffirmed my love for soccer.
 
Perhaps that seems overly emotional, but it’s the bond I have for the league. It extends beyond love for a team or any one player. I have many favorites throughout the league. When I was younger and a promising player myself, I looked up to my idols in Major League Soccer. I can remember actively trying to mimic how Taylor Twellman made runs and used his head to redirect a ball. I remember watching Bobby Convey come on the field at such a young age and taking on professionals with confidence. Moreover, I remember watching players passionate about their craft work hard so others could reap the benefits in the years to come.
 
It was not just MLS I suppose. I like so many others, watch the Men’s and Women’s National Teams break barriers with their success. They’ve upped the standard of play and so too the expectations of American fans across the country. Translating those national team fans to MLS/WPS fans is a challenge, but we’re on the right track for sure.
 
I love Major League Soccer. I love the league and I love the people involved in bringing top flight soccer to North America. As the game spreads throughout our country and throughout Canada, I see a soccer future for my children becoming respectable. I see the passion and excitement that other countries find in the game being brought to the younger generations. Above all, I see a promising future with inspiring stories for young soccer players to look up to.
 
I challenge anyone who reads this to bring more people into the fold. Expose more people to the beautiful game and educate them on what it can do for others. Soccer has brought wars to a halt in Africa. It has inspired countries to rebuild. Most importantly soccer brings people together…and if we can have more of that in America, then it should be supported.  

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Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Series: “Why American Soccer?”

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.


Today's contribution comes from Eric Beard. Mr. Beard is the founder and the head writer of "A Football Report", a brilliant site that covers the global game.



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A game of moments.

For a moment, forget about Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria. Forget where you were, whom you were with, and how great the rest of your day was. Forget knocking Mexico out of the World Cup in 2002. Forget Clint Dempsey’s chip against Juventus. Forget Benny Feilhaber’s golazo that silenced 50,000 Mexicans.  Even forget the pain of losing to Ghana in 2010… and in 2006. Poof! Gone! It never happened. Now, how empty does that feel?
 

The beautiful game, it’s about moments. And in this sport, moments are universal.

If you forced me to watch a game of cricket, I would struggle profusely trying to pinpoint amazing. The average Englishman or South American would struggle in the same way with baseball. Nothing captures the imagination of the human spirit like soccer. The Bergkamp skill, the Abby Wambach header, the 70-yard bomb from Beckham, these aspects, by nature, are inspired by raw passion, perseverance, and pure skill. Though an educated fan will certainly appreciate all the nuances surrounding the game, the simplicity of soccer has lent itself to an ability to connect with almost anyone, anywhere.
 
But just because you can hop on the Internet doesn’t mean you should forget about where you are, how you were raised, and the heritage that surrounds you. In this modern America we live in, you can find the rest of the world within these borders. The melting pot of culture, the force that is globalization, has trickled down to help American soccer prosper.
 
No matter the stigmas you encounter, whether it be language barriers or ‘eurosnobs’, this game isn’t exclusive. Spanish fútbol lives and breathes in communities throughout the U.S., as does English football, Italian calico, Brazilian futebol, African, Asian, and any other brand of the game that exists.
 
You can love watching FC Barcelona, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, that’s perfectly fine. There’s no reason to deny any love for this game. Support whoever you want to support. Watch the leagues that appeal to you. But give American soccer, the game’s final frontier, a chance. The community grows by the day and supporting American soccer is the best way to connect with the people that share your passion.
 
You want to watch Fulham – Manchester United on a Sunday at 2 pm? Well, thousands of Americans want to do the same. But after that English Premier League match there’s a Seattle Sounders – Sporting KC game on. And more fans, of the Sounders and American soccer, are in attendance than the loyal ticket holders at Craven Cottage. The game is here and it’s not going away. The signs of progress are undeniable.

Why American soccer? You know why. Next question. 

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Tags: Why American Soccer

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

Today we're excited to announce a new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail.com.

Our first contribution comes from Jeremiah Oshan. While you may not necessarily know his name, he's the editing engine behind the network of American soccer, team-specific blogs at SB Nation.

 

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Photo Credit: Erika Schultz, The Seattle Times

There are few questions easier for me to answer than "Why American soccer?" Simply put, it's there.

Like so many people, what has always attracted me about soccer is not as simple as watching crisp passing, gorgeous goals and acrobatic saves. Soccer, more than almost any other sport, is about community.

Whether that community is in the stands, in the pubs or or even on-line, the sense that we're all in this together is palpable, especially when the team is a local one.

Admittedly, I only really fell in love with American soccer after moving to Seattle. I was in a new city, was out of school, out of work and needed some way to meet other people. After going to the local soccer pub to watch a game, I was immediately drawn to the Sounders in a way that was entirely new to me. I could feel the energy. I could feel the heartache. I could feel the life.

Eventually, I found Sounder at Heart and my love for the domestic game went to an entirely different level. I found a community that wanted to dig deeper into the game, but didn't want to skimp on the passion. We found a team that embraced our curiosity.

The gameday experience takes it all to another level. The pubs around CenturyLink Field are packed with Rave Green. The streets around the stadium are teeming with energy. The March to Match is an almost religious experience for big games.

It is, very much, a shared experience.

I do not pretend that American soccer is on as high a level as it is in Europe. I refuse to apologize for this fact. I have fallen in love with a team and formed a community with its fans. I'll take that trade-off any day.

Jeremiah Oshan lives and breathes American soccer. He is the MLS editor at SBNation/Soccer, the managing editor at Sounder at Heart and co-host of the podcast Nos Audietis. You can also follow him at @jeremiahoshan.

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Tags: Why American Soccer