Monday, July 26, 2010

Who We're Buying a Beer For...

It's been quite a while since we've run our "Who We're Buying A Beer For" column that honors individuals and groups that help grow the game in the United States. With a busy World Cup season behind us, the middle of the Major League Soccer season upon us, and the beginning of the European leagues on the horizon it's time to get back in the beer buying swing of things.

We're not in the business of debating the merits of mid-season exhibition matches for our MLS sides. Plenty of people going on about how no self-respecting league would disrupt their season calendar (but then again the EPL has the Carling Cup which is about as worthless of a tournament as we've ever seen), but no one will argue that these "Summer of Soccer" series playing out across the U.S. have been anything but a boon to our domestic game and the visibility and profitability of the teams involved in the matches. There are some 41 (we think...) international teams that have or will have played a match stateside and there's no doubt that the world sees America as a soccer hotbed and a place ripe for investment. Unless your Portsmouth.... then coming here was a terrible idea.

But as American soccer fans watch on in starred-eyed wonder as the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, etc come to our shores its worth taking stock in the fact that our domestic sides are putting up one hell of a fight against their "superior" opponents. Now many of these European giants are rolling out their youngsters and B/C-sides, but that shouldn't take away the fact that even that wouldn't have been possible even a few short years ago.

Kai Kamara going all "Poltergeist" on the ball.
So kudos to the Kansas City Wizards and Red Bull New York for convincing wins against Manchester United and Manchester City, respectively. The beer's on us! Perhaps a Boulevard for The Wiz and some Brooklyn Brewery for New York (not RB and Vodka, for sure).

New York hosted a great little tourney over the weekend, the Barclays New York Football Challenge with clubs City, Tottenham, and Sporting Clube de Portugal. A great feature for the new home of former French international Thierry Henry. He bagged his first goal for the Bulls and we're tickled pink as to what he might bring to MLS for the rest of the season and beyond.

Kansas City was the fourth stop on United's five city "US Tour" (that included a stop in Toronto, CANADA) and Manchester's loss to the 10-man Wizards. In The Guardian they used the word “embarrassing.” The Daily Mirror calls it a “surprise” while The Sun used the term “preseason shocker.” We call it "fun".

Fun that 50,000+ came out to Arrowhead Stadium in the heart of the Midwest to see a soccer match. Fun that, hopefully, many of them will return to watch the Wizards for the rest of the season. Fun that KC launched their 2011 season ticket drive for seats in their brand new stadium on the back of this game. Fun that catching a soccer match on a beautiful Sunday evening is the perfect end to the weekend.

Wayne Bridge, check your bedroom. You just got scored on again.
Lest we forget that Red Bulls took a scalp as well on Sunday. Henry and Co., falling to Tottenham on Friday were the top team on yesterday afternoon over Blankchester City. Dane Richards was an absolute beast and burned Wayne Bridge like he was John Terry in his bedroom (Ouch! Couldn't resist!). One (spectacular) goal, one assist. Now only if he could do that in league play. Over the weekend nearly 100,000 caught four games in the sparkling Red Bull Arena.

This Wednesday the "fun" continues as the Major League Soccer All-Stars will play Manchester United in Houston, Texas. The Free Beer Movement will be there and we're looking forward to a spirited, if in the end, meaningless match.

What do all these international friendlies mean to us Americans? Money in the bank for the foreign teams for sure, but in a larger sense it puts the thought in the heads of many Americans, soccer fans and otherwise, that the U.S. is a great destination for top-notch soccer and the home of some pretty good games as well.

We'll drink to that.

Photo Credits: Getty Images

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Stephen Craig said...

I heard the English announcer during the KC game say it was like Super Sunday in England. 4 games in a row on FSC. Fantastic!

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