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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.


By Chris Billig / “Gay 4 MLS”
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

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Tags: Women’s World Cup

Making The Case – Women’s Soccer… Yup… We’re Still Stuck in “That” Place

Abby Wambach's dramatic stoppage-time header, Hope Solo's amazing reflexes, and an incredible 10-women team effort saw the United States Women's National Team triumph over the anti-soccer tactics of Brazil and capture the nation's interest.

Unfortunately, no matter how many heroics these women perform there will be one thing that they can't triumph over.. the blatant sexism that exists in our media. It's nothing new, but just like American soccer bashing, the mainstream sports media just can't seem to get enough of it.

Today's attack on what should be a seminal moment in American soccer history comes from the site, “Tauntr” (which I won't even link to to give them the page views they crave), who's sole mission seems to be make bad jokes that piss off everyone.

“Tauntr is a new brand in sports entertainment that stands for original, edgy, humorous and intelligent multi-media content. Games, videos, animations, images, articles, comics and taunting tools are distributed through platforms such as the web, mobile devices, print, radio, TV, merchandise and live events. Our very unique, rapid content creation company is comprised of professional writers, animators and designers as well as a game development team. Tauntr content is designed to evoke emotion, spur debate and achieve viral activity.”

There will be a few of your that tell us that we've played right into their hands with our outrage, but we tend to fall for the trick a lot when the lamestream (yeah Sarah Palin… we stole your word!) sports media trots out their tired attacks on soccer. Being the promoter of American soccer and soccer in America also comes the responsibility of being its defender. An attack on soccer, men's or women's, is worth a sturdy rebuking.

Tauntr in their juvenile “Beavis and Butthead” sense of humor decided to make “propaganda posters” to help promote women's soccer and make even help them get the “right to vote”. Very clever. We're still making voting jokes 90 years later.

Here are the posters in reverse order of how they're on the Tauntr website.

Exhibit C

We'll only half mention what a shitty Photoshop job this is. So eager to make the joke that they don't even try to do it with any creativity. Women's soccer is only an opportunity to see someone take off their shirt. Go to a beach. 

Exhibit B

Sigh. An accomplished coach gets reduced to being compared to a man in the looks department.

Exhibit A

At first this one wasn't so offensive to us. We used the original “Rosie the Riveter” image in our post yesterday explaining our “lust-to-love” affair with the Lady Nats. After seeing the rest of the posters, we realized the entire project was meant to be demeaning, it hit home that this one wasn't even celebrating the women's strength but mocking them that it took until the closing minutes of the match to get the job done.

Fine… Tauntr rolled out a bunch of tired stereotypes about women and soccer. We get that. This is their shtick. We're at the all-star break for baseball and basketball and football are in the off-season and locked out. They're desperate for content.

If they REALLY wanted to ACTUALLY be edgy as they claim in their “about us” they could've made propaganda posters that DID promote the women's game. The Abby Wambach poster would've been epic without the cheeky parenthesis, the Alex Morgan and Hope Solo poster should read “We're more than just a bunch of pretty faces… we'll kick your ass”, and if the graphic artist dropped the “who looks like a man” line from the Pia Sundhage poster it might have been a legitimate criticism of the men's team.

Opportunities lost for a quick, cheap joke.

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Tags: Making The Case, USWNT, Women’s World Cup

From Lust to Love: A USWNT Journey

Editor's Note: This is probably one of the only personal bits you'll see on this site. The Free Beer Movement isn't about me, but about, you, the collective American soccer fans that help build this sport one beer at a time. Yesterday's USWNT win, though, moved me to put into words the “love story” I've had with the Lady Nats. It's not crazy to say that without the Women's National Team there wouldn't be the FBM. They're that important to me. Of course there's plenty the men's game has done for me as well, but this focuses on what women's soccer has done for me. I hope you enjoy it.

By Dan Wiersema / Founder, Free Beer Movement

My journey as a fan of American soccer is probably as convoluted as this piece is going to be. You've been warned.

At age 12 I started playing soccer when most American children give it up. While most of my friends were quickly abandoning the sport to play football, and continue on their upward arch to travelling basketball and baseball teams, I had discovered that I was just mediocre at all three traditionally American sports (and atrocious at golf) and that soccer would be my last chance at sporting success. I was lost and, something I will regret to this day, had no idea that the World Cup was happening in my backyard the same summer I began my long, love-fueled journey with soccer.

Fast forward four years and to France 98 where I was living abroad as a part of a high school trip in Hungary. My on-field contribution to the sport of soccer was barely a tick above my participation as a fan in the United States. I hadn't attended a single Major League Soccer match even though the Chicago Fire were within driving distance (although I did watch ESPN's “Match of the Week” and had a sweet MLS poster!) and I couldn't name more than a half dozen players on the U.S. Men's National Team roster.

But there I was sitting in a Hungarian bar, belting out the National Anthem, in the naive patriotism that comes with being a 15-year old kid living in a foreign country; you know… the kind that roots because it's the USA and well, dammit… I'm American. We could also drink beer with no questions asked so going and watching games was easy. Actually that's a lot like being an American Outlaws today!

As most of us recall, the American odyssey in France was an unmitigated disaster. Steve Sampson and 3-6-1 formations will forever go down as a part of the dark ages of US Soccer history. Last place, one goal to our name (from Brian McBride), and an embarrassing geo-political loss to Iran.

My Hungarians friends made me pay for being an American soccer fan that summer. My interest in the team waned severely towards disinterest. I had stuck my neck out for them, put what little built up faith I had in American soccer, and lost my investment.

I returned home to the U.S. and bought a Holland jersey after being dazzled by Dennis Berkamps wondergoal against Argentina and embracing my Dutch heritage instead of my American one. (Long-time readers will know how wrong I was back then). I spilled paint on my USMNT t-shirt jersey in the fall of that school year and it would never see the light of day again.

One could say that my interest with professional soccer, at that point, was at its low-point. I continue to play club soccer and for my high school with mixed results, but had no real upward connection to encourage my enthusiasm for the sport. I went to practice and games, played, and then I was done.
Then the next summer, 1999, the Women's National Team made their incredible and inspirational run to capture the Women's World Cup on home soil. From the outset of the tournament I was intrigued. Keep in mind, that at 16 years-old, seeing that many beautiful women in one place was about all I could handle. Crushing hardcore on players like Danielle Fotopoulos, Lorrie Fair, yes, Julie Foudy, and, of course, Mia Hamm my interest level in American soccer was heavily tilting towards “lust”.
When they won the USWNT was everywhere. I collected Sports Illustrated articles, newspaper clippings, even a few of mom's “Good Housekeeping” magazines. That Brandi Chastain image? Whew….
But it was clear that the “Girls of Summer” had done something more than inspire a generation of young girls to play soccer; it had pulled my American soccer fandom from the ashes. I went into the 1999 Women's World Cup  thinking about at the USWNT with the wrong body part, but came out with fire in my head and heart.
From there it was, much like any high school romance, a whirlwind of emotions and swings of intensity. From lust to puppy love…. I had it for American soccer.
From there everything becomes a blur. I played soccer every moment I could. I watched every game that graced the television. I took back the Men's National Team shortly thereafter and during Korea/Japan 2002 quietly jumped up and down in the basement of my best friend's house as we downed Portugal in the first round and later Mexico in the knock-out stages, before “the world person in the world” killed our Cup dreams. Fueled by EA Sports' FIFA series and a never ending supply of pick up games in college I was all in.

Between the triumph of 1999 and today the rest of the world caught up to the USWNT. Germany took the 2003 and 2007 Women's World Cup titles, but by then I had moved beyond crushing on the Lady Nats to serious feelings about our relationship. That point where you've been with someone where you start asking yourself “maybe this is the one?” The women had given back everything I had given them. We had a mutual appreciation for each other. 
Add to the fact in all this time I new front had opened up in my dedication to women's soccer. Being the oldest of three children I witnessed both my younger sisters' inspiration by the USWNT's 1999 victory. One would later move on to a very successful life with the French Horn, but the other played through high school. While I was mostly a difficult older brother playing soccer with these two in the backyard, using a power box for one post and a tree for another, sits in my brain as some of the most favorite memories I have with them.
As the Lady Nats continued to win everything but the World Cup (including Olympics gold in 2004 and 2008, loads of Algarve Cups and Four National Tournaments) I became a teacher (yes, shock… my secret identity revealed) and began to coach women's soccer. First, varsity soccer at an inner-city Milwaukee high school and today, every Friday, I run a morning soccer club for girls at the middle school in Texas I teach at.
This summer has brought back a flurry of the same emotions from that first summer I “lusted” after the USWNT. Many things have changed, though.
Certainly this edition of the Lady Nats is full of lookers. From Hope Solo to Heather Mitts to Alex Morgan plenty has been written about the physical beauty of this squad (I'm partial to Megan Rapinoe myself.. dunno why…). For a long time I haven't looked at the women's national team like I once had. Perhaps it's because I'm older (28) or married or that I've coached ladies now, but watching the USWNT is an exercise in deep appreciation and analysis of their game about everything but their looks.
I'm not blind to it, but I'd like to think that the love I have of these women has matured. I've settled down with them. I think they are beautiful, each and every one of them, but everything matters now.
Yesterday I watched the match against Brazil with my wife. We were on vacation, celebrating three years of marriage, but we had to watch this game. My wife was not a soccer fan when we met. In fact, she knew nothing of the sport, but from the day we met seven years earlier she has been my greatest FBM experiment. Last summer the men's World Cup locked her in and she also took her first USWNT match in in Omaha, Nebraska. My love had become her love.
With tears in her eyes, she was slowly being crushed by each second that ticked away on the scoreboard in Dresden. Then amazing happened:

Two people have probably never made so much noise in their lives.

Hope Solo's penalty kick save and the five U.S. sharp-shooters finished off Brazil while Mrs. FBM placed her order for a black “Wambach” jersey.

My love has become her love. Someday our loves, each other and U.S. soccer, will collide when we have to name our children. Boy or girl we've got it settled.

Dempsey and Abby.

The greatest love is NOT the love in spite of… it is the love because of. Because I'm American, these are my American women, and, through all the years, they have done so much to make me the American soccer fan I am today.

I love them.

Tags: USWNT, Women’s World Cup