Wednesday, November 22, 2017

We can not open the pyramid tomorrow.



Pretty simple stuff here...

We've all seen it. There is this myth being put forth by Status Quo'ists that #ProRelForUSA advocates want the system to change TODAY! RIGHT NOW! NOW! NOW!

They consistently say "We aren't ready yet".

To make it perfectly clear reformists want a reasonable plan put in to place so that the pyramid can grow in to its final form several years down the line. Reasonable people can see that it will take time to make the radical system change from how the game is structured now to where it needs to be.

The two most popular current plans on how to reform the pyramid both call for this (and if you Google search you'll find many many other plans that do the same thing).

Read the NISA plan here.

Read the SoccerReform plan here. 

No, "We aren't ready yet" if you want to use the straw-man argument that people want total system reform tomorrow. We ARE READY for a plan to be put in place. Yes, it will take years to implement it.


Continue to speak up for #ProRelForUSA! The tides are turning.





Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Haven Travel and Sunil Gulati




So there have been these long lasting rumors that Sunil Gulati and Chuck Blazer owned New Haven Travel and were using their positions in USSF and CONCACAF to funnel money to their own pockets... maybe even to launder money...

People have looked for information. They are still looking for information.



Brooke Tunstall even put a lot of it back out there on Twitter recently in this series of tweets.


When you Google New Haven Travel... you get next to no results. Which is amazing for a company that has been around for this long and so involved in soccer at a high level in this country that they sponsored an MLS Award in their name in 2008.






and on top of that were the official travel agency for the USSF and MLS...




Just weird that so many people think there is something to see here... there just is so little information about the company on the internet... they were involved in so much soccer "stuff"... nobody in soccer wants to go on record and speak about it.

You have anything you want to say about it? Comment section is where to do it...

Never forget what the American soccer media thought of Bruce Arena




Never forget what the US media thought about Bruce Arena...








and this final gem...



Now lets just look at what Bruce Arena said today during his FOX punditry debut.





We should also never forget this "wonderful" quotes from Bruce Arena.




Let's watch this awesome video of how we should all view Bruce Arena right now (and should have always viewed him.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It will never happen!



Every day on social media and in the comments section you see them...

The "it'll never happen in the United States" status quo-ists.

The ones who don't have the vision to see what is possible. The ones that thing for some reason that change in American soccer is impossible, but... 




Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.
Dr. Lee DeForest, Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives.
Admiral William Leahy, US Atomic Bomb Project

There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.
Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923

Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.
Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.
The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

But what … is it good for?
Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM commenting on the microchip in 1968

640K ought to be enough for anybody.
Bill Gates, 1981

This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.
Western Union internal memo, 1876

The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?
David Sarnoff Associates in response to urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s

The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.
A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.
Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
Lord Kelvin, president Royal Society, 1895

If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.
Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads

Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.
Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil, 1859

Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.
Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.
Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, Franice


#ProRelForUSA is going to be hard. Massive structural change is never easy. There are always entrenched parties who do not want to see change. There is going to be struggle.

One thing it isn't... it isn't impossible. When we decide to make it happen... it's going to happen. Keep speaking up. 


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How does #ProRelForUSA rule out playoffs?



With the MLS, NASL, and USL playoffs all either going on right now or about to start lets address the mythical topic of "No Playoffs" and an Open Pyramid.



It's just that time of year where people roll out the tired trope that somehow having an Open Pyramid featuring #ProRelForUSA somehow stops us from having "Playoffs" as well.

It doesn't.

We can have postseason Cup Playoffs. (Which is what MLS and USL have by the way)

We can have split season Championship Playoffs. (Which is what NASL has by the way)

We can have... now stick with me here... Promotion Playoffs. (How exiciting would this be?!?!)

We can still have playoffs. We can literally design the system to do and be anything we want. We can design the system to give us whatever broadcasters who are willing to pay $4B for broadcast rights want.



The growth of the #ProRelForUSA movement in the last few weeks has been amazing! Keep up the great work. Make sure we use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag and keep the pressure on the establishment!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

My first "mega tournament" experience



I'm not sure how many readers of this blog know I coach, I am the president of a neighborhood youth club, and I am the father of 3 youth soccer players. This weekend my youngest daughter guest played for a pay to play club as they went to a "mega tournament" in another state. 550 teams were at this event. Locally, I've coached in and my kids have played in multiple tournaments but they are always 40 to 100 teams.

Big difference in scale, prestige, and what types of clubs participated in what is available locally here and what was at this tournament.

I saw some super committed parents, heard lots of cheering, loads of kids smiling...

Awesome uniforms, parents in matching shirts, club tents...

Food trucks, tents full of jerseys for sale, sponsors giving away swag... 

My daughter had a blast, her teammates were very nice, coach was awesome, the other parents were very welcoming...

I saw kids win championships, parents beam with pride, high fives and hugs after goals...

What I saw was people getting what they wanted out of the weekend. I only saw one parent the entire weekend berate the refs, the other parents laughed at him, he felt stupid and quit. It was a very professionally ran, organized, and on time event. Everything about the tournament was awesome except one thing...

The soccer.

I made sure the family got to the fields a couple hours before our first game so I could watch a bunch of these big clubs teams play. I was ready to see some great youth soccer. We stayed after our second game of the first day so I could watch more. Repeated the process the 2nd day.

After watching a few games the first day I started taking some game notes. I started by just writing down a few things... but as the weekend went along I took more in depth ones just because I had the idea that I wanted to write something about what was going on.

Game 1 - u12g - watched for 10minutes

2 obviously very quality players
0 strings of 3 or more passes
Goalkeeper kicked a ground ball punt that hit a girl of the other team 10ish yards away from her

Game 2 - u10g - 15 minutes

Very much worse play
0 strings of 3 or more passes
1 player of obvious high quality
Even with the Build Out Line both teams played long from the Goalkeeper every time

Game 3 - u10g - 10 minutes

1 string of 3 or more passes
All players lacked technical ability

Game 4 - u10g - 15 minutes

0 strings of 3 or more passes
Both teams are VERY BIG
One team uses a Defender to take Goal Kicks even though there is a build out line

Game 5 - u10g - 25 minutes

1 very high quality possession based team
Every player on this team is technically sound
Multiple 10+ pass strings
Amazing level of play

The other team uses their Defender to take long Goal kicks even though they have a Build Out line

I Googled the club and the coach of the good team is from Italy and has a USSF E license

Game 6 - u12g - 10 minutes

Defender Goal Kicks by both teams
Another ground ball punt

12 Random long balls forward
1 Drop out of pressure

Terrible technical quality

Game 7 - u15g - 30 minutes

1 team tried to Play Out From The Back
1 string of 3 passes
Very poor tactically and over matched physically
Lost very big

0 pass strings of 3 or more by the winning team
Not good technically or tactically
High pressed with all 11 players in opposing half

Game 8 - u10g - 10 minutes

Team closes down the first pass with 4 players
Other team has zero defensive shape... looks like a school of fish
One total purposeful pass was attempted total by both teams
Completes a few random clearances to big cheers

Game 9 - u10b - 30 minutes

First 13 times the ball was either in the GK hands or a Goal Kick the ball was played long by both teams
1 attempted POFTB total
2 strings of 3 or more passes
0 drops out of pressure
20 random long balls

One team is putting all of their players on the other side of the build out line and playing it long to them. (See the picture above)

One team is easily technically good enough to POFTB they just are not doing it

Game 10 - u15g - 12 minutes

Cenerback is taking Goal Kicks for one of the teams
6 Random Long Balls
0 drops out of pressure
2 punts before an attempted POFTB
2 strings of 3 or more passes total

One punt is taken by the GK running full speed to the top of the box and playing long to nobody while 5 of her teammates are behind her walking in the box

Game 11 - u10b - 13 minutes

18 Random Long Balls
0 strings of 3 or more passes

Both teams are full of plus level athletes and playing at a high rate of speed

ALL LONG BALLS. WOW!!!!

Couple of obviously very talented 1v1 players
2 absolutely beautiful individual goals

Game 12 - u15g - 13 minutes

14 Random Long Balls
0 strings of 3 or more passes
4 punts
1 attempted POFTB
0 drops out of pressure

One extremely bad series of play after another made me start to keep count... the worst was.
9 touches were taken in the midfield and 8 of them were direct turnovers... yes. Between the two teams midfield players they took 9 touches of the ball and it led to the other team gaining possession 8 times.

The team who attempted the singular POFTB was the less skilled and less athletic team.
Neither team had a single player who I observed receiving a pass across their body on the back foot. 

Game 13 - u10g - 30 minutes

Saw the same great team on the field from the day before and had to watch them again.

Didn't disappoint. Joy to watch.
Several 10 pass strings. Playing it out of pressure. Playing through the GK. Combination play.
The other team had a couple 3 pass strings. One player read the play well and intercepted several passes that put the defenders under lots of pressure and created a couple goals.

Everybody who watched this game said it was a joy to watch the quality team play, they "Played like a college team" "are amazing" etc.
 


I watched a few games before I started taking notes. The level of play in those games was not much different from what I noted from these games. I didn't take notes of my daughters team. I watched bits and pieces of over 40 teams this weekend.

My wife made a few observations as well. Her first was that she saw less than 20 black families. I noted in my pad that walking from game to game I never saw more than 2 black kids on a team on the field at once. She also noticed that tons of parents didn't know the rules of the game.

What does all of this mean?

I'm not sure about anything other than we need to be playing better soccer.

I did have a few other thoughts while driving home today. 

This tournament collected over $250k in registration fees. I'd hate to guess how much was spent on hotel rooms, food, and gas for the out of town teams. I am confident in saying that an investment of +$400k could do a whole lot for a bunch of kids that this tournament didn't deliver.

Many parents don't know what they are looking at.

Even more parents ONLY watch their kids play at these tournaments. They aren't really looking to see what the quality looks like in games where they aren't invested emotionally with their child. As soon as their child's game is finished they walk to the tent or a shade tree and talk to the other parents.

There are some really bad coaches coaching really bad soccer at prestigious "big" clubs.

Most of these teams didn't need to be traveling to play games.

Anybody who says we need better athletes playing soccer is crazy. I saw kids who would be starting tailbacks and cornerbacks on their local football teams playing in the boys games and starting point guards in the girls games. Great athletes abounded. Athleticism was not the problem.

Parents really need to analyze why they have their kids playing "travel soccer". If the kids aren't getting better, why are you spending this big money? If they aren't getting top level training why are you paying top level money? If the team isn't playing good, high quality soccer... not just winning games, but playing good technical and tactical soccer... why are you paying big money?

We as parents are voting with our pocketbooks. We allow clubs to give our children sub-standard product.

Some of these parents are being sold dreams. Parents are being convinced that the experiences that these trips out of town for soccer provide is enough. Parents are being fleeced left and right.

Youth soccer is broken. I knew it. This experience did nothing to make me think anything different. I'm not sure exactly what I expected to see this weekend. I just know I walked away from this even more disappointed in the youth game and it sucks.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Perfect synopsis of the instability our closed league system



Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (former?) supporters group Flight 19 provided a perfect synopsis of the instability of the closed league system American soccer employs via USSF regulatory policy on Twitter earlier today.






Make sure you continue to speak up about #ProRelForUSA and #ReformUSSF. Without the major media players joining in... it is up to us, fans of the game in this country to do the heavy lifting when it comes to education. Change is coming.




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Some of Sunil Gulati's Conflict of Interest issues



Earlier today John Pranjic posted a great series of tweets laying out exactly how Sunil Gulati has a serious Conflict of Interest problem concerning SUM, MLS, and USSF.

You can find the series of Tweets by opening this.
For those of you who don't like Twitter here they are in text form.


What follows will be undeniable public evidence/information pertaining to @sunilgulati’s clear conflicts of interest as @ussoccer president.

First, several definitions of conflict of interest that are widely accepted and easily understood.

Conflict of interest:
a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.

“A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment…” 

“…or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.”

In 2000, @sunilgulati was elected as vice president of @ussoccer. (This is a voting and powerful position.)

In 2006, @sunilgulati was elected as president of @ussoccer. (This is a voting and powerful position.)

According to @sunilgulati’s declaration filed on 10/16/17 he said, “I ceased working for Kraft Soccer Properties in 2013.” 

According to @sunilgulati’s publicly available resume, he was President of Kraft Soccer LLC from 2004-2011.

According to @sunilgulati’s publicly available resume, he was managing director of Kraft Soccer LLC from 1999-2003.

Kraft Soccer LLC is the company that founded and manages the NE Revolution of Major League Soccer (MLS).

While serving as @ussoccer president, @sunilgulati was dually employed by Kraft Soccer LLC, a clear conflict of interest.

The duties of his job during that time included managing the soccer properties of Kraft Soccer LLC and cites Soccer United Marketing (SUM).

His resume also lists an advisory role for the investment company “Stone Tower Equity Company” which is now “Apollo Global Management.”

Apollo Global Management says, “Our investment professionals frequently collaborate and share information across disciplines… 

“… including market insight, management, banking and consultant contacts as well as potential investment opportunities…” 

“…which contributes to our library of industry knowledge and enables us to invest successfully across a company's capital structure.”

Robert Kraft is a corporate director for Apollo Global Management. (No information about Stone Tower Equity Company could be found.)

Furthermore, @ussoccer is responsible for creating the Professional League Standards (PLS) Task Force.

The PLS Task Force is responsible for determining “whether the standards should be improved and/or made more rigorous”.

These standards refer to the professional leagues governed by @ussoccer, led by @sunilgulati.

The PLS Task Force can recommend changes that the @ussoccer board of directors can vote on.

In 2008, while employed by Kraft Soccer LLC, @sunilgulati handpicked Burton Haimes to lead the PLS Task Force, a clear conflict of interest.

In 2008, the PLS Task Force organized by Mr. Haimes recommended changes for the 1st time since MLS' inception.

According to the declaration filed on 10/16/17, the PLS changes “were then revised in 2008, 2010 (for Division II only)”.

In 2010, while still employed by Kraft Soccer LLC, @sunilgulati himself appointed another “task force to revisit the Division II standards”. 

“In late 2012, the USSF determined it was time for a comprehensive review of all of the Professional League Standards.”

“The PLS Task Force included the same individuals” that @sunilgulati chose in 2010 while he was employed by Kraft Soccer LLC.

In 2015, two of @sunilgulati’s former PLS Task Force selections (while @sunilgulati was with Kraft Soccer LLC) were still serving. 
  
The ties to Robert Kraft, NE Revolution, MLS, SUM are undeniable and a clear conflict of interest for the president and leader of @ussoccer.

As we've talked about previously on this blog... the Conflict of Interest issues within USSF are serious, deep, and long running.



 We need #ReformUSSF as soon as possible.

Please continue to speak up on social media, share information to help educate fellow fans, and stand up for the game. #ProRelForUSA 

P.S. Here it is in video form


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Closed league team stability is a farce



The title says it all.

The idea that there is an extra layer of team stability provided by MLS for a community is a farce. It is a sham. It is a lie built upon the corpses of dead teams all over this country.

An original MLS team, the Columbus Crew, the team who's stadium has provided some of the greatest wins in USMNT history, they are moving to Austin Texas. This myth that somehow being a member of MLS provided fans in Columbus some layer of stability that an Open Pyramid wouldn't have has been yet again shown to be untrue. The city of Columbus and Crew fans have now been shown the the ugly truth about this stability just like Chivas USA fans, Tampa Bay Mutiny fans, and Miami Fusion fans were. If we look at all it is not hard to find dozens and dozens of other teams from leagues big and small from all across the country who have folded or moved as well.

How could your team being moved to another city possibly be better than it being relegated? How could it being contracted possibly be better than it being relegated? How can your club disappearing because of financial difficulties instead of being relegated to a low enough level where it can survive and rebuild be better? How can any of this be better for the soccer community in this country? How can ANY OF THIS be helping build soccer culture?

We've already had a great article by Jake Steinberg discuss how having an Open Pyramid featuring #ProRelForUSA would help protect cities from teams relocating and rent-seeking. We already know the idea that most clubs fold or go bankrupt upon relegation is a myth.

Can we finally admit that the myth that "Closed leagues provide stability because teams can't be relegated" is a utter farce.

Join in and speak up for your community, for your club, and for your fellow fan. Call for #ProRelForUSA.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Divorcing Pay-to-Play from the Pro game



Quite often since the #USMNT World Cup Qualifier debacle that was the Trinidad and Tabago game we have been blessed to finally see writers stepping up and questioning our youth development system in the US. Unfortunately, too often these discussions are being had while divorcing Pay-to-Play from the Professional game.

DO NOT LET THEM DO THIS!

Make them answer these questions when they try to divorce the two items from each other and act like they are separate issues.

1. How do you stop youth clubs from charging?
2. How much money would this take?
3. Who decides which clubs would get USSF support?
4. Do they all get equal funding?
5. How would you stop youth clubs from leaving USSF and its subordinate youth soccer organizations and just charging anyways?
6. How would youth clubs fund a non-USSF subsidized free-to-play model?

I'm sure you can come up with even more to ask...

With youth soccer being a multi-billion dollar industry it would be impossible for US Soccer to fund the game as it is currently structured to give all young players, or even most of them, access to some sort of USSF subsidized system.

Saying "End Pay-to-Play" without talking about what caused this system to develop is ridiculous.

Saying "End Pay-to-Play" without talking about how opening the pyramid changes the incentives clubs have to produce players is ridiculous.

As Gary Kleiban so succinctly puts it HERE...

If we had an open pyramid like the rest of the world, where clubs can merit their way up and down the soccer hierarchy, that shifts the incentives and alters the ‘pay-to-play’ club soccer business model. 
That bursts open the 3 revenue generating incentives outlined above for thousands of existing youth clubs, and all of our lower division pro and semi-pro clubs. 
What pro/rel can do is give existing youth clubs an incentive to form their own 1st teams, and aspire to something beyond their perpetual caste as ’youth club’. If even a small fraction of the thousands of clubs in our country did this, that significantly expands the ‘free-to-play’ incentive footprint in our country.
Similarly, what pro/rel can do is give existing lower division clubs (e.g. in NASL, USL, NPSL) the incentive to form their own ‘free-to-play’, or heavily subsidized, youth academies.
With the closed market system (a caste system) we currently have, only one company, MLS, LLC can benefit from its 20 franchises offering free-to-play teams.
We have to give clubs all over the country the incentive to develop players. Right now quantity rules the day, the more kids you have, the more money you make. When QUALITY rules the day, we will see players being developed, coaches being accountable, and clubs making it a priority.

We need #ProRelForUSA if we ever hope to end Pay-to-Play as the dominant model for youth soccer in the US. We need #ProRelForUSA if we ever hope for our best and brightest young players (both boys and girls) to have a pathway to being top level players that isn't full of economic roadblocks.

Keep speaking up... keep the pressure up... and thank you everybody who has shared one of my articles from this blog. We are going to fix this system.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The pot is coming to a boil




As we've discussed before... eventually the conversation is going to change from "should we..." to "When we..." about #ProRelForUSA.

Today we saw both World Soccer Talk and Top Drawer Soccer both put out excellent articles touting the need for total system reform that includes an Open Pyramid.

TOP DRAWER SOCCER

U.S. Soccer is held back by the closed market that has kept the Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise owners happy, but the rest of the sport hindered for over two decades. A closed market that provides a safety net to encourage mediocrity and punish greatness. It’s the antithesis of growth and success. It stands against everything that the American dream represents.

WORLD SOCCER TALK

We can all argue the pros and cons of a promotion/relegation system in the United States, but as long as there’s a closed system like we have in MLS, it breeds uncompetitiveness. When there are teams in MLS that know no matter how bad they perform that there will always be a next season in the top flight, teams (coaches, players and management) can become complacent.

The St Louligans blog also had a wonderful piece today that I feel you should take a few minutes and read as well. 

Now lets add Taylor Twellman going on every show on ESPN dropping gems like this one...
 




The conversation has changed this week.  We've all seen new voices join in this conversation and be much more straight forward with their calls for reform. Keep sharing and keep the pressure building.

The time to say "I told you so..." is not right now. Right now we need to keep encouraging every new voice to continue to speak up. Point them toward writers, bloggers, and podcasters who want to see reform. To help keep turning the heat up... the first bubbles are starting on the bottom of the pot right now.

Will we have a roiling pot of enough voices so that at the USSF AGM we will see a new President of USSF elected who is going to push through an agenda of change?

I think we will...




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Don't allow any more excuses from USSF



We are not going to the World Cup.

I'm pissed. I'm angry. I'm embarrassed. I always knew this was possible but I never thought it would actually happen.

For YEARS now we've all been told by those who support the status quo that "we're fine", "we're growing", and "everything is going just as it should".

IT IS NOT!!!!!

Please do not listen to Bruce Arena and Sunil Gulati.


We need massive reform and we need it immediately. Incremental change is not going to cut it.

We need an Open Pyramid to push player development to the forefront. Read more HERE, HERE, and HERE.

We need 1000s of clubs pushing for the top. We need to reward those who are innovative, investing, developing players, creating culture, and winning on the field.

We need to call for it every day. We all need to put pressure on USSF.

We need our soccer media to actively follow the NASL Anti-Trust Case and the CAS case. We need the general public to know that these are big deals.

We need every Supporter Group in the United States to stand up for their club and call for #ProRelForUSA. Join the 30 who already have.

Those who have been selling the status quo have to be questioned. Why have they been doing it? Fear? Personal gain? We need to see new leadership within USSF. If you are a voter at the upcoming AGM and you vote to continue with the status quo. You are a part of the problem too.

We need change. It starts with us. Don't let USSF continue to let us down. Speak up. 






Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Is the American media going to ask FIFA?


Pretty simple question.

When is a member of the American soccer media going to ask FIFA and CONCACAF about the three major cases USSF has had filed against it?

Solidarity Payment/Training Compensation
Promotion and Relegation
Anti-trust Lawsuit

Why have we not heard even a "no comment" from our regional or the world body about these three major cases concerning American soccer? We know these could change soccer not only here in the US and Canada, but they could have a major impact on how the sport is governed the world over.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Guest Post: Why I Hang Out In a Twitter Toxic Zone



We are blessed to have another great guest post today... one that perfectly boils it down to the essence of why somebody would subject themselves to being an advocate for change in American soccer on social media. Make sure you give Erik a follow on Twitter! Let us know how you feel about this using the #ProRelForUSA hashtag on social media.

Why I Hang Out In a Twitter Toxic Zone


The discussion of the governance of soccer in the United States on Twitter has been called one of the most toxic, ill-tempered spaces on the social media platform. Given the place that political discourse has gone to, that's saying something. The Beautiful Game is full of passion and emotion, though. And that passion can be on full display in the 140-character-limited conversations found on Twitter.
From the scolds who fly the #ProRelforUSA hashtag to their antagonists who are convinced that the status-quo is the best we'll get and should be grateful for, the vitriol and invective can be off-putting for someone as conflict-averse as myself. I can well imagine a new fan of the game we love stumbling into a thread and deciding they really don't want to know more. Innocent questions sometimes find curt replies followed by behavior trolling and the re-ignition of now decades-old personality conflicts that go beyond the actual subject of discussion.
It can be a really bad look for the sport in our country. Trying to be a grown-up, I can admit my part in the occassional studs-up challenge defending my viewpoint. If I have nicked your shins, or scared you away from commenting, I apologize.
That brings me to the answer promised in the headline "Why I Hang Out In a Twitter Toxic Zone". I throw my two cents in for one simple reason: I want to see the United States Mens National Team win the World Cup in my lifetime. Let me repeat that. I want to see the United States Mens National Team win the World Cup in my lifetime. That simple.
I have played soccer since falling in love with the game more than 40 years ago, before Pele landed with the Cosmos.
I have lived through two versions of Soccer Wars.
I lived in a true world soccer power as they marched to a World Cup Final, experiencing the game’s culture and structure there . I can recall all the strange places and times I have watched the USMNT and the rest of the world play out sports' greatest drama.
I am thankful to those with the means (and those who really didn't) who have taken a gamble that the game can grow and become a success here. Through my observation, participation, and research I have concluded that the way the game is currently organized in the United States will not result in my simply-stated desire.
Based on participant numbers and resources available it is inexcusable for our on-field results to remain mired in the same place we were as qualifying for France '98. We have a wasteful, overpriced player development system whose leakage enriches the few, paid for by the unknowing, at the cost of results and excluding the many. We have eschewed world-class best-practice experience for an exceptionalism that leaves us spinning our wheels.
I don't give two scoops of rooster poop about the motivations behind this stagnation. My only concern is that we move aggressively towards an alignment and system that makes winning the World Cup a truly viable dream. Anyone or anything standing in the way of that movement needs to be removed, and removed quickly. Anyone or anything willing to collaborate to bring us in line with international best-practices is welcome on my band wagon.

I want to see the United States Mens National Team win the World Cup in my lifetime. Do you?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Guest Post: MLS Viewership Compared to Available Seating



Recently I was on Twitter and saw Jed Kirchenwitz (FOLLOW HIM HERE) tweeting out an interesting thought process he was working through concerning how stadium capacity compared to TV viewership numbers across the "Big 5" sports in the United States. I asked him to write a guest post for this blog... and I'm really glad/thankful that he did. I would love to hear your opinion on it in the comments or on social media (Don't forget to use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag). 




MLS Viewership Compared to Available Seating
One of the big obsessions with American soccer fans are the TV ratings for MLS games.  As I was looking at these numbers recently a question came in to my mind:  What if all the “average” viewers of national MLS telecasts were to show up for games in person?  How much of the available seating would be filled?
On the surface, it probably seems like a strange question.  After all, a LOT more people can watch a game on TV than can attend a game in person.  In theory all those viewers should easily fill the available seating; perhaps they would fill it several times over.  I’m not talking about playoff and championship matches that tend to draw larger audiences either.  I was curious about the viewers of the day-to-day, regular season games.  It would seem logical to say that those regular season games are going to attract the “real fans”, those that care enough about a sport to watch whatever game is on the television at any given moment.
So the question is this:  If all the average viewers for a nationally-televised regular season MLS game showed up at the stadiums person, how full would those stadiums be?
It’s a simple equation—take the total available MLS seating and divide by the average number of viewers.  Since we’re looking at American telecasts only, I even went so far as to exclude the Canadian seating.  Let the Canadians fill their own stadiums!
Total available MLS seating capacity in America in 2016: 384,132
Average American MLS national broadcast viewership in 2016: 257,683
So, if the average American viewership of a nationally broadcast MLS game on TV showed up at American stadiums in person, they would be 67% full.  Sixty-seven percent.  In other words, MLS viewers for an average nationally televised game couldn’t even fill the seats.  
Quite literally, the same people who are going to MLS games might be the only people watching it on TV.
How does the number compare to the NFL, the king of TV sports in America? The NFL would fill their seats almost 8 times over, and that’s even with the fact that NFL stadiums are typically three to four times larger than the average MLS venue.
MLS - 0.67 to 1
NFL- 7.85 to 1
I can already hear the complaints, though.  “You can’t compare MLS to the NFL!  Nothing compares to the NFL!”
Let’s look at some deeper numbers across the “big five” sports, then.  In fact, where we can let’s break down the numbers even further.  For all sports except NFL, good numbers are available for both “mothership” broadcasts on Fox, NBC, etc. and games shown solely on cable.
MLS

1.34
2016 National Broadcast Only, 6 games
0.67
2016 All networks


NFL

7.85
2016 All Networks*


NBA

5.90
16/17 National Broadcast Only
3.84
16/17 All Networks


NHL

2.93
16/17 Broadcast Only
2.00
16/17 All Networks


MLB

1.35
2015 All Networks**
1.78
2015 Broadcast Only**

* NFL Cable broadcasts are also shown on local over-the-air affiliates, unlike other sports.  Therefore I only included the number for both cable and over-the-air broadcasts.
** MLB telecasts have become more regionalized since 2015; finding good numbers after 2015 is more difficult.
What about the trend for the current year?  MLS is two-thirds of the way through the 2017 season as of this writing.  MLS has also added two additional franchises bringing the total seating capacity to 448,527.  What has this done to the viewers-to-seats ratio?  
MLS

0.57
2017 All networks
0.98
2017 Broadcast Only, 4 games

You read that correctly.  Even though MLS added two franchises, TV viewership so far this year is essentially flat.  The viewers-to-seats ratio has actually worsened.  By this measure MLS broadcasts are actually reaching less of the American soccer market!
This is only part of the story, though.  If you only went with the numbers you see above you would assume that soccer is a distant fifth place to the traditional “big four” leagues in terms of popularity.
According to World Soccer Talk (http://worldsoccertalk.com/2017/08/24/most-watched-soccer-games-on-us-tv-for-august-15-20-2017/) , and cross-referenced as much as possible through the various TV ratings reporting sites on the web, the numbers are startlingly higher for soccer in general.
  1. The total average TV audience for ALL regular season league soccer games (EPL, Liga MX, MLS, Bundesliga, and “other” leagues) is about 1,534,000.  This is almost six times larger than the average for MLS broadcasts alone.

  1. If all the average American viewers across all soccer leagues are included, the viewers to seats ratio skyrockets to 3.4 to 1.
The breakdown of viewers-to-seats, from largest to smallest, is as shown here.  For simplicity’s sake, I only used the numbers for looking across all networks, but the list would be in the same order.
NFL

7.85
2016 All Networks*


NBA

3.84
16/17 All Networks


All Soccer

3.4
All Soccer Broadcasts All Networks


NHL

2.00
16/17 All Networks


MLB

1.35
2015 All Networks**


MLS

0.57
2017 MLS Viewers-to-Seats all Networks

That’s a stunning increase and shows just how little reach into the American soccer market MLS truly has.  That’s not the 8:1 ratio of the NFL, but it is in line with the NBA and ahead of both the NHL and MLB ratings.
In the end, these numbers are just another measurement of what we already knew:  MLS is failing to capture the American Soccer market, and failing in a big way.  More importantly, these numbers also represent the huge opportunity that MLS and US Soccer are not taking advantage of.  

Perhaps what this number really gives us is the full potential that US Soccer has for growth with fans of the game.
This also brings some other thoughts to mind:  American soccer fans are clearly interested in promotion/relegation leagues.  Could AMERICAN SOCCER, by simply changing to a promotion/relegation structure, be as popular as the NBA?  And if so, shouldn’t we be clamoring for it to be implemented now?

I realize this is a simplistic view, but US Soccer is missing the true market this badly then we should be doing everything we can to take advantage of what is an obvious opportunity to truly grow the game.