There was so much optimism on the blue side of Liverpool after last season. Roberto Martinez had led Everton to an astonishing fifth place finish, and qualified his side for the Europa League. The offseason only served to fuel the fire of enthusiasm that Everton supporters had as the club managed to sign their top striker Romelu Lukaku on a permanent deal from Chelsea, while also bringing in the highly-touted Christian Atsu on loan and fending off interests from Manchester City for their star midfielder Ross Barkley.
Everything seemed to be in place for a historic season this campaign. It did not take long for the Merseyside club to come crashing back down reality. The first game of their Premier League campaign saw newly promoted Leicester City hold the Blues to a draw. This was followed by a disappointing draw to Arsenal where Everton relinquished a 2-0 lead in the final ten minutes of play. The disappointment would follow into the next fixture as Chelsea battered Everton 6-3 at Goodison Park. It was not until the fourth game of the season that Roberto Martinez finally tasted victory.
So far, the longest streak of wins that Everton have been able to string together is a measly two games. Barkley and Lukaku seem unable to rediscover the form that made them one of the most feared young tandems in the league. Tim Howard was forced to miss an extended run of games through injury, and even before the injury the veteran goalkeeper was not his usual self, allowing 41 goals from just 21 games. At the halfway point of the season, Everton sat 12th in the table five points out of the relegation zone, and had been knocked out of the FA Cup by West Ham United.
Since then, Everton haven’t looked any better domestically. The team has dropped down two places in the table and hover only six points away from playing in the Championship next season. Their Spanish manager went as far to say the team’s current situation is a relegation battle. The increased number of games from European competition seems to have taken away from the team’s domestic performances with the short recovery time between games and long travel days taking their tolls on the players. Out of the eight Europa League matches played, Everton have only won the following domestic game twice.
The one bright spot for Everton this season, however, has been the Europa League. Where they lack in the Premier League, they thrive in Europe. No team has scored more than once against the Blues, and only two teams have managed to score while at Goodison Park. Lukaku has managed to put away six goals in only eight matches (compare that to his seven goals in 28 league games). On three separate occasions Everton have won by three goals, with one of those victories coming away to BSC Young Boys in their Round of 32 matchup.
The Blues have conquered the likes of Kevin De Bruyne’s Wolfsburg and Divock Origi’s OSC Lille on their way to the competition’s Round of 16 where they will face Dynamo Kiev. The Ukrainian side currently sit atop the Ukrainian Premier League and have lost only twice during their Europa League campaign, but are yet to face any elite European sides in the competition. Everton will be the biggest test, by far, for Kiev and will provide two difficult games for Roberto Martinez to plan for.
Kiev will travel to Goodison Park today to take on the last English side left in the tournament, and have been uplifted by the news that striker Andriy Yarmolenko has had his suspension reduced and will be available for both games against Everton. Yarmolenko is the club’s top European scorer with three goals and will surely test Howard and the Everton backline who have allowed seven goals over their last four games.
If Everton hope to advance into the quarterfinals, they will have to rediscover their scoring touch. Lukaku and Co. has been held scoreless for the last 228 minutes of play. However, in their last fixture against Young Boys, Everton managed to put away seven goals in the two game span. With this being the club’s only realistic opportunity of winning any silverware this season, I fully expect Roberto Martinez’s men to play their best soccer against Kyiv and continue their fine European form. Prediction: Everton 2-0 Kyiv.
While usually I don’t get too excited about U-any level events, I couldn’t contain myself when I happened upon the U-20 World Cup Draw. Not that the draw itself was very exciting, because I missed that part, but the result of the draw is what has me jumping for joy. The reason is this: THE US FINALLY GETS A DREAM DRAW!!! But then I realized, what if we just wasted our one dream draw in my lifetime on the U-20 World Cup?!
With 2016 Olympic qualifying upcoming, along with the U-20 World Cup, we will have the opportunity to look at the future World Cup stars. The US barely qualified, but we can now be glad knowing that their group when they get to New Zealand is less than intimidating. They got New Zealand, Ukraine, and Myanmar — the team that qualified by hosting the event, one of the lowest ranked European qualifiers, and an Asian country that hasn’t made any real major tournament ever. This group of youngsters will be the backbone of the USMNT in the future, including the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Lets take a look at the US U-20 team members that might have a shot at the upcoming World Cup teams. Some of the players have already made their leap to the pros, while others may still be in college.
Rubio Rubin - Sure, he has already made his senior team debut, but he is still eligible for the U-20 team. The Utrecht forward has really found his stride in the Eredivisie and is an exciting prospect on the front line for the US. He’s still eligible for Mexico and Guatemala due to his parents, but seems to be locked into the US.
Erik Palmer-Brown - The 17-year-old has long been on the radar of the US system. He already has 5 appearances with the U-20’s and has been signed to Sporting KC. With World Cup veteran Matt Besler to mentor him, Palmer-Brown might just be the next defender out of KC to make the US team.
Cameron Carter-Vickers - Another 17-year-old with a hyphenated name who is making splashes for the U-20 team. He is still eligible for England, as he is a dual national. The big defender is at Tottenham’s youth system, signing a 2-year deal with Spurs despite heavy interest from Arsenal. I am very excited for this young man, as he is excelling with players close to 4 years older than him. Not to mention that his father was an NBA player, giving him an athletic pedigree. He said he is leaning towards representing the USA, so this prospect would be a huge get for Jurgen Klinsmann.
Dortmund Boys - Dortmund has a trio of Americans in their youth system that might make an impact for the USMNT in the future. Joe Gyau is a pretty known commodity, but is struggling to return from injury so far. Junior Flores made a splash in the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament, while also stating the he will play for the US over El Salvador, despite invitations to their senior squad. Christian Pulisic is the latest American import to Dortmund. He got his Croatian passport due to his heritage and has even trained with the senior side. With American David Wagner coaching Dortmund’s reserve side, it is easy to see why some of the youngsters might be drawn there.
Romain Gall - The main scorer for the U-20 side during qualifying plays his club football for Columbus Crew. He took all the penalties for the US in the tournament, of which there were quite a few. He was born in France and is still eligible for the country as well. I am not as high on him as some others, but he is definitely one to watch.
T2 Squared - Tommy Thompson and Tyler Turner might get you tongue-tied if you try and say both of their names back to back. But they are both viable options for the US in the future. Turner is a defender for newly created Orlando City, while Thompson crafts his trade for the San Jose Earthquakes. Each put in some solid performances during qualifying, keeping us on the lookout for T2 Squared.
Emerson Hyndman - Saving the best for last. The 18-year-old is highly regarded as the best American midfield prospect. He already plays regular first team football at Fulham, and made his debut with the USMNT in the Czech Republic last year. He was very clearly the best player on the pitch during U-20 qualifying, but unfortunately broke his collarbone during the tournament. He is technically savvy and has a great mind on the pitch. Throw that in with the American tradition at Fulham, and I believe we will see Hyndman become one of the next best Americans out there.
The U-20 World Cup begins in New Zealand on May 30th, and will conclude with the final on June 20th. I would be very surprised if the US did not at least progress out of their group. Stay tuned for more updates about the future of the USMNT.
This week we lost one of the greatest US soccer players in history when Frank Borghi died at age 89. He was one of the last living players remaining from the 1950 World Cup Team that shocked the world in Brazil. The 1950 World Cup was also the last appearance for the US at the event until 1990. Since TV wasn’t as prevalent around those days, we only have stories from those who were there. Luckily for fans, filmmakers decided to chronicle the team with the movie “The Game of Their Lives.” Popular actor Gerrard Butler played the goalkeeper Borghi in the film. Butler has been a part of multiple soccer-related projects, including Soccer Aid 2012, a semi-annual celebrity soccer match in England that raises funds for UNICEF.
1950 was an interesting time, considering WWII had just ended. Multiple players on the 1950 team had served in the US military, including Frank Borghi, who received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service. At the time, most of the players on the team were amateur players, as the US did not have an established professional league.
Borghi grew up in The Hill neighborhood of St. Louis. Four other players on the team also grew up on The Hill, in addition to baseball legends Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. The area was highly made up of Italian immigrants, and is still very Italian today. Other players on the team from St. Louis included Charlie Colombo, Gino Pariani, Harry Keough, and Frank “Pee Wee” Wallace.
The team was coached by Scot Bill Jeffery, who was a long time coach at Penn State. Three players on the team were not even US citizens at the time. Joe Maca was from Belgium, but later received US citizenship. Ed McIlvenny was from Scotland, and was the captain for the match in the upset of England. Joe Gaetjens was of Haitian descent, and scored the only goal in the England match. Other team members included Walter Bahr, John Souza, and Eddie Souza. There were no substitutes during that time, so those 11 players played the entire game. A St. Louis sports journalist Dent McSkimming was the only American journalist to make the trip to Brazil, even paying his own way. He is largely responsible for capturing the magnificent story of the 1950 team.
The team was assembled very hastily, with many players scrambling to make the trip. Gino Pariani even had to reschedule his wedding to the day before the team left to get married. Considering most of the players were not even full time, no one in the world expected the Americans to even compete, with 500-1 odds of winning the tournament. The US lost its opening match to Spain 3-1, surprising many around the world for keeping it that close. Harry Keough was captain for the match, as he was the only US player who spoke fluent Spanish. The next match was against England, who were expected to compete for the Cup coming in with odds at 3-1 to win the tournament.
The Miracle Match took place in Belo Horizonte in front of 10,000 mostly Brazilian fans. Fans were allegedly very pro-US, as Brazil did not want to face England until the finals. The British absolutely dominated from the beginning of the match, with Borghi making some brilliant saves. The US didn’t even get a shot off until the 25th minute, which was easily handled by the England goalkeeper. The English kept pressing the Americans until the 37th minute when Walter Bahr took a long shot that Joe Gaetjens redirected with his head into the net. The goal gave the Americans the lead, and a breath of new life heading into the half. The 2nd half was much of the same, with Borghi continuing to deny England an equalizer. In the 82nd, England star Stanley Mortensen broke through the defense with the ball, until Charlie Colombo tackled him from behind. The English pleaded for a penalty, but the Italian referee only gave a free kick from outside the box. They failed to convert the opportunity, and seemingly took the life out of the favorites. That was the last real chance they would get, and the US held on for a 1-0 victory.
The shock of the match was felt around the world, with some British believing that the score was a misprint. The US and England would go on to lose their final group match, and crash out together with identical 1 win and 2 loss records. This single match might be the greatest performance by a US team at a World Cup ever.
So today we grieve the loss of an American, one who was a brave veteran, and an impressive soccer player. Frank Borghi may have died, but his memory and story reminds us that we can still be great.
While the adidas NitroCharge may never truly feel like a proper member of the Adidas family, there can be no doubt that many have found the newest adidas silo to hold everything that they look for in a boot instead of finding their joy in the Predator/F50/11Pro. The original Nitro actually provided a place for everyone looking for an adidas release that had some semblance of the older Predator releases or for a non-speed boot that took full advantage of adidas HybridTouch. Jordon and I often talked about how underrated the original NitroCharge was and we had high hopes that the newest version would only continue to forge ahead in terms of quality and comfort.
The Internet may be rife with rumors that all of the current Adidas boots that we love are soon to become a distant memory with a possible three stripes reshuffle on the horizon, let that take nothing away from the current NitroCharge. The EnergySling and EnergyPulse return to the Nitro, mixed with a new lacing system, some different upper texturing padding, and some tweaks to old aspects that we enjoyed on the original Nitro. However, did it all add up to a winning combination? We take a look under the hood of the Nitro and emerge with a verdict…
Adidas learned from the original NitroCharge that the fans of the boot and decent colorways did not enjoy the same color EnergySling slapped on every boot. Within the first two releases, Adidas showed that they would make the Sling match the overall aesthetic of the boot and show that they may have used all their stores of “slime” that had adorned so many Nitro releases in the past. The mixture of Nitro releases have avoided the loud nature of the Samba Pack Nitro and it seems that Adidas are hoping for the boot to always look a bit classier and more understated than its counterparts.
For our money, the black launch colorway and the current black/orange look are both big winners in terms of looks and appeal. It is tough to compete with any boot presented in a mostly black package, and both colorways allow the quality of the boot to speak out instead of the colorway…but what did the quality have to say?
One of our favorite aspects of the original NitroCharge was the slight padding given to the HybridTouch that was lacking with the F50 and we could not feel on the Predator (because of the elements all over the upper). This incarnation gave us the same style upper that gives a great leather-like touch while still giving a great leather-like padding on the ball. The EnergySling has actually widened a bit on this release, but it never changed how the ball felt and is a great benefit to the fit (which we will discuss later).
The tongue on the NitroCharge combines with the upper to make a great boot to drive through a ball with. Hard strikes and defensive stops with this boot give that fantastic warm feeling that you only get from a properly padded boot, and the Nitro remains one of my favorite boots to blast a shot with. The protection elements from the last incarnation return, but not in identical fashion as the mesh in the midfoot is adorned with some ribbing and the adidas three stripes. The heel pads return, but (once again) in slightly different fashion than the original Nitro.
Our only qualm with this Nitro is something that we felt with the original: we wish that the whole boot was the hybridtouch instead of having the mesh along the back half of the boot. I understand the protection properties that these materials bring, but the boot could really shine if the whole boot was covered in the high quality adidas synthetic.
This area is where the NitroCharge shined brightest. The lacing system of the boot allows for one of the best fits that can currently been found on the market. Adidas decided to couple the EnergySling up with the lacing system so that the entirety of your foot feels secure with the type of squeeze that you can completely dictate by how tight you pull your laces. The break-in was relatively quick with the only pain experienced derived straight from cramping from just wearing a new boot for too long on the first outing.
The soleplate is nothing new from adidas. The very dependable and oft-used Traxion 2.0 has been slapped on the bottom of this boot and coupled with the EnergyPulse to provide some stiffness to the soleplate and make this a very dependable boot. (Note: despite using a very dependable soleplate, these boots should only be used on firm ground surfaces)
While I have no doubt that this NitroCharge will also get very little focus, very little press, and very little love, it proved to be a quality release that has taken a positive step forward for Adidas. The quality of the upper, the touch on the ball, and the impressive fit that the boot offers makes this an impressive release for Adidas. The biggest qualms that I still have is the mesh sections and how little it seems adidas seem to value this release…why launch a boot if you do not put any of your support behind it? No matter if they don’t believe in it, we certainly have enjoyed our time in the Nitro and believe that, given the chance, you will too.
This boot has been tough to nail down for any player wearing the Nitro as many have either opted for the redesigned 11Pro or jumped back to the Predator ship that they left in the first place. However, you will probably see it being used by at least one player on the pitch every time that you tune in on the weekend for a major game. Once again, this area falls away as adidas really has not given a big face to this boot to help with attention…despite it being a decent value as it is a cheaper option than its fellow Adidas boots.
SIZING INFORMATION: True to size (great fitting no matter your foot type)
The draw for the Women’s World Cup brought an excitement that reassures us the main event is almost here. Despite not kicking off for another 6 months, the draw gave up plenty to talk about from now until then. FIFA put on a show in Ottawa for the Official Draw, while the 24 competing nations waited to see their fate revealed. Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary General, was the main host of the event and announced the nations as they were drawn into their respective groups.
With all of the seeded team placed in groups pre-draw, the interest was where the other 18 teams would land. The draw went great until Colombia was drawn into the same group as Brazil. The organizers moved Colombia to Group F and placed AFC nation South Korea in their Group E place. Other than that small blip, everything went smoothly. The draw created some interesting matchups for each of the groups.
Group A is made up of hosts Canada, China, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. Canada head coach John Herdman was manager of New Zealand from 2006-2011, giving the hosts a link to one of their opponents. As Andrew mentioned on the Center Circle, this group is oozing with potential for any of the teams involved. Canada will need their home field advantage as they hope to progress to the knockout stage.
Group B has two UEFA teams with Germany and Norway, in addition to Ivory Coast and Thailand. This will be Thailand’s first World Cup appearance, while two-time champions Germany will look to complement their men’s squad by adding a second World Cup in as many years. Norway will also be a threat, considering they are one of the four nations (USA, Germany, Japan) to win a World Cup.
Group C has reigning champions Japan, along with Switzerland, Cameroon, and Ecuador. The latter three are making their tournament debut. It seems Japan will have an easy path to the knockout stages, but the games have yet to be played. History is certain to be made, considering at least one of the debut nations will progress to the knockout rounds.
Group D has been dubbed this Cup’s version of the Group of Death. World power and two-time champions USA headline the group. Australia is always a fierce opponent, and Nigeria boast their resume as the reigning African champs. Sweden have former USA coach Pia Sundhage and three top 3 finishes at the World Cup to hang their hat on. Every team in this group had better strap on their goal scoring boots if they are going to progress out of the Group of Death.
Group F has an interesting mix with Brazil, South Korea, Spain, and Costa Rica. Brazil has progressed to the knockout stage in each of the last four World Cups, and they have Marta, the superstar who we had the opportunity to interview for the Instep. This will be the debut for Spain and Costa Rica’s women’s team, and the second tournament for the South Koreans. Similarly to Group C, it seems there is a favorite (Brazil), and three other teams hoping to progress.
That leaves us with Group F. The only team with a top 4 finish is France, who finished 4th in 2011. England, Colombia, and Mexico have all been to the tournament before, but without the success of some of the other groups. Any of these teams can progress as top 2 in the group, but don’t pencil anyone in until all the matches are played.
As usual the top 2 teams out of each group will progress to the knockout stage. However, with the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams, four of the six third place teams in each group will also progress, while the other two will be knocked out. Now managers have the task of preparing for their group games in the quest for the Cup. The first match will feature Canada vs China on June 6th, 2015 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
Just when we thought that Manchester United and the England national team were descending into an irrecoverable nosedive, their captain Wayne Rooney has almost singlehandedly willed his squads to get back on track. On top of that, Wazza has put up some pretty awesome individual accomplishments as well, winning his 100th cap for England in a Euro Qualifier against Slovenia. He is only 3 goals away from Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time record of 49, while Peter Shilton’s 125 caps are also within reach for Rooney. All the while, Rooney has captained these sides to important victories in the last month.
Starting with Manchester United, it was looking like the Red Devils were destined for another season without European competition. It began with early season struggles, hitting its peak with Rooney’s red card against West Ham in September, ruling him out for all the club’s October fixtures. He was notably rusty for the first match back against Manchester City, a 0-1 loss, but bounced back against Crystal Palace and Arsenal. He scored on a breakaway against Arsenal, which would prove to be the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory. The win and three points lifted United to 4th place in the Premier League.
Looking forward, Manchester United has some excellent opportunities to pick up points before the end of 2014. The next three matches are against Hull City, Stoke City, and Southampton, all teams that United can pick up points from. Above all, the club is beginning begin to play well, starting with their captain. With van Persie struggling, and Falcao being injured, Louis van Gaal will need Rooney to continue his inspiring play.
As for the England national team, things were looking pretty grim during the World Cup. Many were calling for Roy Hodgson to be sacked, claiming he was too old and not adapting to the new styles brought by South American players. Then Hodgson named Wayne Rooney captain, and the Three Lions have rattled off 6 straight wins. Rooney got his 100th cap in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia, scoring a goal in the process as well. Three days later he scored a brace against Scotland in a friendly. On top of all of that good news, England are tops in the Group E table with the maximum 12 points. While there are 6 match days to still be played, a six point cushion is pretty substantial at any stage.
Any rumors about sacking Roy Hodgson have been squashed, and Rooney with the captain’s armband seems to be working out pretty well. England are hoping that Wazza can continue his goal scoring streak all the way to next year, as the next time the Three Lions play is at the end of March 2015. If England are going to continue their success and qualify for Euro 2016, Rooney will be a major piece to the puzzle.
Maybe the break from international play will be good for Rooney, as he can concentrate on getting Manchester United some much needed points to ascend on the table. Teetering on the line between Champions League and Europa League is not a place that Red Devils supporters would like to be, but it is a welcome change from 7th place and being left out of European competition entirely. These past couple weeks have really been a pivotal stretch, while it seems United have turned the proverbial corner to success.
We would be remiss if we did not highlight some of the individual accomplishments of Wayne Rooney. He is now one of only 9 Englishmen in history to gain 100 caps for their national team. Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard are still playing, but have retired from international football with 107, 114, and 106 caps respectively. He joins Sir Bobby Charlton as the only forwards in the century cap list, while the all-time leader Peter Shilton is the only goalkeeper on the list. Bending legend David Beckham is second on the list with 115 caps over a 14-year span. As of today, he is 24 caps behind Peter Shilton, and 3 goals behind Sir Charlton.
There are questions as to whether Rooney will be able to eclipse both the caps and goalscoring records before his international career is over. We have a few numbers that might clear the picture. Despite 2014 not officially being complete, the English national team does not have any fixtures scheduled for the rest of the year. That means that Rooney will finish 2014 with 8 goals in 13 appearances. He had 6 goals in 10 appearances during 2013. His career average goals per appearance is .4554, roughly meaning he scores in just under half of the matches he plays. His 2013-14 average is .6086, which is considerably better than his career average.
Barring injury, Rooney will likely captain England through Euro 2016, assuming they qualify. England have 9 scheduled fixtures in 2015 between Euro qualifying and friendlies. Even with his career average, it is likely that Rooney will either tie or better Sir Charlton’s goalscoring record in 2015. There is no way he catches Peter Shilton’s cap record in 2015, but 9 more appearances would put Rooney in 4th place with 110 caps. 2016 would have friendlies, Euro 2016 competition, and probably some 2018 World Cup qualification. In 2012, England played 13 fixtures after advancing to the quarterfinals of Euro 2012. Another 13 matches in 2016 would put Rooney within spitting distance of Sir Charlton.
It is no sure thing that Rooney will play in every England match, but it is more likely now that Hodgson has made him captain. At age 29, Wazza still has plenty of good football left in him, injuries and age may slow him down. For now, we will say that the goal scoring record is probable, while the caps record is possible.
For all the debate about Rooney as a captain and a footballer, 100 caps for your country is an amazing achievement. We give two thumbs up and a standing ovation to Wazza, and wish him all the best in the years to come.
In modern sports, the easiest way to alert your Twitter/Instagram followers, facebook friends, social media cohorts, or people in your phone contacts that you are out enjoying an amazing soccer game would be to take a picture. That picture could either be of the action on the field or a “selfie” taken from your seat in the stadium. Still, it is rare that someone lucks into capturing a picture of themselves within a pivotal moment in the contest or right after the celebrations have started…it seems that Fanpics is going to change all of that.
An app that you can download onto your mobile device (for free), Fanpics is currently extending across stadiums in the U.S. as teams and franchises look to deliver the best fan experience possible. While currently only housed in the home of the LA Galaxy in terms of MLS teams, Fanpics is rapidly spreading and growing in popularity. So, how does Fanpics work? And, how will it improve my game experience?
Well, Fanpics is, in the simplest terms, an app that delivers pictures of the fans. However, instead of a few shots taken during the game and of only a few sections, stadiums equipped with Fanpics equipment take constant pictures of the fans and they take the pictures with hi-res cameras. The constant pics and hi-res cameras allow any fan to find themselves in the stands at the game (with amazing clarity). This means that there is a picture of you and your friends celebrating the winning goal or the looks on your faces as the last-second penalty is about to be taken. Did you all react hilariously to the opposing player diving? You can find a picture of that exact moment!
Is that not enough? To make it even better, Fanpics also makes sure that you can match the moment on the pitch with your reaction! Love the face you made with the winning goal, but you want people to know WHY you were screaming for joy? Fanpics makes it where you can find a picture of what was happening on the field that matches up (time-wise) with how you were reacting in the stands. That means that you can pair your unique reaction with the incident that caused it to occur. Fanpics takes around a million photos in every Galaxy game and the photos can be accessed by fans within 30 seconds of the shot being taken!
As we mentioned earlier, the tech’s only MLS residence is at the StubHub Center, but we are hoping that it spreads to the rest of the MLS very soon. Considering how much fun we see in the fan sections at the MLS games every week, I would be super excited to see these pictures of the fan sections during pivotal moments in the game. For a sport that is growing as we step farther into the future, Fanpics is a welcome addition that helps make a fan experience (that is already impressive) a little bit more special.
The Fanpics platform is based on a free, downloaded app, through which photos are delivered in real time to each fan’s mobile phone, allowing them to be instantly shared via social networks. To learn more about the Fanpics story and how to download the app for free, visit fanpics.com. To get in contact with Fanpics for business inquiries and additional information reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luckily, the MLS allowed all followers of stateside soccer an astonishing precedent this last year with the transfer of Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley; otherwise the latest MLS transfer would be headline news. Jermaine Jones is heading to the MLS and the brash midfielder will be joining the New England Revolution. While this entire article could be comprised about how confusing it is that Jones ended up with his new team, the article where we say the “MLS Continues to Require We Accept Odd Rules,” is not currently in the process. But, why does this newest move have a need for the fan-base to lead with patience?
For the mass of people still decrying the MLS and screaming for it to be the carbon copy of the EPL, this move does (genuinely) show that the American league is still taking steps towards being a legitimate league. Do you remember when the All-Star Game used to just involve a European power beating an MLS to a pulp? The game this season, while one victory can never be justified as a trend, showed that the gulf is no longer as wide as the oceans that separate the MLS from the European giants. While there is no MLS team that could hold their own within the realm of a major European league (perhaps stave off relegation, but nothing else), it now looks like the players actually play a similar level of soccer.
So, this is where the call for patience comes in, and why you can’t allow the success in the recent All-Star Game to cloud your judgment…seeing the MLS on par with other major leagues is still a decade (or more) away. Don Garber and the owners are aware of this and the league is taking small, researched, intelligent steps whenever a situation allows. Looking for relegation? No, as the financial gap between MLS and the next step down would not support it. Looking for the Designated Player slots to disappear soon? No, as the growth of the league has depended on a fair bit of parity within the league itself.
The league is growing. The play is improving. The quality of players that we are seeing within the clubs, the quality of the fan-base with the clubs, and the quality of coverage that we are getting with the league is improving and is showing a continual growth. Understand that the top flight of English soccer has existed for over 100 years and that the MLS is barely over 20 years old! While the dream of the MLS ever eclipsing a major European league is farcical (the U.S.A. has a plethora of major sports leagues to support), the present nature and actions of the MLS seem to point towards a consistent growth. The MLS requires your patience…and your realization that America’s league is a different animal and requires special care.
For anyone that has resigned themselves to sitting at home and watching the World Cup because they would be unable to work their way down into Brazil on their own, McDonald’s may have provided you with the last-second solution. While continuing to show and celebrate their sponsorship of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, McDonald’s are going to send some lucky fans to the third place and FIFA World Cup Final match in a contest that runs from June 10th to June 23rd.
All of this comes on top of the McDonald’s Player Escort program that we covered a few months ago and will continue to raise awareness of soccer and the World Cup within the United States. Customers will find game pieces on the Egg McMuffin, Large Fries, and 10- and 20-piece Chicken McNuggets where they can win Arch Cards (valued at $10/$50/or $100), U.S. Soccer gear, Fanatics.com digital gift codes and free McDonald’s food. As if any of us needed an excuse to snag some McDonald’s over the summer, well…. now, we have one!
All of McDonald’s large French Fry boxes will also be getting Brazil-inspired paint jobs during the tournament, further showing how the massive brand will continue to help build soccer awareness at all levels.