RSL Cup blog taking a long much needed break

I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996.

However, over the past couple of years, and especially the last several months, I've began to see the ugly underbelly of this sport. Most likely it has always been there and I was just too naïve to see it, but I cannot not see it anymore.

I'm taking a much needed break from the sport of soccer. I may or may not be back. I may or may not update this blog, I don't know. It would be a shame since I've had it up and running for almost 10 years, but the fun I once had just isn't there any more.

Hopefully you fare better.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

MLS uniforms 2013, the 3rd kit post

Uniforms in MLS keep progressing thankfully, long gone are the ugly early days of uniforms created by kids with a box of crayons. (Now, if we could just get a couple of logos fixed. New England, Columbus, hello?)

This year three MLS teams came out with alternate 3rd jerseys, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. However, the color purple continues to be left out of the league. C'mon RSL, this is your chance.

Anyway, below are photos and articles about those new jerseys.


Sporting KC unveils third kit, presented by Ivy Funds

Black jerseys pay homage to club’s original look in 1990’s 

( 4-27-13)

Sporting Kansas City unveiled the team’s third jerseys moments before kickoff tonight, taking the field at Sporting Park in an all-black alternate uniform that pays homage to the club’s roots when the team wore black in their first four seasons from 1996-1999.

The limited edition Sporting Kansas City authentic third jersey, along with a line of merchandise that includes t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, tank tops and scarves, will be on sale exclusively at Sporting Style locations inside Sporting Park during tonight’s match. The items will then be made available online at starting on Sunday.

“Our in-house brand team set out to create a kit that blurs the line between fashion and sports,” said John Moncke, Sporting Kansas City’s Vice President of Stadium and Brand Revenue. “This jersey looks just as good with denim as it does on the field. You can wear this out, and people won't think you have a soccer jersey on.”

Complete with a collar at the neck, the jersey material is 30% lighter than the previous generation of kits and the design features an argyle pattern across the front that alternates between the team’s Sporting Blue and Dark Indigo colors. Adidas, Major League Soccer's exclusive supplier, has provided the club's uniforms since the inaugural season in 1996.

Ivy Funds, Sporting Kansas City's presenting jersey partner and the official investment management partner of Sporting Club, is prominently showcased with the asset management firm's logo centrally located on the front of the uniform. Headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., Ivy Funds entered into a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Sporting Kansas City that was announced at the 2013 MLS SuperDraft earlier this year.

In addition to Saturday’s match, Sporting Kansas City will wear the alternate jersey for select CONCACAF Champions League games during the 2013-2014 tournament and designated matches during the team’s defense of their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title.
Sporting Kansas City’s third kit release showcases the club’s emphasis on trendsetting fashion styles and provides a distinctive new look and feel for the team’s evolving brand. Sporting KC currently ranks second in merchandise revenue per capita amongst all MLS teams to date this season.
“We think that if you have a conversation about the coolest kits in the world, then our third kit should be a part of that dialogue," Moncke said.

LA Galaxy 3rd kit unveiled

Fans designed and voted on kit, which is a nod to the Galaxy's old colors

( 6-15-13)

Last summer, through an exciting and first-of-its-kind Facebook application, the LA Galaxy, along with Herbalife and adidas allowed fans to decide what the club’s 3rd kit would look like for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Fans submitted more than 8,000 designs and were able to cast their votes for one of the final five fan-designed kits.

After months of anticipation, the Galaxy are excited to announce the winner of the LA Galaxy 3rd Kit Contest!

Drum roll, please...

The winner, with 30.3% of the total votes is Carlos Rodriguez!

Speaking with last year, Carlos had this to say about what inspired his design and what it would mean to him to have his kit selected by the fans:

On his inspiration for the design:

  "I wanted the jersey to be a throwback to the inaugural season. Though there are certainly some people who might not place that jersey among the nicest LA Galaxy kits throughout the years for its somewhat flamboyant appearance, I have always looked at that jersey as one of the most iconic kits in MLS history. Unfortunately, since those jerseys are out of production, I felt a kit harkening back to that year could be a memento for older and much younger Galaxy fans who never had a chance to put on that jersey or would like to don those colors once again."
On what it would mean to have his jersey selected as the Galaxy’s official 3rd Kit:
"I have always had a great love for the Galaxy and I look back very fondly at the times my uncle, my cousin, and I would head to Pasadena to catch a game. As an emerging fan of the beautiful game, the Galaxy along with the rest of MLS was my first real immersion into the world of soccer and as a young kid I did not grow up idolizing soccer greats such as the Ronaldos or the Zidanes but rather Galaxy players such as the aforementioned Cobi Jones, Mauricio Cienfuegos, and Jorge Campos.

Having my design selected is, therefore, my chance to be etched into the history of the team I love so much and to whom I am eternally gratefully for truly enriching my childhood."
Tonight, Carlos joined Galaxy President Chris Klein and Dan Calichman, the first Galaxy captain, for the official unveil of his design. Fans can check back on after tonight's Reserve League game for more from that event.

The Galaxy will debut the new 3rd kit for Alumni Night on Saturday, August 17 when the club takes on Real Salt Lake.

Philadelphia Union unveil new third jersey, inspired by Bethlehem Steel

(by Jonathan Tannenwald 2-26-13)

Now it's official. After lots of rumor and speculation - and some leaked photos on the internet Tuesday afternoon - the Philadelphia Union finally unveiled their new third jersey during their Meet the Team event at Xfinity Live.

The black, white and red color scheme is a tribute to Bethlehem Steel, the famed club from the 1910's and 1920's that won five U.S. Open Cups.

Led by Archie Stark, Bethlehem Steel rose to local and national prominence in an era when soccer was a huge deal in America.

At that point in the country's history, the east coast's vast population of European immigrants hadn't truly assimilated yet. Baseball was only starting to gain mass appeal, and professional football was far inferior to college football in terms of popularity.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Godfather looks on with falcon eyes

If RSL wants to erect a statue one day of Coach Kreis it should be based on this photo. Epic.
(more to come)

After Flirting With Failure, Major League Soccer Popularity Now Surging

(by Alex Morrell 11-8-13)

Clark Hunt — son of the late NFL legend and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt — has a lot to be excited about these days. Yes, the president and partial owner has watched his Chiefs leap to their first 9-0 start in a decade after years of irrelevance. But the NFL season is long and brutal, and a variety of misfortunes could derail a Super Bowl bid and render that enthusiasm short-lived. He has more to be genuinely excited about in a different league and a different sport altogether– the other football: Major League Soccer.

The MLS Cup Playoffs are underway, and even though FC Dallas, the team he owns with his family, didn’t make the post-season, the future of the league he and his family helped build from the ground up has never been brighter.

For years it’s been the league that cried relevant. Hyped up events  — from hosting the World Cup in 1994, to luring legendary British midfielder David Beckham to the L.A Galaxy in 2007, to recent international success of the men’s and women’s national teams — offered promise to finally catapult domestic soccer into national prominence, only to provide an small, incremental boosts after all the dust and fanfare settled. The lucrative television rights deals of the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL have long dwarfed that of MLS — which as recently as 2011 signed a three-year deal with NBC worth a meager $10 million per year, according to the Sports Business Journal. A decade ago, MLS was teetering on the brink of failure.

“We’ve been hard at work for 18 years. There were some days early on where we thought it wouldn’t make it,” said Hunt, 48, who along with father Lamar, was instrumental in launching the professional soccer experiment in the U.S. in 1996 and  has stubbornly refused to let it fail. “Just 10 years ago we had 10 teams, three owners and we were really in trouble.”

Now, there are 19 teams – with another New York City team scheduled to launch in 2015 and one in Orlando in the works. And with Hunt selling his second soccer team, Columbus Crew, for an MLS record $68 million this July, ownership is as dispersed and valuable as ever. Average attendance has surged to 18,600, a more than 35% increase from the 2000 nadir of just over 13,700.

Perhaps most importantly, there are the stats that point to the sport finally gaining traction.

Rich Luker has been conducting and analyzing polling of American sports fandom since 1994, when he launched the ESPN ESPN Sports Poll. The poll – the first of its kind and the only national syndicated intelligence service dedicated to the study of sports — gathers data on a broad, inclusive list of sports and their U.S. fan bases. The growth Major League Soccer fandom has experienced the past five to 10 years is remarkable,  Luker says.

Of the 18,000 people surveyed in 2012, more than a third identified themselves as fans of Major League Soccer, according to the Luker on Trends – ESPN Sports Poll. It’s a 24% increase from five years ago and a 33% increase since 2002. Avid fans of the league — now at 7.3% — grew 35% from 2007 and 43% from a decade ago.

The poll defines a fan as “a little bit interested” in a sport and an avid fan as “very interested,” a far more coveted distinction.

MLS’ avid fan base is the fastest growing of any sport, outpacing all others in the ten-year periods from 2001 to 2011 as well as 2002 to 2012. And the gains come from nearly all ages of both genders.
Why is MLS finally turning the corner? Hunt can’t point to just one catalyst, but he’s confident in its trajectory. It may never catch up with the NFL, but the league is now nipping at the heels of the bottom of the big four pro sports.

“Soccer has a chance to be the No. 2 sport in the U.S. in my lifetime,” said Hunt, who recognizes the international leagues are currently more popular but believes MLS will be the primary beneficiary of the sport’s growth in years to come.

Critical to that growth has been a rapid cultural and generational maturation of a rather unique fan base, according to Luker.

Soccer is the first sport that has been imported and commercially scaled in the United States that rose to global prominence entirely outside the U.S. Even if their earliest incarnations occurred elsewhere in the world, the four major U.S. sports rose to cultural and commercial significance within American borders over multiple generations.  Major League Soccer, only one generation old, was created because FIFA made it a condition for the U.S. to host the 1994 World Cup.

“This is a league that was born not of love or culture or tradition, but of mandate so the U.S. could host the second largest sporting event in the world,” Luker said. “It boggles the mind that we are where we are.”

The kind of fans the league is attracting and cultivating also bodes well.

The fan base, unsurprisingly, is especially robust among millennials and Hispanics, a steadily growing ethnic population in the U.S. But it has also made substantial gains among the 35-to-54 age demographic, which Luker calls “the most important demographic in sports and gaining strength.”
But beyond demographics and statistics, the culture and behavior of the fan base sets the league apart and has attracted the envy of the other leagues.

“What we are seeing in MLS is unlike anything we’re seeing in any other sport,”  said Luker, who likens the fan base to a cross between two iconic musical followings — grunge and Deadheads. Grunge existed on a small but intense scale for years before exploding in the Pacific Northwest and then nationwide. Deadheads, the loyal grassroots following of The Grateful Dead, traveled from venue to venue night after night to experience the music and the culture that accompanied it.

“Other sports are trying to find a way to emulate that. That vibrance transcends the game day experience and therefore the consumption of goods and the interest of the sport.”

Doug Williams can attest to the growing fervor. He’s the business development director for Sports Endeavors, which owns and World Soccer Shop and is among the largest soccer merchandise retailers in the world. The company, which will cross $200 million in revenue this year, has been around since 1984 — long before MLS existed. Merchandise from English Premier League teams still sells the best, but sales from MLS teams have increased substantially in recent years.

“The dominate league is the English Premier League — they’ve had a long time to get a good head start on that,” Williams said. “But the best MLS teams would be in our top 10 of all teams.”

These trends matter little, of course, unless Major League Soccer translates its burgeoning popularity into revenues that allow the league to grow and invest in its product. With its comparatively paltry TV deals set to expire in 2014, expect the fastest growing league in the U.S. to command a fee far surpassing those in years past.