Tuesday, May 31, 2011

VIDEO - Major League Soccer Review Show (Week 11)

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Until Major League Soccer gets a fat TV contract from ESPN or Fox Soccer that includes regular airtime for a highlights show (hosted by yours truly...) we'll just have to be satisfied with the fact that the league puts one together in-house.

Sit down and enjoy this 45 minute "MLS Review Show (Week 11)" over lunch.

Parts 1 and 2:


Parts 3 and 4:


Part 5:


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Monday, May 30, 2011

NEWS GRAPHIC - The Best Beers in America 2009

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The American Craft Beer Fesitval beings in Boston, Massachusetts this Friday (same weekend as USA-Spain... lucky city!) and over at the site, Mike Wirth Art, designer Mike Wirth has created graphics that represent the industry and all the Great American Beer Festival winners each year.

What a way to celebrate America!



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Friday, May 27, 2011

VIDEO - Teal Bunbury Gives Sporting Park the "Cribs" Treatment

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Sporting KC striker Teal Bunbury toured the nearly complete LIVESTRONG Sporting Park with MLSSoccer.com.

The stadium will open on June 9th when Sporting hosts rivals, Chicago Fire, and then Kansas City will open its doors to the U.S. National Team for the first time in ten years for their Gold Cup first-round match against Guadeloupe.

The Free Beer Movement will be at both!

Check out the video of Major League Soccer's newest SSS. Read our interview with LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman about the story behind how KC's park became the first philanthropic stadium in the world.



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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Soccer Marketing 101 - On Major League Soccer and Budweiser

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On Monday, Budweiser and Major League Soccer announced they had renewed their partnership to sponsor the league, the Men's and Women's United States National Teams, and the Mexican National Team within the U.S.

Interestingly enough, both the league and Budweiser passed on the opportunity to talk about how the Free Beer Movement has been instrumental in growing both of their bottom lines. Oh well....
“Anheuser-Busch has a rich history in soccer, and we’re thrilled to continue our role as an ambassador of the sport through SUM’s top properties,” said Mark Wright, vice president of media, sports & entertainment marketing, Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “Not only do we have a chance to grow the sport nationally through our sponsorships of Major League Soccer and the Mexican National Team’s in the U.S., but Budweiser and Bud Light’s sponsorship of the U.S. national teams allows us to reach soccer fans on a truly global level.”
Close enough. If you parse those words... we're in there somewhere.

The larger point is, though, that the nation's largest brewery has renewed its interest in MLS.

It's no small fact that having this sort of partnership is crucial for the growth of American soccer. Budweiser has been an investor in MLS since the league's inception, a sponsor of the FIFA World Cup since 1986, and a supporter of the U.S. National Team since their return to the international stage in 1990.

Inflatable beer at a U.S. National Team game in San Diego.
Full disclosure: That's "Danny Beerseed" on the right.
For whatever your personal feelings of Budweiser and Bud Light you have to appreciate the continued faith the company has had in the league and the national team for nearly 30 years. In the early days of Major League Soccer,  Budweiser, along with Nike, were two national sponsors that stuck their necks out to help support the fledging league.*

As the league and the national teams continue to expand their sponsorship portfolios, massive companies like Budweiser provide a bell weather for other multi-national corporations weighing their investment in American soccer. Chivas USA can count Corona Extra as its jersey sponsor. In 2011, the league can count such companies as AT&T, AllState, American Airlines, Pepsi, Visa, Volkswagon, and many more as financial backers. Not to mention that MLS now has a tequila sponsor as well!

And even if this Bud isn't for you many MLS teams have found flexibility in securing local beers as club sponsors as well. Budweiser's initial investment not withstanding those local breweries probably wouldn't be there (with the macro-brewers feeling out the ground, making the risks, and thusly inviting the competition later on. Teams like Portland Timbers with Widmer Brothers, Seattle Sounders and Redhook Brewery**, and teams like the Philadelphia Union adding craft brewers, Yards Brewing Co. to their in stadium line up.

Craft beer enthusiasts might decry the new deal between Budweiser and MLS as a cynical ploy for the lowest common denominator fan (while clearly the move is continued push to go after the growing Hispanic population as well), but at a market share of 50.9% the brewer is American soccer and beer's elephant in the room and a necessary evil. America soccer fans with more discerning tastes will poo poo Bud's presence in our sport, but without them the league and the National Teams may not have survived in its earlier days.

American soccer and craft beer fans can only hope that the trail blazed by Budweiser, and now embraced by other breweries, will lead to more options in and outside the stadium for everyone.
"In every corner of the world, football fans share a passion for their favorite teams and players, and they enjoy watching the games with a cold beer." - Tony Ponturo, Vice President of Global Media and Sports Marketing, Anheuser-Busch, Inc.
Mr. Ponturo, in his quote, never specifies what kind of cold beer we should all share in. At the end of the day the Free Beer Movement isn't going to discriminate how anyone becomes a fan of American soccer through the power of free beer. Whether its from a Bud, a Miller Lite, a craft beer, or foreign brew... it's important to keep in mind that beer is the medium, but, ultimately, soccer is the message.

* Source of Budweiser's continued involvement in American soccer from the book, "Star Spangled Soccer" by Gary Hopkins.

** Ironically, Widmer and Redhook are both now owned by Budweiser's parent company, InBev. Neither craft brewer may not have ever had to pull or backing support to make their respective deals if not for being a part of a larger brewing conglomerate. Certainly the move was to put local brewers in the stadium and in prominent position over Budweiser given the Northwest's taste for craft beers.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NEWS GRAPHIC - Gold Cup 101

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A cool graphic from U.S. Soccer explaining the ins and outs of the upcoming Gold Cup.

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VIDEO - Portland Timbers Saturday Night

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Yes, yes... you've heard it all now. The home support for the Portland Timbers is awesome. Maybe they even equal to their northwest rivals, Seattle Sounders. That's not for us to say.

True to our mission, however, to document the wonderful culture that is American soccer, comes this video, courtesy of Juliet Zulu (who's also shot some nice Nike commercials) covering the action of last Saturday's Timber's match against Columbus Crew from the field, the Timbers Army supporters section, and a local bar.

A great mini-feature and all shot and edited within 18 hours!

Shorts like this continue to support our thesis that American soccer culture is truly the best in our domestic sports world and the number one factor in luring soccer newbies. There should be no doubt that just seeing this video should make most non-soccer fans think twice about passing up on a soccer game in Portland and elsewhere in the nation.

PTFC Perfect from Juliet Zulu on Vimeo.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

NEWS WATCH - U.S. Men's National Team Roster for Gold Cup (and Spain Friendly)

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United States Men's National Team coach Bob Bradley announced his squad for June 4th's international friendly against Spain and for the upcoming Gold Cup.

We'll post with nearly no comment except we "accidentally" called Freddy Adu in our "The Shin Guardian" Gold Cup beer-view piece.


U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION


GOALKEEPERS (3): Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Jonathan Bornstein (UANL Tigres), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Eric Lichaj (Leeds), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Freddy Adu (Rizespor), Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

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Better Know A Supporters Group: Angel City Brigade

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We continue our comprehensive coverage of American soccer culture with our series "Better Know a Supporters Group," just like Steven Colbert's "Better Know a District" from "The Colbert Report". 


Our goal: to feature each of the MLS teams' supporters groups. We've sent e-mails to each and every SG in Major League Soccer and soon you'll be able to check all what each is all about and what awesomeness they have to contribute to our growing American soccer world.

When we devised this idea a while back it was cool to be able to see what each supporter group is about, but in light of the terrible, one-sided, anti-American, condescending profile of Philadelphia's Sons of Ben SG by the British GQ (not even going to link to it to give them the site hits) we think its all the more important to give supporters groups in Major League Soccer the proper exposure and voice they deserve.

Coming off their SuperClasico win against Chivas USA Saturday night, it's the "Angel City Brigade", supporters of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

As told to the Free Beer Movement by former ACB council member "Pox" and one of their current "capos".


The Basics

SG Name:  Angel City Brigade (ACB)

MLS Club:  Los Angeles Galaxy

Stadium:  The Home Depot Center

Year SG Founded: 2007

Section Name (if other than SG name): Section 121 / The North End

Any other SGs apart of your section?  The Galaxians occupy the front of section 122.

Location of SG in Stadium (section #, side, direction):  The North End of the HDC, section 121.

The Meaty Questions

What are the origins of your groups’ name? 

Angel City refers to our group’s homage to Los Angeles.  We’ve felt from the beginning that it was important to add Los Angeles in some way to our group’s name.  Brigade just refers to the camaraderie between our group’s members.  Hence, Angel City Brigade.

Favorite chants/songs?  

“This is LA” is our anthem.  It’s sung before every match and usually in the dying minutes of a match.  It’s unique to the league, and at a time when groups recycle a lot of songs it’s nice to have one that completely stands on it’s own.  Other songs that seem to be favorites are “Aleo” and “LA LA LA Let’s Go.”  We’re VERY big on moving en masse in unison.  These last two songs get everyone jumping and moving together and add to the atmosphere of the North End.

Chants can be found here.  http://angelcitybrigade.net/acb-chants/

Why is being in the supporters section the “best seat in the house”?  

Soccer Supporter’s in America are becoming a huge selling point for marketing soccer in America.  There’s a fervor and passion that comes with being a soccer fan and up until recently this aspect of the game was lost on the American public aside from a very small minority.  I believe that the Angel City Brigade and other SG’s across America and Canada are playing a huge part in not just providing an example of the passion but educating America’s sporting public.  If you come into our section you WILL lose your voice and you will leave knowing that you gave your all in support of the LA Galaxy.  This type of dedication makes you feel a part of the team.  That, and the numbers don’t lie.  We went from 20 members in 2008 to 600-800 per game in the 2011 season.  The passion, organization and knowledge we have is clearly contagious.
  
Brag. What makes your SG one of the best supporters groups in MLS?  

Angel City Brigade has grown and thrived in one of the most creative environments in the world.  We exemplify Los Angeles both inside and outside the stadium.

Inside the stadium we chant and sing non stop in support of our team.  If we are losing we only get louder. Angel City Brigade sing in Spanish and English and carry the best traditions from each supporting culture around the world, effectively creating a hybrid supporter’s culture.

Outside of the stadium ACB have bands dedicated to their section who play benefit shows to raise money for travel costs and tifo.  Angel City Brigade organize and compete in a friendly soccer game with Chivas USA supporters to promote the passion and emotion of a Clasico game without the violence.  Angel City Brigade are true representatives for what supporters in America should be, a conglomeration of different aspects of support from around the world who carry all the emotion and passion without the violence.
Section 121 Band found here.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmEJAZ7mU2o

Greatest game(s) in team history? 2002 and 2005 MLS Cup Finals.

Predictions for this season?  

With our hectic schedule I doubt we’ll take the supporter’s shield again.  We’ll easily qualify for the playoffs and once we do we’re easily one of the favorites, especially now that we’re hosting the MLS Cup.

Why Major League Soccer? Why American soccer?  

It’s sad that this even has to be asked.  Unfortunately a lot of Americans tend to lean towards the European or South American leagues.  Since that’s the reality it’s up to average MLS fans as well as supporter’s groups to draw attention to our league through our support in both dollars and passion.  You will NEVER have the same connection with a club 6,000 miles away as you do to the one in your own backyard.  Be proud of our young league and clubs.

One message.  GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT!!!  SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CLUB!!!! 


For more information and/or to join the "Angel City Brigade" check out their website


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Friday, May 20, 2011

Going Suds Up: The Best Soccer, The Best Beer

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

It all comes down to this weekend: Survival Sunday in the Premier League. With the title already in Manchester United’s hands, there are only a few more questions to be answered:

Who Takes Third Place and the Automatic Champions League Qualification?

After Arsenal very nicely allowed Aston Villa a win (and safety—thanks, guys!) last Sunday, Manchester City then slipped into third place with their midweek win against Stoke City. Now the two teams are just a point apart.

Bolton v Manchester City

The Bolton of earlier in the season has more or less been replaced by a team that just can’t find a point – four straight losses sees them out of European contention. City, as everyone knows, just won their first trophy in something like six hundred years, and are desperate to secure that third place finish. Because, of course, they don’t have the squad depth to handle an extra round of Champions League play.

Fulham v Arsenal

Fulham are currently in eighth place, which would normally mean they’re competing with Everton for the last European position, but with this crazy season seeing Stoke and Birmingham Cities in the Europa League, there’s only a battle for fifth place. But who cares! Fulham are going into Europa based on the Fair Play Table, which has awarded an extra spot to England. Don’t even get me started on how ridiculous it is to give a spot to clubs simply because they “play nice.” Particularly a side with Steve Sidwell on the team.  Anyway, considering Arsenal’s tendency to get hurt if someone shouts boo, they really need automatic qualification, so perhaps they can finally find a win here.

Beer: Allagash Brewing Co. Tripel Reserve (Portland, Maine)

Tripel…third place…it fits, right? Tripels are strong ales with a dry finish, so apply that appropriately to the two teams vying for third place in the Premier League.  The Allagash Tripel pours golden with an off-white head and clings. The aromas are standard to Belgian beers: bubblegum, clove and yeast. This one tastes of candy sugar and dough with a mild pepperiness. At 9% alcohol, there’s no way to hide the burn at the end of every sip…

Who Takes The Europa League Spot?

As mentioned above, the winners of the Carling Cup and the runners up of the FA Cup finished so far down the table that only fifth place gets a Europa League spot this season. So who will it be – Liverpool or Tottenham?

Aston Villa v Liverpool

Yours truly will actually be at this match, and while I’m just relieved that Villa are safe so I won’t spend the entire match panicking, I’d really love my first game at Villa Park to involve at least a point. Surely that’s not too much to ask, Liverpool? Do you want Europa League play, really? Not like it did that much for you this season, what with all those boring draws.

Tottenham Hotspur v Birmingham City

Spurs owe me an enormous favor this season, after failing to step up each time I’ve needed them to. It’s your time, Tottenham. Beat Birmingham, take the Europa League spot, and send those Bluenoses to the Championship.


Bitters are often misnomered, at least for those used to drinking IPAs—there’s not much that’s actually bitter about them. But I figure both teams in this instance are going to be bitter: one about going to the Europa League, the other about not getting to go. So drink up! Twist of Fate pours a honey color with a small beige head. The aromas are of brown sugar, yeast, and spice. This one gets off to a sugary start before mellowing to a more grasslike flavor. In the end, though, it all leads to a bitter finish.

Who Will Play Championship Football Next Season?

And this is why they call it Survival Sunday, ladies and gentlemen. There are five –that’s right, five—clubs that could end up taking one of the remaining two spots in the relegation zone, after West Ham got sent down last Sunday. Blackburn and Wolves each have 40 points (so much for that magical number of safety) while Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan all have 39. Tough year to be a team starting with a B or a W, I suppose.

Wolves v Blackburn

Talk about a relegation six-pointer, eh? Splitting the points won’t save them if every other team does the unthinkable and wins, so having to actually play for all three points could make this an interesting match.

Tottenham v Birmingham

See above. Come on you Spurs!

Manchester United v Blackpool

United already have a title, and a Champions League final to prepare for. Do they really need to beat poor Blackpool to prove themselves? I think if you took a poll of which of the relegation-threatened teams that most people want to see return to the league next season, the Seasiders would come out on top. Perhaps we should make relegation more like American Idol.

Stoke City v Wigan

Ok, so Stoke lost to Manchester City twice in four days. That doesn’t mean they should take out their frustrations on poor Wigan. Wigan are fun. They’re coached by Roberto Martinez. Give the loveable little Latics a chance, Stoke. You’re going to Europa, for goodness sake.

Beer: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery "Immort" Ale (Milton, Deleware)

Barley Wine: exactly what you need if your team is threatened with relegation. Dogfish Head loves making strong, unusual beers and their barley wine is no exception. The Immort pours a peachy amber with plenty of beige clings—make sure you serve it in a sniffer because 11% pints are a bit dangerous. This one smells of smoke, yeast, and evergreens. The taste is nutty, with lots of maple syrup and vanilla, and a lingering smoky finish.

All matches are on Sunday, May 22 at 10 AM CT


About Kirsten

I may be a law student at Lewis and Clark, but soccer is my true love, with beer coming in a distant second. That's not to say I don't love beer--I've tasted over a thousand different brews, and listed many of them onRatebeer. Living in Portland, Oregon, I attend quite a few festivals and tastings, and am able to argue passionately about the merits of Cascade hops vs. Chinook. 

As for the soccer, I'm the Managing Editor of SB Nation's Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, the Italy Editor for SB Nation Soccer, and cover the Seattle Sounders on SBN Seattle (don't judge--I'm from Seattle!) Finally, I write for Two Footed Tackle when I find words worthy enough for the site. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

VIDEO - Golazo Energy's "Walk Among Us" And How Supporters Sell Soccer

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Looks like a Free Beer Movement subscriber to us!
If you're a long-time or recent follower of the Free Beer Movement, you've probably noticed that we take a pretty keen interest in the supporters of Major League Soccer teams. When it comes down to it, the action on the field is what is it... the teams change, the scores differ, and the players come and go, but what remains a constant is the passion and the intensity of the supporters in the stands.

For anyone that's ever been to an American soccer game you always know where to look to find the loudest and proudest fans at the park. This is where and how American soccer is sold to the newbie. For anyone that has ever brought a newbie into the supporters section for American Outlaws, Emerald City Supporters, Timbers Army, Barra Brava, Section 8, any number of other fantastic groups in Major League Soccer the experience with these people is unlike any other sport in our nation.

When we set out to start the Free Beer Movement we were certain that the product we were selling, American soccer, was beautiful on its own. From the local pitch to the stadiums around this country our game is gorgeous. Reasonable people will debate that, but our love for soccer is unquestioned. What sets soccer apart even more from its American counterparts is the game day experience.

Buy the newbie a beer and have them enter the supporters section of an American soccer team and they will become a fan for life. The camaraderie, the chaos, the coolness of the supporters section is something unique to the sport of soccer.

Golazo, a Seattle-based and soccer-centric energy drink played up this angle in their latest video called "Walk Among Us" which follows the supporters of Seattle Sounders (primarily) with the Portland Timbers, and Chivas USA supporters making cameos.

One of the guys pretty much summed up our feelings, "Soccer is a way of life. It's not something you do just for the game. It's always apart of you."

And that's what sells soccer. The undeniable connection that people feel for their team. Certainly that passion lives in many sports, but, in our opinion, nothing like the at-birth or in-my-DNA sort of love that comes from the intimate connection between a person and soccer.

Golazo's video captures that and the essence of this sport. The proof is in the video of why we keep on asking you all to grab a friend, family member, or co-worker (toss them in the supporters section), buy 'em a beer, and help "Build American Soccer One Beer at a Time".

Walk Among Us from GOLAZO on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

12-Pack Interview Series: Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl (Part Two)

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Grant Wahl is the best-selling author of "The Beckham Experiment" and the head soccer writer for Sport Illustrated. Earlier this year he unsuccessfully ran to be nominated for the FIFA Presidency.


In part two of our conversation with Wahl he talks about that run for FIFA's top job, Sport Illustrated's growing soccer coverage in print and online, beer in Qatar, this summer's Gold Cup, early impact players for Brazil 2014, and the soccer's growth in the United States.


You can read part one of our interview here.

Speaking at the American Outlaws Rally.
Photo Credit: Renee Krenk Photography.
FBM: FIFA President. You fell a little short. I don't think you had the money to bribe any officials from federations. They didn't nominate you, but a couple of candidates did come out of the woodwork. What were your expectations? What were your goals? Do you feel like you made your point to the world soccer community?

GW: Oh, yeah. I look back on it now and I'm happy with how the message I was trying to send got out. The response global fans and media was so much beyond what I originally expected. I was pretty floored by the whole thing.

It actually became a lot more than I expected. As a result it became like a second full-time job. Here I am having to do interviews with upward 60 countries. It was interesting to me how much it reverberated in countries like Brazil or some of the European countries. That should, not that it had to do with me, but how much fans around the world are dissatisfied with (current FIFA President Sepp) Blatter and what they're doing.

I didn't know how it was going to play out, but I was trying to get the nomination. I did as much as I could. I contacted 150 FAs (football associations), I went to Paris, the UEFA conference. I was able to write a really long story at the end of it all explaining how hard it was for any outsider to get nominated. I was able to get some journalism.

I taught people to take a different look at FIFA and question some of the absurdities of the electoral process.

In the end I didn't get the nomination, but I was totally satisfied with the process.

FBM: Sports Illustrated had been historically short on soccer coverage. There hasn't been regular soccer coverage in the magazine. Lately, though, we've seen a bit more from SI; magazine stories on Charlie Davies and Jose Mourinho. How has the respect, or the desire to cover soccer changed since you've come aboard? Are you excited about the prospect of continued growth of soccer in Sports Illustrated?

GW: I am excited. I'm excited by their having me go full-time with soccer, by giving me the travel budget to cover it the right way. That's all good stuff. 

I'm excited. When I went full-time in January 2010 it was all about the World Cup, previewing and covering that event. Now that its over here I am covering soccer full-time and it's not about covering the World Cup and how's it going to go forward.

I'm excited about that challenge. It does mean all of the writing I do now for Sports Illustrated, more of it is going to be for the website then for the percentage of what I did for college basketball. And I'm OK with that.

I'm able to treat web stories like magazine stories.

We're in pretty nice position where Jose Mourinho will be willing to give us uncommon access, one-on-one to him, that he really doesn't give to journalists anywhere. Because one thing I've always seen over the years is that the top soccer figures in the world want to be bigger in America. Their willing to give access that they wouldn't give their own journalists in Europe. I can leverage that.

At the same time there's cool things going on in American soccer. I don't want to lose sight of that. I'm pretty much on the ground for every U.S. game. I'll be covering the Women's World Cup in Germany as well. 

I'm perfectly happy writing articles for the magazine, but also for the website.


FBM: SI.com has really carved out a decent home for quality, digital coverage of soccer. In this day and age, print media, magazines have weathered it OK. How does Sports Illustrated and its coverage of soccer stay relevant in the digital age?

GW: It is interesting. SI.com got a new soccer editor, Jen Cheng from ESPN.com, about a year ago and I tihnk he's been great. He's been given a budget to hire high-quality freelancers like Sid Lowe and Jonathan Wilson, Gabriel Marcotti, some really good writers so I don't have to do it all. It allows me the luxury of cherry-picking somethings and focusing on those.


If you look at our coverage of the sport on SI.com there's something good everyday just about now. There's someone in place there that gets the sport. Jen Cheng watches more soccer than anyone I know and he's really having a positive impact.


At the magazine, for about a year and a half now we've had new soccer editor who loves the sport. He's also the NFL editor. He's a rising star editor and he's willing and able to pitch stories to the main SI magazine and get us stories in the magazine. In years past there might have been a hesitancy at the magazine to do consecutive soccer features in the magazine.

It does matter to have a few people in key positions in the media, gatekeeper positions who love the sport. That John Skipper who is tremendously powerful guy at ESPN be a big soccer guy is, I can't tell you how big that is for the sport, for coverage of the sport. There's generation of media people where now, soccer is not a stigma attached to it.

FBM: Alright. A beer question. You knew there had to be a beer and soccer question in here. Beer and Qatar? How is that going to happen?


GW: From everything that I understand, I asked some Australians on Twitter if they were able to get some beers when they were at the Asian Cup. They said that if you're in the hotels before and after the games, but it wasn't like you could at the stadiums. You couldn't walk into a bar off the streets because they don't have any. My guess is, when the World Cup comes around, there will be places to get beer. I don't think its going to be easy. I think its going to be a lot harder that any other previous World Cup.

For as much as beer has been associated with soccer. Getting a beer at a soccer stadium has never been that easy.

Still impact players in 2014.
FBM: If you could project the impact players at the 2014 Brazil World Cup. What would be some of your early predictions for the U.S.?

GW: I still think Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are going to have big World Cups. Potentially Tim Howard. All three of those featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated for this World Cup. Then you try to project which other guys might be in there. Right now does Juan Agudelo look like a guy that looks like he could have a pretty big World Cup? Yeah, he does. Does Tim Ream look like a guy that could have a pretty big role? Yeah.

You look at what Timothy Chandler is doing in the Bundesliga and with limited time with the National Team and that's very promising. It's kind of hard to predict the future though, you know?

FBM: When you look at Americans abroad and even some players in the MLS that are making an impact and is it easy to be very optimistic about the trajectory of American soccer?

GW: I do. I think its incremental. There are set backs along the way. That's apart of life for the most competitive sport in the world. I wasn't so bothered by the U-20s failing at the World Cup qualifying as much as I don't really see, right now, potential upgrades on Donovan and Dempsey.

Is that a problem that those two guys are probably going to be the top two offensive players in the next World Cup? Considering that they'll be over 30... I guess I do see that as a concern. I look at a lot of these young U.S. players and I'm not sure they've accomplished all that much yet.


Other sports have had young players with a lot of attention, like LeBron James, and what makes you great is dealing with that stuff and still competing. Michael Jordan or Maradona or Pele. It's producing even after you get that attention.


Number five coming?
FBM: Predictions for the Gold Cup?

GW: It is going to be a very interesting tournament. For the U.S., they have the benefit of playing on home soil, but if they have a U.S.-Mexico final that stadium will be pro-Mexico. And that's no different from the 2007 final in Chicago or the 2009 final at the Meadowlands.

I think there will be a lot of pressure on them because Bob Bradley and all the players have talked about how important it was to go to Confederations Cup and have that experience and to qualify for the next. If the U.S. doesn't win there will be some criticism. We'll get a pretty good sense of what the next cycle for the World Cup will look like.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

12-Pack Interview Series: Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl (Part One)

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Earlier this year Grant Wahl made waves in global soccer by declaring himself a candidate for the FIFA presidency. Wahl was not nominated by any member nation's federation, but a light was shone upon Sepp Blatter's unopposed run for his fourth term as the leader of the world's game. In the end Qatar's Mohamed Bin Hammam stepped up to complete for FIFA's top job and Blatter squirms a bit more as the world questions just how beneficial his reign has been.


Wahl is the full-time, head soccer writer for Sports Illustrated and probably the most well-known of all American soccer journalists. He's covered four World Cups for the magazine and is the best-selling author of "The Beckham Experiment".
Damn you, Ditka!


(Aside: In 1998, Wahl was covering his first World Cup as the last of SI's American writers to stick around after the USMNT's crashed out in the first round. I was a freshman in high school having just returned from travelling in Hungary and France during the Cup. A long-time subscriber to SI (thanks grandma!) I was elated to finally see some coverage of soccer and I remember pasting up the magazine's pictures of the WC on my closet door. I watched the final and eagerly awaited the next issue of Sport Illustrated to come in the mail. 


When the magazine arrived I was furious to see Mike Ditka's face on the cover instead of a photo of Zidane burying a header against Brazil. In one of my first acts of advocating for soccer in America I furiously wrote a letter to the editor of SI with a litany of complaints. Wahl, SI, and myself have all come a long way since then.)


The Free Beer Movement had the chance to meet Mr. Wahl when we both spoke at the American Outlaws Rally in Las Vegas and Grant graciously agreed to an interview to talk about the effect of the "Beckham Experiment" in MLS two years later, his FIFA run, the future of soccer in print and digital media, and much more.


Our interview started as our usual "12-pack" of questions, but it turned into a fantastic conversation on media and the game so there's several more questions through parts one and two.


Free Beer Movement: How did you get your start in soccer? Did you play when you were younger? 


Grant Wahl: I played soccer as a kid just like everyone else. And just like everyone else... I quit when I was thirteen. I didn't really pay attention to soccer again until the 1990 World Cup. The US had qualifyied for the first time in forty years. I got into not just watching the US, but the other games. I remember, we didn't get TNT (which had the English-language rights to Italy '90), but we did get Univision and we watched Andres Cantor. Got into there and then slowly progressed from there.


I went to Princeton where (current USMNT coach) Bob Bradley was coach and covered their Final Four run in 1993. In early 1994 I applied for a scholarship at Princeton for students to do a project they could never do on campus. I proposed a project that would take me to Argentina for a four weeks and then Boston to follow the Argentina team when they played there during the Cup. It's funny to think back because it was Bradley that actually helped me make contact with Boca Juniors for the trip.


It was the first time I had ever left the United States; I was twenty years old. 


FBM: Where did you get your start in sports journalism? How do you think you've managed to rise so quickly in the business?


GWI had always wanted to write for Sports Illustrated someday. I tried to do what I could to pursue that in college. I ended up getting a job offer to start as a fact check. Which is pretty low on the totem pole. It was a foot in the door and an opportunity to write. Early on, no one at the magazine wanted to write about soccer.


My first big thing with soccer was the 1998 World Cup. We have three writers over there and I was, by far, the most junior. After the U.S exit, I was the only one left to cover the Finals story. I know the magazine editor was freaked out about it. I was only 24 and I knew that was kind of a big chance for me. From that point on I've been the "soccer guy" at the magazine, but secondary until January of last year when I became full-time.


Wahl's FIFA Presidential Rally in Las Vegas.
Photo Credit: Renee Krenk Photography
FBM: You recently spoke at the American Outlaws Rally in Las Vegas. A "campaign stop" for your FIFA Presidency run. How was that event for you? How was it meeting the supporters and getting a taste of what it meant to be a supporter of American soccer?


GW: I totally enjoyed it. It's great to meet people in person who are passionate about a sport in American. I was really impressed with what American Outlaws has doen to organized fans. For me it was really fun. I had not planned for it to turn into a campaign thing. Back when I first accepted it was before the FIFA thing. I was pretty surprised to see all the campaign signs and buttons (put together by energy drink maker, Golazo).


What I wanted to say from the start was I've seen the rise of fan culture in American soccer and that includes the National Team and includes MLS teams. It's been very cool to see. I think that's what makes soccer 
fandom more interested and passionate than fandom of a lot of other American sports. I love the passion of it.


FBM: Having covered both college basketball and soccer for Sports Illustrated... what are the differences in covering each?


GW: Honestly I don't cover soccer any differently than I would a college basketball. The way you cover a sport is essentially the same. Soccer is different from college basketball in a media sense. I like being different and doing something that's not typical in sports journalism.


I love the variety of stories in soccer. In college basketball I did get the feeling that a lot of my stories or the story topics started to take on similar qualities. Every season I would do a story on the top freshman in the country that would be the number one pick in the next NBA draft. I didn't dislike that, in yet there wasn't a ton of variety in their personal stories and I feel like in soccer there's a lot more variety because of the volume of stories around the world. 


Soccer touches on so many different things; culture, politics, stuff like that. For the media that's exciting to look at from that perspective.


FBM: I'm going to make you make a defining statement here. Cameron Crazies or American Outlaws?


GW: (Laughs). You know. I made my choice a year ago to go in full for American soccer so I'll go with American Outlaws.


FBM: Beckham is in final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy. He's almost done with his so-called experiment. How do you rate it in year five? From his perspective, the Galaxy's, Major League Soccer's?


GW: I think you have to look at is from different perspectives. For Major League Soccer and the Galaxy they would certainly sign him again because it brings a tremendous amount of attention. Not just from outside the U.S., but from inside the U.S. as well. From a business perspective it has been a tremendous positive. This guy's jersey was the top selling jersey in the world in 2007.


And yet at the same time, you've gotta look at the on-the-field performance. My book covered the first two years and it was a complete disaster on the field. Obviously it has gotten better since then, but even then you've got to issue some caveats since Beckham hasn't played that much for the Galaxy whether thats due to the loans or serious injuries. He's now playing in his fifth season, but this will be the second one in which he'll be playing the whole season with the team. Hasn't won any trophies.


Just as it was the case at Real Madrid it was very important that we won a league trophy before he left. He did that. I think it is very important for him that how people view his on-field legacy here to win a trophy before he leaves. 

It's very much a mixed bag. In 2011 he's helping create chances for the Galaxy, but to get five yellow cards in the first six games is kinda of ridiculous. 

When I first started my book on Beckham we didn't have any idea how it was going to turn out and for all I knew he was going to win championships like Pele did with the Cosmos and it did't happen that way.

I think its kinda of unfortuante that in some places I've gotten this reputation for being "negative" on Beckham. All I've really done is cover him straight up.

Jury is still out on the "Beckham Experiment".
FBM: It's unfortunate that you get painted those ways. When you're a "truth-teller" sometimes the truth hurts. It's not your fault it's negative. Your subject ends up... it's not the fault that you wrote down the facts; the facts tell a certain story.


GW: I totally enjoyed the whole process. I was able to get so deeply inside a team like I never had before. People were very honest the whole way through. I wanted it to be either really, really good (for the team) or really, really bad. If they were a mediocre team, it wouldn't be a very interesting story.


Turned out they were really, really bad.




FBM: It was really interesting to look at the inside of an MLS team. The only news coverage you got was from the team itself. "Sorry they're not staying at the Four Seasons... the Best Western is what you get for this road trip."


GW: (Laughs) I was lucky in the sense that MLS was still at the point, even with a guy like Beckham on the team, that the access I was able to get was awfully good what you would probably get for an NFL team or an NBA team.


FBM: This dovetails nicely into my next set of questions. The "Beckham Rule", the Designated Player.. if you've looked at the impact of it since his arrival... there's been a whole host of busts: Nery Castillo, Guzman in Toronto, Ladin in Houston. Or there are some that started successfully but then faded: Blanco in Chicago, Ljunberg in Seattle. How would you assess the overall program for MLS?


GW: It's good that teams at least now have the option and really open their wallets. Which wasn't there before Beckham. Is everyone going to make the right decision? No. That's certainly the case we've seen.

You could also argue, though, it allowed a guy like Landon Donovan to stay in the league. I'm a little surprised so many DPs have been busts. At the same time there have been some successes. The chance to bring some star power into the league is something that needed to happen.


In a league that gets microscopic television ratings (0.2 Nielson rating on ESPN) the only thing that moved the needle was Beckham, and maybe Adu the first year he was in MLS. The DP at least allowed the possibility that that would happen.


You are starting to see a divide between larger market and smaller market teams and their ability to afford players like that.


Did he know what he was getting into?
FBM: Do you think that the designated players come in with mistaken impressions of what the league is and what their impact will be?


GW: I do find it interesting. I would compare Henry to Beckham in this case. When they first arrived they, I don't think, they were prepared for the demands of being in the league, the heat, the conditioning required of players in MLS. That led, in part, to Henry not being at full fitness last season. Led to injures. He just wasn't in shape.


Neither one of those guys were fully aware of what they were getting into. I think maybe that's a lesson for teams in MLS, especially for some of these guys that might come in mid-season, from Europe, that they really need to be strong about educating these guys about what they're getting into. My guess is that some of the MLS teams feel like they want to overpower the player or their agent. MLS teams really should do more to educate those players before they actually arrive in the U.S. 


FBM: you also have to look at the scale. Are the expectations too high for the impact of these players? Soccer is a team sport. It's not like having a start quarterback or running back that will be THE silver bullet to it all. It does skew the scale of how you rate these players.


GW: They are one of eleven, but they are one very special player of eleven. I don't think it's unfair to think that Thierry Henry should score a lot of goals in New York based on how much he's getting paid. Now we're starting to see that. These guys get the benefit of being the stars, but there's expectation and that's no different in MLS than in Europe.


More of our conversation with SI's Grant Wahl in Part Two.


Get the NEW Free Beer Movement "Pint Glass" shirt! Only from Objectivo.com

Monday, May 16, 2011

Introducing the NEW Free Beer Movement "Pint Glass" Shirt

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Drum roll, please.....

The time has come to roll out a brand, spankin' new Free Beer Movement t-shirt! Yes, folks, that's right after months of anticipation (at least for us) we're debuting this awesomely, epic shirt.

Our friends at Objectivo/Ultras are back again to support the making, retailing, and shipping of the shirt so if we're already sold you head on over there right away!

If it's not love a first sight here's a short list of things that might convince ya:

1) It's America. Come on! We just got Bin Laden... time to celebrate.

2) Also, its nearly Gold Cup time so support your U.S. Men's National Team. I mean even the American Outlaws would love this.

3) It might be the dopest design you've ever seen. Designed by a real pro, Eric Wheatley. A pint glass, an American flag beer, on a coaster with the continental U.S. and the FBM on it. Plus, our sweet crest is still on the back.

4) We promise you this... it will be the softest shirt you'll EVER own. Made of 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon... its like wearing a shirt made out of a cloud. (BTW... the material is why this shirt is a bit more expensive then the last one)

5) You're helping "Build American Soccer One Beer at a Time". It even says it on the back. Plus, free advertising for the cause you know and love.

So what are you all waiting for!?!?!? Click on over to Objectivo's site. It will be the best $28 you've ever spent.

A traditionalist? There are still limited quantities, sizes, and colors of the original Free Beer Movement shirt. Still available for just $18.


Get the NEW Free Beer Movement "Pint Glass" shirt! Only from Objectivo.com

Better Know A Supporters Group: Bulldog Supporters Group

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After a brief interruption in our weekly series we return to our coverage of American soccer culture with our series "Better Know a Supporters Group," just like Steven Colbert's "Better Know a District" from "The Colbert Report". 


Our goal: to feature each of the MLS teams' supporters groups. We've sent e-mails to each and every SG in Major League Soccer and soon you'll be able to check all what each is all about and what awesomeness they have to contribute to our growing American soccer world.

When we devised this idea a while back it was cool to be able to see what each supporter group is about, but in light of the terrible, one-sided, anti-American, condescending profile of Philadelphia's Sons of Ben SG by the British GQ (not even going to link to it to give them the site hits) we think its all the more important to give supporters groups in Major League Soccer the proper exposure and voice they deserve.

Today it's the "Bulldog Supporters Group", supporters of the reigning MLS champions, Colorado Rapids.

As told to the Free Beer Movement by BSG President Jon Forget.


The Basics

SG Name: Bulldog Supporters Group (BSG, The Bobbies)

MLS Club: Colorado Rapids

Stadium: DSG Park

Year SG Founded: 2010

Section Name (if other than SG name): The East Terrace

Any other SGs apart of your section? West Terrace occupied by Pid Army.

Location of SG in Stadium (section #, side, direction): North side of the stadium, directly under the “2010 Championship” plaque, you can’t miss us.

The Meaty Questions

What are the origins of your groups’ name?

Our name evolved from our home pub. We hail out of the downtown Denver soccer pub “The British Bulldog”. This was a place many of us would frequent before the supporters group formed to watch matches with others. For many of us, our pub is a second home.

Favorite chants/songs?

Glory, Glory Colorado, Conor Casey Rapids’ #9, Mountain Roads Take Me Home, Pabloooooo, Ginger Ninja, We all Bleed Rapids Burgundy, Mental

Why is sitting in the supporters section the “best seat in the house”?

No sitting here! We are unique to the league as we are the ONLY standing supporters terrace. I guarantee you will not get the excitement or atmosphere standing/sitting in any other part of DSG Park as you will in the terrace. From the terrace we hope to inspire the team, pushing them on to victory with our voices. Win or lose, we are family.

Brag. What makes your SG one of the best supporters groups in MLS?

We realize that we are new, but that hasn't stopped us from quickly growing and becoming organized. We have many new and old fans that are completely dedicated to the club, and are eager to inject their passion to make it better. It’s this passion from our members that is on display before, during, and after a match. Simply put, we are rowdy, partying, song singing, soccer loving people drinking beer and playing games in the warm Colorado sunshine. There aren't many ways to spend a Saturday better than that.

Greatest game(s) in team history?

Chris Henderson’s screaming volley over Mark Dodd to reach the final in ’97 is something many of us will never forget. Coming back against Kansas City on the 4th of July down a man in ’05. Crushing LA on opening day 4-0 in ’08. Of course our run through the playoffs this past year. Home and away against Columbus, San Jose and Dallas are games that for obvious reasons will never fade from many of our memories.

Predictions for this season?

If we finish out of the top three that would surprise a lot of people. Now that we have a taste for winning in our mouth there are raised expectations. If we don’t get our hands on some kind of silverware I think people will be disappointed. The month of July will be HUGE for us as we will be playing seven games in twenty-six days. After that, we start in the CCL where traveling might take it’s toll. God willing, we will remain healthy and focused enough to be able to mount a serious challenge for back-to-back titles.

Why Major League Soccer? Why American soccer?

Simply, this is what we have. For people lucky enough to feel so passionate about soccer there IS no other place to start than by supporting your local team. Do it, and be proud of your team, remember your rivalries and that the enemy of your enemy is a friend.

For more information and/or to join BSG check out their website.

Get the NEW Free Beer Movement "Pint Glass" shirt! Only from Objectivo.com