Pelé Soccer opens in Times Square

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After the colossal failure that was the NFL Experience in Times Square (it lasted only ten months), I was somewhat surprised to read about the recent opening of Pelé Soccer in Times Square.

According to a press release from SGB Media, “Pelé Soccer Times Square is a destination retail experience that puts Pelé’s legacy and love for the game front and center.”

Of course, the name Pelé needs no introduction to soccer fans, especially here in New York. It’s been over 40 years but Pelé helped raise the profile of soccer in the city and throughout the country when he played for the New York Cosmos from 1975 to 1977.

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Pelé Soccer Times Square is located at 1560 Broadway and is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Soccer fans will love the in store experience as it features a stadium-inspired design concept. Visitors will enter the store by walking through a tunnel-like hallway lined with memorabilia. The main floor resembles an actual soccer field with stadium-style floodlights and interactive areas. One area will have bleachers with large screens so visitors can watch matches while they shop.

Pelé himself spoke of the opening of the shop in New York.

I am thrilled that Pelé Soccer has come to New York City, a place where soccer fans from all walks of life can come together to share their love for the game. New York was once my home, and I still think of those memories fondly. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have a place in the Big Apple once again.

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Pelé Soccer will also sell gear and merchandise online. In checking out the site I was impressed by the extensive inventory available for sale. For example, under “countries” you can find shirts and kits from all over the globe. For fun I clicked on Estonia, and sure enough there was merchandise.

Pelé Soccer opened its first location in Orlando in 2017 followed by Miami Beach this past summer. There are plans for future store locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, London, Paris, Dubai, Shanghai, Tokyo, and more.



Iranian women allowed to attend a live soccer match for the first time in 40 years

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I truly believe that soccer unites the world. It is played from one end of the globe to the other and is the most popular sport in the world. It brings people together and unites fans in a common cause.

When I read this story about Iranian women being allowed to attend a soccer match for the first time since 1979 it made me realize just how important the sport can be to many. For those of us who are free to make our own choices, we often take for granted something as simple as attending a sporting event.

This story began earlier this year when Sahar Khodayar wanted to attend a match being played by her favorite team, Esteghlal. Khodayari attempted to enter the stadium dressed as a man and was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Court. She feared being jailed for six months and set herself on fire to protest the arrest and advance the cause of women’s rights in Iran.

In reaction to the death of Khodayari, FIFA and women’s rights campaigners put pressure on the Iranian FA to allow women to attend its national match last week versus Cambodia.

3000 tickets were allocated for women who had to sit in an exclusive “women’s only” section of the stadium. The women in attendance were seen cheering, waving flags and just enjoying the game.

One of the women in attendance was quoted saying, “It was really a very big wish. Really, thank you for letting us come. I’m shaking. Thank you.”

While this was a step forward, Iran still has a ways to go to change how it treats women sports fans. The fact that the women had to sit in their own section rather than with their family and friends needs to be addressed. Also, the women were allowed to attend a match featuring the national team. They are currently banned from attending league matches.

Iran won the match 14-0 and afterwards the male players walked towards the women’s section to thank them for their support.

When asked about the presence of women at the stadium a government spokesman, Ali Rabiei said:.

The government has a positive view of the presence of women in stadiums. The infrastructure of Azadi stadium is ready for the presence of women. But the cultural and mental infrastructure must be ready.

This is a great step forward for the women of Iran. Let’s see where this goes from here. What are your thoughts on this?

Major League Soccer's playoff system differs from the rest of world soccer leagues

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The 24th MLS regular season is in the books and the playoff brackets have been decided. The top seeds in the East and West, NYCFC and LAFC, get a bye for the first round and the rest of the teams will compete in a series of knockout rounds. Here’s a look at the playoff schedule.

To casual American soccer fans, the MLS playoff system is similar to the other major sports of baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. For those that are used to following other leagues throughout the world, the MLS playoff system seems odd.

In other countries, the team that finishes at the top of the table at the end of the season is declared the champions. It is always the team that has accumulated the most points and outperformed the rest of the teams in the league. In other words, the best team is rewarded for having been the best over the course of the season.

If this system was applied to Major League Soccer, LAFC would be declared the champions with 72 points. Instead, LAFC has to outlast 13 other teams to truly be named champions. The problem is that knockout rounds can always produce upsets and the most deserving team may not be rewarded for its full-season efforts. For example, the New England Revolution finished seventh in the Eastern Division with 45 points. They could potentially get hot during the playoffs and be the last team standing. They would then be declared champions with 45 points, while LAFC would be also-rans despite having more than 25 points more than the “champions”.

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In MLS, the top team wins what is known as the supporter’s shield, but is not necessarily named champions.

MLS is still young and continues to grow. However, to truly gain equal footing with the rest of the world’s domestic leagues, MLS should consider scrapping its playoff system to declare which side is crowned champions. Maybe there should be two trophies; one for the champions and one for the winner of the MLS playoffs.

What are your thoughts on the MLS playoffs and the league’s status compared to other leagues throughout the world?

NYCFC clinches top seed in the Eastern Conference of MLS

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New York City FC are finishing the club’s fifth season in Major League Soccer and it’s been the team’s most successful so far. NYCFC have clinched the Eastern Conference top seed and have also qualified for the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League for the first time in Club history.

NYCFC have 61 points from 33 games with one more regular-season match left. This is a record high points total for the club.

As the top seed, NYCFC has an automatic bye that will put them into the Eastern Conference Semifinals on either October 23rd or 24th. Time will tell who the club will face, but whoever it is, NYCFC will have home-field advantage.

What makes NYCFC’s accomplishments even more impressive is the fact that they had such a good season without the club’s all time scorer, David Villa. The legendary striker had 80 goals in 124 appearances over his four season’s with the New York side. He moved on at the end of last season to join Vissel Kobe in Japan’s J League.

Time will tell how NYCFC’s season ends, but it’s obvious that in just its fifth MLS season, the club is moving in the right direction.

What are your thoughts on NYCFC?

Clark O.N.T. were a soccer dynasty in the late 1880's

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Ask soccer fans to name successful teams and the response will almost always include Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, etc. If you asked that question back in 1885 the answer would have been Clark O.N.T.

You’ve probably never heard of this team because they no longer exist. However, back in the late 1880’s they were a soccer dynasty.

The story of Clark O.N.T. begins in Paisley, Scotland which was the home of the Clark Thread Company. Following the Civil War, the Clark Thread Company moved part of its operations to Newark, New Jersey. Back then most soccer clubs were sponsored by companies with teams made up of their employees.

The New Jersey based Clark Thread Company named its team after its new cotton spool product by calling the club Our New Thread, or O.N.T. for short.

In 1885 the first American Football Challenge Cup (now the US Open Cup) was established. 13 teams were involved including New York Thistles, New York FC, Paterson FC, O. N. T. and teams from Connecticut and Fall River, Massachusetts.

The final was held in Newark and featured O.N.T. versus New York FC. The cost of admission was 25-cents.

O.N.T. captain and manager Harry Holden with the trophy

O.N.T. captain and manager Harry Holden with the trophy

Jack Swithenby, originally from Bolton, England gave O.N.T. a lead after 15 minutes. His side scored a second goal just before halftime.

New York got one back with ten minutes remaining on the clock. In the end, however, O.N.T. held on for a 2-1 victory.

The New York team protested the match accusing O.N.T. of fielding an ineligible player. A replay was ordered and once again O.N.T. came out on top. This time the final score was 1-0.

O.N.T. won the next two cups making them three time winners from 1895-1897.

There’s very little written about O.N.T., but O.N.T. and the American Football Challenge Cup paved the way for the growth of soccer in the New York City Metropolitan area.





      



St. Louis' long soccer history is awarded with an MLS franchise

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It was announced this week that St. Louis will be joining Major League soccer as the league’s 28th team beginning in 2022. It’s long overdue as St. Louis was one of the country’s earliest soccer hot beds.

The St. Louis Soccer League was founded over 100 years ago in 1907. It was the country's only fully professional soccer league at this time. The league lasted until 19139.

The city was also represented during the era of the North American Soccer League. The St. Louis Stars played from 1967–77, before heading west and renaming the team the California Surf.

Garcia Football Club of St. Louis 1920-21

Garcia Football Club of St. Louis 1920-21

St. Louis was also the home of two teams that were a part of the Major Indoor Soccer League. The St. Louis Steamers played from 1979-1988. In 1989 the St. Louis Storm became a part of the league. The team lasted for three years before disbanding in 1992.

During the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, five St. Louis players were a part of the team that defeated England. This included keeper Frank Borghi as well as Harry Keough, Gino Pariani, Frank (Peewee) Wallace and Charley Colombo. Team USA assistant coach William “Chubby” Lyons. also hailed from the city.

In addition, a number of St. Louis teams have won the US Open Cup or the National Challenge Cup as it was previously known. 

In May 1920, St. Louis team the Ben Millers defeated Fore River of Massachusetts. The match was attended by more than 10,000. The Ben Millers was the first team outside the East coast to win the title.

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Other Challenge Cup winners from St. Louis included:

• Scullin Steel: 1922

• Stix, Baer and Fuller: 1933, 1934

• Central Breweries: 1935

• Simpkins-Ford: 1948, 1950

• Kutis: 1957, 1986 

• Busch: 1988

To say the city is excited for the new team would be an understatement. To get an idea of what fans had to say, just check out the hashtag: #MLS4THELOU.

Soccer comes to Charlotte as Arsenal meet Fiorentina in the International Champions Cup 2019

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When I heard back in the spring that Arsenal would be coming to Charlotte for a pre-season match versus Roma, I immediately bought tickets for myself and my nephew to attend (he lives in the Charlotte area).

It’s rare to see European clubs on US soil so it’s a fantastic opportunity for American supporters to gather to see the team they support from afar live.

The last time Arsenal came to the states was in 2014 when they played a pre-season match versus the New York Red Bulls. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was playing in New York so it was a must see for fans. There were Arsenal fans all over New York and the energy and camaraderie was amazing.

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Roma had to pull out of the Charlotte match as they had to play Europa League qualifying matches. Filling in was Fiorentina; which was fine with me as I have attended a match in Florence before and root for them in Serie A.

There was a pre-match fan fest where there were soccer clinics, giveaways, musical acts and even an appearance from Megan Rapinoe.

Fans gathered at downtown bars before kickoff and there was a march by Arsenal fans to the stadium.

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Then it was off to the match. It was close to 95 degrees, yet the match was scheduled to start at 6PM., It was obvious that the heat was going to factor into the game (especially for the players used to playing in the cold and rain of London).

Arsenal dominated play and a number of the young academy players were given the opportunity to show what they got. That they did. 20-year-old Eddie Nketiah and 19-year-old Joe Willock provided the goals to give Arsenal a 3-0 win.

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It was great to see my team in person, but even better was to see the enthusiasm for soccer in the Charlotte area. There were tons of families at both the fan-fest and the match and it was great to see some of the kids wearing jerseys of the World Cup winning US women’s team.

It’s a great sign that the sport is truly taking off in the states and bringing people together.

The US Women's Soccer Team wins the World Cup and gives further proof they deserve equal pay

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The US Women’s National Soccer team are repeat World Cup Champions after defeating Holland 2-0 in France. No one is really surprised by this as they are the dominant force in women’s soccer throughout the world. What is surprising is the fact that they are still fighting to get equal pay with their much less successful male counterparts.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal gives evidence that the US Women’s team is far and away more of a draw than the men’s team: U.S. Women’s Soccer Games Outearned Men’s Game.

The crowds in France and at bars all around the country were massive for the Women’s World Cup. Of course interest in the men’s World Cup is huge as well. The difference in this country is what fans’ expectations are for the US national team.

The last time the men’s national side actually caused soccer fever was back in 2014 when the team made it to the knockout rounds (they lost to Belgium 2-1). Since then it’s pretty much been mediocrity to embarrassment:

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The men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. It came down to a match versus the “mighty” nation of Trinidad and Tobago. If the US won or drew, they would make the tournament. The men lost 2-1 and they missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

In a recent friendly match with Venezuela, the US were pitiful and ended up 3-0 losers in a match they were expected to win.

The US Soccer Federation will soon be dealing with the USWNT gender discrimination lawsuit. Based on their popularity, as well as their on field success, this case is a no brainer. Let’s hope they do the right thing.

USWNT is proving a point at the Women's World Cup

The United States Women’s National Soccer team headed to France with its equal pay lawsuit still unresolved. In a nutshell the suit claims that the United States Soccer Federation is guilty of gender discrimination.

After two matches where the USWNT has dominated its opponents, it’s pretty evident that this lawsuit has merit. Women’s soccer has come a long way and the US Women are leading the way in making the sport popular at home and around the world.

It’s clear that in terms of soccer, the US women are way ahead of their male counterparts in terms of achievements. As outlined in the New York times the USWNT have accomplished a lot:

The United States women’s national team is the best in the world and has been for decades. Since the FIFA Women’s World Cup was inaugurated in 1991, the United States has won three of the seven titles, including the most recent one in 2015. Since women’s soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996, it has won four of six gold medals. The team has been ranked No.1 by FIFA for 10 of the last 11 years and has produced some of the biggest female sports stars of the last several decades, from Mia Hamm to Wambach to the current starting center forward, Alex Morgan

The Men’s national team did not qualify for the last World Cup in Russia and recently suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of Venezuela.

The point is not that the men’s team is bad, instead, it’s that the women are very good. They draw crowds to their matches, they sell tickets and they work just as hard as the men. Therefore, they deserve the same pay as their male counterparts.

The women’s team have already made it through to the knockout stages with one match to go. Whether they win this World Cup or not, they continue to make it clear that they are deserving of respect as well as equal treatment and equal pay.

What do you think?

The first American Soccer League was formed in New York City

New York City’s Brookhattan FC was formed in 1933

New York City’s Brookhattan FC was formed in 1933

A lot of people don’t realize that there is a rich history of soccer in New York and the United States that pre-dates what we have today.

Presently, Major League Soccer is in its 24th season and is in 24 different markets.

Before MLS, the North American Soccer League operated between 1968 and 1984. While the league didn’t last too long, the New York Cosmos put the sport on the map in the United States. The Cosmos gained worldwide recognition with a lineup that included Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto.

The first American Soccer League was formed by club owners in 1921 at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan

The first American Soccer League was formed by club owners in 1921 at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan

What many people don’t know is that the first American Soccer League was formed in New York City back in 1921. That May, representatives from eight of the country’s soccer teams met at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan’s to launch a new professional soccer league.

The teams included:

  • Philadelphia FC

  • New York FC

  • Todd Shipyards FC (based in Brooklyn)

  • Harrison SC (based in Kearny, New Jersey)

  • J&P Coats FC (based in Pawtucket, RI)

  • Fall River United

  • Falco FC (based in Holyoke, MA)

  • Celtic FC (based in Jersey City)

The sport was growing in the industrial Northeast due to the influx of immigrants who brought their love of soccer with them to their new home. Back then a lot of soccer clubs were sponsored by industrial companies that employed many of the players that represented their clubs. Thus teams such as Todd Shipyards, J&P Coats and later clubs like Bethlehem Steel.

Early on the league proved successful. Some teams drew crowds over 10,000 and the matches were covered by the local newspapers.

These northeast based companies were paying good wages and some of the ASL club were able to entice good players from the UK to come over to the states to work and play soccer for them. Believe it or not, the poaching of players became such a problem that fans in Scotland complained about what became known as the “American menace”.

It got so bad that in 1927 the top brass of the ASL were brought to Finland by FIFA and told to stop taking players from other countries or risk being dropped by soccer’s governing body.

The Fall River Marksmen played in the original American Soccer League

The Fall River Marksmen played in the original American Soccer League

The league was growing and doing well, but faced problems.

In 1924 the Johnson-Reed Act limited the number of immigrants that could enter the country. Then there was fighting between the ASL and the United States Football Association.

What really led to the league’s demise was the great depression. Companies could no longer afford to sponsor teams and fans didn’t have extra income to spend on tickets.

The ASL folded in 1933…but it would rise again. More on that later.