Soccer players are the most fit of any professional sport

MLS Champions Atlanta United

MLS Champions Atlanta United

It seems like just yesterday that Atlanta United defeated Portland to win the 2018 MLS Cup. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago; December 8th to be precise. That’s why it’s amazing to see that all 24 teams have already begun their preseason training. Unlike other major US sports, these players don’t get much down time.

Over the years I’ve had arguments with friends over which professional sport produces the best athletes. I still say it’s soccer. Here are the reasons why:

Each match has two 45 minute halves where the players are constantly running. Outside of injuries, the play continues. There are no commercial time outs, like in the NFL, NBA and NHL. As for baseball, I do love the sport, but the amount of down time in a baseball game can be excruciating to the casual fan.

I have nothing but respect for any athlete that is able to make it at the professional level, but let’s look at the physical requirements for athletes of each sport. According to Gizmodo soccer players run between 6-7 miles for each 90 minute match. That is far more distance covered by athletes in other sports.

Wide receivers and cornerbacks run an average of 1.25 miles per game Also, keep in mind that the average amount of ACTUAL action in an NFL game is just 11 minutes. Let that sink in.

NFL Defensemen

NFL Defensemen

NBA basketball players average just under 3 miles per game.

In baseball, there are short burst of running here and there, but mostly it’s a lot of guys jogging back to the dugout and standing around between pitches.

Hockey players are probably the closest in terms of physical conditioning to soccer players. The average player covers 5 miles per game which amounts to 410 miles throughout the course of the NHL season.

The bottom line is there are different skills required for each sport. NFL players are generally strong, NBA players can jump high and baseball players must have good hand-eye coordination. But let’s be honest, can you possibly compare Cristiano Ronaldo’s athletic prowess to that of Bartolo Colon?

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon

Soccer players get very little time off. The season lasts 9 months, with at least one month of preseason. The baseball season is long and with spring training can go on for about 8 months. The NBA and NHL seasons last 7 months. As for NFL, the average team puts in less than 6 months a year. Plus, while NFL games are insanely physical, the season is only 16 games in total. That is nothing to compared to the number of games played in the other professional sports.

So, which athletes do you think are the fittest?

Americans playing soccer abroad

18-year-old American Josh Sargent scores for Werder Bremen in Germany’s Bundesliga

18-year-old American Josh Sargent scores for Werder Bremen in Germany’s Bundesliga

Major League Soccer just celebrated its 25th year of existence. The league has grown exponentially since 1993 and is now comprised of 24 clubs.

In addition, MLS has also attracted some big name players over the years. The list includes household names such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry, David Villa, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, just to name a few. While many fans of the international game often claim that these well-known players come to the states for “retirement”, these stars have helped raise the profile of the domestic league.

To be fair, it is true that if you are a top athlete, playing soccer abroad gives you the chance to play at a higher level along with a larger pay scale. It works the same in other sports as well. Take for example NBA basketball. There are leagues in other countries throughout the world, but when players such as Dirk Nowitzki of Germany or Tony Parker of France get the chance to play professionally in the states they take it. The reason, the basketball league in the states is better than those back in their home countries. Right now there are 108 international players in the NBA.

It’s the same thing with soccer. The top leagues in the world are currently in Europe, followed by Mexico and South America. Then there are leagues like MLS, the Chinese Super League, Australia’s A-League and Japan’s J-League. So if you’re a player of the caliber of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, you are going to want to play in one of the more popular, prestigious and lucrative leagues in the world.

Chrisitan Pulisic currently plays for Borussia Dortmund but will join England’s Chelsea next season

Chrisitan Pulisic currently plays for Borussia Dortmund but will join England’s Chelsea next season

So for this fact, it’s very encouraging to see that currently there are 145 Americans playing soccer abroad.

Some of the more high profile Americans playing internationally include:

  • Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic who will be joining Premier League side next season.

  • 18-year-old Josh Sargent who is beginning his career with Werder Bremen of Germany’s Bundesliga.

  • Defender DeAndre Yedlin is currently a starter for England’s Newcastle United.

  • Striker Timothy Weah plays for Paris St. Germain and just joined Scotland’s Celtic on loan for the remainder of this season.

  • Goalie Ethan Horvath is the starting keeper for Brugge in Belgium’s top league.

The continued growth of MLS as well as the number of American born professional players is a sign that the state of the game in the United States is very bright.

Why do we call "football" soccer?

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Here in the US what we call football is entirely different than what most of the rest of the world think of as football. I totally understand why “American football” is often mocked by followers of soccer/football outside of our country. Face the facts, the word football by definition refers to a ball that is maneuvered by the foot. NFL football is more about passing and running with the ball followed by an occasional field goal or extra point scored by a kicked ball.

To get to the bottom of this situation I decided to do a bit of research on the origins of the words football and soccer when it comes to describing these two sports. Here’s what I was able to find out:

A recent paper by University of Michigan professor Stefan Szymanski explains that the Brits are partly to blame.

The word “soccer,” which is believed to have originated in Britain some 200 years ago, comes from the official name of the sport, “association football.” As other versions of the game evolved to include Rugby Football, it is believed the Brits adopted colloquialisms to distinguish each game.

“The rugby football game was shortened to ‘rugger,’ and the association football game was, shortened to ‘soccer’”.

Gradually, the term “soccer” gained popularity in the U.S. to distinguish the sport from American football. By the 1980s, the Brits began to part with the term, apparently, because it had become too “American.”

So, while Americans are often ridiculed for calling the world's most popular sport "soccer", the reason we don't call it "football" like the rest of the world is Britain's fault. The Brits still used the term "soccer" regularly for a huge chunk of the 20th century. According to Szymanski, between 1960 and 1980, "soccer" and "football" were "almost interchangeable" in the UK.

So there you have it folks. To make it easier let’s just say that the game played with 11 a side with the objective to get the ball in the back of the net is football or soccer. The game with a quarterback and receivers attempting to get a pigskin in to the end zone is American football.

What do you think?

All Together Now - The 1914 Football Christmas Truce

All Together Now - Liverpool, England

All Together Now - Liverpool, England

It’s Christmas and since we are all about soccer it got us thinking of the story of the 1914 WWI Christmas Truce.

If you’re not familiar with it here’s a little background:

The story goes that in one location along the Western Front British and German troops were stationed in opposite trenches. On Christmas Eve some of the British soldiers heard the “enemy” singing carols and saw small Christmas trees on the other side. Then on Christmas day the soldiers from both sides met in what was referred to as “no man’s land” to exchange gifts and play football/soccer. In other words, the fighting was stopped for a brief period of celebration between the two sides which included a friendly sporting event. Upon its conclusion, the British and Germans went back to their own trenches and resumed the war.

It’s never been proven that these truces actually took place, but it’s become immortalized by many. In 2014 a statue entitle “All Together Now” was unveiled in Liverpool. It depicts two soldiers shaking hands over a soccer ball. There’s a fantastic 2005 film Joyeux Noël  and not sure how many remember the song “All Together Now” by The Farm but it’s from 1991 and is about the Christmas Truce.

I’d like to believe that this event really did happen. It’s been said on many occasions and seen at numerous World Cups and other international soccer matches; football unites people.

Enjoy the holidays and at least a match or two!







Racism in soccer

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In the past few weeks there have been several incidents of racism exhibited by supporters towards black players in the English Premier League. A banana peel was thrown near Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling was subjected to racist taunts from the stands.

It doesn’t stop there though. Just this week Chelsea supporters that had traveled to Hungary for their side’s Europa League match with MOL Vidi were heard singing anti-semitic chants.

This is nothing new. Sadly it’s been going on before and will probably rear its ugly head at some point in the future. I was thinking about how best to express my reaction to these events when I saw something on the local news here in New York that added to this overall discussion.

On a crowded NYC subway a woman was filmed attacking a passenger while hurling Asian ethnic slurs.

The bottom line is that there is racism in all walks of life. At the root of all these incidents is anger. What these people are angry about, who knows but that seems to be the common thread. Sometimes when people are angry they lash out at others in order to make themselves feel better. I am no psychologist but that appears to be part of what’s going on here.

I then read the following article in The Guardian which eloquently looks at the issue and makes some excellent points. It was written by former player and current pundit John Barnes. It’s a topic that is hard to discuss, but Barnes has been there and delivers some honest insight in to the causes for and continuation of racism in sport. It’s worth a read!


If every racist at football was silenced stadiums would still be full of racists

John Barnes

Twitter after a famous victory

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As all fans of any sports team know, nothing beats winning. The euphoria you feel after a great victory can last for days. At the same time there is nothing worse than losing. The disappointment can linger on for quite some time. It’s even worse in this age of social media when fans of the opposing side have no problem rubbing it in that they have gotten one over on your team.

Arsenal have been the dominant team in this part of London forever. It’s only in the past two seasons that Tottenham have actually finished above Arsenal in the table. The media was having a field day predicting a power shift.

That is what makes this past weekend’s 4-2 Arsenal victory over North London rivals Tottenham so special.

Twitter is a fun place to be after a big win. So here’s just a sampling of some of the awesome comments that came through my timeline following the Gunners’ defeat of Spurs.

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Youth soccer leagues are on the rise throughout the NYC area

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One of the reasons that soccer is gaining a foothold in the United States is the fact that kids of all ages are participating in the sport. The stereotype of the “Soccer Mom” is real and almost every town in the Metropolitan tri-state area (New York City, Northern New Jersey, Long Island, Southern Connecticut, Westchester and Rockland Counties) has some sort of youth league.

NYCFC joined Major League Soccer in 2015 and immediately reached out to the neighboring communities to set up youth affiliates. They are:

  • Downtown United Soccer Club in Manhattan

  • Manhattan Soccer Club

  • Metropolitan Oval Academy in Queens and Brooklyn

  • New York Soccer Club in Westchester County

  • TSF Academy in New Jersey

  • World Class FC in Rockland County

  • SUSA FC in Long Island

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NYCFC explains their affiliation with these youth organizations as the following:

The New York City FC Youth Affiliate Program is designed to provide soccer technical support and assistance to a select group of clubs from the New York Metropolitan Area. The affiliation with New York City FC offers a clear pathway for the local youth soccer community to reach the highest level of competition, providing each access to the invaluable resources and expertise of Major League Soccer's 20th team.

The fact that kids now have the opportunity to be inspired by professional players in their own city is invaluable for the continued growth of the game. It’s definitely having an impact here in New York.

What is the Nation's League and does anyone really care?

Team Gibraltar

Team Gibraltar

I am a huge fan of international soccer and always look forward to the World Cup, the European Championships, CONCACAF Cup and the African Cup of Nations. However, this farce that is called the Nations League has me wondering when is enough enough.

I looked up an explanation of the UEFA Nations League competition and here is what it said,

A new national team competition that replaces friendlies with competitive matches, allowing nations to play against equally ranked teams. The four group winners of the top-ranked League A qualify for the UEFA Nations League finals in June 2019. For the remaining sides, there is promotion and relegation to play for, not to mention a potential route to UEFA EURO 2020.

Okay so there are four different “leagues” based on the success or lack of success of the 55 UEFA recognized European football associations. Yet only the top 12 teams get to compete for the trophy? I understand that the thought of San Marino facing France in a championship match would be hysterical, but on the other hand it would be pretty cool.

The top two “leagues” contain the usual suspects such as England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Croatia, etc. The more interesting groups are the two lower leagues. Here’s a look at the mighty nations battling it out here: Faroe Islands, Cyprus, San Marino, Andorra, Malta and perhaps my favorite, Gibraltar. Gibraltar has a national team? Isn’t it a rock that is a territory of Britain? I would love to be able to watch Gibraltar take on the Faroe Islands.

San Marino Stadium

This tournament has promotion and relegation like the national leagues do, but I think they should hand out trophies for the four groups not just the top one. When else would some of these tiny nations ever get a chance for glory?

I’m not sold on this competition. It seems extraneous. However, the one nation that deserves a trophy just for showing up is League D’s San Marino. The lowest ranked team in Europe, San Marino finished bottom of the table with zero points, zero goals and a -16 goal differential. Check out the crowd during the national anthem above.

What do you think of UEFA’s new tournament?

Leicester City prove that sport is more than just a game

One of the reasons that people love sports so much is for the camaraderie that builds between fans and the club that they support. Part of the reason that I became a fan of soccer is for just that reason.

Everyone has heard of Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Boca Juniors and other well known teams from around the world. They have legions of fans, supporters all over the world and lots of money. However, there are tons of smaller teams throughout the world that do not have a global following or rich club owners. What they do have in common with the big clubs, is a supportive fan base.

Take for example, Chapecoense who currently play in Brazil’s Serie A. The small club from the south of Brazil has only been around since 1973 and for the most part played in obscurity in Brazil’s lower divisions. That was until they won promotion to the top league in 2014. They then became a Cinderella story when they reached the finals of the Copa Sudamericana in 2016.

Unfortunately the world learned about Chapecoense when the team’s plane crashed on its way to the finals in Colombia. 71 people were killed including almost the entire team. The outpouring from the soccer world was heartfelt and showed that the results on the pitch are always secondary to the human side of the game.

Similar scenes played out over the past two weeks at Leicester City. The team’s owner and chairman was one of five who lost their lives following a tragic helicopter crash outside of Leicester’s stadium.

The Foxes have been around in one form or another since 1884, but it wasn’t until Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha that the club gained worldwide prominence and acclaim. Defying the odds, Leicester City pulled off one of the greatest sporting miracles by winning the Premier League trophy for the 2015-2016 season.

Srivaddhanaprabha and his family were loved by Leicester supporters. The chairman attended many matches and would often leave the stadium by helicopter at the conclusion of matches. That is what he was doing when tragedy struck.

The outpouring from the players, the fans and the community of Leicester are proof that the club is more than just a sports entity. They are a family.

Flowers, scarves, t-shirts and more were laid outside the stadium in the chairman’s memory. Leicester players and the manager made the 6000 mile trip to the funeral in Bangkok at the conclusion of a match and then yesterday the city came together in tribute.

50,000 fans walked from Leicester city centre to the King Power Stadium before the game yesterday as a mark of respect. There was two minutes of silence prior to kick-off and a video of the former owner was shown inside the stadium.

Afterwards the entire club and the owner’s son thanked all sections of the stadium as the fans wearing special shirts and holding up scarves clapped along. Only a Grinch wouldn’t have been moved by the events.

The match was a rather drab 0-0, but on this day the result was of no consequence. It was all about a community and a club that were united as one.

Exploring the growth of soccer in early New York

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As a licensed New York City tour guide, I regularly introduce visitors to the history of NYC. As most people already know, New York was the city where over 20 million people first stepped foot in to the United States between 1855-1954.

I am also a huge football/soccer fan. That’s what led me to explore the idea of combining a history tour of New York immigrants and the impact that these newcomers had on the growth of soccer in New York. I was surprised by the amount of history there is for the sport of soccer in New York.

Part of the reason that immigrants came to New York was for the opportunity to work and provide for their families. Manhattan’s Lower East Side was a major center of garment manufacturing. Even bigger was the Harrison/Kearny area of northern New Jersey. It was one of the earliest centers for the sport in 19th century America.

Immigrant communities were drawn to this rapidly growing industrial region for job opportunities. These workers brought with them their love for soccer as well. Teams were formed by the various textile and garment plants scattered throughout the area and across the river from New York.

Amateur teams were springing up in other industrial regions such as New England and Philadelphia. This led to the organization of the American Football Association in 1884.

In 1885 the American Football Challenge Cup was established with thirteen teams involved; including New York Thistles, New York FC, Paterson FC, O. N. T. of Kearny, and teams from Newark, Connecticut and Fall River, Massachusetts.

This was the first non-league organizing body for the sport in the United States. It lasted until 1925 as soccer continued to grow throughout the country and competing organizations sprang up.

O. N. T. (short for Our New Thread defeated New York FC to win the first title in April 1885.