Thursday, April 23, 2009

Picking An EPL Team: Update

So, my quest to select an EPL team has progressed quite smoothly. I have watched quite a few games involving all the teams that I am considering. I’ve even looked at their histories, former players and (yes) even their kits. After considering all this, I’m set to whittle down the list. Eliminated from consideration are West Ham, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur. Now, the list consists of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Newcastle, Fulham, Manchester City and Everton.

Some things I will be paying close attention to will be:

-Newcastle’s bid to avoid relegation: Newcastle is having a tough time, and with their remaining schedule, I think they’re in serious trouble. Let’s see how much fight they have left in them, because it would be real sad to see them drop.

-The race for the title is down to Man U, Liverpool and Chelsea, with Man U starting to pull away.

-Chelsea will meet Everton in the FA Cup Final after Chelsea dispatched Arsenal and Everton upset Man U.

-Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U are also 3 of the 4 teams in the semis of the Champions League. With Arsenal and Man U playing each other, the EPL is guaranteed to be represented in Rome for the final.

-Fulham still has an outside shot (although it’s a huge mountain to climb) at getting a place in next year’s UEFA Cup. Currently, Aston Villa and Everton hold those spots.

Well, in a week or so, I will whittle the list down to 4 teams, then 2, with my team being selected before the last game of the regular season. Until then, stay tuned…

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dream Stadium Sites for World Cup '18 or '22

Today, the USSF released a preliminary list of about 70 stadia that could possibly be used if the U.S. won the right to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022, which they have bid for. The list ranges from old NFL stadiums to new NFL stadiums to iconic college stadiums.

That got me thinking: which stadia would make the cut in my ideal list for another World Cup in the U.S.? Well, let's take a look:

1. Ford Field or Michigan Stadium, Detroit, MI: Michigan Stadium would have to be widened to host a World Cup match, but if it was able, you'd easily have one of the largest attendances ever. Michigan Stadium will once again become the largest stadium in the U.S. in 2010 and the 4th largest in the world that's not a racetrack. To cram 114,000 people into Michigan Stadium for a match would be incredible. If not Michigan Stadium, Ford Field would be a great alternative for the Detroit area. An international city, and a stadium that has a history of hosting big-time events in style (Super Bowl, Final Four, biggest Wrestlemania ever)

2. New Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX: This is a no-brainer. The best new stadium out there, "JerryWorld", as some people call it, can seat up to 100,000 for games. It hasn't even opened yet, and the list of major events that will occur in the stadium already runs the length of the Red River. The final would probably be here.

3. New RFK Stadium, Washington, DC: Since FedEx Field's field is too small, unless it is widened, a renovated or rebuilt RFK should host some games. Great atmosphere, great soccer fans, and our nation's capital...can't get better than that.

4. Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX: Hosted several soccer matches and major events (Super Bowl, Final Four). The stadium would be full, and it's one of the world class stadiums in the U.S.

5. Qwest Field, Seattle, WA: Natural grass would have to be laid down for this, but if so, a great place to host a match. Rabid soccer fans up there, and by 2018 or 2022, the Pacific Northwest will be a major hotbed for soccer in this country.

6. Lucas Oil Field, Indianapolis, IN: Another brand new stadium that is earning rave reviews for its game experience. Indianapolis is kind of a random place to have a major event like the World Cup, but it is two hours from Chicago and it's an amazing stadium.

7. Soldier Field, Chicago, IL: Has hosted many soccer matches, and has undergone a major renovation to make it one of the world class stadiums in this country. Plus, it's in Chicago, a great tourist city and a city that can host major events

8. Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA: I think the Rose Bowl would have to undergo major renovations, but if it does, it would probably host a quarterfinal match. Great for the LA area, a great tourist area and also an area that has hosted many a world event, including a World Cup final and 2 Womens World Cup finals.

9. Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA: Beaver of the biggest stadiums and best stadiums in America. 4th biggest stadium in the world (until it is overtaken by Michigan Stadium once again in 2010), and would be extremely loud. It's in the middle of nowhere, but for a fantastic atmosphere, what better place to play than there?

10. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL: Again, tremendous atmosphere...some rate it among the best in sports. It would definitely be a great place for people in the south to head to. Close to Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando, and about 5.5-6 hours from Miami for tons of attractions.

11. University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ: Another new stadium that has hosted many major events, including many soccer matches (a couple U.S.-Mexico matches as well). It would be a great place to have a semifinal match.

12. New Giants Stadium, E. Rutherford, NJ: Will service the NYC area, but also get people traveling to all the major cities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic corridor...NYC, Philly, DC, Boston. Will be an 80,000 seat stadium that will probably host a quarterfinal or a semifinal match.

13. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA: See Giants Stadium.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Picking An EPL Team

I’ve been watching the English Premier League for several years, ever since I can remember them coming on TV back in the early 90s. I can remember watching Champions League soccer and seeing the likes of Manchester United, Leeds United, Arsenal and other teams battle on the European stage. Then, as the EPL became bigger and more popular, I started watching it more and more. I love the style of play, I love the passion of the fans and I love the intensity of every match. Over time, despite Real Madrid being my favorite soccer team in the world, the EPL has been my favorite league to watch.

Yet, I have never had a team that I really follow in the EPL. I’ve followed players for the most part. Recently, since one of my great friends is a huge Chelsea fan, I’ve found myself following them a bit. But, I’ve never had a team that I can say is my favorite English team. This year, I’m about to change that.

My goal is to pick a team that will be my English team by the end of this season. Over that time, I’m going to watch as many games as possible, as many teams as possible. I’m going to look at the history of teams, the players and how I think they fit with me, and try to finally settle the debate of who is my English team.

So, here’s a look at the choices that I have. I have whittled down some of the teams. I have no problem cheering for one of the Big 4…of course, I’m a Real Madrid fan. But, I will support a winner for the right reasons, not just because they are good. Again, I’m going off history as well as present, former players as well as current players. The only team in the Big 4 that did not make the cut is Liverpool, because I’ve never really liked them (outside of Steven Gerrard), and despite their fruitful history, they’re just a team I don’t think I can get behind. So, the teams I’m looking at are:

Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur
Newcastle United
Aston Villa
Manchester City
West Ham United

Like I said, by the end of the season, I will have a team picked. How they’re doing in the league this year is not the only factor, as I said. It’s merely one of the factors. I will update you all on my progress of choosing a team as it occurs.

Real Madrid will always be my favorite team. That will never change. If my new English team will ever face Real Madrid, I hope they catch a whipping. But, it will be cool to tune in to games in the EPL week in and week out and have a team to follow. So, get ready, Premiership. One of your teams will have a new supporter.

The Future of DCU/Choosing A New MLS Team?

The future of DC United’s new stadium deal (and, some think, the future of the team itself in the DC area) is in doubt after lawmakers have questioned a bill covering the new stadium proposal for DC United in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In an email sent to supporters a few weeks ago, DC United President Kevin Payne urged support of the stadium proposal, and indicated that this was the only real possibility left to continue to have a soccer team in the DC area. What this has led supporters (myself included) to believe is that if the stadium deal falls through, the ownership would consider selling the team to a group that would bring DC United to a city (St. Louis being the most popular assumption) that would give a stadium deal to a team. That, combined with shaky attendance numbers at the first two DCU home games this season, has the future of MLS’ most successful franchise in limbo.

Thinking about this the other day, I started asking myself…what would I do if DCU moved to another city? Well, I consulted an article from Bill Simmons entitled “Rules for being a true fan” that lays out ground rules for which team you are supposed to support and when you can enter the free agency of teams. For me, Rule 19 really comes into play. The first thing that people that know me will probably ask is, “You lived in Dallas…you should be a Dallas Burn/FC Dallas fan, per Rule 18.” However, at the time I moved from Dallas, they had not yet started play. In fact, I believe the first game for the Dallas Burn was the weekend after I moved back to Michigan. So, when MLS started, I was technically in Michigan and thus a MLS fan free agent. I didn’t pick a team and just followed MLS in general until I moved to DC a couple years ago. In DC, DC United is my home team…I don’t really pay attention to the Wizards or Nationals or Capitals, and I hate the Redskins (per my days in Dallas). DCU is my home squad. The only team that would usurp them would be if Detroit (my real home) got a franchise (See Simmons Article, Rule 19).

So who would I choose? It would probably be FC Dallas since I used to live there and have a connection with the area. However, besides Detroit, a new franchise in Raleigh/Durham would open up the bidding war for my MLS fandom. The other teams in the league, for some reason, just don’t do it for me either because of my lack of connection to the city or region or that the city is a traditional rival of other teams I like.

But, above all, there’s nothing more I would want than for the new stadium deal to get approved and for DC United to prosper here in the Capital Beltway area for many years to come. I really don’t want them to leave, and I hope the Maryland legislature will make the stadium deal happen. Otherwise, the most successful franchise in American soccer history will be gone, and there will be quite a few MLS fan free agents out there without a team to call their own.