The Europeans are coming, send them home with something to think about

The football season is over for the European teams, and they are now planning their assaults on their relevant leagues next season.

Part of that planning involves pre-season friendly matches against opposition which will give them a good game, and also add the chance for some additional marketing opportunities at the same time.

This year a whole host of European clubs are off to the USA to play against teams from various US leagues.

From Great Britain there are clubs such as Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Fulham and Swansea.

That is nearly 50% of the current EPL clubs set to make the trip stateside this summer.

To emphasise the current view of MLS, it is Arsenal who are perhaps showing their hand more than any other. The Gunners are coming for just one game in a friendly against their former club legend, Thierry Henry, and his NY Red Bulls side.

This is the only pre-season friendly they are playing outside Europe, so it must be thought of great benefit to the club to warrant the effort involved.

Embed from Getty Images

(Photo: Thierry Henry can’t wait to face his former side this summer)

Other European clubs making the trip across the pond are giants such as Real Madrid, Inter Milan, AS Roma, AS Monaco, Atletico Madrid and Olympiacos.

These clubs are not heading across for the benefit of their health; they are looking at potential opportunities for future growth and expansion. They are most likely aware MLS is on the up and now is a good time to for a US tour to get your brand name into the hearts and minds of American soccer fans.

The English Premier League is already popular in the US and it certainly won’t hurt to get your club to the front of the shop window.

But lets not think the relatively young Major League Soccer is naive. This trip works both ways and MLS is not going to be shy in coming forward.

MLS clubs such as Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union, LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, San Jose Earthquakes and Chicago Fire will be hosting these teams and promoting the fastest growing league in the world, to some of the sports biggest teams.

With the huge array of talent amongst the visiting teams, it will certainly get public attention from both sides of the Atlantic. The European audience will be eager for the new season to start and to forget their possible World Cup disappointments.

While the American fans will be looking to see how the improving US teams now compare to the European old guard.

Embed from Getty Images

(Photo: Cristiano Ronaldo and his Real Madrid team is one of many giant clubs heading to the US this summer)

Sport is of course synonymous today with business, and all of these clubs involved will be looking to increase revenue as a result of the tour.

The biggest winner to come out of this though should be MLS.

The European fans will be keen to watch their own team and also the other Euro opposition in early action. In doing so they will get a ringside seat of what is currently on offer from MLS and all being well, MLS will benefit most from the venture.

This is another giant stride in the right direction for Major League Soccer, and interest from across the pond should increase dramatically as a result.

Advertisements

How much do you really know about Jurgen Klinsmann?

Born in 1964 in Göppingen, Germany, Jurgen Klinsmann’s parents were bakers and Jurgen served his apprenticeship as a baker achieving a diploma.

His father said he could pursue a career as a footballer if he got a degree, and we are all thankful he studied hard! His family still run the bakery business in the suburbs of Stuttgart, Germany.

Jurgen is married to a former American model, Debbie Chin, they have two children and live in Huntington Beach, California.

Jurgen is fluent in four languages.

His son, Jonathan, is following in his fathers’ footsteps, but at the other end of the pitch. He is a goalkeeper and has been called up to the USMNT under-18’s camp.

He may look serious on camera but Jurgen has a good sense of humour. In 1994, when he was signed by Tottenham Hotspur, he was known as a diver by the British press following his appearances for Germany.

And when he arrived at the press conference he asked the journalists if they knew of any diving schools in London.

When he then scored his first goal for Spurs, he celebrated by diving headlong onto the pitch, and he became an instant hero among Tottenham fans. The fact that he scored 21 goals that season helped quite a bit too!

He has a helicopter pilot’s licence, and enjoys relaxing by flying around California.

The 49-year-old managed the German National side for two years and lead them to a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup.

Now managing the USMNT, he made this statement about Brazil 2014:

In Germany it is a bit simpler because there is only one expectation … we say we want to win this thing, for us in the U.S., it is a growing process. We can surprise people in Brazil, but obviously our expectation is to get out of the group no matter who we draw. After that, we need to make the players understand it is all about mind games. Every game becomes 50-50 and will be won by the team who is better prepared and believes in themselves more.”

The US are not expecting Jurgen to take them to third place, but are hoping they put up a good fight in the group stages and then who knows? It’s a funny old game!

Jurgen runs a children’s charity foundation, Agapedia, together with some close friends. Agapedia translates from Greek into “Love for children”.

He is the 35th USMNT coach and he is currently contracted as coach until 2018.

Jurgen represented his country 108 times from 1987 to 1998 and scored 47 goals for Germany.

In 2003, he was enjoying retirement but missing the game, and at the age of 39-years-old he made a comeback, by playing in the American Development League for Orange County Blue Star.

He used the pseudonym Jay Göppingen, (His home town name in Germany), to disguise himself. He made 8 appearances and scored five goals.

He never lost his eye for goal. In 1988 he was top scorer in the Bundesliga and was voted German Player of the year.  He was also voted English player of the year in 1995, following his second stint at Tottenham Hotspur.

Jurgen donated the entire proceeds of his final testimonial game in Stuttgart to children’s charities. This amounted to around $1million.

Jurgen may or may not have a good World Cup run with the USA, but one thing is certain…he will give it his best shot!

MLS & EPL: closer than you thought?

With many English Premier League teams touring the USA and Canada this summer, it is perhaps fitting to look at the links between Major League Soccer and the EPL.

Some are learned facts, some are obscure stories and some are spurious rumours. The one thing in common is the love of the beautiful game and the historic partnership between North America and Great Britain.

Shoulder to shoulder, we all share the same passion; that great sport we all call football, no…soccer, sorry…football, no….soccer. Oh who cares? We love them both!

The list below will show the links that the 2013/14 Premier League teams have with North American soccer, and give an insight into the development of MLS.

Arsenal – American Stan Kroenke is the majority shareholder of Arsenal and also the owner of Colorado Rapids. The two teams formed an official link with each other in 2009.

Embed from Getty Images

Aston Villa – Randy Lerner, current owner who has recently placed the club up for sale. American Brad Guzan is the current goalkeeper. Allegedly a US consortium are planning to become the new owners.

Cardiff City – The Welsh club share the honour of the most watched Premier League game in US this season with their rivals Swansea in the Welsh derby.

Chelsea – Have a megastore in North Carolina but have cancelled their proposed US tour this summer to focus on squad development. Though of course Frank Lampard has been linked with MLS for the past few years and is currently being linked again.

Crystal Palace – was affiliated with Crystal Palace USA team in 2006, by the then Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan, in the old USL second division. In 2010 the US Palace team severed the link, stating they were to take a year out and re-structure the team. They have unfortunately never surfaced again, unlike Simon Jordan who pops up on British TV now and again showing off his penchant for expensive wristwatches. The Eagles are set to play three games in the US this summer.

Everton – Everton America is a direct link with Everton FC. They partner local sports organisations and help youth development in the US. A big pat on the back is deserved for this. Oh yeah, they also have the Big Man, Tim Howard between the sticks and have had Landon Donovan and Brian McBride play for them in recent years.

Embed from Getty Images

Fulham – Have American based billionaire Shahid Khan as an owner, American Airlines as their official airline and had Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride as players.

Hull City – Twinned with Harlem as part of the “Keep calm and pick a side” campaign to promote the EPL. We are presuming no pictures of Hull were shown as it isn’t exactly the most attractive place in the UK to visit! They also visited NASA in 1984 and then Chairman, Don Robinson, said they would be the first team to play on the moon.

Liverpool – Home of The Beatles and the nearly Champions of the EPL in 2014.  Also have a lakeside village in Onondaga County NY apparently! They have the honour of having some of the coolest men in the US as fans, namely, Dr Dre, Samuel. L. Jackson, LeBron James and Brad Pitt. Not bad eh? Oh, and let’s not forget the American owner John W Henry II.

Manchester City – The newly crowned EPL champions are partnering with the New York Yankees to form a New York franchise; New York City Football Club, with Man City being majority owner. An incredibly wealthy team, and at this rate, they will eventually own every team in the EPL and MLS!

Manchester United – They have a large fan base in the US and even though the outgoing champions had a poor season, they are still a giant in the game. Owned by Americans, Malcolm Glazer and his family. A US investment company, Baron International, has recently bought $150 million worth of shares as an investment. This only equates to 2.5% of the club however, and was not enough to influence the club not to employ David Moyes as the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor!

Newcastle United – Andrew Parkinson, a striker, played for them from 1977-1979, who has got to be one of the first players from the USA to play here which is impressive. (Even though he wasn’t the first in the EPL, John Harkes has that honour). It is also the only decent link we could find so the Toon Army need make some connections across the pond, rather than just France.

Norwich City – Zak Whitbread, an American/English player who played for two and a half seasons for Norwich from 2010. We have nothing more to say about that.

Southampton – Have a Canadian owner in Ralph Krueger, and have been partial to an American keeper with the same initials, Kasey Keller and Cody Cropper.

Stoke City – Current Manager Mark Hughes is at present not having a great US experience due to the failure of a second appeal for a work permit, with young American striker Juan Agudelo. He is now apparently contemplating only signing European players following this protracted appeal. This would be a crying shame as the EPL/MLS bond has been strengthening on a yearly basis. On the plus side they do currently have American International, Geoff Cameron formerly of Houston Dynamo, Brek Shea, the ex FC Dallas man and Maurice Edu on their books. (Maurice Edu is currently on loan at Philadelphia Union).

Sunderland – American owner Ellis Short is currently at the helm and Jozy Altidore is currently on the books, but Jozy unfortunately hasn’t had the best of times in the EPL with one goal in over 30 league appearances this season.

Embed from Getty Images

Swansea City – Featured in the most watched EPL game against Cardiff and the second-most watched game when they were away to Man Utd. We believe two of the Swansea players also drive Escalades!

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs have been affiliated with San Jose Earthquakes since 2008, they also have Brad Friedel, one of the best free transfers in the league under their belt. Clint Dempsey also played for them before his recent return to MLS with Seattle Sounders. Whilst they recently sold Jermain Defoe to Toronto FC in a big move for MLS, and Spurs are set to tour the United States this summer.

West Bromwich Albion – Apparently The Baggies were sniffing around US player Tim Ream, currently playing for Derby County, but everyone and their aunt are denying that.

West Ham United – The Hammers run a respected International Academy within the USA and Canada. They had Jonathan Spector as a player from 2006-2010. Clive Charles also played for them in 1972/1973.

And we couldn’t write a piece like this without mentioning David Beckham. A huge GB and US name in our beloved sport, he is currently trying to start his own franchise in Miami and we are quietly hoping it gets called Miami Vice. Perhaps Jan Hammer can do the music as the team emerge from the tunnel?

Embed from Getty Images

May the union between our countries long continue, and the gap between MLS and the EPL draw ever closer. There can only be one winner….all of us mad fans!

Toronto can score the goals, but they need to shore up their defence to achieve success

By Simon Pyne

The second-leg of the Amway Canadian Championship takes place this Wednesday between Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC, and gives the Reds a great opportunity to reach the final and up their current form.

Toronto head into Wednesday’s game with a slender one-goal advantage from the first leg of the tie, after a 2-1 win, and will be looking to improve on their recent performances to give a boost to their loyal supporters.

It will also give new signing Jermain Defoe another chance to show why Toronto made such a bold acquisition.

The Reds fans will be hoping the star duo of Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley continues to shine, to enable their progression to a place in the final.

Defoe has continued playing in the vein he is remembered for in Britain. He is the 14th highest all time goalscorer in the EPL with 124 goals and has also scored 19 goals for the English National side.

He is known for forming successful partnerships with attacking teammates and it appears him and Bradley are already starting to gel.

His current form will keep him in the limelight though, and Reds fans should be hoping Defoe doesn’t get the call from the England Manager, Roy Hodgson, to join the World Cup squad, as Toronto will need his goals in the coming weeks.

Coach Ryan Nelsen of course knew all about Defoe, from his own time as a player at Tottenham Hotspur where he watched the prolific striker hit the back of the net regularly.

Toronto showed their interest in October 2013 and following negotiations, and a couple of phone calls from Canadian rapper Drake, the deal was completed in January this year.

This was a shrewd buy for Toronto and providing JD stays injury free it will pay dividends in the coming seasons.

Embed from Getty Images

(Photo: Jermain Defoe can score goals, but Toronto need to improve defensively)

The new signing of Luke Moore shows further intent of their attacking intentions but scoring one more goal than your opponent is a dangerous tactic and the Reds need to shut up shop in defence and make those goals count.

It’s worth noting that the deal to acquire Luke Moore involved Toronto trading a central defender, in Gale Agbossoumonde to the Colorado Rapids, so the emphasis is clearly on attack.

In their first three games they only let one goal in, but then followed this up by letting five hit the back of the net in their last three games.

The late goal by the Whitecaps at BMO Field in the first leg may yet come back to haunt them in this competition.

Although a place in the final is going to be a confidence boost for The Reds, it is their MLS form they need to turn around.

After a flying start to the season they have now suffered three losses in a row, so the talent within the team must endeavour to turn this form on its head.

They have three to four games in hand over the teams above them and must ensure they make those count, even with the loss of key players to the World Cup.

If they can achieve that turnaround there should be no reason why they can’t then kick on and get into a solid playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Whitecaps may just be the first fly in the ointment however. They are unbeaten in their last four MLS games and will relish the chance of beating Toronto to the final, and gain bragging rights over their rivals.

The winner of the tie will have a chance of silverware and the entry into the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Reds then have league games against NY Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City, two teams who have been scoring for fun and both will attack the Reds defence at every opportunity.

Ryan Nelsen’s side need to be strong and show they are up for the challenge ahead and prove they can achieve success and honours.

One honour they have already acquired is unfortunately the ubiquitous one of having the most expensive tickets in the Eastern Conference.

There is no doubt Toronto have the talent on the pitch, they now just need to prove to their loyal fans they are worth that extra money.

Dempsey heads back home to New England, but will the Dorman let him in?

By Simon Pyne

Clint Dempsey will be going back to his old team, New England Revolution, on Sunday as a Seattle Sounder, for the first MLS game he has played there since 2006. This will also be the first time he has played against them.

He left the Revs to go to the English Premier League and successfully play for Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur before heading back to MLS with the Sounders, where he is currently displaying scintillating form.

He is already amongst the early contenders for the Golden Boot and so far is showing no let up in his endeavor to succeed back in MLS.

The Sounders have had a great start to the season and are forging ahead at the top of the Western Conference with 22 points collected from 10 games played.

They have scored 11 home goals and 11 goals on the road, and won their last five games so they will be heading into this game instilled with confidence.

The Sounders form needs no introduction, they are playing some great football at the moment and their flowing attacking style is a joy to behold.

Embed from Getty Images

(Dempsey will look to get all three points with the Sounders when he returns to New England on Sunday)

The Revs will not be a walkover however, these may be billed as the underdogs but they are stiff opposition for sure.

They have not let a goal in at the Gillette Stadium this season and haven’t lost in their last four games.

They come into this tie with back-to-back wins over Toronto and Kansas and currently sit atop the Eastern Conference, tied with Kansas and Houston so they will be keen to take three points from this tie.

The Revs showed their spirit last week against Toronto, as they came from a goal down to steal all the points with a 2-1 victory. The first time they have ever won at BMO Field, and it was well deserved.

One Revs player who knows Dempsey well enough is defender Andy Dorman as the Welsh international played with Dempsey for over two seasons with the Revs and will have a good insight into what makes the Sounders playmaker tick.

Dorman has also played in England, for Crystal Palace, and in Scotland for St Mirren before returning to MLS in 2013.

Dorman’s return to the Revs as holding midfielder has coincided with them shoring up their defence, and should prove a fair challenge for the Sounders cavalier attackers to try and breach.

If the Revs can steal an early goal they may well try to park the bus across the front of goal.

Though if the Sounders go in front it should be a real ding-dong battle to take the points in this epic tie.

You can see the game on Sunday at 23:00pm UK time.

David Beckham, the man with a plan

By Simon Pyne

David Beckham is set to introduce his very own team into Major League Soccer, and after such a great playing career, his Miami side will surely be a success.

There’s not a lot that hasn’t already been written about David Beckham. A true icon of world football and a name synonymous with immense skill and unbridled passion for the game.

From the moment he appeared on the back pages, he was never really off them during his glittering 20-year career.

From his early days in East London, to the success he achieved at Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Paris Saint-German and LA Galaxy, he has always showed the same determination to succeed and has put in the hard work required to achieve his goals.

For the English National team, he always showed a desire and passion to play for his country, and although this has been seen before amongst the likes of Stuart Pearce and Terry Butcher, it has arguably not been seen since.

He collected 115 caps, which was a record for an outfield player, and he still says one of his greatest achievements in football was captaining his country.

A true legend of his time in world football, but what was left for him to strive for once he finally hung his boots up?

He has been an ambassador for the sport and his country, and is carrying out the same role for UNICEF as well as Chinese football, but the desire for success and a new challenge would be gnawing at him internally.

So perhaps we should not be surprised he is now striving to build his own MLS team in Miami and is attacking the challenge with the same passion and enthusiasm he showed during his playing career.

There are huge challenges in store for him, as the problems with the new stadium location are already showing, with local business heavyweights objecting to the current proposal.

Miami Beckham United

Photo: Miami’s proposed soccer stadium (Miami Beckham United)

The new team are hoping to join MLS in 2017 and are perhaps taking the biggest gamble of all due to the previous Florida soccer teams; Dolphins, Panthers and Marlins all struggling with attendance figures in past seasons.

Miami will have to win games and then some in order to draw the fanbase they will require to enable success, and although “Brand Beckham” will be a draw they will still need big name players to bring in the crowds.

Of course Beckham has some great contacts to draw on, after playing for some of the biggest teams on the planet, and this will be a massive boost for the Miami team and MLS in general, as household name players are bound to appear for him.

It should follow that more supporters will be drawn by this influx of stars, so it has to be a win-win situation for the sport and MLS when, and not if, he succeeds in his plan.

One thing is for sure, David Beckham will put his heart and soul into his new venture in the same way he did during his playing career, and if all goes to plan with the stadium, we will all be talking a lot more about MLS and Miami very soon.