As you may have noticed, this blog has been on hiatus since early September. I took the opportunity to take a break during the off-season, knowing that a number of other outlets have arisen in the past year to cover NPSL specific news. In light of these developments, I have begun to evaluate this site and its future. As it stands, I will continue to provide modest coverage of the NPSL though I will be scaling back my weekly commentary due to the sheer number of teams on the schedule for next season. That said, if you have a particular team, region/conference, or other miscellaneous beat you follow and are interested in writing for Parlor City I am considering taking on additional writers to help fill out the coverage (though please note that I can’t afford to compensate you). You can contact me at [email protected] and we’ll start a conversation.
Yesterday US Soccer announced the 1st round draw for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup - a process that US Soccer says, “throughout the entire tournament will be determined by random selection.” Interestingly, clubs representing the NPSL and USASA were only awarded 2 home matches to 16 away matches, or one home match for each body. This means that out of 8 coin tosses in which the NPSL (or USASA) clubs were involved, only 1 flip ended in a favorable outcome (where ‘favorable outcome’ = hosting the match). As a function of the binomial probability distribution, there is approximately a 3.125% chance that 7 out of 8 flips would end in an unfavorable outcome.
The calculation assumes the following:
1. The number of trials or ‘flips’ is fixed. In this case, we will fix the number of flips at 8 to represent the 8 flips NPSL clubs would have been involved in. We will use n to represent the number of trials.
2. There are only 2 possible outcomes which are equally weighted: hosting or travelling.
3. The probability of hosting is fixed. We will use p to represent the probability of hosting and will assign it a value of .5.
4. The flips must be independent. This condition is satisfied as each flip is a separate and unique event, independent of previous or successive flips.
When we input the data, the formula looks like this:
And thus we get a probability of 3.125% that only 1 NPSL team would be awarded hosting privileges out of 8 total possible hosting scenarios. Using the same equation, we can calculate the binomial probability of the outcomes for both NPSL and USASA clubs combined which is approximately 0.0018310546875 or .183%.
At 3% the result is highly unlikely, but I can give US Soccer the benefit of the doubt. At .183% the probability is just too small to blindly consider coincidence.
Now, many have already argued that the draw is fair the way it turned out as priority seems to have been given (mostly) to USL Pro and PDL clubs. The rationale is that these clubs generally have better facilities, better front offices, and more professional organizations as a whole - facts which at this point are hard to dispute (with some obvious exceptions). If this were the basis of awarding hosting rights, I would buy the draw. The issue is that US Soccer has stated that the draw was to be ‘determined by random selection’ - something that is shown above to have a highly unlikely probability.
Conspiracy theorists aside, maybe its time for US Soccer to live stream the draw live? This would at least introduce a little transparency into the process, and maybe even give a boost to tournament interest. What are you’re thoughts?
Philly Soccer News published a brief story yesterday about a new professional soccer league reportedly kicking off in 2014 under the name American Professional Soccer (APS). So far teams are planned in Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and an unknown location in the Midwest. According to the Philly Soccer News report the league plans on operating regionally at first before expanding its national footprint.
At this point, there are more questions than answers about this new league. It seems that any professional league seeking credibility would seek sanctioning from the Unites States Football Federation (USSF), and assuming APS does seek sanctioning, will they look to supplant the NPSL and PDL as a ‘professional’ fourth division? Or will they attempt to go head to head with USL Pro or NASL for second or third division status? Any way you slice this, the last thing we need is another regional ‘pro’ league with national ambitions. As it stands USL Pro and NASL don’t even have true nationwide footprints - and they are far more established than any new upstart pro league can hope to be.
USSF needs to step in and create true league standards for sanctioned leagues all the way down the pyramid. And this doesn’t just hold true for the APS. It stands for the American National Soccer League (which appears to be an offshoot founded by clubs from the defunct National Stars Soccer League) and members of the more recently defunct Southern Premier Soccer League (some of the SPSL clubs have since joined the NPSL). I’m sure these club and league owners have a great dream and a lot of heart for the beautiful game, but further fracturing the professional landscape in this country only sets back its development. As it stands there are good options at all levels of the pyramid for aspiring club owners. There are a host of USASA sanctioned leagues operating at local levels where clubs can be run on extremely small budgets. The NPSL represents another affordable option with a truly national footprint. United Soccer Leagues offers several quality leagues on both the men’s and women’s side of the game from the youth level, up to fourth division PDL, through third division USL Pro. For owners with even more ambition and financial clout there is second division NASL.
I will readily admit each of these leagues has their own set of issues. But they are all reasonably established and offer a wide variety of options to cater to club owners particular desires. In fact, there are professional clubs operating in both the NPSL and PDL. By starting yet another league all we are doing is diluting the upper ends of the pyramid and perpetuating the instability that already plagues our second, third, and fourth divisions.
So much for having a semi-custom theme for a footy blog…
There has been significant debate about the quality of USL PRO vs. NASL and while that debate has subsided a bit as the leagues have had some time to get over the USL/Traffic fracture I thought it would make for an interesting project to try and compare the quality of the leagues now that we have a couple seasons worth of results to compare. This is an idea I’ve kicked around for a while, but after attending the Orlando City vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies match I though I’d give it a go.
To start, a few notes on methodology: I will primarily be looking at quality as a function of results - that is, quality will be decided in terms of wins/losses/draws. I am aware that this is not always the best way to examine ‘quality’, but I have also found that MOST times the sides exhibiting technical prowess tend to do the best (again, there are exceptions like Chelsea in Champions League play last season and even then Chelsea is still pretty high up the ladder in Europe and it may not be fair to consider them a true exception). So, to have results to compare I will be drawing from 2012 and 2013 preseason results as well as the 2012 US Open Cup competition. I will weight both preseason and US Open Cup matches the same (though an argument could be made to give a slight advantage to Open Cup matches). In addition, I have included MLS in this survey for two reasons; 1. because it interests me and 2. because it provides another benchmark with which to compare the relative quality of both USL and NASL performances (it gives me a larger sample size to work with). Here’s what I came up with:
USL PRO Record vs. NASL = 3W, 1L, 1D, 7GF, 4GA (based on 5 matches)
NASL Record vs. USL PRO = 1W, 3L, 1D, 4GF, 7GA (based on 5 matches)
USL PRO Record vs. MLS = 5W, 11L, 1D, 25GF, 39GA (based on 17 matches)
NASL Record vs. MLS = 2W, 12L, 4D, 14GF, 36GA (based on 18 matches)
Head to head this suggests USL PRO is slightly ahead of NASL. It should be noted that 4 out of the 5 matches were decided by 1 goal or less. Thus with a larger sample size NASL could easily see the results swing back there way a bit. But until we have more results I give +1 to USL PRO.
Comparing each league based on results vs. MLS clubs also shows USL PRO with a slight edge. They have more victories though in terms of losses both NASL and USL PRO fared about the same. The goals for statistic leans heavily in favor of USL PRO who managed to score almost 2x the amount of goals against MLS as NASL. Goals against is almost even, slightly favoring NASL. I have to give USL PRO the nod here as well based on the greater number of victories and a significant lead on GF/GA ratio.
So for now, the scale is tipped in favor of USL PRO - though I expect to see the stats level off through the rest of this pre-season and into the 2013 US Open Cup. In fact, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see NASL surpass USL come the start of the 2014 season.
Closing thoughts: to be really thorough with a study of this nature we really need a bigger sample size. The numbers show one story right now, but with just a couple more games could easily lean the other direction. It should also be noted that looking at things in terms of leagues assumes a general parity between the teams in each league. Potentially a pretty big assumption, but until the sample size is better there isn’t much of a choice.
I believe these results raise some interesting questions regarding the ‘product’ of these leagues. It would be interesting to compare the average ‘wage bills’ of the respective leagues and see how that plays into the equation. Ultimately, I think there are big implications for any would be club owner on which league offers a better ROI.
Saturday evening was Orlando Cities first real home test of the 2013 campaign (I’m not counting the Disney Classic as those matches were not played at the Citrus Bowl) and saw City line up against 2012 NASL champions the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Orlando City supporters groups Iron Lion Firm and RUCKUS were out in full force with a display that would rival some MLS club supporters. A small contingent of Ralph’s Mob made the 1.5 hr. trek, though they couldn’t be heard over the home supporters.
Having played each other only a couple of weeks ago at the Disney Pro Classic, both sides moved quickly to challenge off the kickoff. Orlando City kept constant pressure on the Rowdies defense and despite several quality chances couldn’t convert. Tampa didn’t challenge nearly as often, but they gave the Orlando defense fits when they did. Eventually, a very poor pass from the defense was intercepted by a Rowdies forward and slotted home for an easy goal.
Down 1-0 at the half, Orlando came out hungry for a goal and equalized quickly. 10 minutes later they tallied a second, and yet another midway through the second half. The match started to look a bit one one sided and was getting pretty chippy when the referee awarded Tampa Bay a free kick just outside of the Orlando penalty area. It was a well taken free kick and sailed right passed the goal keeper for the Rowdies second tally of the night.
The score ended 3-2 in favor of Orlando City, a result that looked closer than the game really was. I was impressed with the level of play and temp the Orlando side displayed and honestly a bit surprised they handled Tampa Bay so easily. I was expecting more of the NASL club, perhaps because they are ‘Division 2′ while Orlando is ‘Division 3′.
I don’t know if I’ll make it to Tampa for the second leg of the derby, but I will definitely be making it out to as many Orlando City matches as I can fit into my schedule!
The USMNT fell 2-1 away at Honduras to open their 2013 Hexagonal campaign. According to the SPI, the loss changes the US odds of qualification from 61.6% to 52.7% while boosting Honduras odds to 74.5% from 59.2%. Nothing like giving the enemy a boost.
The US must take home and away wins against both Panama and Jamaica, win at home against Honduras, and manage at least 1 win or several draws out 4 matches against Mexico and Costa Rica. Technically, the US could make it through with less points, but to allow that to happen would be to test fate. As it stands, it wasn’t so long ago that the US lost to Jamaica for the first time ever. And even last years victory over Panama came on a narrow 1-0 margin thanks to Graham Zusi. So taking 4 of 4 wins against these supposedly ‘inferior’ squads is a tall task.
I won’t get into coaching or personnel decisions - though the certainly played a role in this loss. But here are my three takeaway’s.
A. An international player should be fit. Timmy Chandler was gassed after 30 minutes and barely finished the game - sadly, he wasn’t the only one. What happened to the US teams that ran full bore for 90 minutes? I’m all for playing smarter and conserving energy, but Honduras showed much better all round fitness.
B. Defense. The defensive lapses that happened were mental breakdowns combined with bad shape. The defense was often caught out of position and seemed unable to hold any real shape. When players started to get tired, they got sloppy and Honduras made them pay.
C. Landon Donovan’s presence would not have changed anything.
EDIT: Jamaica did what every other teams is hoping to do and played Mexico to a surprising 0-0 draw. Meanwhile Panama dropped a 2-0 lead to Costa Rica who managed to stay unbeaten for a 9th straight match. As of now, the Hex race looks like this: Honduras (3), Mexico (1), Costa Rica (1), Panama (1), Jamaica (1), USA (0). If anything, yesterdays matches highlighted how much the level of competition is leveling off. It looks as though every match will be a fight.
This time majority Greater Binghamton FC and President Bahij Kashou discusses how the presence of the NPSL club has improved the youth system at the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex.
Full video here: Bahij Kashou interview.
The MLS announcement on the integration of the Reserve League with division three USL PRO came out today (see it here.) When news of the potential integration hit just over a month ago I posted some of my initial thoughts (if you missed them, click here) including a brief comment on the ‘competitiveness’ of ‘reserve’ league. Now that the structure for the 2013 season has been announced, I would like to re-visit that comment and give it some nuance. In fact, as you might have inferred from the title of this post I have shifted positions a bit.
My simple statement on the matter is that I believe the Reserve League/USL PRO integration, as presented for the 2013 season is nothing short of farcical. To be fair, I have been critical of the integration idea from the beginning. And even I can see some value in the model, even if I believe other models would prove more effective. But there is one point that I can’t seem to think my way around, no matter how hard I try - that the two MLS Reserve League matches will count towards the USL PRO standings. This decision assumes that either A. all MLS Reserve Teams are created equal (clearly not the case as the Reserve League has its own stratifying table); or B. belies the single entity, closed circuit, franchised nature of soccer in America.
There are of course other options, but most of them come back to A or B. While I have very strong feelings towards the structure of MLS I am not de facto against MLS. In fact, I have my own Red Bull jersey and were I living in New York would hold season tickets. For this reason, I don’t believe the conspirator stories that would imply that MLS is trying to destroy soccer in America. I also don’t believe that those in power are naive to what they are doing. And so I have to conclude that they are doing what they believe is best under their view of things. Maybe they believe that ‘on average’ the Reserve Teams will give approximately the same level of competition. More likely though is that they just don’t see this as an infringement on ‘competition’. The rational goes, “there will still be fixtures, tables, playoffs, championships, wins and losses - so whats the big deal?” And this is classic franchisement behavior, which views the entirety of the season as an entertainment drama built on the platform of a sport. If that is your view of a league - if all players are owned collectively, all profits and losses shared - then it really doesn’t matter who wins, at least not to the management. It matters to the fans of course. And probably to the players who believe the are ‘living their dreams’ by playing. And though it doesn’t matter to MLS or USL who wins and loses (aside from match attendance and TV ratings of course), the fan can still be satisfied because no matter what his team won definitively (aside ‘miracles’ like the Hand of God which have and will always be an unfortunate part of the game).
So what we are left with is a scenario in which team X misses the playoffs because they played a tougher MLS Reserve opponent and we all wonder: what if. This league structure categorically defies the logical imperative that competitions such as a football match be zero sum in nature. It represents the end of meaningful competition.
In retrospect, maybe I am a bit conspiratorial. If you stuck with it this long, I apologize for the rambling nature of this post. I’ll go back to bullet points next time.
The 2013 MLS supplemental draft earlier this afternoon saw Mike Reidy (FC Buffalo) and Jake Keegan (Binghamton U.) picked up by Sporting KC and Philadelphia Union respectively.
Philadelphia selected Keegan in the 3rd round with the 43rd pick overall. Reidy went a round later in the 4th on the 71st overall pick.
The only thing sullying the news was the misspelling of ‘Reidy’ at mlssoccer.com and the inclusion of the infamous letter ‘P’ in ‘Binghamton’.