Introduction

Soccer is boring.  While it has been my favorite sport for a very long time, an inescapable fact is that most matches are boring, all have at least 10 boring minutes, and some can put you to sleep better than any medication could.

The potential to bore is strangely what is so fascinating about the beautiful game.  In American football, a team will move up or down the field at any kind of pace, one will win and the other will lose, there is already one outcome possible and only 100 different spots on the field a team could be positioned.  In a soccer match there may be infinitely many circumstances, chances, or possibilities in which anything could happen. Or nothing.  Nothing could also happen.  Lionel Messi may run the length of the pitch dropping each defender in his path, sidestep the goalkeeper and miss the goal entirely, in which all of this happened but resulted in absolutely nothing. No yards, no fantasy points, no headlines in tomorrow’s paper, maybe a little momentum for his team, but otherwise nothing.

Nothing makes something that much more exciting.  Fighting for or against an infinite amount of favorable or unfavorable circumstances perhaps makes soccer the most unpredictable activity that could possibly be conceived.  There will always be a Super Bowl winner, but there seemingly won’t ever be an undoubtedly best team in the entire landscape of soccer in the scope of year, decade, or lifetime.  There are always more trophies to be won, more accolades to be claimed, and even more perceptions of what is good and what is wrong.

While you read what I have explored in the world of soccer, you will learn exactly what I mean, and how soccer fits into the world not only recreationally through sport but also financially, culturally, and politically.  You may also understand how different soccer is from other sports and what makes it better or worse.

Soccer Pyramids Around the World

The infrastructure that soccer is set up upon is an intricate and confusing thing to learn, but the way it all fits together is remarkable and makes for a universally connected landscape.  There are countless organizations and competitions that make up the world of soccer, and in this blog post I will make it clear which is which and where is where.

First of all, there are two categories of soccer competition: club and international.  International competitions include, but are not limited to, the Euro tournament, the World Cup, the Olympics, the Confederations Cup (played before the World Cup as an “appetizer”), and the Gold Cup (the North American version of the Euros.  International teams are teams made up of players from the same nationality and called up by their country to play.  Club teams are businesses, like the member clubs that make up the NBA and NFL, and can employ players of any nationality, although some countries have sanctions that protect domestic jobs.

Club soccer in each country consists of three competitions and three corresponding trophies, the league, Domestic Cup, and continental cup.  The names of these vary from country to country, for example the top league in England is the English Premier League, the continental trophy is the UEFA Champions League, and the Domestic Cup is called the English FA Cup.  The league is the top flight league within the system of promotion and relegation in that country.  Promotion and relegation is a system in which the three worst teams in each league move down (relegated) into the next lesser league and the top three teams move up into the next highest league.  Promotion and relegation is used in almost every country in the world except for the United States and Australia.  The Domestic cup is a trophy that can be won by any team in any division within a certain country.  In England there are over 400 clubs that compete in its domestic cup, both professional and amateur teams, the FA Cup.  In the United States, the top league is called Major League Soccer and the domestic cup is called the US Open Cup. Since the US is in North America, it is governed by CONCACAF and its clubs participate in the continental competition CONCACAF Champions League if they qualify.

Secondly, there are 6 major organizations that oversee each continent at both the club and international level.  These organizations are CONMEBOL (South America),
CAF (Africa), CONCACAF (North America), UEFA (Europe), AFC (Asia), and OFC (Oceania).  These are FIFA confederations.  FIFA, or Federation Internationale de Football, is the governing body of all soccer around the world.  Not every country is a member of FIFA, but an overwhelming majority of countries are.

Winners of league cups and domestic cups automatically qualify for continental competition.  There are 6 continental competitions that correspond to the 6 FIFA confederations.  In order to qualify for these competitions a team must do one of the following:

1)      Finish in the top 2, 3, 4, or 5 (varying depending on coefficients, numbers of teams that qualify, for each country) of the top league.

2)      Win the domestic cup

3)      Win the League Cup (if that country allocates continental qualification to the winner)

4)      Win the Champions League playoff (if the country uses one)

A continental competition is called the Champions League.  There is a Champions League for every confederation (example: CONCACAF Champions League, UEFA Champions League, etc.).  There are then 6 winners of these tournaments.  These winners then qualify for the Club World Cup, and compete head-to-head for that title.

The winner of the Club World Cup was most recently Bayern Munich of Germany.  They qualified by winning the UEFA Champions League of 2013, which they qualified for by winning the Bundesliga (Germany’s top flight league) in 2012.  This team also happened to win both the domestic trophy in Germany (the DFB Pokal) that year, completing what is known as a Treble.  The Treble is one of the biggest honors a club team can win.

The format that soccer uses serves to unite the world politically via competition in the sport that unites the world on a cultural level.

The Greatest Teams in World Cup History

The World Cup has been held every four years since 1930, when the host Uruguay lifted the first trophy in a 13-team tournament.  The Cup has since included 32 teams in every tournament and is the highest achievement any player or team can achieve.  Here are three teams that emphatically reached the pinnacle of the international game.

Brazil 1970

(Pictured: Pele)

English newspaper The Independent called this team Spain 2010’s opponent for best team of all time.  While Spain still can prove even better in the current decade, Brazil’s 1970 World Cup squad gives them some tough opposition.

Brazil’s team featured the sport’s most popular icon Pele as well as Carlos Alberto, who assisted the former to the winning goal in the 1970 World Cup.  Another big name in Rivelino supplemented Pele, Alberto, and Jairzinho. Jairzinho scored in every one of Brazil’s games in 1970, the only player to ever score in every World Cup game for his respective team (The Independent).  This team may not have been so much a dynasty as Spain 2010 but dominated the 1970 World Cup in a fashion that even modern-day Spain has not yet replicated.

Spain 2010

Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta make up the midfield of this team that has dominated the 2000’s.  Having won the 2008 Euro final over Germany, the 2010 World Cup over Holland, and the 2012 Euros over Italy, Spain became the first team ever to win 3 consecutive major tournaments.

Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque put together a sensational team in Euro 2012 that made a struggling striker in Fernando Torres the Golden Boot winner (leading scorer) at the competition.  Because of Spain’s slow, methodical, yet tiring and frustrating-to-defend style Del Bosque has made Spain one of the most hailed teams in all of international soccer history (The Independent).

1970’s Holland

 

 

(Pictured: Johann Cruyff)

Unlike the Spanish, Holland’s accomplishment cannot be measured in trophies, but their performances at World Cups in the 1970’s were just as excellent.

Soccer as we know it today would not be the same without Johann Cruyff and Rinus Michel’s total football (Left Wing).  The philosophy began with coach Rinus Michels and his Ajax team (Ajax Amsterdam is a very successful club from the Netherlands).  Cruyff, a legendary Dutch attacking midfielder, played on that team and made total football a success.  Michels would then coach the Holland national team in the 70’s (Left Wing).  Total football’s tactic consisted of shifting players into different positions and moving the other team into different spaces to get as many shots on goal as possible.  Total football is used by several elite clubs in the world today including Barcelona, Spain, and Bayern Munich.

After making it to the final in 1974 and 1978 Holland lost to West Germany and Argentina respectively, but their contribution to soccer as it is currently played is one of the most revolutionary approaches to the game in its history (Holland).

  1. Holland Tourism (2010) Dutch national team’s World Cup history. Tourism in Holland. Retrieved from: http://www.holland.com/us/tourism/article/dutch-national-teams-world-cup-history.htm
  2. Left Wing Soccer (2011, December 31) Bio: Rinus Michels. Left Wing Soccer. Retrieved from: http://leftwingsoccer.com/bio-rinus-michels/
  3. Sportsmail Reporter (2012, June 28) Euro 2012: Spain could be first team to win three consecutive major tournaments. The Daily Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/euro2012/article-2165905/Euro-2012-Spain-win-major-international-tournaments-running.html
  4. Pitt-Brooke, J. (2012, July 3) The greatest team of all time: Brazil 1970 vs. Spain 2010. The Independent. Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/the-greatest-team-of-all-time-brazil-1970-v-spain-2012-7905980.html

United States World Cup 2014 Preview

The World Cup is now less than 50 days away.  The first stage of the tournament will be a round robin group stage with 4 teams in each group playing 3 games to split 32 teams into 16.  3 points are awarded for a win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for a loss.  With teams being drawn into groups for the first stage in early December, there’s been plenty of time to pour over matchups during the group stage and make predictions for how prolific teams in difficult groups will fare.

The United States gets ready to improve on a rather successful 2010 World Cup that still could have gone much better.  The Americans were defeated in yet another international competition by Ghana, a long-time competitive rival.

An incredibly unlucky draw will pit the United States against Ghana yet again and pair them with two of the superpowers of world soccer, Portugal and Germany (FIFA Groups).  The Germans, coming off of a hugely successful 2010 World Cup in South Africa, will only be stronger with the emerging talents of Marco Reus, Mesut Ozil, and Andre Schurrle.  The Portuguese, with superstar and Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Compared to 2010’s last-gasp draws and surprise wins, the USA look much more legitimate as competitors going into this World Cup.  They dominated World Cup qualifying in their region and won the group stage (FIFA Qualifying), including a win against Mexico in Estadio Azteca for the first time ever (The Big Lead).  In a summer friendly the US national team defeated Germany 4-3 (Centennial Match).

Success for the Americans will depend on a strong defense.  Center back Matt Besler is a lock for a starting position at the back but his partner could be any one of Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, or Clarence Goodson.  Jermaine Jones is the likely choice to feature at defensive midfielder while Kyle Beckerman or the versatile Geoff Cameron could also challenge for the spot.   Michael Bradley provides the team its attacking prowess, and the target man Jozy Altidore will be carrying the goalscoring weight in the last World Cup of his career alongside Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi.

With a little bit of luck in the match between Portugal and Germany and redemption against Ghana, the Americans could find themselves in the Round of 16 for the second World Cup in a row.  4 points should get the USA through the group stage, a win against Ghana and a draw against Germany or Portugal.

 

Sources

1. CONCACAF (2013) World Cup Qualifying- Men’s. Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football.  Retrieved from: http://www.concacaf.com/category/world-cup-qualifying-men/schedule-results\

2. FIFA (2013) World Cup Groups. Federation Internationale Football Association. Retrieved from: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/groups/index.html

3. Duffy, T. (2012, August 15) USA Beat Mexico 1-0 At Azteca, Their First Win on Mexican Soil. The Big Lead. Retrieved from: http://thebiglead.com/2012/08/15/usa-beat-mexico-1-0-at-azteca-their-first-win-on-mexican-soil/

4. US Soccer (2013, June 2) US Men’s National Team Defeats Germany 4-3 in Centennial Celebration Match in Nation’s Capital. US Soccer. Retrieved from: http://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2014/03/17/14/04/usa-defeats-germany-in-centennial-match

Brazil’s World Cup Controversy

Through glorious success at the national level and a recognizable style of play, Brazil has been synonymous with excellence in soccer.  A culture immersed in the game makes it an easy candidate for this summer’s World Cup, and a confirmed one for 2014 since 2007 (Brazil To-Do).

That notion, however, has not been reciprocated through the voices of a large amount of Brazilian citizens in recent months.  The nation has experienced widespread protest over the Brazilian government’s funding for the 2016 summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup.  In addition to protest, controversy surrounds the progress of the Cup’s stadiums being finished on time (Brazil World Cup).

According to British newspaper The Guardian, 15,000 protesters were subdued with tear gas and rubber bullets by police in February.  The protest was done by a group of workers.  Motivations for these protests are grounded on the Brazilian government’s cancellation of school and hospital construction projects and relocation of Brazilian citizens for ground to build stadiums on.  According to America’s Quarterly, 1.5 million Brazilians will be relocated for land used for the World Cup.

Not only are these stadiums putting aside the well-being of a poverty-stricken Brazil, but organizers are having trouble getting them constructed in time.  Sky Sports reported in February that one of the twelve World Cup stadiums to be used in Brazil is very behind in its construction.

When the curtain rises and competition begins at another World Cup in Brazil, the game will certainly not be the most important thing in Brazil.  As deaths increase and protest struggles continue, soccer is not the most important thing to Brazilians now.

 

Sources:

1.

  1. Watts, J. (2014, February 15). Brazil’s World Cup courts disaster as delays, protests, and deaths mount. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/16/brazil-world-cup-disaster-delays-protests-deaths
  2. Sky Sports (2014, February 18). Brazil World Cup: Curitiba Stadium ‘D-Day’. Sky Sports. Retrieved from: http://news.sky.com/story/1213297/brazil-world-cup-curitiba-stadium-d-day
  3. Zimbalist, A (2011) Brazil’s Long To-Do List. Americas Quarterly. Retrieved from: http://www.americasquarterly.org/zimbalist

Soccer’s Beginning

It is impossible to trace the very beginning of soccer until now, not only because it is such a long and complicated history, but also because the lines are so blurred between what we now know as rugby and what we know as association football (the official name for soccer or football).  We call it soccer here in the United States, but that name was actually created in Britain as an abbreviation for ‘association football’.  The name was used predominantly in Britain in the mid-1800’s until ‘football’ became a more popular name.  The term stuck in the USA, however.  (Origin)

The first incarnation of what we now know as soccer began in England in 1863 when the English Football Association (FA or English FA) was created.  Upon the creation of the FA the first rules of the game were also created.  There was a lot of debate between which set of rules should be used in that time; one of the first sets of rules ever created were called the Sheffield Rules, created by the world’s first actual football club Sheffield FC, but these were rejected by the English FA and modified.  Soccer has become progressively less physical over time.  At the sport’s beginning, the offside rule meant that all players must be behind the ball at all times and there was no red and yellow card rule until the 1970 World Cup (FIFA History).

The English FA still exists today and is the governing body of English soccer.  A governing body enforces policies, rules, and regulates officiating, promotion, relegation, and many other aspects of the game.  There are Football Associations in every country that has any kind of system of soccer leagues, the governing body in the United States is simply known as US Soccer.

Obviously  there has always been a hierarchy of soccer in England since the FA was created and individual clubs began facing others, but the English Premier League, or EPL, as we know it now wasn’t created until 1992.  The Premier League may be the world’s most popular league.  One of the most exciting seasons in the league was the 2011-12 season in which Manchester City won the title over rivals Manchester United to go ahead on points at the last minute of a match against QPR on the last day of the season.  Sergio Aguero scored a stoppage time winner to make the score 3-2 and City went on to win their first ever EPL title.  In the 2003-04 season Arsenal FC became the only Premier League team to go through an entire season without a loss (EPL History).

Soccer being such a free-flowing and open game makes it very easy to change perceptions of how it can and should be played.  This has caused the approach to it throughout history to change, which makes for an interesting conversation about how the game has changed so much from the rules it began from in Sheffield, UK.

 

Sources:

  1. Hiskey, D. (2010, June 23) The Origin of the Word ‘Soccer’.  Today I Found Out. Retrieved from: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/06/the-origin-of-the-word-soccer/
  2. Federation Internationale de Football Association (1994-2014). History of Football. Fifa. Retrieved from: http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/history/
  3. English Premier League (1992-2014). History of the Premier League. Barclays Premier League. Retrieved from:  http://www.premierleague.com/content/premierleague/en-gb/about/history.html

The German Football Revolution

The entire soccer world descended upon London and Wembley Stadium for the final of one of the world’s most zealous, enthralling, and absorbing competitions, the Champions League final.  2014’s final caused a massive buzz around a brand new philosophy of building an organization that had finally come to practical fruition in front of nearly 120,000 people.  Two German teams in the Champions League final, Bayern Munich’s dynasty finally on the verge of winning a Treble were pitted against the underdog Borussia Dortmund, whose genius manager Jurgen Klopp turned them from a mid-table Bundesliga team to a powerhouse of German football and fierce competitor in European competition.  While the match ended 2-1 in Bayern’s favor and Dortmund’s story couldn’t be properly completed, the game itself was an example of how expert ownership created prowess on the field.  In Germany, supporter-first and efficient ownership has recently brought German clubs closer to goals they never would have been expected to achieve.  Germany’s business model has been vital to German clubs’ success in recent years in both growing the Bundesliga and making individual German clubs more competitive.

One long-term reason the perception of German success has changed so much is Germany’s youth academies.  The academy system was overhauled by the German Football Association in 2000, requiring clubs to set up youth teams, stadiums, and leagues in order to create new talent (Artist Academies).  As a result of this, the Bundesliga has gone from being 60 percent foreign to 60 percent German, an incredible statistic that shows operation is more efficient, as foreign players typically demand higher wages than domestic ones.  The article in The Independent further explains that Bayern Munich generously loaned a bankrupt Borussia Dortmund a very large sum of money in 2005.  Just 9 years after German football’s revolution, the two clubs fight for Europe’s biggest prize.

Another reason German ownership has been so revolutionary is its inclusion of supporters and emotionally-invested controlling owners in the running of their organizations.  Borussia Dortmund is yet another perfect example of this, although Bayern Munich and several other Bundesliga clubs have impressive followings (Champions League).  As soccer economics expert Stefan Szymanski explains in his blog, German clubs were not allowed to be owned by corporations until 1998, and in 2000 the German FA passed the 50+1 rule that required current club members to remain in control of their clubs (Less Debt).  German clubs have kept their fans involved by offering memberships to the club with tickets at lower prices that come with.

Szymanski also points out several issues with the German model and its perceived success.  Although German teams are packing stadiums, the numbers are skewed when compared to other leagues because the Bundesliga requires team to play less games than other leagues.  Profits are another issue.  Even though Bundesliga clubs are pulling themselves out of debt more easily than before, ticket prices being lower create less profit for clubs than England’s high prices (Champions League).  Szymanski reports that the English Premier League consistently reports 50 percent more profit than the German Bundesliga.

Light has recently been thrown onto Germany’s recent success, and we have explored that it is not an accident.  Ingenuous ownership and revolutionary reform has brought parity within Germany and prowess to once debt-ridden clubs.

 

Sources:

  1. Pitt-Brooke, J. (2013, April 26) Champions League success: How artist academies created joy in Germany. The Independent. Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/champions-league-success-how-artist-academies-created-joy-in-germany-8588969.html
  2. Szymanski, S. (2013). The Champions League Final and the German football business model part II. Soccernomics. Retrieved from: http://www.soccernomics-agency.com/?p=457
  3. Szymanski, S. (2010, November 5). Less debt- But is German soccer’s business model really on the ball? London Evening Standard. Retrieved from: http://www.standard.co.uk/business/markets/less-debt–but-is-german-soccers-business-model-really-on-the-ball-6532848.html

Closed Leagues vs. Open Leagues

One of the biggest differences between the way the United States sees sports and how the rest of the world does is the difference between open and closed leagues.  Every American sports uses a closed-league system, a format in which a league is a single entity that controls all transactions and interactions within the teams that consist of it.

For example, the NFL is a signle business that owns all 32 teams within the league.  There are owners of each individual teams that make money from the club, but the NFL oversees the 32 teams.  The biggest competitive obstacle in the NFL is the salary cap.  Fitting a team capable of winning the Super Bowl into salaries that add up to an amount under the salary cap is extremely difficult.  The mechanisms of salary caps, trades, and drafts seem fundamental and essential to American sports, but this is not the only way sports are formatted.  In soccer leagues around the world, each club is a business in itself and transactions are handled on a free market where law, not policy, is what regulates interaction between teams for the most part.  FIFA regulations also govern transactions between teams.  Open-league systems have no salary cap and are tasked with signing players without the help of drafts or other kinds of allocations (Open Competition).

There are several pros and cons that come with these differences in format.  A soccer parallel for this is the United States’ Major League Soccer and how it compares to the rest of the world.  MLS started in 1996 is currently in its 19th year.  It was come a long way in 19 years but still has a long way to go when considered against the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, or Germany’s Bundesliga.  Major League Soccer operates under a closed-league system, just like the NFL or NBA.  There is a draft for players coming out of college each year, a salary cap, and trades can be blocked or manipulated by the league’s hierarchy.  When an MLS player is wanted by a foreign team, that team must negotiate with MLS to sign him, not the team that the player plays for because players sign contracts with the league and then are placed onto a team.

In a closed league it takes a lot of ingenuity to piece salaries together and make smart trades to win a league that every single team in the same has the tools to win.  That dynamic has value and it is what makes the NFL, MLB, and NBA so much fun to follow.  However, basketball, football, and baseball are dominated by their respective leagues around the world, while soccer is not monopolized by anything around the world.  In the scope of MLS, if the American league wants to grow more, the closed-league system is holding it back.

The problems with the converse, an open-league system, are harder to be found but are significant.  An open-league system requires teams to be competitive financially, which as mentioned in previous commentary on this blog lends itself to more competition on the field, so these thing go hand in hand.  Several English teams have seen financial crisis as they have been incapable of competing anymore, one of the most notable cases of this has been Portsmouth FC’s (England) rapid decline over the last 10 years.  The club experienced liquidation and quickly moved down the hierarchy of English football.  Owners in the United States do not find this appealing, especially when the country’s sports climate is so congested.  With so many sports existing in the US, it is very difficult for soccer to grow, which makes a closed-league system advantageous.  Some American clubs simply would not survive under an open league, teams with small attendance numbers and more loosely-committed ownership would be much less likely to survive a free market’s demands (Open Possibility).

The vast differences between these two types of league formats make the world of soccer interesting to compare to the rest of sports.  Both have very exciting characteristics, and soccer would certainly not be the same without promotion and relegation and an open-league format.

Sources:

1. Szymanski, S., Ross, S. (2000, September) Open Competition in League Sports. Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=243756

2. Ciapala, D. (2012, July 31) Is Open League Soccer a Possibility in the United States? Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/open-league-soccer-possibility-united-states-015300027–mls.html

 

How Money Has Changed Soccer

If you’ve watched the popular movie The Damned United, you know the story of how the bad-tempered yet confident Brian Clough brought Derby County up two divisions in the English leagues (this was before the Premier League) and won the first division only to let his ego get the best of him and destroy a dynamic friendship with Peter Taylor, his trusty assistant at Derby, and send Leeds United into failure at his new job.

The film made it seem so simple, Clough and Taylor were geniuses of their time when it came to signing players back when wages were just as high as a career that required a high school diploma.  Now professional athletes all over the world make millions or even billions, and it is well-documented that soccer players in England were capped at a very low wage in the beginnings of the sport.  In the last 30 or 40 years the sport has undoubtedly become much richer, but it is interesting to attempt to understand what that means for the future of the game.  Wages are one of the biggest changes the game has made.  In 1957, a top England player would have earned just £1,677 in entire year (Footballers’ Wages).  In 2011 Carlos Tevez signed a new contract that would pay him £250,000 per week.  Recently Manchester United veteran Wayne Rooney signed a contract worth £300,000 per week (Wayne Rooney).

An article in the BBC by David Bond explains how English citizens worry about how soccer changes (Has Football Changed for the Better?).  While stadiums are more welcoming than in the era of danger and hooliganism that the 1980’s were subjected to, ticket prices have skyrocketed and lavishly-paid players often make terrible role models for young people.  The article contrasts Germany’s model of ownership with the English one.  In England, a club can be owned by any one person, which makes the game much more expensive and “treats fans as clients”, as the chief executive of Borussia Dortmund, a powerful club in Germany, puts it.  Clubs like Borussia Dortmund involve fans in electing club presidents and making other decisions about how to run the team.

The game has also changed on the field, not just in fans and players’ wallets.  Perhaps as a result of the sport growing richer, playing styles and even equipment have made somewhat controversial changes.  One of the most controversial changes is diving.  In the new era of soccer players have resorted to simulation and embellishment to win a call from the referee.  An article in football.co.uk explains these changes and their root of money (Old School).  Every facet of the game, from fashion to tactics to individual skill, has changed as a result of soccer becoming more money-fueled.

 

Sources:

  1. Bond, D. (2013, April 29) Has Football Changed for the Better? BBC. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/22314015
  2. Bailey, L. (2013, November 14) The Old School vs. The New School: How football has changed. Football. Retrieved from: http://www.football.co.uk/manchester_united/the_old_school_vs_the_new_school__how_football_has_changed_rss4488176.shtml
  3. McNulty, P. (2014, February 21) Wayne Rooney: Man Utd Striker Signs New 300,000-a-week Deal. BBC. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/26287482
  4. The Telegraph (2011, January 18) How footballers’ wages have changed over the years: in numbers. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/premier-league/8265851/How-footballers-wages-have-changed-over-the-years-in-numbers.html

Football League Cup

As Jonathan De Guzman fired his penalty kick into the net to make the score 4-0 at historic Wembley Stadium, a merely academic 30 minutes remained in the Football League Cup against lowly Bradford City of the Football League 2, England’s 4th tier of soccer.  Bradford’s somber end came in a 5-0 defeat in front of nearly 83,000.

Bradford’s conquest of the country took them through the likes of Premier League heavyweights Arsenal, by penalty shootout, and Aston Villa.  Add that to a win against Championship side Wigan Athletic in the 4th round of the League Cup and it makes for an incredible Cinderella story of a near-amateur club so close to touching the English domestic cup and experiencing the glory and pageantry that comes with it.  Their run finally was ended at the hands of Swansea, of the English Premier League, in the final (Bradford).

England’s Football League Cup creates an exciting story like Bradford’s almost every year at some level, only very few teams can reach all the way to the final and even fewer have the strength to win it.  While England, and the rest of Europe, has a league system that is designed to find a true winner throughout a long season, more cardiac drama can be found in England’s domestic and league cups, the FA Cup and the Football League Cup.

What sets these competitions aside from a playoff league format or single-elimination tournament, like NCAA’s March Madness, is that these clubs are affected by the markets they operate in.  A club like Arsenal is in a financial climate high above that of Bradford City, which makes it all the more spectacular when Bradford, who have no business being on the same pitch as Arsenal, can bring a team to fight through 120 minutes and beat them in the penalty shootout.

As mentioned in the Soccer Pyramids section, the League Cup explained here, and Bradford’s run in the 2012-13 season, is a competition where all 92 teams that make up England’s first 4 tiers compete.  The winner advances to the UEFA Champions League, a European competition.  The other cup, the FA Cup, involves more than 400 teams all across the entirety of England.

Sources:

1. Ladyman, I. (2013, February 24). Bradford’s pride takes a pounding but fans salute fallen heroes as Swansea lift cup. Daily Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2283918/Carling-Cup-final-2013-Bradfords-pride-takes-beating.html