Business of Soccer Archive

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As MLS announces expansion franchises, the temptation to add more playoff teams needs to be curbed

Don Garber

Don Garber

I’ve always been a big believer of a playoff system that might exclude some good teams rather than one that includes mediocre teams.

I preferred it when Major League Baseball went straight to National League and American League Championship Series. Two division winners in each league was enough. Its playoffs were once about best vs. best, and were far more compelling in the ‘70s and ‘80s than they are now.

If the NFL could find a way to lower the number of playoff teams, that would be great. Personally, I’d love to get rid of the divisions, because the law of averages suggests that one of the eight groupings of four teams will be so collectively awful that a 9-7 or an 8-8 team will get into the post season. If it was up to me, top four teams in the AFC and top four teams in the NFC make the playoffs. That’s it.

The NHL continues to worry me, with rumours of adding more playoff teams in seasons to come.

I’m not anti-playoffs like some Euro soccer snobs. I grew up in North America. I’m fine with a league champ being determined after a post-season process. I just don’t think playoffs that are super inclusive are nearly as interesting as ones that are exclusive in nature.

Before the start of the NASL season, commissioner Bill Peterson declared that the league would not increase the number of teams that go to the post-season, even when (and if) the circuit gets to its goal of 18 franchises. The NASL will have four teams go to its “Championship” rounds this season, out of a 10-team league. Peterson vowed that the format would not change.

To me, it’s a great compromise. For the traditional soccer supporters, who believe nothing should be more important than league play, a four-team set-up makes for a very exclusive playoff process. The difficulty of getting into the Championship means that the regular-season games will matter, that there won’t be as many occasions where a team can take a week off. But there still we be a few playoff games satisfy the North American sports fan.
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1

Citytv and FC Edmonton announce broadcast deal: Geoblocking plans have been aborted

citytvThere’s been a change of course for FC Edmonton’s broadcast plans.

After some discussions between the club and the league, the broadcasts of FCE home games in the 2014 season won’t be geoblocked on the new NASLLive subscription service. To make it work, Citytv/Rogers will broadcast the games on Sunday afternoons through the season, but won’t be streaming the matches.

Originally, the plan was to have the Canadian broadcaster have the rights to stream the matches, which would have forced NASLlive to geoblock FCE’s home broadcasts north of the border. But, after some discussions, those plans have been changed.

Citytv will broadcast home games on Sundays throughout the season. The three FCE Saturday home matches will be shown on tape delay. Of course, those who subscribe to the NASLlive.com service will be able to watch the Saturday games live.
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8

NASL commissioner to meet with CSA execs: To discuss how NASL “can be a better partner” to Canada

Bill Peterson PHOTO: NASL

Bill Peterson PHOTO: NASL

NASL commissioner Bill Peterson will be in the nation’s capital on April 19, when the Ottawa Fury plays its first regular-season match on the Carleton University turf against Minnesota United.

As part of the trip to Ottawa, Peterson will meet with the Canadian Soccer Association officials. His stated goal? To find ways that NASL “can be a better partner” to the CSA. He said that, now that he’s settled in as the league commissioner, he wants to create a closer working relationship with the CSA.

Peterson said the league “will explore options on how we can better align ourselves with the CSA’s professional goals.”

What that means is unclear. The Canadian Soccer Association has a mandate to create a series of regional Division-3 leagues, but the NASL’s role as a recognized Division-2 league in Canada is untouched. But, as the NASL fights for relevance, the optics of going to the CSA with a “how can we help you?” stance definitely scores PR points for Peterson and his crew. Remember that the Canadian Soccer Association’s continuing plea to have Canadians recognized as domestics in Division-1 MLS has consistently fallen on deaf ears. In 2009, Canadians saw an average of 1404.1 minutes per team in MLS; in 2013, that number had plummeted to 1025.2 minutes allocated per team to Canadians, despite the fact that the number of Canadian franchises had gone from one to three in that time.
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8

NASL’s new pay-per-view streaming plan: Breaking it down for Fury and FCE supporters

NASL_logo_previewEarlier this offseason, the NASL outlined its plan to charge for streams of its games.

Now, with a little less than a couple of weeks to go before the 2014 spring season kicks off, the league has released the specifics on the rollout of the new streaming service.

And the new system isn’t as cut-and-dried for Canadian followers of the NASL as it is for those in the United States and the rest of the world. For them, the process is simple: The NASL Live feature will offer all league games (with a few exceptions in Canada, which we’ll get to). The price is US$4.99 per month or US $29.99 for the whole season.

The league has promised a better standard of broadcasts this season: Teams will all be required to have multiple camera positions, so the broadcasts where we follow one camera angle back and forth across the field should be done. Replays have to be of a higher quality. The graphic packages, too. But, for teams without terrestrial TV contracts, who are only webcasting their matches, these are big asks.
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2

Plastic Pitch launches on Apple — now available on all IOS and Android platforms

PpitchThe release of Plastic Pitch is complete.

Late Thursday night, we got word from Apple and our developer, MAZ Digital, that the magazine is now live for iPhone and iPad. It’s already available to Android users through Google Play and Amazon, so the rollout is now 100 per cent done.

For those who subscribed through our Kickstarter campaign, your e-mail address is key to unlocking your subscription. Thank you!

Inside, you’ll find a chance to win one of three Canadian national-team jerseys, courtesy of Umbro Canada.

And why should you pick up the first issue? From looking at Canadians in NASL to the BMO Field controversy in Toronto, we’re providing a comprehensive guide to soccer in Canada — through storytelling. No filler. No season previews or match previews or predictions or lists or power rankings, the kind of content that’s made just for the sake of creating content.

Here’s what you’ll find inside!
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4

PLASTIC PITCH has launched! Canadian Soccer. Canadian Stories.

PpitchPLASTIC PITCH is ready for download! The app has been approved and the first issue is set to be enjoyed on your smartphone, tablet or device of your choosing. (OK, not totally of your choosing; you couldn’t use an old Commodore PET.)

Right now, the app is available for all Android-ready devices. You can find it Amazon’s app store. You can find it in Google Play. It should launch on Apple in the coming days. The app download is free, issues are $4.99 (five bucks in Canada, we got rid of the penny, didn’t we?) each or a one-year sub (for issues) is $14.99 ($15).

For those who supported this new and unique Canadian soccer magazine through our Kickstarter campaign or other advance subscriptions, the e-mail address you provided is the key. When you download the app, your subscription will be unlocked by that address.

If there are any issues, please contact teamworkpress@rogers.com as soon as possible, and we’ll work to resolve them. As this is the launch of the app and the first issue, we can’t possibly expect to everything go 100 per cent smoothly.

For those who haven’t subscribed, we invite you to download the app and try the first issue. We think you’ll find it filled with fresh voices, interesting art and, most importantly, no cheerleading. Magazine quality hasn’t been sacrificed. You can still subscribe for as little as $15 for a year (four issues). That’s about the price of a beer and a snack at the stadium.
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1

Players happy that FC Edmonton has abandoned its black home kit

Frank Jonke, Lance Parker and Albert Watson model the new FCE kits.

Frank Jonke, Lance Parker and Albert Watson model the new FCE kits.

On Wednesday, FC Edmonton players learned learned that they’ll be playing on football-line-free Clarke Stadium turf come July.

On Thursday, they learned that their black home kits will be no more.

The team unveiled their new home and away kits for the 2014 season. The Adidas kits sees the team go back to a blue and white design, with only flashes of black.

For the players, not having to wear black kits on hot, sunny Sunday afternoons is good news indeed.

“It just gives that little more of an edge,” said FCE captain Albert Watson. “You’d play, it would be 30 degrees outside, and then you’d have to play in an all-black kit.”
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1

Edmonton City Council green-lights new $1.25M turf for Clarke Stadium

clarkesmallEdmonton’s city council has unanimously green-lighted the plan to tear up the existing turf at Clarke Stadium, and replace it with a new surface in time for the NASL fall season.

The plan will see the existing turf, which has football lines, taken out after the spring season. A new $1.25 million turf surface, with improved underpinning, will then be installed at Clarke, the home of NASL’s FC Edmonton. That new surface should be ready for the fall season.

The new surface will have permanent soccer lines. Football lines will be painted and removed as necessary, with FC Edmonton bearing the cost of those changes.

After some debate, council approved the recommendation from committee for the plan to go ahead. Football Alberta and various amateur football clubs, some which have used Clarke since before the Second World War, had expressed reservation about the plan. They were concerned that, in cases of scheduling pileups or poor, wet, weather, the painting would not be done in time and they’d be forced to look elsewhere to play their games.
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1

If not resolved by April, PRO referee lockout could also affect the NASL season

pro_logo_headerMajor League Soccer has a slate of replacement referees who will look after this weekend’s First Kick matches.

But the decision by PRO, the body which assigns the officials, to lock out its member referees, doesn’t just affect MLS. Remember that NASL also takes its American-site officiating assignments from the PRO pool. Last season, there were many cases where a PRO referee would look after an MLS game one week, and an NASL game the next.

The NASL doesn’t begin play till the second week of April, and the league has declined to make any official comment on the referee situation. But, it did confirm that the dispute will not impact games played in Edmonton or Ottawa, as the Canadian Soccer Association, not PRO, handle the referee assignments for those matches.

But, when FC Edmonton opens the NASL season in Tampa Bay, and the Ottawa Fury visits the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (both on April 12), there’s a growing possibility that those games won’t be overseen by PRO refs.

Sources have told The 11 that NASL is working to have a contingency plan in place in case the first-choice referees aren’t available to work in the league’s eight U.S. stadiums.
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3

FC Edmonton and Clarke Stadium: Le turf est mort, vive le turf!

clarkesmallMembers of FC Edmonton, the Alberta Soccer Association, the Edmonton Eskimos and Football Alberta were in front of Edmonton’s Community Services Committee on Monday morning.

They made their pleas; all of them have vested interests in a plan to replace theClarke Stadium turf.

But, after a morning of debate, the committee has recommended that the city pay $1.25 million to replace Clarke’s worn-out surface with new artificial turf. Council will vote on the measure next week. The change would come when the NASL is in its World Cup break, and would be ready for the league’s fall season. The new turf would also come with a shock pad acting as underpinning, to act as an impact-absorbing cushion. The turf will have permanent soccer lines, but no permanent football lines.

FCE owner Tom Fath will foot the bill to have the football lines scrubbed off the turf before Sunday home games, then painted back on after the crowds go home and the cameras go dark on the soccer matches.

“Hopefully we’ll just have the four league games left plus Amway Canadian Championship games on the old turf,” said FC Edmonton General Manager Rod Proudfoot. “We felt that council was very thorough today. They had lots of questions. That’s fine with us.”
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