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The elephant in the room: CFL is the forgotten partner in the Women’s World Cup turf-vs.-grass debate

imgresWhen it comes to the looming legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association over the decision to stage next year’s Women’s World Cup on artificial turf surfaces, there are some rather large elephants in the room who are choosing to remain quiet.

And those are the Canadian Football League teams. They stand to have further disruption to their seasons if the owners of the multipurpose stadiums being used for the WWC would have to tear up the turf and lay down grass.

On Friday, a deadline imposed by the lawyers for U.S. star Abby Wambach and her cadre of anti-turf allies went by. All FIFA did to, ahem, mark the occasion was to publicly confirm that an independent company has been hired to ensure that all of the game and practice fields in the Canadian host cities will meet the highest standard for artificial surfaces (CLICK HERE). So, the next step would be for Wambach and co. to follow through on their threats and take the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA to task through a human-rights tribunal or, maybe, eventually to court.

Now, I’ve read through the legal briefs, and I’ve gone through a lot of the pro and con articles out there. But, one thing no one talks about, whether it’s from Wambach’s group or those who say we can lay down grass and then pull it up (CLICK HERE), is how it affects the other users of the stadiums.

There is definitely an arrogance out there amongst the anti-turf crowd; because the movement has been spurred outside of Canada, they have very little idea about the stadiums being used. They don’t seem to understand that these are shared, multipurpose facilities. In 2014, the Canadian Football League was quite accommodating, having the Edmonton Eskimos clear out of Commonwealth Stadium in order for U-20 Women’s World Cup matches to be played there. Next year, the sacrifices will be greater; the Ottawa RedBlacks, the Eskimos, the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will all have their seasons affected.
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Crossbar ensures that Eddies have to settle for draw with Cosmos

Tomi Ameobi gets the shot through the hands of Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer for the equalizer. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Tomi Ameobi gets the shot through the hands of Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer for the equalizer. PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Once again, the woodwork loomed large in an FC Edmonton match.

The Eddies had to settle for a 1-1 draw with the New York Cosmos on a blustery, cool fall Sunday afternoon at Clarke Stadium. But, thanks to two efforts that crashed off the crossbar behind Cosmos keeper Jimmy Maurer, the Eddies can wonder what could have been.

The Eddies played the second half with a gusting wind at their backs, and it played havoc with the game. And, with the score level at 1-1 late in the second half, the Eddies had two wind-assisted efforts go off the bar.

First, a cross from fullback Kareem Moses sailed in the wind and Maurer could only watch, flat-footed, as the ball came back off the bar.

Later in the half, winger Lance Laing, understanding that the wind would cause his shot to swerve, drilled one in from the left wing. It took a wicked hook towards goal, and Maurer leapt to get his fingertips to it and direct it off the bar.
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FIFA to send independent company to “ensure” quality of Canada’s Women’s World Cup turf

fifa-logoFIFA is going to contract an independent inspector to ensure that Canada’s artificial turf fields are indeed good enough to host a Women’s World Cup.

After the Executive Committee wrapped up its meetings in Zurich, FIFA made this announcement: “Regarding the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada, the executive ratified the decision to assign an independent company to travel to Canada in order to test pitches and training fields to ensure they fulfil the FIFA quality requirements.”

The Canadian Soccer Association says it will not make any comments about the timing of FIFA’s announcement, as this was a directive that the Association already knew about. It confirmed that the process of vetting the fields has actually already begun. Surfaces in Edmonton and Moncton are already approved. The goal is to have approval of the match surface and two training fields in each of the host cities.

American star Abby Wambach is leading a group of elite women’s players who have launched legal action against the exclusive use of artificial turf at next year’s Women’s World Cup. They claim the use of turf is a case of gender bias, as no men’s World Cup has ever been staged on artificial turf.

FIFA approves the use of artificial turf for international matches, as long as the surface meets FIFA’s star-rating system.
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PLASTIC PITCH 3 is available now! “The Walking Reds” on the cover!

PPFALL2014COVERThe third issue of PLASTIC PITCH, our national soccer magazine, is out as of right now.

How to get PLASTIC PITCH? If you’re a subscriber, just update the Plastic Pitch app in your Android or IOS device. If not, you can get the App and magazine through iTunes, Apple Newsstand, Google Play and Amazon.

Halloween is coming up, so we decided on a Halloween cover. “The Walking Reds” cover combines soccer and zombies. Why? Because soccer and zombies were meant to be together. And it looks cool.

What will you find inside?
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6

FC Edmonton expands Academy, adds U-16 program

Jeff Paulus

Jeff Paulus

According to owner Tom Fath, FC Edmonton won’t break even until Clarke Stadium is expanded and the team is drawing an average of 8,500 fans a game.

Since an expansion of the stadium isn’t in the cards yet — and the team has broken the 4,000-ticket mark just twice this season — the fact that the NASL club continues to grow is a testament to the Fath family’s commitment to the game in Canada.

On Wednesday, the club announced it is expanding its Academy program. It is adding a program for U-16s. So, next season the team will have both a U-18 wing and a U-16 section to develop local soccer talent.

“The addition of a U-16 program is another positive step in the growth of the FCE Academy,” said assistant coach and FCE Academy supervisor Jeff Paulus in a release issued by the club. “Not only is this positive step froward for the future goals of FC Edmonton, but it also cements FCE as an important member of the Canadian Soccer Associations player development pathway.”
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6

NASL Commissioner Peterson: Canadian expansion talks in next 60-90 days

Bill Peterson

Bill Peterson

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson was in Edmonton for Sunday’s game between the Eddies and the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He was on hand to thank Edmonton City Council for approving the new $1.25-million permanent-football-line free turf that was installed at Clarke Stadium in July.

Of course, when he met with the press, the subject of expansion and a rumoured NASL Canada league came up.

And he said some expansion conversations are heating up.

“We have had discussion in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and over the next 60 to 90 days we expect to have more discussions in Canada,” said Peterson.
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8

Laing’s moment of magic the difference as FCE edges Tampa Bay

Kareem Moses, right,  clears a ball away from the path of Tampa Bay's Willie Hunt. FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

Kareem Moses, right, clears a ball away from the path of Tampa Bay’s Willie Hunt. FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

During the first half of Sunday’s match between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and FC Edmonton at Clarke Stadium, NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson came into the broadcast booth and compared the two teams to heavyweight fighters. They were pushing each other, feeling each other out, looking for weaknesses.

And, like many heavyweight bouts, one punch changed the fortune of the fight. And it was a left hook from Lance Laing that sent the Rowdies to the mat. (OK, it was a left-footed shot, and it sorta hooked as it went into the net… but I’m trying to work an analogy here. Sue me.)

Laing’s second-half goal was the difference as the Eddies beat the Rowdies 1-0 in front of an announced crowd of 4,392 at Clarke Stadium.

It came off a goal kick that Rowdies keeper Matt Pickens struck into a stiff 30 km/h wind. Laing won the ball on the Rowdies’ side of half, and played it to teammate Neil Hlavaty. Laing continued his run, Hlavaty spotted it, and then lofted a ball behind the Tampa Bay backline. Laing beat defender JP Rodrigues to the ball then unleashed a left-footed drive the Pickens couldn’t stop.
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7

MLS announces a major rebrand: Should the league have considered changing its name?

MLS_Next_126Major League Soccer has a new logo. Refreshingly, it does not have a soccer boot crashing into a ball, as the outgoing one did.

(For two decades, it was nice to be reminded by a soccer league that has “Soccer” in its name that, indeed, its teams do play soccer.)

The new logo is remarkably simple, with “MLS” in a simple wordmark on a stylized shield split into two halves. One half bears three stars — and the other is left blank. The shield’s colour scheme can be altered to match any of the league’s teams — and the cynic will say that’s a reminder of the fact that, even though you may have a club to call your own, in the end it’s the league office that controls contracts and calls the shots.

It’s also incredibly bold for a league to announce a change in the way it markets itself, going into a year where a new Collective Bargaining Agreement needs to be negotiated. The current CBA expires after this season.

“Our new brand and crest are the result of an iterative process that has helped us better understand the world in which we operate in. The outcome is not an evolution, but a revolution,” Howard Handler, the league’s chief marketing domo, said at a news conference held Thursday in New York.

But there’s something I hope came up at the marketing meetings. If MLS has decided to go ahead with a major rebranding of itself, it should tackle what is maybe its own worst enemy. And that’s its name.

Major League Soccer.
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Eddies expect season-best crowd for this weekend’s Tampa Bay tilt

Eddie Edward is seen in action from a game against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. PHOTO: FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

Eddie Edward is seen in action from a game against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. PHOTO: FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS

Tickets are 97 per cent sold for Sunday’s match. FC Edmonton’s front office reports that there are just “100 to 150” tickets left for sale. And, for the first time this season, ESPN3 will simulcast a broadcast from FC Edmonton’s crew.

FC Edmonton will be on its biggest stage of the season (at least when it comes to a home game) this Sunday when it hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies. And, coming into the weekend, it is just four points out of fourth place in the NASL overall table. Securing a fourth-place spot would mean a berth in The Championship — the league’s official brand for something most of us refer to as “playoffs.”

The Eddies have seven games left to make up that four-point gap. Four of those games — including three of the next four — are at Clarke Stadium. And, one major advantage the Eddies have over the field is that they are done with the league’s top two teams — Minnesota United and the San Antonio Scorpions — on the schedule.

But, not so fast. Coach Colin Miller said the one thing that the NASL has proven this year is that it has been wildly unpredictable. For example, last week, Tampa Bay hosted Ottawa, and lost. It was just Ottawa’s second win of the fall season. In the fall season standings, third through ninth is separated by, ahem, a whopping five points.

“The league has been just tremendous this season,” said Miller. “You can’t look at any game and say that is a sure three pointer.”
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5

USL-PRO silent on status of Canadian MLS teams’ bids for affiliates

uslThe deadline to apply for a new USL-PRO franchise fell on Sept. 15.

A day later, the USL brass won’t say much about which MLS teams will have new affiliate teams in place for the 2015 season. That includes the three Canadian MLS sides.

In 2013, USL forged an to become the developmental league for MLS. In 2014, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact confirmed their wishes to have USL affiliates for the 2015 season. Toronto FC has been rumoured to also be looking at having a direct affiliate in 2015, after failing in an earlier bid to secure an affiliate team in Hamilton.

But, when asked about who could be in and who could be out, USL President Tim Holt said Tuesday that the process of adding teams is still ongoing.

“USL PRO remains in the process of determining the roster of teams for the 2015 season, including any additional expansion teams. This includes several MLS clubs evaluating the opportunity to launch a USL PRO franchise. Any such official announcements will occur once agreements have been finalized.”
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