History, politics, people of Oly WA

Category: meta sports (Page 1 of 5)

Cascadia would have qualified for the World Cup

People are dealing with the USMNT crashing out of World Cup qualification in different ways. This is just one way, but it is my way. So, if you came here to criticize my back-of-the-napkin pining then just keep that in mind. This isn’t really a serious analysis of economics or world soccer. This is just me doing what I can to process the loss.

One of the most interesting books I’ve read in the past 10 years has been Soccernomics, a sort of Moneyball-centered book on world soccer. The authors attempt to boil down the essence of national team success to a handful of factors: total population, per capita income and experience in international soccer. While this doesn’t really explain Brazil (poor and really good) or the United States (big, rich and bad) very well, it does explain the difference between Germany and England.
Before I go on, a few notes:

As you might tell, I’m not going to go through the practice of listing players born or somehow connected to Cascadia (Jordan Morris! Kelyn Rowe! DeAndre Yedlin!) and making the bold claim that they’d beat Trinidad and Tobago. We all know they would have. Also I’ve done that before and that’s boring.
The map of Cascadia I’m using is not the bioregional one, but more of the Chile shaped one that Colin Woodard used in American Nations to described the Left Coast. I’m happier with this one, it seems more like a “nation.” And if you came here to tell me that I’m wrong, well, this is all made up anyway and this is my blog. I’ve done this before also.
So, back to soccer and bad math.

So, would a totally fantasy Cascadian Republic have qualified for the World Cup? Short answer: yes. Hurray! I hate you Bruce Arena!
Long answer: absolutely. But we would have had a hard time beating the rest of the United States and Mexico. 
So, first things first, I only took the countries that were in this year’s final qualifying round for North America (sorry Canada, punch your weight already) and added in Cascadia. For Cascadia I took all the counties on the west side of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington and added a bunch in California down to include most of the Bay Area (my map, my rules). I also didn’t include the Cascadian parts of Canada because even though they’d be part of my Republic, I thought why make the napkin more complicated?
So, population and per capita income were pretty easy to figure out once I decided on geography. 
In terms of soccer experience I decided on World Cup games played since it was the first metric I could find. For Cascadia I decided it would be easier to just average the number of games played of every other team. That seemed fair.  Also, in this fantasy world, Cascadia has had decades of independence and developed a strong league system with well-rooted club teams in nearly all their communities. And promotion/relegation Also, don’t tell me how this decades old history would have made my populations and per capita income figures meaningless. 
Then I just ranked the teams by each factor and averaged the rank. Total back of the napkin. And while the United States finished first in this ranking (grumblegrumblegrumble), Cascadia finished near the top, tied with Mexico. 


Average Rank Population Per capita income Experience as WC matches played
United States (-Cascadia) 1 308,660,798 58,030 33
Mexico 3 124,574,795 17,740 53
Cascadia 3 16,452,729 34,751 18
Costa Rica 5 4,919,202 15,750 15
Honduras 5 9,308,042 4,410 9
Trinidad and Tobago 5 1,370,111 30,810 3
Panama 6 4,116,683 20,990 0
This Cascadian Republic is bigger than any of the Central or Caribbean countries and also richer per capita than anyone except the United States. It really did surprise me how much poorer per head Cascadians would be than USers. But our mediocre size and better than average wealth and average experience put us right up there with Mexico.
Mexico, who actually finished at the top of the qualifying group this year. But I’m sure Cascadia would have given them a run for their money.

A US Open Cup blowout and a dream of one big league around here

I was on hand for about 65 minutes of the 5-2 blowout of FC Tacoma 253 by the much better organized Kitsap Pumas. Enough about the US Open Cup being the real US Open.

What I want to talk about is the one big league.

I sat in the back of the stands at Mt. Tahoma High School. To the far right, at the other end of the stands, most of the Kitsap Pumas fans gathered. I was surrounded by a dozen or so folks obviously connected to the FC Tacoma organization. Then, way down the other end of my row sat a lonely fellow with yet a third team, standing out in his South Sound FC Shock track suit.

None of these three teams, though representing roughly the same level of American soccer, play in the same regional league. The Pumas play in the Premier Development League, where youngish and collegians play during the summer. And, both SSFC and Tacoma 253 play in different leagues that represent the high level end of things, the Evergreen Premier League and the National Premiere Soccer Leagues. The EPL(WA) has a more independent and homegrown flavor.

This is a lot of complexity in what should be a pretty simple thing. Back in the day, like in the 1960s and 70s, there was only one big high level amatuer/semipro soccer league in Western Washington.

Just like the formation of an independent indoor soccer league and the machinations of various soccer teams indoors, the existence of three outdoor leagues covering the same geography speaks to something. It points to internal league politics that were settled by simply breaking up into different leagues. Because we aren’t forced to live in a unified league system here, we can create whatever leagues we want.

This obviously serves the politics of each owners, they can align themselves with whichever other owners they like or get along with. But, it doesn’t serve the fans. Nineteen or so clubs across three leagues should be able to get together and hammer out some sort of unified league system.

Whether by promotion or relegation or splitting into north/south or east/west divisions, it would be very possible to create some sort of local April to August league around here.

I happen to prefer the home cooked flavor of the ELP(WA), mostly because I don’t honestly know why we need national non US Soccer organizations running low-level leagues.

Maybe that’s what needs to happen. Maybe these national groups, the NPSL and the PDL need to step away, or US Soccer needs to provide an alternative structure that leagues like the ELPWA could roll into. Something that allows for automatic births into the US Open Cup and the National Amatuer Cup.

But, something that brings these teams together and serves the interest of fans is much needed. Even though Kitsap thrashed Tacoma, there is simply not enough difference between the teams to justify totally different league systems between them.

The best US Open to be held in Pierce County this year isn’t even that US Open. And, it is because it isn’t big and expensive.

People getting kicked out of their homes so landlords can make a windfall.

The county that spent millions of dollars on the venue is giving a tax windfall to their more metropolitan neighbors.

And, when it all comes down later this summer, Piece County will still be in debt over their new golf course.

The US Open Golf tournament, though the most laudable of golf’s big tournaments because of its open format, is really just another television sporting event. The last time an amatuer won the US Open was 1933.

Sure, you may really like golf. This tournament in particular might excite you. I can’t argue about that. And, I’ve argued in favor of government spending on sporting venues when I know in my brain that they don’t make a return to taxpayers or the economy.

Mostly because I think team sports is important in setting a civic identity (so this golf stuff is something totally different for me).

But, people should know there is another US Open kicking off in Pierce County. The US Open Cup is a soccer tournament founded less than two decades after the first US Open golf tournament. And, like the US Open golf tournament (and dozens of other similar soccer tournaments worldwide) is open to any and all.

And, unlike the US Open golf thing, the US Open Cup operates in near obscurity.

On May 13, Tacoma 253 (a brand new team) will face off with the Kitsap Pumas at Mt. Tahoma High School in the first round of the Open Cup. The winner will face off against the Sounders 2 in Tukwila a week later.

I’ve made a habit of trying to get to as many US Open Cup matches as possible. I’ve been to Sumner, when Dox Italia lost to the Sounders U-23s. I was in Bremerton when the old USL Timbers beat the Kitsap Pumas. I’ve been up at the tiny Starfire Stadium in Tukwila to watch the Sounders beat everyone there. And, I’ve been to two finals in Seattle.

Every year during the first few rounds of the Open Cup, soccer pundits seems to fuss around about how we finally make the US Open Cup matter. While I think this is an important discussion, I think it isn’t the fault of the tournament. Its more of a function of how adult club soccer works on the lower levels than the tournament.

Tacoma 253 is literally a brand new team in Pierce County and (as far as I can tell) won’t even play more than two games near Tacoma this year. And, this doesn’t seem to be a rare thing in lower level adult soccer. There’s a lot of flux right now. What the tournament, and possible fans of lower level teams, is stability.

Once we’ve gotten attachments to these clubs, the tournament that involves so many of them, will grow.

And, grow the right way. Because I’m absolutely fine with it the way it is. And, what it is is something totally different than the US Open golf tournament. The games aren’t televised (except for usually the final). I love jamming through and early round night, flipping from internet stream to internet stream, following the action across the country.

I remember one particular night, when I watched the Atlanta Silverbacks play Georgia Revolution being webcast by someone literally holding up a cell phone in the stands. That same night Cal FC (an amatuer team from southern California) blasted the professional (but minor league) Wilmington Hammerheads 4-0. The next round Cal FC upended Portland Timbers 1-0 for a legendary upset.

And, it was all watched by hardcore soccer fans via internet stream.

This is what is beautiful about the US Open Cup. Small high school stadiums, shaky internet streams, live tweeting games not on the internet, rockus upsets by amateurs. Let’s not make this real US Open different, bigger, more televised. Let’s keep it small and dirty. If it gets bigger, its because the teams are more connected, not because there is more sponsorship money.

Pretty, cheaper and better for fans. Great new indoor soccer league, I wish it was a futsal leauge

I’m glad the new Western Indoor Soccer League is coming online. The old national minor league indoor teams around here had been associated with just seemed so disconnected. And, there was a bit of drama in there that I didn’t like.

And, most importantly, I think local leagues should be local. Sure, organized with some sort of national system (like US Club Soccer), but local teams controlling local leagues. Just makes sense.

But, where I wish these team owners had changed their approach would be to abandon the historic tangent that is indoor soccer. In no where else in the world does anyone play our version of indoor soccer. Its odd in that way. Our version seems to be based on a need to use underutilized indoor hockey rinks. They are laid out almost exactly the same, with team boxes and tall walls that keep the ball in play.

Futsal is just a better sport. The rest of the world plays futsal, which more closely resembles actual soccer.

I’d even say that futsal is more exciting. And, after watching more than 10 indoor games right on the walls, indoor is plenty exciting on its own.

What I’ve read makes me believe that futal would also be cheaper to implement. Mostly what worries me is the need to essentially replicate hockey arenas to play what should be a simple sport. Futsal can be played anywhere basketball or volleyball is played. It is just another series of lines on the same gym surface. Even if you’re buying a futsal floor, they can be purchased in the neighborhood of $10,000, which is near what an indoor field (with turf and walls) can be set up for.


The biggest argument for me is fan experience. The indoor arenas I’ve seen around here have pretty bad fan experiences. Small metal bleachers awkwardly arranged around an indoor arena, I mostly ended up standing, and I felt I was in the way of people trying to walk by. The facilities are obviously built for recreational players with a fan experience jammed in.

Even if you took an average high school gym and laid a portable futsal court, you would increase the fan experience by 100 percent.

And, according to FIFA indoor isn’t real soccer. And, they’re right.

How much economic sense does the U.S. Open make?

From the Puyallup Herald:

When an estimated 200,000 visitors come to the region the week of June
15-17 2015, the economic impact is estimated to be $144 million,
according to a United States Golf Association report.

It’s odd that an organization  whose purpose it is to promote golf would say a golf tournament is a net benefit, right?

The US Open golf tournament on the Puget Sound is just less than a year away, and I noticed a little rash of economic benefit coverage for the event. Big bucks coming our way because of golfers, golf fans and media.

But, how large will the economic benefit of the golf tournament really be?

There seems to be a cottage industry of promoters and detractors along this argument. From promoters of stadiums, to the Olympics and the World Cup, there are arguments for and against. Oddly, promoters and sponsors tend to find benefits and more hard hearted economists tend to find costs.

Taking at least a look at large tournaments like the Olympics, you’d be hard pressed to find benefits in the modern era. But, it is hard to compare the Olympics to (even a major) golf tournament:

(A golf tournament) typically requires little new
construction—the golf course is already there, and no golf tournament
attracts Olympic-sized crowds, so it probably does not require new
hotels. Also, while some people will no doubt reschedule visits to
London to coincide with the Olympics, this seems less likely for
Cromwell, Connecticut. It’s a nice place, (named after the Englishman
who had King Charles I’s head cut off), but not a must-see destination.

Where the Chambers Bay U.S. Open will likely be different is that it wasn’t already there. From what I can tell, it was built almost specifically for the 2015 U.S. Open. And, since it was first built, the course has been an economic drain:

Chambers Bay broke even in 2008, fueled by the initial interest of
the course’s opening in June 2007. But it landed in the red each of the
next four years, requiring a loan from the county’s equipment rental and
revolving fund to make debt payments.

The annual deficit peaked in 2010 at $1.8 million, despite
attracting national exposure that year by hosting the U.S. Amateur Golf

But, even $20 million in original construction cost and $2 million a year of operating loss, it would take some time to catch up with the $144 estimated economic benefit. But, not all that benefit would be going to the taxpayers broadly, who payed for the course. It would be going to the businesses (hotels and restaurants) that are set up to benefit from a large tourist event that benefit from the event.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/12/08/2937195/chambers-bay-on-track-for-best.html#storylink=cpy

Why can’t Olympia get some sort of semi-pro soccer going on? Or, we need the Tall Boys (someone help Brandon out)

In the next few weeks, between the Evergreen Premiere League, the National Premier Soccer League NW and the good old PDL, there will be three different non-pro/non-amateur leagues kicking off in this state.

And, none of them have a club in Olympia or even Thurston County.

The last time we sniffed at a local semi-pro league, it was the good old Tumwater Pioneers. They ended up folding after just one year. Even though the soccer was great, their results weren’t. And, apparently, the financial returns weren’t either.

We even have had Olympia semi-pro teams in the distant and not so distant past.

So, as we’ve seen teams become established in Bremerton, Bellingham, Everett and even Vancouver, Olympia has failed to put anything on the map. What is it about Olympia that has prevented anyone from coming forward with a team?

Last fall, Brandon Sparks (Oly Sports Blog Brandon) came forward with a pretty smart of thorough outline for an Olympia team in the ELPWA

Why Olympia?: The cities of Olympia, Lacey and
Tumwater are home to over 108,000 residents and Thurston County’s
population is over 250,000. There is only one professional or
semi-professional team in the area – the Tumwater Pioneers indoor soccer
team – and no direct sports competition in the summer. The area has had
great success supporting soccer over the last two summers when over
1,200 fans flocked to watch the Sounders U23s and Portland Timbers U23s
play at Tumwater Stadium. The area is home to multiple large and active
youth soccer organizations including Blackhills FC, Puget Sound Slammers
and Thurston County United and men’s college programs at Saint
Martin’s, Evergreen and South Puget Sound.

Why the EPLWA?: The first reason is simple: cost.
The EPLWA has been designed to be budget friendly charging just $1,000
in league fees. This allows for teams to put more money back into their
communities and programs and will allow teams to be more financially
stable over their first few seasons. An EPLWA team can compete at a high
level – potentially participating in the US Open Cup – for
significantly less money than a PDL team with the same opportunities for
generating revenue.

As far as I know, no one responded back to him.

I hope Brandon doesn’t lose heart. I hope he keeps his idea out there for next season, that we get a team together.

Here’s to the Tall Boys.

The time when the King County Arts Commission complained about the cultural insensitivity of the Seahawks logo

Just about a year before the Seahawks finally took the field, they were in a somewhat similar position as the Washington NFL franchise is now. The logo the Seahawks had been handed by NFL designers didn’t directly borrow from local tribal design standards. The King County Arts Commission complained that it “fails to accurately depict the art principles of Northwest coastal Indians.”

From the Northwest Indian News (a newspaper) in September 1975:

Among the differences found to be inaccurate is the characteristic eye form. The Commission enclosed a suggested correction by Marvin Oliver, Quinault… Oliver depicted regional art principles in the design.

It shouldn’t surprise me at all, but the original Seahawks design came from people working out of Los Angeles. I kid you not. I can just imagine the designers in the LA spring, cracking some books on Pacific Coast tribes, copying down ideas.

(Seahawks general manager) Thompson said the NFL firm did refer to some books on Northwest Indian culture. “Our intent was to follow the Northwest Indian culture, but there was no condition placed on them (NFL) in designing.”

The Arts Commission further stated, “As with all great art, a full understanding and appreciation does not come quickly. Hence it is not surprising that the new logo fails to depict with adequate sensitivity the arts principles of the Northwest coast Indian peoples.”

Since that first season, and the back-and-forth between the commission and the team, the logo (especially in the eyes) has strayed even further from Oliver’s suggestions (from From Rain to Shine).

Native Appropriations brings us to the today, nearly 30 years into the Seahawks design. The blogger, a tribal member and law student, is writing about a particular use of the Seahawks logo that incorporates even more tribal designs. She like it, but examines where it fits in culture:

…I question my endorsement after my analysis naturally evolves into
larger questions about art, identity, acceptance, and what happens when
Native cultures live harmoniously (or at least not so adversely) with

Where we start to move away from imagery of a fan’s foam head towards a
fan’s headdress or mask is the face: the two green paint lines on the
cheek suggest the 12th Man is wearing “war paint” instead of mimicking
the black grease or tape the players use on their cheeks to cut down on
glare. Now it’s starting to look more like a hipster appropriation and
misinterpretation and I wonder – was the inspiration for this design a
transformation mask?

I’ll link again, because it is worth reading this entire post.

The Olympia Olys in the Open Cup and semi-pro soccer

If you take a close look, the early 1970s seemed to be the high-water mark for competitive club soccer in Olympia. The Olympia Vikings and the Olympia Olys both played in the top division of the State Soccer League. Both also competed in what we now call the U.S. Open Cup (then called the National Challenge Cup).

Quick break here, but the “Olympia Olys” is just about the most awesome team name ever. I wish someone would do a modern logo for that team. I’d buy a t-shirt.

The 1972 Olympia Vikings were the first Thurston County team to compete in the national cup and quickly dropped out when they were beaten 6-1 in a Bay Area, California game against the “Concordia Club.”

The 1973 campaign by the Olympia Olys in the Challenge Cup turned out a little better. They won their first round game on February 11 against the Rainier Brewers 4-1, but a couple of weeks later, they dropped 4-2 against the San Jose Portuguese. That team would end up losing to eventual champions Maccabi Los Angeles.

Club soccer in western Washington was different back in the 70s. Most semi-pro teams played in the state soccer league, which kicked off in the early 1950s and at its peak was a three division system. Olympia’s first entry into the league was in 1965. That team played at Stevens Field, the old high school stadium just south of the Lincoln School.

By the late 1970s, the State Soccer League died away. In the 1980s, in the wake of the death of the NASL (and the top division Seattle Sounders) FC Seattle and the Western Washington City League started up.

I found a lot of soccer history of this era in a Seattle Times archive available from the Seattle Public Library. It is mostly back-of-the-sports-page sort of stuff and there’s a lot in there. At some point, someone could go through the entire archive and pull out a pretty complete history. It was interesting to me that even though the Olympia clubs in this era made the Seattle paper, when I took a look if there was any coverage from Olympia newspapers, I didn’t find any.

Also, take a look at the Evergreen Premier League. This is a very recent effort to put together a sort of open (not summer collegiate) semi-pro league in western Washington. So far, they’ve gotten a lot of interest, including a nascent effort by our own Brandon Sparks to get something going.

Why don’t we worry about the South Sound Mall as much as we do downtown (and I want a soccer stadium!)

This is a post born out of this question at Mark’s Notes on the State of Olympia blog on what places in Olympia (and I assume broader urban North Thurston) are too empty for my tastes.

The almost empty parking lot in the north west corner of the mall is a forgotten little pocket of Lacey. It used be to where the Woolworth’s backed up into that side of the mall. I also remember Olympic Comics starting on that side.

Anyway, its empty now, except for maybe people learning to ride motorcycles on Sunday, the parking lot is a waste of impervious surface, reflecting the dead commercial nature of that part of Lacey.

It is also now left without its only lasting civic contribution, as the host of Lacey’s July 3rd Fireworks.

The owners of the mall seems to realize the lost potential back there. Coincidentally, they also own a few properties in the residential neighborhood right next door in Olympia. And, in 2008 CDC proposed to the city to redevelop that neighborhood into a south Tumwater-like collection of state office buildings.

The proposal didn’t get picked up by the city, but I’m sure the need is still there. It wasn’t that solid of a proposal, not even a project. Just a request for a designation that could mean state office buildings would be built there at some point.

But, for me, obviously, the best and highest use of the space would be a soccer stadium. Nothing fancy, 2,000 seats would make me more than happy.

But, what gets me about the empty back corner of west Lacey, is that while it remains very paved and very empty, no one seems to care. We wring our hands over anything relating to downtown, but this part of Lacey is all but ignored.

$4+ million for the arts, not for sports

Let’s quickly forget about the meaningless distinction between someone that dances and receives academic credit and someone that swings a bat and does not.

Let’s also forget that our schools maintain facilities for both artistic and athletic pursuits.

Starting from here then, how do you think the public would react if the city of Olympia announced it was spending $4.4 million to upgrade a field at Yauger Park to a 1,500 seat capacity soccer stadium? Or, baseball stadium, I suppose (even though we’d never get a real minor league team here).

Under certain circumstances, a 4,000 seat baseball stadium could be had for around $4.3 million.

You think the public reaction would be supportive? Actually, I think the public reaction to a larger (much larger) athletic facility would be overall negative. Possibly very negative.

As opposed to $4.4 million spent on reburbing an existing arts center? Granted, we already own the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

But, I think this imaginary distinction might tell you something about the nature of Olympia. Ken Balsley calls this elitism.

But, I wouldn’t go that far. We have plenty of people around here that spend a lot of their time dedicated to sports. There are plenty examples of this sort of dedication, families at Black Hills FC, hundreds of kids turning out for Olympia Bears football.

The question is, in Olympia given $4 million in public funds, the most likely end result is something for the arts, not sports. And why is that?

I’ve been pondering it for days now, and I can’t really give you a good answer.

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