When it comes to football advertisements, few have come close to matching Nike’s “Take It To The Next Level” commercials from 2008. The first-hand perspective ads put you directly in the shoes of an up-and-coming footballer, brushing shoulders with the likes of Arsene Wenger, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
Major League Soccer revealed today that German star Bastian Schweinsteiger will wear the captain’s armband when the MLS All-Stars take on Real Madrid in Chicago on August 2. Schweinsteiger beat out Tim Howard and David Villa for the honor in a Snapchat vote.
A record-setting crowd of 32,287 packed into FC Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium to watch their club take on surging MLS side Chicago Fire in the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup. Perhaps there’s no greater barometer for the growth of the sport in America than the fact that this wasn’t just a quirky Wednesday night excursion to the stadium to watch Bastian Schweinsteiger for FCC faithful, this was a seething cauldron of tensions and daring expectancies.
Without trying to quantify the emotional side plots that make the U.S. Open Cup fifth round meeting between FC Cincinnati and the Chicago Fire so intriguing, we can objectively say that there’s never been a USOC match (at least outside of the final) as eagerly anticipated as this one.
For starters, a record attendance was on hand to watch Cincinnati defeat the Columbus Crew in the fourth round. With over 18,000 tickets having already been sold for Wednesday night’s match, Cincinnati are going to come close to matching or bettering that number.
In 2016, the Chicago Fire were awful. They finished last in all of Major League Soccer with 31 points from 34 games. The foundations for that pathetic season had been laid in 2015, when they finished last in MLS with 30 points from 34 games.
2017, however, has been a different story. The Fire have already matched their point total from last season, and surpassed their total from 2015, with 18 games still to play, and they're riding an eight-game unbeaten streak in league play.
"It's a very hard league to play in. It's very physical, there's a lot of running. So there is a lot of physical work and to me, in my mind, too little play."
Andrea Pirlo probably didn't have running wind sprints in mind when he planned on winding down his career in MLS, but that's what he got. Although NYCFC play on one of the smallest fields you'll ever see at the professional level, Pirlo still chases the game more than when he played in Italy. And, of course, he's 38 now, so he's likely feeling the burn a bit more.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s comments regarding MLS the other week were less a criticism of the league than a dash of honesty — the Chicago Fire, World Cup hopefuls though they may be, are not as good as Manchester United or Bayern Munich. Dax McCarty isn’t Paul Pogba, David Accam isn’t Arjen Robben and Nemanja Nikolic isn’t Zlatan Ibrahimovic.