World Cup Countdown: One Week to Go

If you have read this blog for a while, then you know that I am a football fan. Not NFL or college football; instead, I follow the world's sport. Next Friday, the 2010 World Cup finals begin, and on Saturday (June 12) the US opens group play against England. Kickoff is 2:30 pm Eastern. If you are planning to watch and don't want to go solo at home, then there may be no more football-friendly venue in Pittsburgh than Piper's Pub on East Carson Street in the South Side.

Check out the pub's Football page for information.

For some Pittsburgh football history, here's a bit that I posted back in September, in anticipation of the G20 summit:

"G20 journalists trying to decode the meaning of football in Pittsburgh might plausibly ask -- in fact, they should ask, and will ask -- what about football in Pittsburgh? The kind that the rest of the world understands, the kind played with your feet ("foot"ball), with a round ball? It's a curious thing that a city that aspires to a global presence has no professional soccer team to speak of. How many genuinely global cities can you think of that do not? Even in the US, whose First Division soccer league is hardly a major sport by American standards, New York, DC, Chicago, Houston, Columbus (Columbus?) -- all of them have pro teams. Los Angeles has two. Pittsburgh? None. Or nil, in soccer-speak.

Pittsburgh has a long and glorious soccer history, much of which is unknown to most residents. Its oldest, most prestigious, and most successful soccer club, Beadling, has been in operation roughly as long as American football has been played in Pittsburgh, more than 100 years. Today, Beadling fields boys' and girls' youth teams and men's and women's adult teams. Harmarville Soccer Club placed two players on the 1950 US World Cup squad that shocked England.

But efforts to sustain modern pro soccer in Pittsburgh have struggled in the face of an indifferent media, the absence of appropriate venues, and a fan culture that is saturated with American football, ice hockey, baseball and, increasingly, college basketball. During the 1980s, the Pittsburgh Spirit played "indoor" soccer in Pittsburgh. Beginning in 1999, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds brought the outdoor game back to the region, but the Hounds have struggled financially and now compete in the Second Division of the United Soccer Leagues -- the third division of American pro soccer. The Riverhounds are semi-pro -- at best.

Under the surface, however, the growing visibility of international club soccer in American media -- even in Pittsburgh -- means that in today's Pittsburgh I am far more likely to see a European club jersey being worn on a sidewalk in Oakland, or even Downtown, than I was 10 years ago. There is a lively and internationally flavored soccer scene among pickup games in Schenley Park and among the over-30 and over-40 soccer leagues in the region. Many Pittsburghers are dismissive of soccer. The notion that football and ice hockey are authentic Pittsburgh sports, and soccer is not, remains lodged in the region's collective sporting consciousness even if it is historically inaccurate. Someday, it is possible to imagine, Pittsburgh's sporting culture will catch up to its global ambitions, and the revitalization of Pittsburgh will be not only an American story but a fully international story."


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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