Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Is What I Do

Since I’ve recommitted to this blog in February I’ve been on a mission to get back into the game in some capacity. But not just any capacity. I don’t want to start a soccer camp and rip kids off. I don’t want to join a youth club and pretend to be a coach. I want to somehow be involved in a way that will influence a greater soccer good. What that greater good is, also, can be up for debate. I will start with this. I want to see the USMNT win the World Cup.

Why can’t this happen in my lifetime. I also want to have a top level professional soccer team in Fort Lauderdale (in the form of the Strikers of course). Why can’t that be a possibility?

We can discuss these goals later, for now, here is what I am up to and how I am going to try and make those 2 things happen:

1. The Striker Likers Blog

This is a place for my personal opinion. I’m not a journalist nor a historian. Just another crazy kid in love with soccer, in love with the idea of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and an American who wants to win. I hope I can connect a few folks to those concepts and bring people together to spread the word, talk about the game and continue its growth.

2. The Lauderdale Soccer Club

The club my parents started back in 1995 with a few youth teams still exists! Yes, we play in an affiliated league and can compete in the US Open Cup. According to US Soccer’s bizarre pyramid, we are considered a 4th division team. With that mentality in mind, my job will be to publicize our club, marketing our team, seek sponsors and one day, just maybe, the Lauderdale Soccer Club can be a pro outfit. Imagine, our own stadium, development teams, the works. I won’t get ahead of myself, we are still looking for our first sponsor.

3. Gold Coast Soccer Premier League

The league our team plays in is also a labour of love for our family. The Gold Coast has been around since the 1970’s and my parents keep it alive. It’s currently 7 teams strong in its summer session. It’s a legit league, taken seriously. Players are looking to make college teams, or they are college players looking to make PDL and semi-pro teams. It’s 4th division as they say.

So, that’s what I’m up to you. What are you up to?

Friday, June 30, 2017

US Soccer: The Most Confusing Sport in the World

A bold statement in fact, but let me explain. 

It begins at the US Open Cup game between Miami FC and Atlanta United. A simple cup tie for most soccer fans, but to the trio of teenagers behind me the fabric of American soccer was something they couldn’t seem to grasp. And I don’t blame them, we have made our beloved sport so confusing to follow that we are handicapping our chances of popularity and success.

“What’s the difference between the Lamar Hunt Cup and the US Open Cup?”, they so innocently wondered. I hope it doesn’t come as a shock to anyone reading this article, they are the same thing. But if local youth soccer players don’t know the difference, we have a problem.

The kids continued to have problems getting their facts straight. They kept saying that Atlanta United forward Andrew Carleton played for Weston FC. Andrew, in fact, grew up in Georgia, is one of Atlanta United’s Homegrown Players and has played for the US U15 and U17 national teams.

The boys went on. Commenting on how Miami FC would fare against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies, who in their view of the US Soccer landscape all play in the same league. In fact, Miami FC play in the NASL. Tampa Bay plays in the USL. And the Strikers, well, they just don’t exist anymore.

Here is where I’m going with this. We have some how some way in this country so confused the public that following our sport requires a dictionary, a glossary and a legal bible.

A few months ago I got mad at radio broadcasters for not being able to understand the away goal rule in a home and away Champions League game, but I fear the problem is much worse.

Take South Florida for example, sometime soon we will have our Miami MLS team. We will also have a Miami NASL team. We have teams in the NPSL, UPSL and PDL national leagues. Confused? PDL is an Under-23 league. NPSL is a mix of amateur and semi-pro.

What about college teams? We have a lot of teams. We have a lot of leagues. What makes it so muddled is that they are all run separately and the only competition that unites them is the US Open Cup.

As we like to compare to other countries. When cup games are scheduled its easy to say this team is Division 1, 2, 3, etc. Here we have MLS teams playing USL teams and NASL teams playing PDL teams. And no one has any clue as to what differentiates one from the other.

Unfortunately I don’t have the answer. Is it simple enough to have US Soccer come in, take over each league and say you are 1, you are 2 and so forth? Perhaps. I don’t care what it’s called, let’s just make it simple and let fans know what they are in for.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

We're Not Gonna Take It

Still waiting to hear about the future of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, just like we’re waiting to hear about Miami Beckham United (recent news reports seem to indicate there actually maybe news). In any case, Miami FC remains the only professional outfit in all of South Florida, but let that not be a harbinger for doom. In fact, the opposite is true. The true dirty south has begun to rise, in several ways.


The cup begins this week and we have representation! Red Force FC, Miami United FC, Boca Raton FC and the South Florida Surf will be playing their hand in the cup. They, of course, play each other in the first round, meaning at least two will be in the second round. It’s good to know we have this strong a contingent of amateur sides.


The good old U, S of A qualified, finished second in the tournament and had a few young-ins from around here. Weston FC and Kendall SC each had an impact player on the squad.


Yes, we Striker fans have a podcast. And it’s awesome! This South Florida-centric show really pulls at my heart strings. The show’s crew - Chris, Paul and Justin really know their stuff and can put on an entertaining 2 hours each week. Guests include soccer writers, soccer players, soccer movers and shakers. Hopefully I’ll get a guest spot in the “kudio” one day.


Flight 19, the Strikers supporter’s group did what they had to do while the Strikers went away - they started their own club! A community-owned club will be bringing a fresh look to amateur scene, and also supporters to amateur games.

So that’s just a peppering of what we got going on down here. As for me, well, I’ve got some things in the works as well. Too early to brag about now, but just like my neighbors, I’m not sitting idle while Lockhart Stadium becomes a weed garden.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Name Game

I am a positive person. I believe in a world where the Fort Lauderdale Strikers will live again. I believe South Florida can support an MLS team, maybe two. I believe. I believe that. I believe that we. I believe that we will see the Strikers again!

But there are a few things that drive me crazy. One of those things are soccer camps. At not just any soccer camp, it's those club branded soccer camps. I'm talking to you Barcelona and PSG. I won't go into the rant that soccer camps are just money makers and have no positive affect on soccer in our communities. 

If we're going to have soccer camps they have to have ties to local soccer.

I grew up with two soccer camps, both devices of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. I was blessed with the Thomas Rongen Soccer Camp and the Nene Cubillas Camp Futbol. Both camps run by Strikers. Today our children are being drawn by these big clubs, Barcelona and PSG. But that's not all. I was picking up my son from school and in the office I saw a flyer for a Colo Colo soccer camp. Are you kidding me?

What's next? Pachuca? Manchester United? Is that what we're coming to? Do we need to brand our soccer with these clubs to provide validity?

If we believe that we are a soccer community, a soccer producing community, then drop these brands and have pride in yourself. We are doing ourselves a disservice. It's part of why we get the ICC games, international friendlies, but very little professional soccer. 

The casual soccer fan here. The fan that we need to cater to has all of these brands coming to town diluting our own local product. Stop the branded camps. We need more local action. We need to create our own brands. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Who's to Blame for the MLS Void in South Florida?

The first guest post to Strikers Likers comes from my dad. Dr. Jose Meeroff. Associate Prof of Medicine University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University. ATFA (FIFA) “A” pro soccer coach. NSCAA Premier Diploma Soccer Coach and Emeritus life time USSF and NISOA Referee.
My dad, myself, my son and my nephew drove up to Orlando last week to catch an MLS game. The entire drive home we tried to convince ourselves not to move to Orlando where apparently they figured out how to have MLS, and amazing stadium, and an amazing atmosphere. 

So moved be the experience, my dad wrote this. Enjoy.


To me the answer to the title question is quite simple: we all are guilty by reasons of abandonment, incapacity, ignorance and egotism.

I will center my opinion in the following concepts. First, look at the makeup of our nomad South Florida communities. The great majority of us were born somewhere else in the world and came here to make fortune the easy way. We are a community of foreign people with no interest in the history and/or the tradition of the area we live in. Very few South Florida residents have any idea of the origins of Broward or Dade county, nor do they know the significance of those names. According to most New Yorkers (some days I tend to believe that South Florida is just a “South New York” borough) people come to Florida to die, to escape from justice, to make easy money to be later sent to “their countries” or to have sex.  

In South Florida, there is very little support or loyalty to any institution, in education, art, or sports. South Florida, for most of those that are now permanent residents, is still a transient place just for entertainment, leisure and promiscuity. Those negative beliefs can immediately be incorporated into local soccer. Most soccer people in our area strongly believe that here it is impossible to seed the passion for the game. They stalwartly dispute that: 1. Soccer is much better in their home land; 2. The game is not suited for the “American mentality”, whatever that means; 3. Their kids ought to go and play soccer in their home country; 4. American natives are not capable of running the sport and/or the business of soccer; 5. There is no need to support the US National soccer teams, the local top pro/semipro squads or even collegiate teams and 6. The quality of American Pro soccer is inferior to the weakest one in the world.

I strongly argue that all these concepts are intellectual aberrations pungently contributing to South Florida’s difficulty to integrate into the prospering scene of the top level of soccer in the US. We are well aware that US professional soccer leagues are not perfect and need improvement. But which league around the globe is perfect: the corrupt Italian Calcio Serie A or the disable Argentine Premier AFA league? 

Nevertheless, the US first division pro league, Major League Soccer (MLS) is blooming exponentially and its level of play can be easily compared to the one of any of the so called “first soccer world” pro leagues. The MLS has currently 22 teams playing, 19 in continental US and 3 in Canada. The MLS plans to expand to 28 or more teams, with probably different divisions. Most of the current teams own modern soccer specific stadiums, are structured logically and have an established large local fan base. 

Last weekend my son, Diego, and I attended the match played in Orlando between the Orlando City SC and the Los Angeles Galaxy. That was a treat. Orlando has a new, spectacular soccer specific stadium built in downtown Orlando (with the managerial and financial support from the local government and business). The game was played on a Saturday afternoon, the stadium was packed with 25,000 spectators most of them wearing the colors of the home team. The atmosphere was incredible and much safer than the one you encounter when attending a match in South America or even in parts of Europe. The game was excellent and ended in a 2-1 victory by Orlando City with a goal scored in extra time (minute 91) on a great set play. We were fortunate to watch impressive American players such as Jonathan Spector and Joe Bendix from the home team and Jermaine Jones from the visitors (a German born player from American parents who is a regular to the US Men National team since 2010). The Orlando City SC organization is a broad one: they have not only an MLS team but also other pro teams including a USL team (Orlando City B), women’s pro team (Orlando Pride) and a very sophisticated youth based structure (Orlando City Development Academy), all under one roof.
For us, the only negative aspects of the weekend experience were driving to Orlando, spending a night at an overpriced Hotel and trying to find good, modestly priced restaurants where to eat. Otherwise it was a great event. My grandchildren Nico and Hudson loved the game and the spectacle.

In the meantime what are we doing here in South Florida for the good of soccer? We continue importing “soccer academies” of insignificant value, increasing the number of “clubs” playing “traveling” soccer (a misnomer for expensive recreational soccer), not communicating among each other and waiting for the Messiah to arrive and fix all our deficiencies. Unfortunately, in my modest opinion, we have too many messiah potential candidates who are not only not qualified as such, but also not honest and not pledged to the progress of soccer in the Gold Coast. Furthermore, the real soccer experts and committed South Floridians soccer devoted are very seldom called to participate in any progressive project including the ill-advisedly Beckham one. Regrettably we continue living in the dark ages and with almost no light at the end of the tunnel.

Definitively, I don’t want to live in a depressive mood. I don’t want to be forced to wait for someone to build a spaceship that can take me to Mars, Jupiter or to other galaxies where I can start developing and cultivating good soccer. In the meantime, I will continue going to Orlando when I can, coaching the Academy Premier team, organizing and delivering coaching educational activities and teaching the little I know about soccer to all my grandchildren Nico, Hudson, Luca, Harley and Dylan.

Nevertheless, I also demand that local people wake up, start accepting responsibility and act. I won’t remain passive; if it requires to fight a war, I will fight. And for the rest, I remind them what was said at the JFK inaugural presidential address “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. We, as a society of settlers, have the obligation to build up the next level of soccer in South Florida, now !!!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Who Is It Good For?

So I haven’t found too much in the past week to lift my spirits about a year passing by without the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

We had the MLS opening weekend however and I tried to watch as much as I could possibly watch. I had other obligations - Tae Kwan Do practice, summer camp tours, Chinese Lantern Festival. It’s the joys of parenthood. Luckily I was able to finish the weekend playing soccer with my 5-year old son and 6-year old nephew.

Back to MLS, it was an awesome weekend. It would have been even better if we had a game down here for sure, but for now, it’s a pleasure watching this game take shape in the US. Seeing it covered as much as it is. It gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling you know. That feeling, however, was quickly diminished when I heard sports talk radio trying to come to grips with Barcelona defeating PSG in Champions League.

So for a brief moment I wasn’t lamenting the loss of the Strikers, I was instead embarrassed and extremely angered that sports media still acts ignorant to our sport and laughs at how little they know. I scanned 4 separate sport talks shows right after the game. Each of them made mention of the result. Then each of them got confused on how aggregate scoring works. Then each of them laughed at how little they know about it.

Is that where we are right now? Do we still need to explain why regular season games end in a tie? Do we to explain what the Champions League is every year? It’s a insult. I wanted to live in this moment where the game completely restored my faith. I wanted this moment to be enjoyed. Instead, radio hosts were baffled at all the twitter noise and then stumbled over the scoresheet. No excuses sports media.

So that’s out of the way. Now back to Strikers talk. Not much to report really. And that’s it.

But I’m not going to stop there. So the next thing is google. I’m a big believer in building stadiums. Lockhart needs to refresh. OKC Energy has done something similar with their building, Taft Stadium. Check it out, it’s nice. A lot of teams, also, are dressing up their rented facilities, which is nice. But having your own space is special. The MLS model has afforded this. Not many team below that threshold can say they same.

But Lockhart was going to be rebuilt remember? Schlitterbahn, a water park was going to put a park in that area and have a lazy river run through Lockhart. They were going to upgrade the stadium and put in 4 more soccer fields. Initially the plan stalled because the city had to but the land from the airport and a hefty price. But guess what? They did it, they bought it. Plans were made and Schlitterbahn was about to become a reality. So why hasn’t it been done? Rapids Water Park. A water park in Palm Beach County has brought the City of Fort Lauderdale to court for not allowing competing bids for the space.

For that reason the rebuild is at a halt. It’s truly unbelievable. But that is the real reason that South Florida gets a bad rap. It’s not the players, it’s not the teams, it’s not the fans. It’s the greed. Look at Beckham’s deal. He’s on his third stadium location because of local business greed. First it was the cruise lines, then it was the Marlins. Everyone wants to benefit monetarily so it makes it hard to move the mountain.

A new question arises now. Since the Strikers are incognito, does the stadium plan fall to pieces? How is this resolved? So many questions. So little answers. Everyone says they’re committed, but no one wants to work each other. Every one out for themselves. Good for their business bad for soccer in South Florida.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What's Missing

On a day where the St. Pete City Council confirms the date for a special election including the re-imagining of Al Lang Stadium, those of us in South Florida continue to wallow in our own self doubt, pity ourselves and look up to the heavens for something.

Now, that something isn’t David Beckham like we all believed it would be three years ago. As a Strikers fan, we are on the verge of something that is quite interesting (if not disturbing).

Imagine a scenario if you will that in 5 years time the MLS has three Florida-based teams. Taking into account today’s environment, those three teams would be Orlando City SC, Miami Beckham United and the, ugh, Tampa Bay Rowdies. Am I supposed to be happy or pissed off? The growth of the game of soccer in the US is definitely important to me. I was picked on so much for being the soccer kid in school and now we have soccer-specific stadiums. The expense has been the Fort Lauderdale Strikers which takes me into a talking point.

What is the point of MLS? At its inception, FIFA mandated that US Soccer have a professional league in order to be awarded hosting rights to the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Our founding fathers at the time knew what happened to the NASL and made the decision to create the MLS in the image of American sports leagues. With franchises instead of clubs, the MLS was born. You can’t blame them. The passing of NASL 1.0 was epic. Everything and anything had to be done to avoid a similar calamity. American sports leagues are very stable and so to follow that lead makes business sense.

But soccer has that little something different that no other sport has. It provides opportunity. To me the World Cup is the greatest thing ever because every country is included. Albeit most countries don’t have any shot of winning, they do have an opportunity to make it and play those “world-class” countries. Kuwait in 82, USA in 90, Saudi Arabia in 94 and so on and so on.

Soccer leagues around the world have that same inclusion, just to a different degree. Though slim, a 4th division side in England can theoretically play in the Premier League. That is what the seasoned soccer fan is accustomed to, that is part of the game. The MLS is completely void of that excitement. Actually, and disagree with me, it seems that more excitement is generated in groups trying to make the MLS, than the actual MLS games themselves. Why? Because its the only time we “the little guy” or “outsider” can make it to the big leagues.

It took Philadelphia 7 hard years to push and push to get into the MLS and get a stadium. It was a remarkable story that included a supporter’s group and ownership that fought every obstacle and made it happen. Since they’ve been in the MLS, can you name 3 players who’ve played for the Union?

There is no drama in the MLS, but it is our first division. I honestly find more joy in watching MLS teams compete in Champions League play because that is where that drama exists. Imagine if an MLS team wins the CL? They get to go to the Club World Cup, and play Real Madrid or Barcelona in a competitive match. Wouldn’t that be something?

The MLS is great for so many things. It has increased the level of play of the American footballer. It has made better US coaches. It has forced soccer into mainstream media. These are all things we can thank the MLS for. Plus we have soccer-specific stadiums. So I’m not bashing here, just working my way to something else. The MLS has done all this, but it came at a price and that price was the theater.

I’ll take one stab at a fix for this. MLS should expand to 40 teams and have 2 divisions with pro/rel between them. Then the last place team in Division 2 needs to play in a playoff against the champion of whatever league is deemed beneath it. If it were right now, you would have a NASL-USL playoff winner play against the last place team in D2 MLS. Winner makes it in. I think that will add some excitement, put some fire into these games and freak fans and owners out enough to make the games more interesting. And for the business owners afraid of seeing their $150 million wasted to play in the USL, well, that is the sport, it’s part of the game.

Last point I want to make about MLS here is really more of a statement about MLS Miami. So their PR firm came out and said they are committed to building a world-class club. I mean, come on! An MLS team, by definition, is not world-class. I think MLS fans know that. People in South Florida know that for sure and we can smell bullshit pretty darn well. Should I keep going? You know I’m a little bit of a Miami hater right now, but even the Miami supporters groups are getting antsy, so that cannot be a good sign.

So how does this affect a future Fort Lauderdale Strikers outfit? I don't think it does because we don't even have a team on the field. Without Pro/Rel it is very hard to imagine a strong ownership group investing enough to keep the Strikers alive. And knowing our market, if you're not providing a top-quality experience, you are not going to have attendance. Man, I'm getting very depressed right now. At least I have the USMNT. March 24 can't come any sooner.