Reflections: The NCAA and Holism

I recently posted some reflections on the NCAA and Unions from a twitter conversation with @pdenglert. There were several strands of thought going on in that string of tweets, and I wanted to pick back up on one of them I left out in the earlier post.

I noted that against the idea that athletics are potentially out of place in higher education, it could be countered that this position blatantly accepts a mind/body dualism.

@pdenglert but there is 1 counter argument here – that in a holistic sense, athletics is just another way of knowing/learning/etc.

— Zach Smith (@zsmith78) January 29, 2014

I would offer that such a dualism disregards what phenomenology might refer to as an embodied epistemology – that is, a physical way of knowing.

Read the rest of the article at religiosport.com.

Reflections: The NCAA and Unions

@zsmith78 to my favorite sport philosopher and theologian, what’s your thoughts on the NW push for NCAA player unions?

— Peter Englert (@pdenglert) January 29, 2014

I had a twitter conversation with my good buddy @pdenglert about the Northwestern University football players that are attempting to unionize. I thought I would take a little time to expand on some of those ideas… you can check out the rest at religiosport.com.

As you may have noticed, this blog has been on hiatus since early September. I took the opportunity to take a break during the off-season, knowing that a number of other outlets have arisen in the past year to cover NPSL specific news. In light of these developments, I have begun to evaluate this site and its future. As it stands, I will continue to provide modest coverage of the NPSL though I will be scaling back my weekly commentary due to the sheer number of teams on the schedule for next season. That said, if you have a particular team, region/conference, or other miscellaneous beat you follow and are interested in writing for Parlor City I am considering taking on additional writers to help fill out the coverage (though please note that I can’t afford to compensate you). You can contact me at parlorcityfootball@gmail.com and we’ll start a conversation.

Is The US Open Cup Draw Really Random?

Yesterday US Soccer announced the 1st round draw for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – a process that US Soccer says, “throughout the entire tournament will be determined by random selection.” Interestingly, clubs representing the NPSL and USASA were only awarded 2 home matches to 16 away matches, or one home match for each body. This means that out of 8 coin tosses in which the NPSL (or USASA) clubs were involved, only 1 flip ended in a favorable outcome (where ‘favorable outcome’ = hosting the match). As a function of the binomial probability distribution, there is approximately a 3.125% chance that 7 out of 8 flips would end in an unfavorable outcome.

The calculation assumes the following:

1. The number of trials or ‘flips’ is fixed. In this case, we will fix the number of flips at 8 to represent the 8 flips NPSL clubs would have been involved in. We will use to represent the number of trials.

2. There are only 2 possible outcomes which are equally weighted: hosting or travelling.

3. The probability of hosting is fixed. We will use p to represent the probability of hosting and will assign it a value of .5.

4. The flips must be independent. This condition is satisfied as each flip is a separate and unique event, independent of previous or successive flips.

IMG_20130502_120813

Binomial Probability Distribution

Binomial Probability Distribution

 

 

 

When we input the data, the formula looks like this:

 

 

And thus we get a probability of 3.125% that only 1 NPSL team would be awarded hosting privileges out of 8 total possible hosting scenarios. Using the same equation, we can calculate the binomial probability of the outcomes for both NPSL and USASA clubs combined which is approximately 0.0018310546875 or .183%.

At 3% the result is highly unlikely, but I can give US Soccer the benefit of the doubt. At .183% the probability is just too small to blindly consider coincidence.

Now, many have already argued that the draw is fair the way it turned out as priority seems to have been given (mostly) to USL Pro and PDL clubs. The rationale is that these clubs generally have better facilities, better front offices, and more professional organizations as a whole – facts which at this point are hard to dispute (with some obvious exceptions). If this were the basis of awarding hosting rights, I would buy the draw. The issue is that US Soccer has stated that the draw was to be ‘determined by random selection’ – something that is shown above to have a highly unlikely probability.

Conspiracy theorists aside, maybe its time for US Soccer to live stream the draw live? This would at least introduce a little transparency into the process, and maybe even give a boost to tournament interest. What are you’re thoughts?

Fracturing the US Soccer Pyramid

Philly Soccer News published a brief story yesterday about a new professional soccer league reportedly kicking off in 2014 under the name American Professional Soccer (APS). So far teams are planned in Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and an unknown location in the Midwest. According to the Philly Soccer News report the league plans on operating regionally at first before expanding its national footprint.

US Soccer PyramidAt this point, there are more questions than answers about this new league. It seems that any professional league seeking credibility would seek sanctioning from the Unites States Football Federation (USSF), and assuming APS does seek sanctioning, will they look to supplant the NPSL and PDL as a ‘professional’ fourth division? Or will they attempt to go head to head with USL Pro or NASL for second or third division status? Any way you slice this, the last thing we need is another regional ‘pro’ league with national ambitions. As it stands USL Pro and NASL don’t even have true nationwide footprints – and they are far more established than any new upstart pro league can hope to be.

USSF needs to step in and create true league standards for sanctioned leagues all the way down the pyramid. And this doesn’t just hold true for the APS. It stands for the American National Soccer League (which appears to be an offshoot founded by clubs from the defunct National Stars Soccer League) and members of the more recently defunct Southern Premier Soccer League (some of the SPSL clubs have since joined the NPSL). I’m sure these club and league owners have a great dream and a lot of heart for the beautiful game, but further fracturing the professional landscape in this country only sets back its development. As it stands there are good options at all levels of the pyramid for aspiring club owners. There are a host of USASA sanctioned leagues operating at local levels where clubs can be run on extremely small budgets. The NPSL represents another affordable option with a truly national footprint. United Soccer Leagues offers several quality leagues on both the men’s and women’s side of the game from the youth level, up to fourth division PDL, through third division USL Pro. For owners with even more ambition and financial clout there is second division NASL.

I will readily admit each of these leagues has their own set of issues. But they are all reasonably established and offer a wide variety of options to cater to club owners particular desires. In fact, there are professional clubs operating in both the NPSL and PDL. By starting yet another league all we are doing is diluting the upper ends of the pyramid and perpetuating the instability that already plagues our second, third, and fourth divisions.

MLS vs. USL vs. NASL

There has been significant debate about the quality of USL PRO vs. NASL and while that debate has subsided a bit as the leagues have had some time to get over the USL/Traffic fracture I thought it would make for an interesting project to try and compare the quality of the leagues now that we have a couple seasons worth of results to compare. This is an idea I’ve kicked around for a while, but after attending the Orlando City vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies match I though I’d give it a go.

To start, a few notes on methodology: I will primarily be looking at quality as a function of results – that is, quality will be decided in terms of wins/losses/draws. I am aware that this is not always the best way to examine ‘quality’, but I have also found that MOST times the sides exhibiting technical prowess tend to do the best (again, there are exceptions like Chelsea in Champions League play last season and even then Chelsea is still pretty high up the ladder in Europe and it may not be fair to consider them a true exception). So, to have results to compare I will be drawing from 2012 and 2013 preseason results as well as the 2012  US Open Cup competition. I will weight both preseason and US Open Cup matches the same (though an argument could be made to give a slight advantage to Open Cup matches). In addition, I have included MLS in this survey for two reasons; 1. because it interests me and 2. because it provides another benchmark with which to compare the relative quality of both USL and NASL performances (it gives me a larger sample size to work with). Here’s what I came up with:

USL PRO Record vs. NASL = 3W, 1L, 1D, 7GF, 4GA (based on 5 matches)

NASL Record vs. USL PRO = 1W, 3L, 1D, 4GF, 7GA (based on 5 matches)

USL PRO Record vs. MLS = 5W, 11L, 1D, 25GF, 39GA (based on 17 matches)

NASL Record vs. MLS = 2W, 12L, 4D, 14GF, 36GA (based on 18 matches)

Head to head this suggests USL PRO is slightly ahead of NASL. It should be noted that 4 out of the 5 matches were decided by 1 goal or less. Thus with a larger sample size NASL could easily see the results swing back there way a bit. But until we have more results I give +1 to USL PRO.

Comparing each league based on results vs. MLS clubs also shows USL PRO with a slight edge. They have more victories though in terms of losses both NASL and USL PRO fared about the same. The goals for statistic leans heavily in favor of USL PRO who managed to score almost 2x the amount of goals against MLS as NASL. Goals against is almost even, slightly favoring NASL. I have to give USL PRO the nod here as well based on the greater number of victories and a significant lead on GF/GA ratio.

So for now, the scale is tipped in favor of USL PRO – though I expect to see the stats level off through the rest of this pre-season and into the 2013 US Open Cup. In fact, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see NASL surpass USL come the start of the 2014 season.

Closing thoughts: to be really thorough with a study of this nature we really need a bigger sample size. The numbers show one story right now, but with just a couple more games could easily lean the other direction. It should also be noted that looking at things in terms of leagues assumes a general parity between the teams in each league. Potentially a pretty big assumption, but until the sample size is better there isn’t much of a choice.

I believe these results raise some interesting questions regarding the ‘product’ of these leagues. It would be interesting to  compare the average ‘wage bills’ of the respective leagues and see how that plays into the equation. Ultimately, I think there are big implications for any would be club owner on which league offers a better ROI.

 

I-4 Derby

I-4 Derby

Yes, we really did see a Ralph’s Mob member get arrested… haven’t been able to find out what for though. [Image taken from Iron Lion Firm twitter feed].

Saturday evening was Orlando Cities first real home test of the 2013 campaign (I’m not counting the Disney Classic as those matches were not played at the Citrus Bowl) and saw City line up against 2012 NASL champions the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Orlando City supporters groups Iron Lion Firm and RUCKUS were out in full force with a display that would rival some MLS club supporters. A small contingent of Ralph’s Mob made the 1.5 hr. trek, though they couldn’t be heard over the home supporters.

Having played each other only a couple of weeks ago at the Disney Pro Classic, both sides moved quickly to challenge off the kickoff. Orlando City kept constant pressure on the Rowdies defense and despite several quality chances couldn’t convert. Tampa didn’t challenge nearly as often, but they gave the Orlando defense fits when they did. Eventually, a very poor pass from the defense was intercepted by a Rowdies forward and slotted home for an easy goal.

Down 1-0 at the half, Orlando came out hungry for a goal and equalized quickly. 10 minutes later they tallied a second, and yet another midway through the second half. The match started to look a bit one one sided and was getting pretty chippy when the referee awarded Tampa Bay a free kick just outside of the Orlando penalty area. It was a well taken free kick and sailed right passed the goal keeper for the Rowdies second tally of the night.

The score ended 3-2 in favor of Orlando City, a result that looked closer than the game really was. I was impressed with the level of play and temp the Orlando side displayed and honestly a bit surprised they handled Tampa Bay so easily. I was expecting more of the NASL club, perhaps because they are ‘Division 2’ while Orlando is ‘Division 3’.

I don’t know if I’ll make it to Tampa for the second leg of the derby, but I will definitely be making it out to as many Orlando City matches as I can fit into my schedule!