The folks at Avoiding the Drop prodigiously churn out blog posts covering a massive variety of topics related to soccer. I have thoroughly enjoyed the depth and breadth of the coverage on the site, but would draw particular attention to two great recent posts:
The Geography of Fandom addresses something that has fascinated me during our various trips to England. How can such a small country support so many football clubs? Rather than just idle curiosity, Avoiding the Drop looks at the numbers, noting that 762(!) teams entered the FA Cup or, broken out by geographic area, one club team for every 66 miles of land in England (a technical point: six of the 762 teams entered in the FA Cup -- Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport County, Wrexham, Cardiff City, and Swansea City -- are from Wales, not England, so the calculation should be 50,346 miles divided by 756 teams or one team for every 67 miles). If the U.S. had the same football club density in their professional pyramid, this country would have 56,972 teams.
The second post, The Distribution of Money in the Champions League and Europa League, is similarly fascinating because of the willingness to look at the actual numbers. UEFA's July 2009 report makes clear how important it is for teams to make the Champions League group stage. In 2008-2009, only two teams that began in the UEFA Cup made serious money from the tournament: Manchester City (5.4 million euros) and Hamburger SV (3.7 million euros). In order to earn those amounts, both teams had to reach the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup. In comparison, each of the 32 teams that reached the group stage of the Champions League received 5.4 million euros just for qualifying. The lowest amount earned by any team qualifying for the group stage was the 6.3 million euros earned by the Belarussian-side FC Bate Borisov. PSV Eindhoven, which, like Bate Borisov, did not make it out of their group, walked away with a 25.6 million euro door prize. In comparison, fellow Dutch sides FC Twente and N.E.C. earned 365,000 euros each for reaching the round of 32 in the UEFA Cup. Ajax made just 455,000 euros by reaching the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup.
While the numbers underscore the massive gulf that separates the Champions League and the Europa League, a closer look at the payouts highlights some irrational absurdity. The team that earned the most money from the UEFA Cup -- Werder Bremen (7.1 million euros) -- had already banked 22.3 million euros from the Champions League before it bowed out of the group stages. In this way, Werder Bremen did better financially by dropping to the UEFA Cup than the teams that made it out of Bremen's group -- Inter and Panathinaikos -- which earned only an additional 2.2 million euros each by moving on. Indeed, Werder Bremen made out better than Liverpool, Villareal, Bayern Munich, and FC Porto, which earned only an additional 4.7 million euros each before falling out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals.