Much of my continually expanding appreciation for soccer is attributable not only to direct experiences as a passive observer of the game but also to what has been written about the sport. There is not a lot of soccer reporting in the United States, but in some ways this ends up being a virtue, as people who write about the subject have a remarkable passion for the game.
Brent Latham's recent contribution to the great site This Is American Soccer underscores just how much commitment is required to play in the field. Latham's essay is beautiful and required reading for anyone interested in the game in this country.
Passion for the game continues to be evident in Brian Quarstad's work regarding the second division of soccer in the country. Few people interested in sports seem to be able to bother with the league, but Quarstad continues to bust his rear pulling together essential information for those of us who do care. A little over a week ago, Mr. Quarstad obtained and posted USSF's new standards for Division II soccer and, most recently, took the time to knock down some uninformed and reckless reports spread regarding the future of certain clubs.
The focus of Mr. Quarstad's work is incredibly important. Locally, a complete lack of information from Crystal Palace Baltimore regarding what the heck is going on with the club -- where now game locations and times are announced the day before they are scheduled to occur -- has managed to kill whatever marginal support the club had built up over the last few years. Provided Saturday's game remains in Towson and kicks off at 5 pm, we plan on going to the game, but I can't imagine who else would be bothering to go this year. Although they are certainly not the worst team in the league, the move up has been disastrous for a team that is in a good market; enough so where continued operation in a manner consistent with the characterizations revealed by Mr. Quarstad's work threatens to do grievous harm to the prospects for professional soccer in Baltimore for some time.
If CP Baltimore folds, I will be saddened, but not crushed (silver lining: I will be free to burn the Palace shirts I own). On the other hand, if the Puerto Rico Islanders are cut out of the second division, it will be a disaster. The Islanders are one of the most compelling story lines of second division football here. Puerto Rico plays at a level that makes sense for their market and the Islanders' front office has run the team well enough that they have become a force to reckon with in CONCACAF club play. Over the last few years, I have become a fan of the club, its players, and its supporters. The Islanders have earned a spot in the second division of U.S. soccer and any decision by USSF that would preclude them from keeping a place in the league should be met with heavy opposition from all fans of the game.