How The New USL Soccer Pyramid Could Impact US Soccer


In a landscape of American soccer desperately searching for its newest generation of stars (or at the very least relevancy), media pundits around the country continue to criticize the development of soccer players within the United States. For years American soccer has been plagued by a complicated web of leagues that either fizzle out within the first few years, or struggle to stay afloat, albeit with minimal fandom and little consistency. But with a new announcement from the United Soccer League (USL), perhaps the development of American soccer could be taking a step into a new brighter direction.

This past September, the USL announced a new branding of their league that will adopt two additional leagues, underneath their already successful, first league. Starting in 2018, the top division of the USL will become the USL Championship, a new league known as USL League One will be created, and the USL will adopt all 74 Premier Development League (PDL) teams and rebrand them as the USL League Two. In all, there will be upwards of 100 teams, in markets all over the country, falling under the USL branding.  

So what does this really mean for US soccer? In player terms, it means that more American born players will get opportunities to pursue their professional dreams. In a larger sense, it means that the United States is finally attempting to adopt a format that has been wildly successful in European markets over the last century plus. Here is how the full USL pyramid will look, starting in the 2019 season.


The USL Championship is thriving today, and looks to continue to grow in 2019. With a massive fan population of over 84 million people, the top level of the USL has one goal: bring high level soccer to a country demanding it. Starting in 2019, the Championship will feature 35 teams in 35 very different markets. In the recent USL playoffs, we got to see just how dynamic this league really is with clubs like Phoenix Rising, Louisville City, and New York Red Bulls II making legitimate championship runs.

All three clubs boast very different dynamics and fan atmospheres that make them enticing for different reasons. For fans in New York, watching the Red Bulls II offers them a chance to watch high level soccer at an affordable price. Fans of the MLS Red Bulls can watch potential first-team players compete at the USL level, in hopes of a call-up. In Louisville, the defending USL champions represent the lone professional soccer team in Kentucky. Fans throughout the state drive to Louisville to watch players like Jamaican international Speedy Williams, play for their home state team. Of course, Phoenix Rising have become one of the most talked about clubs in the league, with wealthy investors and legends like Didier Drogba, hoping that they can eventually make the leap to the MLS.

The new USL pyramid does not bring any monumental changes to the top level. For fans of the league, the limited alteration of the USL Championship should come as no surprise. The league is thriving, and here’s to hoping for more of the same in 2019.


The USL League one is where things begin to get interesting.. Executives of the USL are branding the newly developed league “the foundation of professional soccer”. The new league, which will debut in 2019 with ten teams, is all about developing fan bases in places that have not been able to facilitate consistent team atmospheres. In short, the whole league is about building a foundation of US soccer. For coaches and players, this gives them a chance to gain more exposure as their teams will be operating under the USL umbrella, and for fans it gives them a chance to root on their teams and enjoy the wild fan experience that is completely unique to the game of top level soccer. Much like the USL Championship, this league brings soccer to communities that may never be able to facilitate an MLS or USL Championship team. The league is geared for markets with 150,000 to 1,000,000 in population. Next season, we will see teams like the Greenville Triumph SC out of Greenville South Carolina, the Richmond Kickers, out of Richmond Virginia, and Lansing Ignite FC out of Lansing Michigan. This league is completely unprecedented, and represents a phenomenal opportunity to prospective professional athletes hoping to carve out a career.  


The final, and lowest, level of the pyramid is the USL League Two. The Premier Development League also known as the PDL, has now joined forces with the USL to make up the USL League Two. Currently there are an incredible 74 teams in the PDL, competing in four different conferences, and 11 different divisions, throughout North America. For the USL, this represents an opportunity to increase player scouting and development, for the PDL this merge represents an opportunity to have guaranteed sponsorship, financial support, and more name recognition. Today, it may be fair to say that this league is the most important league in North American soccer, with regards to player development. So here is what you need to know about the league..

First of all, the vast majority of USL League Two players are college players. This gives high level college athletes a chance to get their first taste of professional soccer, and gain invaluable exposure. The athletes can remain eligible with their college programs due to the fact that most USL League Two teams do not pay their players. This offers collegiate athletes a chance to gain more exposure, and experience their first professional coaching. While the partnership with the USL does not represent a monumental change for the PDL, due to the fact that the league has already been in operation for over twenty years (the league was founded in 1995), the change is the way in which USL League Two players will be scouted.

Despite the fact that more than 70% of all players selected in the MLS SuperDraft over the past eight years, played in the PDL, a large number of PDL athletes failed to move on from the PDL level. For a long time, the opportunity after playing with your PDL club was limited to moving up through your club ranks (such as Portland Timbers U23’s, to the Timbers II, to the Timbers), or making a lateral move to another PDL team. Now these USL League Two clubs will be scouted heavily by USL League One coaches and executives. Look for a number of League Two players to make the climb through the USL ranks, starting as early as 2019.  

How Big Is This Move?

Despite the clear efforts by the USL to increase respectability in American soccer, some media pundits still do not think the move is enough. All I know, is that this is a clear step in the right direction. The layout of the league lends itself perfectly to a relegation/promotion system (look for this to be implemented in the next decade), allows small clubs to find league wide sponsorship, and helps athletes of all ages gain more recognition. This may not be the one step that fixes soccer here in the United States, but it does represent a positive change, and just one more chance for young dreamers to become a Legend.


The Origin and Significance of the FA Cup

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Over the last few centuries, the beautiful game of soccer has developed into the world’s biggest sport. Historians can trace the origins of soccer back to Japanese dynasties and Spartan warriors, but when did the sport truly begin to resemble the game we love to play and watch, today? Unsurprisingly, soccer began to morph into its modern day iteration, in England in the late 19th century.

The Game Develops Through English Schools:

In 1863, the Football Association (FA) was formed and became the governing body for association football throughout England. At the time, there were few rules and regulations that were consistently enforced throughout the country, yet alone on an international level. That all changed as the FA began to discuss development of the game’s rules in a concrete fashion that would allow for a completely unprecedented level of consistency.


Prior to the formation of the FA, football was played primarily among competing academic institutions. Football had become an integral part of school activities in England, as the ruling-class believed that playing team sports would help develop character, mix various economic classes, and develop a level of toughness among the English youth. The youth that grew up on the game of football, took the game to the next level; either at their universities (Oxford and Cambridge were some of the first universities to sanction competitive football), or into the armed forces. By the late 1850’s, the game had developed at an entirely unpredicted rate, throughout the country. Inevitably, fans of the game began to see that football was transitioning from the pitches of private schools, to the amatuer, and later, the professional level.

The Birth of the FA Cup:


While the Football Association (FA) was formed in 1863, its most substantial contribution to the game of football wouldn’t arrive until 1871, when the FA announced its first challenge cup for all clubs residing within the association. In all, around fifty clubs were eligible to take part in the first cup, yet only fifteen clubs made the decision to join the list. From London to Scotland, clubs like Crystal Palace and Queen’s Park became part of one of the most influential competitions in global football history. Despite the low number of participants, the inaugural FA Cup was a wild success. Approximately two thousand English football fans attended the final game, as Morton Betts of the London based Wanderers Football Club scored the game winning goal, to earn the victory. The Wanderers would go on to win an additional four cup titles, before the end of the decade.

Why the FA Cup Matters Today:


The FA Cup represented a change in the viewership and fandom of football, but more than anything forced the Football Association to develop a standard set of rules and regulations for the game. After a decade of playing on various sized pitches, with differing goal dimensions, and an inconsistent set of rules, the governing body of the largest football tournament in England, decided it was time for a change. In 1882, the FA Cup witnessed the implementation of a standard crossbar for each goal used in the tournament. That same year, consistent field dimensions were marked as pitch boundaries, a half-field line was established, and goalkeeper boxes were implemented. Over the next few years, various rules began to shape the game we know today. In 1887, the penalty area was officially established, awarding those fouled in the box a valuable penalty kick. By 1891, a three-person refereeing system had been established that officially signified the birth of modern day soccer. The regulations developed by the FA had a lasting impact on English football, and permeated into leagues around the world.

Modern Day English Football:

Today, football is thriving in England. With the English Premier League standing as a pinnacle of European football, the country is home to some of the greatest players and teams in the world. While an English based team has not taken home the European Championship trophy since the 2012 season, when Chelsea Football Club brought the championship banner home to London, English teams are constantly in the upper echelons of European competition.


On the international level, a new generation of English football has fans throughout the country ecstatic about their prospects at the 2022 World Cup Championship, in Qatar. The development of the Football Association (FA) Cup, led to an internationally recognized standard of rules, that now regulates much of global football. The cup itself has grown into an international phenomenon, as millions of fans around the world watched Chelsea beat Manchester United in Wembley Stadium, to claim the 2018 FA Cup championship.

With growing leagues and ever-increasing international fan bases, it is fair to say that soccer is overwhelmingly the most popular sport in the world. For many, it is easy to see the modern game and forget the way it was once played from the hills of Japan to the muddy fields of English academies. Regardless, of how soccer began in any one country, the game and its story is one of global significance. It truly is the stuff of Legend.



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The Story of the Spartan Game of Episkyros

While the earliest known origins of soccer can be traced back to the early dynasties of Japan, soccer is a game that made its way through countless cultures, before ultimately becoming a global phenomenon. Despite the fact that some view modern day soccer as less of a physical game than other corporate sports such as American football, hockey, and basketball; one of the oldest known forms of soccer (as recognized by FIFA), comes straight from the spartan warriors of Greece.


Much like the Japanese game of cuju, the spartans of Greece had their own iteration of modern day football, albeit a much more physical one. The greek game was known simply as Episkyros. While the game of cuju resembled contemporary soccer simply in the use of feet, the spartans were much more influential in developing the collaborative team aspects of soccer that still play an integral part of the beautiful game.

The Lasting Impact of Episkyros:

The game of Episkyros was originally developed in Ancient Greece during the Greek Dark Ages, prior to 9th century BC. Due in large part to the heavy militarization of Greece, during this time period, it should come as no surprise that the game was founded on team organization and defensive formation. In its earliest form, the game featured two, twelve or fourteen player, teams handling one ball with either their hands or their feet. The goal of the game was simple: get the ball past a white goal line (known as the skuros) that the opposing team is working to defend.

While Episkyros differs from cuju, in the way that players can utilize their hands, the game was much closer to modern day soccer in terms of strategy, defensive communication, and means of scoring. Episkyros had a monumental impact on Greek society, none more so than in the famed city of Sparta.


Episkyros represented a fun competition that served as a great distraction for everyone in Sparta, especially spartan warriors. Every year, an annual tournament was played at a Sparta city festival. The festival tournament usually featured five teams, and countless community members would sit and cheer on their respective teams. The Sparta city festival tournament, represented one of the earliest known organized football competitions, albeit in an incredibly raw form. Years later, the game of Episkyros spread across national borders, as the Romans took their own spin on the game, calling their new iteration Harpastum.

Modern Day Football in Greece:


To truly understand the impact of Episkyros on the world of soccer, one can simply look at the recent success of Greek football. With a prominent Super League, featuring highly respected European clubs, from Olympiacos F.C. to AEK Athens F.C., the game of football continues to play a prominent role in Greek culture. On the international level, Greece is growing into a consistent threat. After failing to qualify for a World Cup tournament from 1954 to 1990, Greece has turned into a consistent contender for World Cup qualification; qualifying for 3 of the last 7 World Cup tournaments. Greece’s most recent international success came in 2014, when they made it to the Round of 16 in Brazil’s World Cup. The Greeks ultimately fell to Keylor Navas’ Costa Rican squad, in penalties, but the performance represented the start of a new era in Greek football. With only ten million citizens, Greece continues to fight an uphill battle against more-populated European powers, for respect in the beautiful game. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Greek football continue to surge into global relevance… After all, this is sparta….

Here is a link to a really cool piece that shows Greek athletes playing Episkyros. The piece is now located in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens:

Sources: (Sports and Games of the Ancients: Author Steve Craig)


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Cuju and the Han Dynasty

Today the game of soccer has grown into a global phenomenon, unlike any other. For countries like the United States, soccer remains a secondary corporate sport, but for the vast majority of the globe, soccer is more than a sport: it is a religion. According to renowned soccer author David Goldblatt, FIFA believes “that around a billion people play the game reasonably formally. That’s 50 million referees, balls and pitches and 25 million kilometres of white lines, enough to circle the earth over a thousand times” (Goldblatt, xv). But how did we get to this point?

The history of soccer twists and turns around the globe, from the hills of Asia to the coasts of Africa. The game of soccer has outlasted governing bodies, global crisis, and thousands of cultural fads; but to truly understand where the beautiful game is now, we have to dive into where it began.


The Game of Cuju:


To find some of the first traces of any games that remotely resemble modern day soccer, one must travel to an unsuspecting place: China in 206 BCE. Under the control of the great Han dynasty, China had become a pillar of innovation, art, and political stability. For upwards of four decades the Han dynasty ruled over China, rivaling more well-known empires from the West, as one of the most dominant dynasties in human history. Perhaps the most influential stamp the Han dynasty left on the world, is one of the globe’s first developed versions of soccer, known as cuju.

Cuju, which translates directly to kickball, was played with a round ball, two goals, and two teams working their hardest to score goals. Sound familiar?

The game of Cuju was played with a leather ball stuffed with various furs or feathers. The goals were made of either crescent shaped pieces of wood, or a silk sheet, with a hole in it, hung between two bamboo posts. While the game featured some use of hands, and certainly carried a higher level of physicality than our modern game of soccer/football, cuju certainly laid the groundwork for what has become the world’s most popular game.

The Game Splinters:

As time wore on, new dynasties came into power, yet cuju remained a pillar of Chinese culture for some time. Through both the Tang (618-907 CE) and Song (960-1279 CE) dynasties the game of cuju, continued to be played, but the game had been splintered, as Goldblatt writes of “a formal separation” of cuju into two games: Bai Da and Zhu Qui (Goldblatt, 6).


The separation of cuju into two separate games, was largely based on a separation of wealth and poverty. The elites of China began to play Bai Da, which resembled cuju in almost every tactical way, while the poorer Chinese athletes began playing Zhu Qui, a game that featured only one goal, and aerial acrobatics (much like modern-day juggling). While the games would be played for years after the Han dynasty had fallen, the separation of the games ultimately limited the growth of the sport, and with the rise of the Ming Dynasty, in the coming decades, cuju would finally disappear.

Modern Day Soccer in China:

Today, soccer is back and thriving in China. Current President Xi Jinping, is a fanatic of the beautiful game and continues to work to make his country a perennial power in a rapidly growing soccer world. Through investment in cutting-edge training equipment and state of the art stadiums, Jinping is hoping to incentivize a new generation of Chinese youth into becoming the nation’s first great soccer generation.


Creating top of the line athletes has never been a problem for China, as they consistently compete in the Olympic games, at a very high level. But for a country of discipline to truly embrace the culture of soccer, they must also embrace creativity, diversity, and improvisation.

As soccer, once again, becomes a pillar of Chinese culture, Jinping will rely on a growing Chinese Super League (which recently added international stars Axel Witsel and Hulk, among others), and a cultural embracement of a game already embraced by the rest of the world. Perhaps a re-investment in their past, could make all the difference in establishing a soccer future, in China.


A Brief History of Human Bamboo-Use

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Last week, we explored the environmental implications of the plastic products we use everyday. From plastic pollution, to negative contributions to a rapidly changing climate, our addiction to plastic is coming with irreversible consequences. So when a couple of soccer players began brainstorming on the idea of making a product soccer players, like us, would love, we knew one thing: we could not use plastic.

So, we began researching sustainable resources and product development. When we decided to design our Legend I Shinguard with bamboo, we briefly thought we were at the cutting edge of bamboo innovation… We were wrong.

Early Human-Use of Bamboo:


The earliest use of bamboo, from a human perspective, can be traced back thousands of years; As a number of communities found that bamboo was a great sustainable food source. More than seven thousand years ago, the first uses of bamboo, as more than a dining option, originated in China, as communities began to use bamboo to craft building materials, books, and arrows for hunting.


Fast forward a few thousand years, and bamboo finally found its way into modern product manufacturing here in the United States. Although bamboo was used as a building material in eastern regions of the world, for centuries, American manufacturers failed to recognize the great benefits of the plant, until researchers became intrigued by its renewability and durable nature, in the early portions of the twentieth century.

With the help of qualified scientists, a number of American companies recognized the vast potential of bamboo through the realization that bamboo is grown in a number of ecosystems (including ones located here in the United States), and can grow to adult height, and width, in as few as sixty days. Today, bamboo is used to make everyday products in an environmentally sustainable manner, it is also used in innovative landscaping and architecture.

Common Modern-Day Uses of Bamboo:

Today, bamboo is used by countless manufacturing companies. Sustainable design corporations have replaced conventional lumber with bamboo products, manufacturing corrugated roofing, beams, and flooring from bamboo. Bamboo is also replacing conventional lumber in the pulp and paper industry, as newspapers, toilet paper, and cardboard packaging can now be crafted out of bamboo. Bamboo has even made its way into the textile industry, as dozens of companies are now making bamboo clothing, bedding, and even products like diapers. In short, bamboo has become integrated into virtually all manufacturing industries..But why now?


The Renewable Aspects of Bamboo:

Facing the implications of global pollution and Climate Change, companies around the world have been searching for ways to ditch products made from fossil fuels, for more sustainable alternatives. Bamboo has become the popular choice for many companies, including our own. The decision to use bamboo was an easy one for us, due to the sustainable cultivation and renewability of the plant.


While there are over a thousand types of bamboo, almost all types of bamboo can fully mature in under five years. Bamboo can be grown without the use of pesticides, or harmful chemical fertilizers, and also requires zero irrigation. What this all means is that bamboo products do not lead to pollution, and save water within a world that is rapidly running out of it.

While it is amazing, in its own right, that bamboo does not negatively contribute to our carbon footprint (bamboo is carbon neutral), bamboo actually sequesters carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Why We Love Bamboo:


When we chose to make our primary product, the Legend I Shinguard, out of bamboo, we immediately knew we made the right choice. Not only does bamboo represent a move away from harmful fossil fuels, but the plant enabled us to design a sleek, lightweight, and durable product that we believe every soccer player can enjoy. As we move forward as a global population, and begin to see additional environmental consequences of our consumption habits, more and more companies are electing to move forward into sustainability… We are more than happy to do our part.


Standing wth the Sustainable Revolution


Today, we live in a world dominated by plastic. With the average American throwing away approximately 185 pounds of plastic each year. The use of plastic products are having a profound impact on our lived environment, as our cities and roadways are littered with plastic pollution. Tragically, other species that rely on healthy ecosystems for their survival, are beginning to suffer due to our plastic consumption: none more so than our marine life.

At this very moment, traces of plastic sediment can be found floating in approximately 40% of our oceanic ecosystems. Through extensive scientific research, scientists estimate that billions of pounds of plastic pollution now float within our oceans. The impact has been staggering.

The Impact of Plastic on Wildlife:

Thousands of species across the planet have suffered the climatic consequences of our consumptive practices. Hundreds of rainforest species are displaced each day due to mass deforestation, other species face hardships due to rapidly changing temperatures, and here in Montana, species have been posed with the challenge of dealing with a steady increase in annual fire damage. Still, the greatest impact of our consumerism, falls on those that call our oceans home.

According to Ecowatch, an organization that conducts research on the implications of climate change and pollution, over one million seabirds are killed on an annual basis, due to pollution in the ocean, while an additional 100,000 marine mammals die, each year.  

The massive loss of life should not come as much of a surprise, and plastic is the ultimate culprit. Plastic products constitute 90% of trash floating on the ocean surface, and now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states that there is in excess of 46,000 pieces of floating plastic within each square mile of the sea.

Now animals, from sea-turtles to small fish, are mistaking pieces of plastic pollution for food and are suffering painful fatal digestive injuries. In recent studies, scientists found that 22% of all cetaceans, 44% of all seabird species, and every single sea turtle species have been found with traces of plastic in their stomachs. For these species, the plastic crisis is not going away unless we make drastic changes to our consumption habits, and now other species are beginning to face the implications of a consumerist society dominated by plastic: including our own.

Plastic Consumption and the Climate Crisis:


When most people talk about plastic and the environment, the conversation starts and ends with pollution, and for good reason too; We only recover approximately 5% of all the plastic we produce, globally. But in truth, plastic consumption is a contributing factor to a much more severe environmental catastrophe: Climate Change. The vast majority of plastic products, sold both domestically and on the US market, are produced from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, like coal, natural gas, and oil, are the driving force of the global economy; but they have also become the driving force behind a rapidly changing climate. Today, the climate is changing due, in large part, to the emission of greenhouse gasses, and carbon dioxide makes up approximately 65% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The primary human caused source of carbon dioxide emission is the production of fossil fuels.


While fossil fuels play a number of important roles in our lives: they heat many of our homes, and they power most of our vehicles. It is important to note that plastic production plays a monumental role in the furthering of fossil fuel interests. According to the EPA, plastic manufacturing uses just under 10% of the global oil supply.

The implications of Climate Change are already bringing drastic changes to our planet. 2016 marked the hottest temperature year since 1880, sea levels are rising at their fastest rates in approximately 2,000 years, and the levels of ocean acidification (caused primarily by greenhouse emissions), are at their highest point since before the Industrial Revolution.. Changing the way we think about what we consume, may be the only way to help the planet we call home.

What Do Shin Guards Have to do With It?

While sports are commonly viewed as a helpful distraction from the problems of the world, sports oftentimes contribute negatively to the problems at hand. In the case of Climate Change, the vast majority of sporting stadiums are powered by fossil fuels, and most every professional team utilizes equipment made with plastic: including shin guards.

The vast majority of shin guards are made from either plastic, fiberglass, or foam rubber.

In the case of plastic, the environmental impacts are well documented (see above), but the other resources used to make shin guards are not much better. Fiberglass is, in all actuality, just a commonly used fiber-reinforced plastic; meaning it comes with many of the same environmental complications. Additionally, fiberglass can be dangerous to those working in production, and previous health issues have prompted both the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), to conduct health studies and develop pre-emptive measures to help workers avoid life-threatening health issues.

Foam rubber is not as dangerous as fiberglass, during the production process, but once the foam has been produced it is non-recyclable. Foam rubber plays a secondary role to plastic in contributing to global pollution.

What We Believe:

At Legend Soccer Company, our team believes in developing a product that helps soccer players on the field, without negatively impacting the world around the pitch. So, when designing our Legend I Shin Guard, we knew we wanted to build a high-quality product with sustainable means of production. Thus, we elected to build our product using bamboo, a highly renewable resource with incredible durability. For more information on the sustainable aspects of bamboo, check out next week’s blog, focusing on one of the world’s most amazing plants.

As a company of soccer players, we have dedicated countless hours to the development of a product that fulfills a purpose for players, at every level. We are proud of the sleek aesthetic of the Legend I Shin Guard, as well as its durability. Still, perhaps more than anything, we are proud of the fact that we are an active part of a movement away from plastic production.


At the end of the day, we will always love the beautiful game, we’re just more than happy to work towards helping this beautiful planet.


The History and Regulations of the Soccer Shin Guard

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In the history of sport, safety has not always been the highest of priorities. From Roman gladiators to the likes of Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson, an element of pain has always been at the forefront of celebrated competition. But with an evolving society has come an evolving emphasis on the safety of athletes. As American football decision makers continue to search for rule changes that can increase athletic longevity and decrease life-long health implications, other sports have also worked to implement safety measures for athletes: soccer is no exception.

These days, goalkeepers are protected like quarterbacks, video replays give referees the power to book players minutes after an initial foul, and shin guards are a prerequisite to stepping on the pitch at any competitive level. Here at Legend Soccer Company, we have worked diligently to increase comfortability and durability, in the one piece of protective equipment mandated by FIFA regulations. But, the history of the shin guard began long before any of us were born…

The Story of the Shin Guard:

Sport has long resembled a simulation of war-time; Sending our greatest athletes to go to battle, as others watch in admiration. So it is not surprising that soccer’s greatest piece of armor was designed after the real thing. The earliest shin guard was made to resemble the grieve, a piece of armor used by Greek and Roman warriors designed for the sole purpose of leg protection during battles. The earliest known records of shin guards (again, utilized during times of war), can be traced all the way back to 700 B.C. The shield has stood the test of time.


In the nineteenth century, the shin guard transitioned from the battlefield to the playing field, as the device began to make its way into the game of cricket. While shin guards were initially utilized in cricket to gain an offensive advantage for the batsman, they would eventually become a mainstay for their protective faculties. By the late 1800’s, the shin guard was being sporadically introduced into the game of soccer (or Association Football); the game would never be the same.

The initial implementation of the shin guard, within a soccer realm, was forwarded by Sam Weller Widdowson. Widdowson, a former cricket player, made his Football name with England’s Nottingham Forest. After years of playing soccer, Widdowson began searching for a way to avoid injury in defensive challenges, and drew upon his cricket experience. When Widdowson decided to cut a pair of his cricket shin pads and strap them to outside of his socks, he could not have possibly understood the impact of his decision. After facing initial jeers from both teammates and opponents, Widdowson witnessed as other players began to design their own makeshift shin protectors.


Today, the shin guard has become a pillar of modern soccer, and regulations at the corporate and youth level, prohibit players from competition without them.

Modern Shin Guard Regulations:


While shin-guards are rarely closely inspected by referees at the youth level, at the high school level, shin guards are regulated by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). Referees at the higher levels will regularly inspect shin guards, ensuring that the guards are an appropriate size in relation to the height of the player, while also making sure that the guards rest no more than 2 inches over the player’s ankle. It is also mandatory that all players wear their guards underneath their socks.

At the professional level, shin guards are regulated by FIFA, but have limited restrictions as far as the physical dimensions or placement of the guards. Unlike the kits that players wear (which must be from the same sponsor), players are allowed to wear any brand of shin guard they would like.


When Sam Weller Widdowson invented the shin guard, he did so for the main purpose of protection. But the added protection came with other in-game benefits: as Widdowson, and others like him, began to play with more confidence on the ball, and an increased willingness to get into defensive challenges. Finding a shin guard you can trust, can make all the difference in how you approach the game. A durable shin guard makes a braver player, a comfortable shin guard makes a more technical one. As shin guards continue to be the lone mandated piece of protective equipment in modern soccer, finding your shield can be the biggest decision you can make before heading into battle.  

While cherishing the incredible timeline of the game of soccer, the game continues to move forward in global popularity, and societal relevance. This beautiful game we all love, is constantly searching for it’s newest Legend. You could be next...




Designing the Perfect Shin Guard

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Writing about shin guards brings up a great deal of irony for me.  Playing the game my entire life, one thing was clear...everyone hated wearing them or didn’t care about them.  I could categorize myself as someone that hated wearing them.  They got in the way while I was playing, I didn’t think it hurt that bad when I got knock on the leg, and I was always adjusting them when I was playing.  Looking back, my efforts to avoid wearing them or replace them with cardboard, always seemed futile.  The inevitable fact remained, YOU HAVE TO WEAR THEM.  The irony continues with launching a soccer company with the flagship product being a shin guard.  


So…if we were going to build a shin guard it had to be the greatest shin guard ever made.   How to do this?  Well…the first step is using a material that’s just all around better then the rest.  

  • Strong

  • Light-weight

  • Anti-Bacterial

  • Resistant to moisture

  • Eco-Friendly

  • Odorless

  • Ability to manipulate in multiple shapes

  • Unforgettable


This just happened to be the same material in applications ranging from cutting boards to skyscrapers….BAMBOO.  

That’s a good start…we found the ultimate material for a shin guard.  Now…we had to create a design that we would want to wear.  This will definitely be a challenge, considering the disgust we have for the retched device.  So…the goal must be to create an unnoticeable shin guard. Meaning, you don’t have to keep adjusting them, they stay out of the way of your touch, but always provide a sufficient amount of protection.  Obviously this isn’t an easy task, but it's something that the world needed. We’re happy to put this impossible mission on our shoulders. 


What we noticed about every other shin guard, is their design is usually rectangular.  Looking at the structure of our legs, this made no sense. Since humans aren’t ridged squared off creatures, we thought a shin guard should mirror the shape of your leg. This is where our patented teardrop shape was born. Matching the curvature of your leg, our design has a natural and unnoticeable feel, while protecting 7 inches of shinbone in the high impact zone.  

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Shin guards are there to provide protection, but what’s the major goal of that protection?  Should it cover the ankle, shin, calf, knee etc? According to major studies, the primary goal of a shin guard is to protect the leg from fractures in the high impact zone.


The high impact zone is positioned in the center of the ankle and knee, where the leg is susceptible to fractures in a game.  At younger age groups, protecting lower parts of the shin and ankle is more of a priority. Younger players are still learning the game and their touch/skill is still developing.  This creates a higher need to protect other parts of the leg as there're more accidental impacts.  As a player grows, so does their game.  Older players become more predictable and the need to protect those areas are outweighed by the need to allow your foot and ankle the freedom it needs to play.  As we grow up, the game becomes more skillful and that need begins to retract.  That being said, it was essential they were not only strong, but stronger than anything we’ve seen before. The theatrical video below is not just a eye catching promotion, but proof that the LEGEND 1 can take a hit.  




So the combination of all these factors has resulted in the design you see today.  This design partnered with incredible properties of bamboo has provided the soccer industry with the perfect shin guard.  


So how do you attach your shin guards?  We’ve seen it all and have outlined all of the problems. 

Velcro strap


  • Uncomfortable

  • After continued use, the Velcro detaches too easily

Tape – Athletic or Electrical


  • You never remember to grab tape and always asking someone else for it.

  • You have to get the tightness perfect or you lose circulation.

  • One-time use

  • Tape loosens up during the game and guards start to fall.



  • You forget to grab some and then ask someone for tape.

  • One time use

  • It’s hard to find prewrap unless you’re freinds with your trainer

The answer?


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We provide our customers with two custom sleeves to ensure their shin guards don’t move while playing.   Our high quality athletic compression material not only allows for no movement during the game, but helps promote circulation, blood flow, and reduces chances of injury.  Simply put your sleeves on first, your sock over the top and slip in your shin guards. 

In addition to the benefits of securing your guards, compression sleeves aid in muscle recovery.

Wearing compression sleeves enables blood flow to circulate quicker, which helps your muscles recover from physical activity. Keeping oxygenated blood flowing to muscles is important for performance. The more oxygen the cells have, the better they will function. During exercise, the body produces lactic acid as a waste product. If this lactic acid is not removed from the muscles, it can contribute to soreness and decreased ability to perform. 

Recent studies show that with an optimal level of consistent compression, the walls of the arteries will dilate, increasing the blood flow through them. Arterial blood flow has been shown to increase up to 40% during activity and 30% during recovery. This means more oxygen and nutrients flowing through the body! On the other hand, the walls of the veins will constrict under compression, which helps to increase the velocity of blood flow through them. Increased velocity of blood flow through veins means that deoxygenated blood and lactic acid will get back to the heart quicker, which will help to increase the rate of recovery and decrease muscle soreness! Compression will also help to stabilize the muscle and decrease the amount of muscular vibration, resulting in decreased fatigue.


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Lastly, we wanted to build a shin guard that we could stand behind…not just literally.  It was essential that we manufacture in the United States.  Nearly every shin guard/all soccer products on the market are outsourced to different countries.  Cheap labor and decreased quality standards allow for companies to squeeze the most profit out of their product. Outsourced production primarily benefits the countries where production takes place. There’s an estimated 14 million outsourced jobs, which is almost double the 7.5 million unemployed Americans. Those jobs being returned would be enough to also hire the 5.7 million who are working part-time.

Our goal is to produce quality soccer specific products produced in the place we call HOME.  We're proud to manufacture in the great state of Michigan!  With 4 years of research and development, we had to come up with a process to build shin guards that’s never been done. Our advanced engineering techniques allow us to manipulate a natural material, but still take advantage of it’s incredible characteristics. We’re able to provide a thin/minimal bamboo outer shell, but allow for and incredible strength-to-weight ratio. 

To wrap this up, we take great pride in the LEGEND 1 and hope to prove to the industry that we’re able to produce high performance and eco-friendly products right here in the USA.  

Is it the perfect shin guard?  We think so, but I think you should try them out for yourself.  Until next time...


Sean Person


Legend Soccer Co. 



Why a bamboo shin guard?

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I thought it was fitting to have our first blog post land on the day dedicated to our planet. It seems somewhat backwards to have only ONE day committed to the earth, but that’s maybe a topic for later. 

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Our newly founded company recently released a bamboo shin guard for the soccer industry. An eco-friendly option within a product category usually dominated by plastic.  With the release of this product, a portion of our promotional strategies are targeted towards soccer tournaments in the states. We’ve discovered that once you get our shin guards into someone’s hands, something happens. It’s hard to explain, but they feel the grains of the bamboo and the smell of the freshly burnt Legend logo, and it seems that they make a connection. Even if they’re not in the market for a new pair of guards, they find themselves holding them for a while. In an industry dominated by brightly colored, synthetic, and outsourced products, we find that our customers make a deep rooted connection to something natural. Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize it’s only a shin guard.  We’re not collecting mass amounts of garbage from the oceans, building electric cars, or engineering a new solar panel, but the response we see is pretty incredible.  It seems like no matter how hard the human race tries to remove ourselves from nature, we’re constantly getting reminded to re-connect.  We’ve seen our guards act as that reminder.

At these tournaments, we get all sorts of questions about our product. There’s a lot of great inquires, but we frequently get asked Why? Why a bamboo shin guard? We have many different educated answers to this question, considering bamboo is basically the perfect natural based material for a shin guard, but a few times, I’ve simply said, “have you guys seen pictures of that giant garbage island in the ocean?”.  I get all sorts of responses, but a majority of the time, they understand. Without telling them any of the other incredible benefits of bamboo, they have an understanding of why it’s important to find a replacement for plastic.  

For those of you that don’t know, there’s a “plastic island” floating in the Pacific Ocean twice the size of Texas or 1.6 million square kilometers. I don’t think a majority of the population can comprehend this (including me), but I personally see it as a modern day tragedy. It’s said that 80% of that debris is made up of plastic. I could go into more detail on the Great Pacific Garbage Ocean Patch, but if you want to read more, CLICK HERE


Specifically for the shin guard, we’ve roughly estimated that for the past 30 years, major brands have produced over 200 million pounds of plastic shin guards throughout the world. Compared to other industries, this is a very small percentage, but this represents 200 million pounds of plastic that will take 500-1,000 years to bio degrade. Additionally, most of us know petroleum is finite…once it’s gone, it’s gone. We scavenge the earth for more of it each year, to “fuel” our planet, but the inevitable fact will end.  

So….why a bamboo shin guard? We think it represents a change. A change in how we not only think about the shin guard, but how we think about producing our products. No matter the environmental significance of a bamboo shin guard, we find that it can represent a lot more.  We think it’s just another example of how humanity and soccer can move closer towards a sustainable future.  

Get outside and enjoy Earth Day 2018!


Sean Person


Legend Soccer Co. 


Out my front door.  Whitefish, MT