How the Forest Green Rovers Are Revolutionizing the World of Sports

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Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. This summer’s World Cup in Russia, garnered a 3.572 million global television audience. In other words, more than half of the world’s population tuned in to cheer for their favorite teams. But unfortunately, just like all other corporate sports, professional soccer is inherently unsustainable from an environmental perspective.

Plastic silverware, plates, and cups are served in almost every stadium, and the energy (primarily fossil fuel) it takes to power a stadium, is astronomical. In the midst of a global environmental crisis, one professional club is thriving to make a difference. In the summer of 2018, English based club Forest Green Rovers FC became the first United Nations certified carbon-neutral professional sports team.

Becoming Green

The Forest Green Rovers FC, have a rich history in english football. Founded in 1889, the club is based out of Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England. Despite the relatively small fanbase (Nailsworth is home to just over 5,000 people), the club has gained notoriety around the world, for their willingness to implement green technology into their club’s operation. Their games are played in the New Lawn stadium, in Nailsworth, the stadium is 100% powered by renewable energy. Some of New Lawn’s energy is provided by solar panels, that lie at the top of the stadium, the rest of the energy is provided by Ecotricity, an English clean-energy company that gets its energy from a combination of solar, wind, and green gas.

But Forest Green doesn’t stop with the stadium’s energy consumption. They irrigate their pitch with rain water collected beneath the stadium, their grass is cut by a solar-powered robot lawn mower, and they even provide electric car charging stations, to encourage fans to arrive at the stadium as greenly possibly.

The Rovers have also launched a vegan food company called Little Green Devils. The program, which began this past March, aims to provide schools across England with healthy fully vegan food. Over the next few years, the team hopes that the program can extend to universities and even other sporting events. Not only does the vegan diet encourage healthy eating, it is also environmentally sustainable. Livestock produce methane gasses, that contribute to the deterioration of the earth’s ozone layer. In all, livestock emissions makeup a staggering 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Due to the fact that methane gas has 23 times the global warming potential of Co2, going vegan is a great way to contribute to cultivating a healthy planet.

Working with Legend

Today, plastic pollution is destroying ecosystems throughout the globe. Most notably, aquatic species are being harmed due to the amount of plastic in our world’s oceans. When our team at Legend began designing our Legend 1 shin guard, we wanted to develop a product that would help build a greener world. We chose to make our shin guards with bamboo, due to the sustainable principles of bamboo. We are proud to announce that we are partnering with Forest Green Rovers FC, and that many of their players will be donning our guards, in the next English Football League season.

Sources

https://timeforchange.org/are-cows-cause-of-global-warming-meat-methane-CO2

https://www.fgr.co.uk/our-ethos/greening-up-football

https://www.fastcompany.com/90306520/meet-forest-green-rovers-the-british-soccer-team-thats-carbon-neutral-vegan-and-on-a-mission



BREAKING: Cure for Shin Guard Odor Just Discovered.

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Have any of you ever taken off a pair of shin guards, and been utterly disturbed by the odor? For moms of young soccer players, coping with athletic odor is a way of life. Cleats, goalkeeper gloves, and shin guards, are three of the most notoriously smelling pieces of equipment in the world of sports. While we can’t help you with the gloves and the cleats (sorry Mom), we do believe we can help solve the stinky shin guard crisis. How? Because ours don’t stink.

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Bamboo is Antimicrobial

Bamboo in its very nature is an antimicrobial substance. An antimicrobial is an agent that specifically halts the growth of microorganisms. The use of antimicrobials can be traced back thousands of years, all the way to the earliest Egyptian civilizations. Throughout history, antimicrobials have been used in the medical field to kill infections. Today, antimicrobial products are used in dozens of industries, in large part due to their ability to limit odors.

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For any athletes, or parents of athletes, we all understand that sweat is a natural part of the game, and sweat stinks. Yet in all reality, sweat is a virtually odorless substance, to the human nose. So why does it smell so bad? Scientifically speaking sweat smells bad due to the multiplying bacteria (on your skin) that accompanies it. When there is a large enough presence of bacteria, the sweat breaks down into acid, and begins to give off the famously unpleasant odor. Body odors are especially pungent in areas in which sweat can rapidly accumulate, such as armpits and groins. Due to the compression of shin guards, and the heat of your soccer sock,  sweat accumulates at an unnatural rate on your shin.

Enter the antimicrobials…

As mentioned above antimicrobials can kill microorganisms, including odor causing bacteria. For us at Legend, we were initially drawn to bamboo due to its sustainable properties, but what sealed the deal, was the fact that bamboo is an antimicrobial. Today, many clothing products have fabrics (such as standard cotton shirts) that actually negatively impact the multiplication of bacteria. It should come as no surprise that dozens of countries around the world are beginning to turn to bamboo as a fabric for clothing, due to its antimicrobial nature. We’ve all experienced the frightening experience of peeling off sweaty shin guards, and having them stink up our entire soccer bag, a bamboo shin guard all but solves the problem.

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But What About the Foam?

Still, when we first began designing our prototype shinguards, we recognized that bamboo is a very sturdy product, and that we needed to implement some sort of padding for the shin guard. We immediately began to research what other companies were using for padding in their guards. The vast majority of soccer companies use Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, in order to gain padding for their users. The main problem we found with EVA foam, is that it is virtually non-recyclable. According to GreenMax Recycling, a world renowned recycling company, the only ways to currently process EVA foam, is through crushing it and putting it in a landfill.

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Back to the drawing board, we began looking into other foam options, and were incredibly excited to find that antimicrobial foam could work as a shin guard pad. Antimicrobial foam is used in hospitals around the world as a foam dressing, due to the fact that it can limit moisture and bacterial induced odor and infection. Moreover, antimicrobial foam is much more recyclable, than other foams, such as Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA).

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With that in mind, we were incredibly excited to release our Legend I Shin Guards, as an entirely antimicrobial product. Every day, we receive feedback from athletes and parents, eager to thank us for an odorless shin guard. Needless to say, it doesn’t stink..

Sources

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/173478.php

http://www.intcorecycling.com/How-to-Recycle-EVA-foam.html







The Rise of the WPSL

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When the WPSL broke away from the W-League to develop their own separate league, no one could have foreseen the incredible level of success the league would witness. With well over 100 teams operating within the league, and expansion franchises joining in on a near daily basis, the WPSL has positioned itself as the one of the most successful women’s soccer leagues in the world.

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In just over two decades of operation, the league has flourished into the largest women’s soccer league on the planet. Now, with teams operating in Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United States, the executives who founded the league with the goal of bringing high-level soccer opportunities to as many young women as possible, can say: mission accomplished.

Developing the Future

Operating as a tier two league within the US women’s soccer pyramid, the WPSL is geared to provide communities with high-level soccer, while preparing young professionals for the higher levels. After the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Draft, it is clear to see the WPSL has firmly positioned itself as the world’s top amateur league for professional player development in the women’s game.  

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On the night of the NWSL Draft, 23 WPSL players were drafted. The Washington Spirit alone drafted 5 WPSL players, 4 of which came in the first round. The Spirit’s most notable selections were midfielder Jordan Biasi and defender Tegan McGrady, who spent the last season playing together for WPSL side MLVA Wolves.

Other impressive WPSL draft picks, include Leah Pruitt of La Villa FC, who was selected by the North Carolina Courage with the number 5 overall selection, and FC Dallas forward Julie James who went to Sky Blue FC with the 11th pick in the draft.

Expanding the Game

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With the United States already firmly entrenched as the strongest women’s soccer country in the world, the WPSL continues to work diligently to spread the game to further corners of North America. Within the past three weeks alone, the league has added four new expansion franchises, eager to join the league for the upcoming 2019 season. Those four clubs are the OPSA Magic out of Baltimore, the NJ Wizards SC Cedar Stars based in northern New Jersey, the Spokane Shadow in Spokane, Washington, and the Salsa Women SC coming out of Torrance California.

In those four expansion franchises alone, the WPSL has displayed a desire to bring high level women’s soccer to markets of varying size and soccer interest. With large Universities surrounding all four of the new clubs, it is clear that these teams should operate as a bridge between high level collegiate soccer and the professional field.

Gearing up for 2019

With the 2019 WPSL Season set to begin in May, teams are already beginning preparation for the season. The WPSL regular season is a three-month campaign, followed by a postseason tournament. With over one hundred clubs throughout North America, the defending champion Seattle Sounders Women will have ample competition.

With famous alumnae such as US international standouts Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Brandi Chastain, the league continues to flourish as the top professional development league in the world, for female soccer players. For tickets and information on various clubs in your area, visit the WPSL website. I know we at Legend Soccer Co., are are excited to watch more Legends in the making, during this summer’s WPSL season.  

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Sources:

https://www.wpslsoccer.com/news_article/show/983998





Player Profile: Roland Benedict - The Big Deal from Bigfork

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When Roland Benedict began playing competitive sports, every person in the small Montana town of Bigfork (Bigfork is home to just over 4,000 permanent residents) knew that he was destined for greatness. Most just didn’t know what sport he would settle on. After tying up a stellar high school basketball career, Benedict began mulling over offers from high level Division 1 programs throughout the United States, including Pac-12 juggernaut University of Southern California (USC). The only problem? Benedict’s true passion was on the soccer pitch.

While Bigfork High School wasn’t known for its soccer program, and failed to make the Montana HIgh School playoffs in any of Benedict’s four seasons with the program, he made a name for himself through his incredible individual performances. Known as a deadly goal scorer with incredible vision, Benedict’s performance garnered him All-State recognition. Still, single A Montana soccer did not aptly prepare him for his next step; international professional soccer.

As an eighteen year old, Roland made the decision to move to England with his father Dirk Benedict, a highly respected actor, known primarily for his role as Lieutenant Templeton Peck in The A-Team television series. After renting out a flat and working diligently through individual sessions, Roland finally got his big break: a one-day trial with Kent County club, Gillingham F.C.

His first day in a professional athletic atmosphere, Benedict learned a number of invaluable lessons, none bigger than the blatant fact that he wasn’t in Montana anymore. “I was a little behind,” states Benedict, as he recalled his trial at Gillingham. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t play at that level, I think it was, I got away with things technically, that I couldn’t at that level.” Specifically, Roland cited a higher demand for tighter touches and an increased level of physicality.

Still, despite the massive jump in level, Benedict’s ability to rapidly adapt, served him well, as he was ultimately given an extended trial with Gillingham’s rival club, Southend United. After spending 5 months with Southend United, playing primarily with the youth and reserve teams, Roland temporarily moved back to the States.

After a brief stint with a Premier Development League (PDL) club in Los Angeles, Benedict began coaching at a California High School, when out of nowhere, the strangest of things happened: monster club, Manchester City contacted him to attend their pre-season camp..

After spending the 2010 pre-season with Manchester, City management wanted to send Benedict to Italy’s Serie B. But after a lackluster performance in the 2010 World Cup, Italy looked to reinvest in their nation’s youth, and tightened up visa opportunity for international players. In the end, Roland was ultimately sent to Belgium. While attending tryouts with 6 different clubs throughout Belgium, Benedict was faced with a new challenge: fitting into a foreign culture, with a different language, in an incredibly competitive environment.

“When you’re on trial, besides the owners and the coaches, no one really wants you on the team, because you’re coming and you’re probably going to take someone else’s spot,” stated Benedict, as he looked back on the difficulties of playing in Belgium. Yet despite the adversity, he was able to sign a contract with Racing Gent. After spending a year with Racing Gent, Benedict was denied a visa by the Belgium government, and returned home to the United States.

Today, Roland finds himself in Whitefish, Montana, less than 40 miles away from his hometown of Bigfork. WIth his love for the game as strong as ever, it should come as no surprise that Roland has become an integral part of Whitefish’s thriving soccer community. Serving as Head Coach of the Whitefish High School girls varsity soccer program, Roland has turned Whitefish into a perennial playoff threat, including an impressive semi-final appearance this past Fall. Roland is also currently the director of the Flathead Rapids mentorship program, and has helped developed dozens of young talents throughout the State. As co-founder of Legend Soccer Co., Roland is proud to have worked to develop a product forwarding sustainability in a sporting world in desperate need of it...



Player Profile: Zac Lubin - A New Legend in Washingtonian Goalkeeping

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If you’ve ever watched Zac Lubin play, it wouldn’t take you long to realize he comes from a long-line of Washingtonian goalkeepers. While Lubin developed as a soccer player in Bozeman, Montana, after choosing soccer as his primary sport, over hockey, his goalkeeper development can be traced back to his time spent in Washington state.

After a stellar high school career in Bozeman, Lubin signed his letter of intent to play at St. Martins University in Lacey, Washington. Lubin joined the Saints squad in the team’s first year of existence, it did not take long for the team to become a force in the GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference). By Lubin’s junior year, the team had risen from a first-year program to a playoff team. Despite a disappointing senior year, in which the team underwhelmed as a whole, the Saint Martin’s men’s soccer program, had developed into a respected program, in large part due to Lubin’s career 2.17 goals against average.

With his college career behind him, Lubin began to ask himself whether he even wanted to continue his soccer career. That all changed when he received a call from the Kitsap Pumas, a Premier Development League (PDL) club out of Bremerton, Washington (the Pumas currently compete in the National Premier Soccer League). After a strong season with Kitsap, in which Lubin made 18 appearances, he elected to make the move to the Seattle Sounders U-23 team, a move that would ultimately define his professional soccer career.

While Zac only made 9 appearances for the Seattle Sounders U-23 squad, his experience training with the Sounders first team was invaluable. While with the Sounders, Zac was able to train with Washingtonian goalkeeping legends, Kasey Keller and Marcus Hahnemann. Keller grew up playing in Olympia, Washington,  just miles away from the campus of St. Martins, while Hahnemann made a name for himself playing at Seattle Pacific University. By the time Zac met both players with the Sounders, both had made names for themselves playing in the English Premier League. For Lubin, the learning experience was incredible.

By the time Lubin left the Sounders, he was ready to make the jump to professional soccer, and began his career internationally, at IFK Luleå, in the Swedish first division. In his first season as a professional, Lubin displayed incredible quickness on collapse dives for a tall goalkeeper (Lubin is 6 ft 5 in), an exceptional ability to claim balls in the air, and a knack for acrobatic saves. With Luleå, Lubin cemented himself as one of the most consistent goalkeepers in Sweden, while making 20 appearances for the first team. With a numerous international offers available, Zac chose to pursue his dream of being a professional in the country in which he grew up.

The following two seasons, Zac spent playing back in the United States with USL clubs Tulsa Roughnecks and Swope Park Rangers. After a brief stint in Tulsa, Zac chose to sign with the Kansas City based Rangers. With championship aspirations in their inaugural season, the Rangers viewed Zac as a reliable shotblocker, with incredible upside. Zac helped guide the Rangers to a second place finish in the USL, during their inaugural campaign, while making 10 appearances.

With a thirst for a chance at a starting position, Lubin chose to return to Sweden, where he had previously established himself as a quality starter, through his time with IFK Luleå. Lubin signed with Swedish first division club Ljungskile SK. Lubin spent the season with Ljungskile SK, and proved again that he was a game-changing shot blocker within the highest level of Swedish football. With another season of starting experience under his belt, Zac finally got the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to sign with the most high profile up and coming club in American soccer, Phoenix Rising FC.

In just under a year with Phoenix, Zac has predominantly operated as the club’s primary backup goalkeeper. Proving to be a consummate pro, Zac has enjoyed playing alongside some of the game’s biggest stars, such as Omar Bravo, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba. In June of 2018, Zac achieved a dream of his, as he was loaned to his hometown Seattle Sounders for their match against the Portland Timbers. Zac never lost sight of his dream of playing for an MLS squad, and fittingly he did so where it all began…  



Player Profile: O’Brien Byrd - Grasping Opportunities

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Patrolling the sidelines of Columbia Falls High School, O’Brien Byrd is back where it all started. Byrd grew up in Martin City, Montana, bussed to school in Columbia Falls, every day, and quickly became a member of Wildcat lore. Byrd was an impressive two-sport athlete, competing in both soccer and wrestling. But without a doubt, his love for the pitch overwhelmed any other extracurriculars he participated in.

In highschool, O’Brien thrived as the starting center back for the Columbia Falls Wildcats. Not only was he known for his defensive tenacity, and vocal leadership, but also his uncanny creativity. His senior season, Byrd led the state of Montana in assists (a large number coming from his trademark flip throw in), while leading his team to a State Playoff berth. Unfortunately, the Wildcats fell to Helena High in penalty kicks, and O’Brien was left to ask himself, “what next?”

That question was answered, when a recruiter from McPherson College, a small NAIA school out of McPherson Kansas, offered Byrd a scholarship to come play for the college’s soccer program. The jump from Martin City to college soccer, was immediately daunting for Byrd.

“I was embarrassed, I was exposed,” recalled Byrd as he looked back on his first day with the program. “My athleticism didn’t count for much on a team of athletes that were very good soccer players.”

Yet, despite the jump in competition, Byrd made the leap, and almost immediately proved that he belonged at the collegiate level. The day before the first game of his freshman season, McPherson’s senior right back suffered an ankle injury. Byrd was the next man up.

The rest was history, Byrd started every single game of his collegiate career, while garnering multiple All-Conference awards for his individual performance. By the time his collegiate career, had ended, Byrd had no idea if he would continue to pursue, until the Spring of his senior year in which he received an invite for a professional tryout in Salt Lake City, with the Utah Blitz.

Despite playing on the defensive line throughout the entirety of his high school and collegiate careers, Byrd had his best day on the last day of the tryout, scoring two goals as a holding midfielder. A Blitz scout was impressed with the scoring display, and invited Byrd to a second weekend with less tryout players, and a number of rostered players. Unfortunately, the Blitz elected not to offer Byrd a contract. Still, with the tryout experience under his belt, Byrd knew that he wanted to continue his career.

After a few years working odd jobs, Byrd finally got his big break: a tryout with the Reading Rage (nown known as Reading United AC, they currently play in USL League Two). The team signed him to his first professional contract weeks later. Byrd instantly made his presence known through exceptional communication. “They liked me, because I loved to talk. I liked to direct and make people do the work for me,” recalled Byrd as he looked back at his first professional experience. By the first preseason game, Byrd had won the starting center back job.

Unfortunately, knee injuries ultimately cut O’Brien’s playing career short, but his love for the game brought him into coaching. O’Brien moved back to his home state of Montana, with his wife Melanie (who also played collegiate soccer at McPherson), and was hired as the head coach of the Whitefish High School Boys Varsity Soccer team, at the age of 25. In his time at Whitefish, O’Brien won 5 state championships, including multiple repeat championship runs, and was named the NSCAA National Coach of the Year, in 2013.

O’Brien also founded the Montana Flathead Rapids, a local club that continues to serve the greater Flathead Valley. Now, Byrd coaches at his alma-mater of Columbia Falls High School, and has rebuilt the Wildcats program into a perennial playoff power. Without a doubt, Byrd is a Montana soccer Legend.



Player Profile: Will Daniels - Clutch Under Pressure

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For those that know Will Daniels, only one word can accurately describe his true nature on the pitch: clutch. From his impressive career at Notre Dame High School, to his brief stint with NPSL (National Premier Soccer League) club Kitsap Pumas, Daniels has always had a knack for performing at his best, when the pressure is at its highest. Through hard work, perseverance, and an uncanny ability to find the back of the net, Daniels ultimately worked his way into becoming a high-quality starter in the Icelandic Premier League (The Úrvalsdeild karla). But to truly understand how Will Daniels became a mainstay in Grindavík FC’s starting eleven, one must first understand where he came from.

Born in Clackamas, Oregon, Will’s family relocated to Connecticut, when Will was a young boy. After a promising youth career, Will enrolled at Notre Dame High School, and immediately became a force for the school’s soccer program. After scoring an impressive 17 goals, between his sophomore and junior seasons, Daniels flourished as a senior. In his final season at Notre Dame, Daniels scored an incredible 22 goals (including 3 in 7 minutes on his senior night), garnering All-State honors twice in his career.

Ready to take the next step in his athletic career, Daniels jumped at the opportunity to represent Connecticut in the All-New England All-Star Game, held at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. The Connecticut/New York team was held without a goal, as the New Jersey/Pennsylvania defense played stoutly for much of the match, until Daniels scored an incredible goal to put his team on the board. When the lights are the brightest, Daniels certainly shines..

His acrobatic finish brought on attention from collegiate programs, the only problem was that Daniels’ high school academic performances were not nearly as impressive as his athletic ones. With limited opportunities, Will elected to attend NCAA Division III Mount Ida College.

While Daniels only played at Mount Ida for one season, his lone campaign with the Mustangs, was a memorable one. Daniels led his team with 10 goals, and was named a First-Team All-Conference player. Recognizing that professional opportunities may be limited for a Division III player, Will began exploring a move to a bigger college.

In the Fall of 2010, Will enrolled at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. It didn’t take long for Will to showcase his clutch nature. As a junior, Daniels scored two game winning goals, including an overtime winner against St. Francis University. After establishing himself as a consistent goal-scorer at every level he had played at, Daniels was ready to try his hand at the professional game. In 2013, Daniels joined NPSL side Kitsap Pumas.

Based out of Bremerton, Washington, Kitsap offered Will his first shot at playing post-collegiate soccer. While Daniels’ stint with the Pumas was brief (he joined PDL club West Mass Pioneers F.C, after one season in Bremerton), he did have the opportunity to compete against high level teams, such as the University of Washington Huskies and the Seattle Sounders U-23’s.

In 2014, Will joined West Mass Pioneers, and immediately proved to be one of the best players on the squad. After impressing the coaching staff, Will knew he was destined for bigger things, and turned towards his next dream: playing professional soccer internationally.

With the help of Soccer Viza’s Joe Funicello, Daniels earned a contract with Icelandic club Knattspyrnufélagið Ægir. In signing with Ægir, Will signed off on moving to a small Icelandic town (the town of Þorlákshöfn has less than 2,000 permanent residents), speaking a foreign language, and experiencing a completely alien culture. The move was a culture shock to say the least, but Will immediately proved that he belonged. In his lone season with Ægir, Will was named team MVP, and flourished into a top-five scorer in the league. The rest of the nation took notice.

In the Spring of 2016, Daniels made the jump to a bigger club, signing with Grindavík FC. In his first season with Grindavík, Daniels scored 6 goals in just 17 games, helping his club earn a promotion to the Icelandic Premier League. In his first full season with Grindavík, Daniels helped the team to a 5th place finish in Iceland’s top league. The club finished just 4 points shy of a Europa League bid. This past season, Will proved to be a consistent starter in Iceland’s top league, playing full 90s in almost half of Grindavík’s league games. Daniels has showcased his positional flexibility, moving to a wing-back position in Grindavík’s 3-5-2.

Late in the 2017-2018 campaign, Daniels was finally given the opportunity to play forward, predictably enough, Daniels performed. In a three game stretch, between late August and September, Will scored goals in three straight games, including the team’s lone goal in a draw against Kópavogur based club, Breidablik. Grindavík ultimately took a step back this season, finishing in 10th in the league, but Daniels certainly took a step forward in his individual play.        

As Will continues to explore his options for the upcoming season (Daniels has a number of options in Iceland’s first division, as well as interest from numerous Swedish clubs), one thing is clear: Will Daniels will always show up when it matters most…



Atlanta United Re-Defines the MLS

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When Atlanta United joined the MLS in the 2017 season, no one could have expected that they would experience the kind of unprecedented success that they have in their first two campaigns in the United States’ top professional soccer league. United’s success has been immediate, and their style of play is enticing and exotic for American viewers hungry for high level soccer. So how did they get here?

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United’s path to becoming one of the top performing teams in the MLS has been a wild dream come true for those within the organization, but it is not by accident. Atlanta’s blueprint to not only relevance but a potential dynasty, is one that other US clubs should be desperately trying to emulate.

It all starts with the coach. When owner Arthur Blank began his search for Atlanta United’s Head Coach in their inaugural MLS campaign, he was looking for one thing: an experienced soccer mind. Mission Accomplished. In Gerardo Martino, Atlanta received a bevy of experience (Martino’s previous coaching stints include FC Barcelona, and the Argentine National Team) and a clear philosophical identity. Rather than emphasizing athletic prowess or searching for elite, but aging, global stars, Martino built his team with young exciting talents, willing to play their role.

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In his first moves as manager, Martino brought in the explosive duo of Miguel Almirón and Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan Martinez, has turned into the most dynamic goal scorer the MLS has ever seen. Meanwhile, in Almirón’s first two MLS seasons he’s garnered Rookie of the Year honors, and a staggering 45 goals in 51 games with Atlanta. Neither player was a known commodity before their time in Atlanta. Now, both players are surely to be hot commodities as the MLS season wraps up on Saturday (Almiron is rumored to be a New Castle United target this offseason). With Martinez’s unique composure to finish in front of goal, and Almiron’s combination of athleticism and vision, Atlanta’s dynamic duo has lead the way to this year’s MLS Championship.

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But, Almiron and Martinez were not the only players that Martino targeted as he began to assemble a championship level squad in Atlanta. In Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, Martino saw a player with uncanny vision, patience, and international experience. Nagbe cost Martino and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank a hefty price (Portland garnered the largest inter-MLS transfer fee in league history in exchange for their veteran midfielder), but despite some injuries, has been well worth it. Martino identified a player that controls the pace of the game and plays with a possession first mindset rarely found in the MLS.

Together, Atlanta’s three high profile offensive threats have given them a chance to accomplish the highly improbable: win a championship in their second season as an expansion franchise. But Atlanta hasn’t just laid a blueprint for success on the field, but a recipe for building a massive fan base and culture, off of it.

In just two seasons, Atlanta United have quickly established themselves as the most popular team in the MLS, a feat that has never been accomplished by another expansion franchise in any other American sports league. United shattered the MLS regular season attendance record with an astounding 72,035 tickets sold for their season debut this past March. Put into a global perspective, Manchester United is the only English Premier League club with a higher average attendance rate than Atlanta’s attendance numbers in their season debut. But Atlanta’s success is less about attendance rates and financial accomplishments, and more about building a soccer culture in a city that has embraced the game with open arms.

Lead by high profile fans like OutKast frontman Big Boi, United have reinvigorated a sports town with a football team on the ropes, an irrelevant basketball team, and a hockey team in Winnipeg. Call it the right place at the right time, if you want, I call it brilliance.

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Now, on the eve of the MLS Cup Final, in just their second campaign, Atlanta United have built a blueprint for how to be a successful professional soccer team, here in the United States. After hiring an experienced international coach, scouting youthful and exciting talent that fits the coach’s style of play, and immediately exciting the local soccer community with immediate results, Atlanta has become the most popular team in the MLS. On Saturday, we will find out if they are the best team, as well.

How The New USL Soccer Pyramid Could Impact US Soccer

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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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EPISKYROS: 900 BC

 
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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.

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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.

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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:

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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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Episkyros#/media/File:Ancient_Greek_Football_Player.jpg

Sources:

https://thesefootballtimes.co/2017/09/01/the-origins-of-football-a-game-born-of-savagery/

https://books.google.com/books?id=KKlSSRq-P2QC&pg=PA101&dq=Episkyros#v=onepage&q=Episkyros&f=false (Sports and Games of the Ancients: Author Steve Craig)







CUJU: 206 BCE

 
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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.

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The Game of Cuju:

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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).

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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.

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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.


Sources:

https://www.ancient.eu/Han_Dynasty/

https://qz.com/1314563/economic-theory-on-what-might-hold-china-back-from-being-a-soccer-superpower/

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:

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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:

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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.

Sources:

https://www.bamboogrove.com/origins-of-bamboo.html

https://www.bambooimport.com/en/blog/products-made-from-bamboo

https://econation.co.nz/bamboo/







Standing wth the Sustainable Revolution

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.


Sources:

https://www.ecowatch.com/22-facts-about-plastic-pollution-and-10-things-we-can-do-about-it-1881885971.html

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/climate-change-facts

https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data









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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

FINDING YOUR SHIELD:

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...

 

Sources:

 

https://archive.is/20120720180544/http://www.ashfield-dc.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/leisure-and-culture/sports/cricket/hucknall-cricketers/

https://www.livestrong.com/article/355229-high-school-soccer-shinguard-regulations/

https://resources.fifa.com/mm/document/tournament/competition/51/54/30/equipmentregulations-inhalt-e_neutral.pdf

 

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.  

MATERIAL

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

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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. 

THE TEARDROP SHAPE

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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OPTIMAL PROTECTION

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.

READ MORE 

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.  


ATTACHEMENT

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

Velcro strap

Problem:

  • Uncomfortable

  • After continued use, the Velcro detaches too easily

Tape – Athletic or Electrical

Problem: 

  • 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.

Pre-wrap

Problem: 

  • 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?


COMPRESSION SLEEVES

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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.


MANUFACTURING

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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

Co-Founder

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

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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 remains...it 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

Co-Founder

Legend Soccer Co. 

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Out my front door.  Whitefish, MT