FirstPoint USA at the MLS Super-Draft: Part 2
4 min read
As soon as we arrived in Cincinnati Andrew Kean (Cincinnati Bearcat soccer hall-of-famer) was in his element. Back in his old stomping ground, we drove around the city and he had a story for every place we saw. It really is a beautiful city, with the Ohio River running through it. Our hotel was across the river in an area called Newport which actually lies in the state of Kentucky. This is where Andrew stayed as a student, and itís just a short trip across the bridge to get into down town Cincinnati and the Bearcat campus. The University campus was impressive to say the least! It's like a city within a city. The university is constantly building and improving so I noticed new halls of residence, car parking, and even shops in the process of being made. It really is like no campus youíd see in the UK. In the heart of the campus lies the Athletic department, of which Andrew gave us a tour (and some memories of his playing days). The facilities the students have would embarrass many professional organisations in Europe. The American football stadium was particularly impressive with a two-tier stand around the pitch with plans to add a 3rd-tier! It's crazy to think that Cincinnati's football ground is generally considered one of the smaller Division 1 venues. Selling tickets to football, basketball, soccer, field hockey, swimming etc is the norm over there and the money generated from TV deals is astonishing. I couldnít get my head around how a lot of kids are students by day and then a sports star appearing live on ESPN at night...it is a different world over there!† We used Cincinnati as our base and continued our meeting with different coaches from different sports, including Rugby, which looks to be getting bigger in the US. Shout out to Cincinnati University who really looked after us and gave us tickets to a Bearcat basketball game. They gave us a complete tour of their athletics department which included an underground tour of their gyms, underground basketball courts, track and field center, physiotherapy †and treatment rooms, match analysis classes...really I could go on and on! Everything is Cincinnati Bearcat branded...even the weights in the gym. There was as much underground as there is above. We had pre-match all-access passes for the basketball game between Cincinnati - Marquette (which was live on ESPN), and managed to get down to court-side for the warm up which was an experience in itself. The atmosphere wasnít as loud as an old firm match but it certainly was up there with 15,000 packed into the Fifth Third Arena. Kentucky University is huge Division 1 school, with Johan Cedergren (team mate of Andrew's at Cincinnati) now head coach of the men's soccer team. We met up with Johan and he gave us a tour of their athletics department. Again, the facilities were 1st class. Huge football stadium (67,000 capacity). Their indoor basketball arena holds 23,000, and this is just for college sport! A restaurant where players can have pre-match meals, there are new state-of-the-art press box, underground changing rooms, and a new capacity of 13,000, which will all be in place for the coming season. Kentucky has a sponsorship deal with Nike (Cincinnati is Addidas) and the soccer team budget, alone, spans into the tens of thousands of dollars per year. This equates to a lot of free equipment and training clothes for the players! It was an eye opening week out in the states and I was a bit gutted when I was on the plane home. Iím very jealous of the people who are about to head over on scholarships (oh to be a couple of years younger...well OK, 12 years). I can now see why the guys in the office reminisce so often. †I genuinely believe going over there will make you a better person - playing sport at the highest level, in the best facilities, while studying for a degree. If I ever have kids then Iíll certainly be encouraging them to follow the route of an American Sports scholarship!