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HAIL! GFOP

I type this from an oddly quiet CPOS. Rog is in Sweden eating Herring, attending ABBA fantasy camp, and purchasing Zlatan perfume. Davo is producing hit television shows while simultaneously wakeboarding and snapping up must-have kitchen appliances. And yet, our crap, like Bad Boy … Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. Despite the pleas of thousands.

This week, we announced Men in Blazers’ first ever live show in Chicago, the city in which Rog first lived when he arrived on these shores. Men in Blazers LIVE MLS All-Star Extravaganza presented by Etihad kicks off 6:30 p.m. CT Monday, July 31 at the Harris Theater. The show is already at capacity with more than a thousand people registered. GFOPs, you continue to amaze us.

Connoisseurs of Crap who have not registered, worry not. You can put your name on a wait list by CLICKING HERE. People on the waiting list who end up getting a ticket will be notified via email/text by MLS.  

We cannot wait to be in Frank Klopas Country to celebrate MLS All-Star Week by interviewing a phenomenal number of the league's finest players, live on stage. Think a less optimal edition of Bill Swerski’s Superfans, but replace Polish Sausage with Pie. Post-show, we would love to raise a Guinness with each and every one of you, even if you cannot make the show. We are still sorting the details for that, but stayed tuned to our social for more.

Chicago will be the second stop on this summer’s Roger Bennett “This is Your Life” Tour. Several weeks ago, we ventured to England to visit the quite remarkable Royal Birkdale Golf Club, just north of Rog’s hometown of Liverpool. We produced a series of videos for Golf Channel and NBC’s Countdown to The Open, which are appearing on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" (air times vary, so check your local listings) in the lead up to the tournament. All of the videos are also available online. WATCH HERE. From quintessentially British weather to questionable fashion choices to the world's foremost artisanal bunker raker. We used to have an empire, now we just have bunker rakers.
 

All of this as the USMNT attempts to right the ship after a slow Gold Cup start (more on that with Aly Wagner below), and English football’s scriptwriters tee us up for what Davo has already predicted will be the best season of Men in Blazers EVER (to be fair, the bar is set very low). Lukaku to United. Rooney to Everton. And Joey Garner to Ipswich. It can’t start soon enough…  

Courage,
Producer JW: @JonoWilly

On behalf of
MiB: @meninblazers
Rog: @rogbennett
Davo: @embassydavies
Producer Lexi: @lexitan
Producer Evan: @Not_MattEvans
 
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I. Gold Cup and NWSL w/ FOX Sports’ Aly Wagner

She has 131 USA caps. Two Olympic Gold medals. 21 USWNT goals. 42 assists. Hailing from San Jose, Calif. A former member of the Central Valley Mercury (winners of three straight national titles from ‘96 - ‘98, people). Now, she’s an analyst for both FOX Sports and Lifetime, which acquired the NWSL television rights this season. This summer alone, she’s covered the Confederations Cup, Gold Cup and our domestic women’s league, watching “you don’t want to know” how many hours of football. We’re talking about the one and only, Aly Wagner. In this edition of Three Questions, we ask the former Los Angeles Sol midfielder about Bruce Arena’s boys unimpressive start to the Gold Cup, her favorite NWSL storyline of the season, and, naturally, what it’s like to work alongside Stoner and Alexi.

MiB: Four points out of six for the USMNT to start the Gold Cup. A 1 - 1 draw with Panama in the opener, and then a 3 - 2 win over Martinique. But, for the most part, the team has failed to impress. Give us your big takeaways from those first two games.

AW: After winning the Ghana friendly 2 - 1, I was excited, especially by that Acosta-McCarty midfield partnership. I thought we would run the table in the Gold Cup group stage. But two games in, I haven’t really seen anyone play with the necessary impetus. The players have seemed tentative. That changed a little bit in the second half against Martinique with guys getting forward more, but that drive just hasn’t been there. That said, one thing to keep in mind is that these players don’t play together much. There were eight changes from the first game to the second. So even though a lot of people see this as an audition, it’s really tough to evaluate how players would perform in a more consistent setting.  

MiB: That said, who’s made the strongest case to become a World Cup Qualifying fixture ahead of Russia?

AW: Kellyn Acosta is one. I think when he gets surrounded by some other National Team regulars and isn’t forced to shoulder so much of the load, he’s going to be really outstanding. I also think Kelyn Rowe has impressed. He was the one who set up Dom Dwyer’s goal against Panama. And then there’s Dwyer. He works tirelessly to press and hunt. That combined with his constant movement to be an outlet and threat in behind the defense is an asset the team can use up front. Jordan Morris, of course, had two goals in the Martinique game. The U.S. had a lot of the ball in Martinique’s half during the game, and a lot of the players made it more difficult on themselves. But Jordan slowed things down and scored two good goals.  

MiB: So much narrative in the NWSL this year. The artists formerly known as the Western New York Flash have quickly adapted to life as the North Carolina Courage. Marta has taken her talents to Orlando. MPino has come back just like we knew she would. What is your favorite storyline so far this year?

AW: Those are all great ones. But I’m going to go with Sky Blue FC’s Sam Kerr. She ranks up there in the top five players in the world. She can single-handedly change games. Her athleticism, her ability to take players on and her understanding of how to unlock defenses with a pass or her movement is exceptional. And she’s just 23 years old. We think of her as older because she started playing for Australia when she was 16. And she’s had some injury problems, so I don’t even think we’ve seen how good she really can be yet.

MiB: In the FOX Studio, who is most likely to fan out and start reacting, let’s say, emotionally, during games. Stoner? Alexi? Fernando?

AW: I would actually have to say me. I start yelling and then have to apologize to the rest of the guys. What can I say, I’m a soccer nerd. The amount of soccer on television is only about 1/10th of what I’ve watched this summer.

Aly and the rest of the FOX Sports crew bring you the USMNT's final Gold Cup group stage game Saturday when Bruce Arena's lot take on Nicaragua at 7 p.m. ET in Cleveland on FS1. 


II. Togga Draft Leagues and Fantasy Guide

It was one of our favorite parts of last Premier League season. The MiB Togga Perfect XI Fantasy League, in which Lexi edged out Producer Evan on the final day of the season to leave him in the cellar of the MiB table (he has pledged to beat us all this year, though). Good news for the more than 11,000 GFOPs who participated last year. You will automatically be entered into the league again this year, thanks to the GFOPs at Austin, Texas-based Togga, who have kept it open. For those who didn't play, you can get in on this season HERE. Last year's grand prize: an appearance on the Pod. We are scheduled to have GFOP Simon Wardle, who conquered all comers, join us in the coming weeks to reveal his secrets, so stay tuned for that.

Togga also offers a Fantasy Draft League, which is exactly what it sounds like. Registration is now open. For GFOPs who want to get a group of friends together and create their own draft league, details are HERE. Whether you're playing in our Perfect XI league or a draft league, Togga has put together its incredibly comprehensive, super optimal Draft Guide + Cheat Sheet. The man at the helm: GFOP John Wallin, who poured more than 150 hours of his time into this tome. He will join us for a Fantasy Island Pod Special in the lead up to the season.


III. MiB Summer Reading Guide

Those looking to fill the early weekend morning Premier League void, we give you Men in Blazers Summer Reading Guide, books perfect for the beach or a bar stool, divided into two categories and listed in no particular order. It's a mix of old and new. 

Football Books:
 
Non-Football Books:
 
IV. Men in Blazers Presents: The Future

Several weeks ago, we released “Men in Blazers Presents: The Future,” two short films about teenage MLS Academy products - Prince Amponsah and Amadeo Chapru-Tate - here in NYC and their journey through this country’s youth development system [WATCH HERE]. Thanks to those of you who RT’d, Liked, Shared or emailed us about the pieces. Many of you suggested we do more of these types of films on youth development. If you have great youth stories begging to be told, or want to weigh in on these two films, EMAIL US.


V. The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame

Your amazing artifacts continue to pour into the CPOS for The People’s History of American Soccer Hall of Fame. This week, our featured submission comes from GFOP Simon Woodrup, who sent us these glorious official 1994 World Cup commemorative coins. We think they may be valuable enough to secure the 2026 WC hosting rights from FIFA.
 

Please keep sending the American soccer flotsam and jetsam that is gathering dust in your finished basements and attics with a note telling us about its meaning to you to. We are sending patches to everyone who contributes. Please post everything to:

Embassy Row Studios
Care of Men in Blazers
325 Hudson Street 7th Floor
New York, NY 10013


VI. #PatchAtThePark

This week’s edition of #PatchAtThePark features submissions from not one, not two, not three, but four different GFOPs who were on hand to witness the USMNT take on Panama in Nashville.

But our favorite comes from GFOP Chris Heninger, who battled 110 degree heat to snap this beauty at USL Phoenix Rising FC’s brand new complex.

 
Good Reads

Chuck Blazer, Central Figure in FIFA Scandal, Dies at 72. Jere Longman and Rebecca Ruiz for The New York Times. READ HERE.

Stop Shouting: How Sweden Tackled Misbehaving Parents at Kids’ Football. Marcus Christenson for The Guardian. READ HERE.   
He’s Hit That Too Well -- Why Striking the Ball Worse is Actually Better. Michael Cox for ESPNfc. READ HERE.

The Original Fake News: Soccer Transfers. Rory Smith for The New York Times. READ HERE.

The Forgotten Story of...Seve, a hacker and Johnny Miller’s 1976 Open. Scott Murray for The Guardian. READ HERE.
 
Podcast

Rog talks with 21-year-old FC Dallas and USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta about growing up a soccer player in American football-mad North Texas, doing battle with Mexico at the Azteca, and being left on his high school’s JV squad as a freshman. LISTEN HERE.

“We should be careful / Of each other, we should be kind / While there is still time.”

Philip Larkin
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