It's that time of year once again, when folk go shopping and journos write shopping guides. Can't go shopping without a shopping guide they say. Shopping for a soccer fan can be difficult if you're not a soccer fan yourself. What does this strange breed of person enjoy? Even as a soccer fan, you're probably already playing your other soccer fans in FIFA, and a jersey could be obsolete by March. So what do you get the soccer fan who already has the obvious?
* This holiday shopping season is going to feature a major battle in the ongoing console wars between Microsoft and Sony. This makes FIFA 14 for your NextGen system a pretty obvious choice if you're at the forefront of gaming technology and love soccer. The EA Sports game seems to be winning handily the once debatable competition between it and Pro Evolution Soccer.
However, I wasn't the kid that enamored with the realistic simulations. I enjoyed the occasional game against the AI, but anytime I tried playing another human I'd come to find out just how bad I was at FIFA. I couldn't see my next move, I was just ball chasing. I got much more enjoyment out of career modes, where I could try and assemble my best roster.
Enter Football Manager. Like all the soccer video game experiences, it's focus is European football and the inclusion of American soccer can feel tacked on. Unlike FIFA, MLS' inclusion in FM at least adheres to the restrictions of MLS roster building. The salary cap is in play. Clubs have reserve teams and academy teams. Player make the senior minimum, there are only three DPs allowed, trades are a thing and can involve allocation money, draft picks. Oh yeah, and there's a college draft, a waiver draft, a re-entry draft, and all the other crazy things MLS does.
MLS is licensed in Football Manager, so you also get all the league logos without an extra download. Lower divisions aren't playable, but you can loan players out to USL and NASL pro teams. As an MLS manager you can participate in press conferences, though there don't seem to be any real US publications in the game the way there are for England.
It can feel overwhelming, being all text based, and it's hard to know what in-game adjustments you should be making. Still, it's so easy to fire up the user friendly database and play around in the sandbox that it's a fun gift for any soccer fan.
* DVDs are always a great gender-neutral gift. There aren't a whole slot of titles that leap to mind for MLS fans, the league doesn't have quite the video engine that say the NFL has, One that might be worth looking into is the ESPN 30 for 30 series. Their latest run doesn't have any soccer content on it, but the Nine for IX series has a feature on the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup team.
The piece centers around a reunion of many of the starters at the Rose Bowl, and uses a lot of home video taken by Julie Foudy throughout the World Cup experience. Having read stories about how Mia Hamm didn't like having the spotlight shined on her, seeing her get emotional talking about that part of the gig.
It does feature some reaching out to the current national team, but it stops short of asking why the popularity of the World Cup hasn't translated into a stable domestic league. In many ways that 99 team was treated like a moon landing, the same way popular Olympic sports don't carry that popularity between olympiads.
The Nine for IX series also tackles an issue that hits close to home for me, the obstacles facing female sports journalists. Especially when it comes to locker room access, it's an ongoing issue.
*For even more on the US women's national team, I'd check out the book The US Women's Soccer Team: An American Success Story. Between that and the Hope Solo memoir, there's plenty to chose from for your soccer fan who is also an avid reader.
The seminal MLS tome remains Long Range Goals, especially for any newer fans on your list.
*As far as gear goes, can't go wrong with the adidas LA Galaxy capsule collection. It's a bit pricey, but if you feel a t-shirt is not enough but a jersey is too much, an expensive t-shirt might be the middle ground you're looking for. I can vouch for the comfort.
adidas has that monopoly on MLS gear, so the options are pretty much whatever they put out. Team scarf is always a good idea, can't go wrong with a scarf. The issue with get jerseys is that half of them are obsolete come March, and the MLS season is already done come Christmastime. It's not like the NBA which gets to release special jerseys just for holiday shopping.
So there goes my first attempt at a holiday gift guide. Anything I missed? Drop it into the comments.