As a Pittsburgh native and avid sports fan, summers tend to be the proverbial off-season. Normally marked by the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, continuing through another disappointing Pirates campaign and ending with Steelers preseason. Most people find the time to take in a few ballgames (for the fireworks and bands), speculate on who the Steelers will play as the third CB in the nickel or work on their golf game. However, there is a niche group of fanatical supporters who absolutely love this time of the year...the soccer fan. This hidden sub-culture is slowly growing and gaining momentum, sprouting up in local pubs, around our very own professional franchise, traveling to other cities to take in games and appearing on grass fields all over Western Pennsylvania.

Let me break down the next few weeks:

Sunday June 6th - The Pittsburgh Riverhounds (our previously mentioned professional franchise) travel south to battle Real Maryland. The Hounds are coming off an impressive road win at Richmond, the defending USL2 Champions. The Hounds are lead by first year manager and local soccer legend Justin Evans.

Friday June 11th - The Hounds travel to Harrisburg to play the City Islanders in the Pennsylvania derby. This will be the first meeting between the two clubs in 2010. Over the winter, the Hounds splashed the cash to sign the Islander's leading scorer, Chad Servers. Those involved don't wish to comment publicly, but bad blood remains. This game will be a war.

Saturday June 12th - Team USA takes on England in World Cup group play. It will be the first game for both teams and their first World Cup meeting since the US upset the juggernaut back in 1950. The 3-Lions look for revenge while the US is out to make a statement.

Sunday June 13th - The Tartan Devils Football Club defends their home turf at 1pm. The living legend, Super Mac, leads the heroes of Piper's Pub who play at Founders field, a beautiful pitch hidden off of SR 910 in Indianola. This is soccer in it's purest form...a bunch of 30+ year old men simply playing for the love of the game.

Tuesday June 15th - The Riverhounds host Detroit United at Chartiers Valley High School in the opening round of the US Open Cup. The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is the oldest sports tournament in the history of the United States. Amateur and professional soccer clubs battle through qualifying rounds and tournament play for the chance to lift the cup. This is a truly unique tournament where the smallest of pub or ethnic teams have the chance to play the biggest MLS clubs.

Friday June 18th - The US national team takes on Slovenia in World Cup group action. A win vs Slovenia could help propel the US into the knockout round.

Alongside these games, Pittsburgh is home to several pickup leagues where both men and women get the chance to pull on some boots and show off their skills. Check out the Pittsburgh Pick-up Soccer Group for times and locations!

There are a number of ways to get involved. Mentioned above, if you have a passion to play check out a local league or contact PISA. If you love to watch live action, check out one of the many local pub teams or catch a Riverhounds game where the physicality and pace of play might just surprise you. Show up at one of the many World Cup viewing parties to support the United States as they take on England. A few of the places and events can be found here.

Once you've been bitten by the footy-bug...check out our local supporters groups, the Steel Army who support the Riverhounds and the American Outlaws who follow the US national team.

Then, as summer begins to come to a close, catch the best Premier League action every Saturday and Sunday morning down at Piper's Pub. There is nothing quite like pounding an Irish breakfast and watching Newcastle United on the hallowed grounds of St. James' Park live and in HD.

We are the vocal minority. We are the counter culture of the Pittsburgh sports fan. Soccer fans unite!

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