Can you calm your eyeballs and attention enough right now to do some pre-USA vs. Germany reading? If so, BuzzFeed's investigative piece on Chuck Blazer, the soccer dad who perhaps more than anyone else made United States soccer the big-time enterprise it is today—and lived a ridiculously opulent, allegedly fraudulent lifestyle on U.S. Soccer's dime while doing so—is highly recommended.
Blazer, as writer Ken Bensinger chronicles in detail, ascended with amazing quickness from running youth leagues in suburban Westchester County, New York, to running the organization that controlled all soccer activities in North America. This was partly because "controlling all soccer activities in North America" wasn't such a hot gig until Blazer made it one, hustling relentlessly to book television deals and schedule high-profile matches while networking with figures at the highest level of the game. (He is described almost admiringly by one disgruntled ex-business partner as "a very good B.S. person.") But after two-plus decades atop the U.S. soccer world, Blazer was pushed out in 2011 amidst a deluge of fraud allegations. His story, and BuzzFeed's, hinges on a contract he signed in 1990:
Much of Blazer’s wealth and influence can be traced back to an extraordinary contract he made with the organization that runs soccer from Panama to Canada, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, or CONCACAF. It entitled him to 10 percent—under his unilateral interpretation—of just about every penny the organization brought in. That document provided him an intoxicating personal incentive to grow the sport, earning him a life of spectacular luxury and an unforgettable nickname: Mr. Ten Percent.
Bensinger's piece is a flavorful stew of soccer history, "how the world really works" insider reporting, and wry observation on human nature ("Chuck was a charming guy. But everybody is nice until they screw you"). Read it all here.