Sunday, September 14, 2014

Euro 2016 Qualifying Road Trips

Soccer takes no vacation. That might explain why it is the most popular sport in the world, because fans never have a chance to follow another. The Premier League season goes from August to May and then there are major tournaments every second summer, not to mention the Olympics, the youth tourneys, and so many other matches that allow a true aficionado with a satellite dish to see a game nearly every day of the year. Point of fact: the World Cup just ended and already the Euro 2016 qualifiers are underway. There are 10 matchdays between September 2014 and October 2015, although the term matchday is a misnomer, as each one actually takes place over three consecutive days (except Matchday 5 which has a fourth day added when Belgium travels to Israel). The first matchday just finished, and an enterprising sports traveler could have seen Germany shutout Scotland in Dortmund on September 7, Switzerland lose to England in Basel on September 8, and then the Czech Republic beat the Netherlands in Prague on the following day. Those weren't the only options, Portugal, Spain, and Andorra also hosted fixtures on those same days. In fact, with at least 8 games each day, there are dozens of possible road trips that one could have taken.

What makes this even more intriguing though is that on three occasions, two matchdays will be held on consecutive three-day periods. For example, Matchday 2 is from October 9-11 and then Matchday 3 follows immediate from October 12-14. Here's one possible trip you could take next month:

Oct 9 : Spain at Slovakia (Zilina)
Oct 10: Croatia at Bulgaria (Sofia)
Oct 11: Germany at Poland (Warsaw)
Oct 12: England at Estonia (Tallinn)
Oct 13: Turkey at Latvia (Riga)
Oct 14: Portugal at Denmark (Copenhagen)

All games are in the evening, so you would have the day to fly or take the train to your next destination. This wouldn't be a cheap trip, but it would be fun. Obviously my new job precludes me from making this trek, but the same thing happens twice next year, when I will have saved up a few vacation days. Matchdays 7 and 8 take place from September 3-8 (Belgium, Gibraltar, Switzerland, Italy, Scotland, England is one possibility) and Matchdays 9 and 10 from October 8-13 (Portugal, Spain, Andorra, Serbia, Estonia, and Latvia all beckon). The great thing is that Europe is relatively small and cheap to get around, so you can pretty much see any of the matches each day, assuming reasonable flight connections. I'll keep an eye on the group standings and as the tournament progresses and venues are announced, will start looking into flights as well. Hope that I can make one of those two great trips in 2015!



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