The skeptics of soccer in America must view with significant chagrin the huge crowds that have attended friendly matches in the past week in such cities as Seattle, Bridgeview, IL, Salt Lake City, Houston and New York. All of these matches have been exhibitions where European super clubs have played North American clubs. In each match excepting Red Bull New York’s humiliating performance against Barcelona, the North American clubs have exceeded expectations and have given the world a taste of the improving state of the game in these parts. Moreover, the frenzied crowds which in most cases were sell outs, indicate a strong market for top flight soccer exists throughout the USA, be it in major cities or medium sized locales in middle America.
We’ve discussed at length the victory of the MLS All Stars over Chelsea and their $200 million payroll, as well as the draw between DC United, and Real Madrid. Most heartening of all perhaps is the budding relationship between Real Madrid and Real Salt Lake who played an entertaining match last night in Salt Lake City. Not only have the two clubs sharing the same name agreed to a marketing relationship of sorts, but none other than David Beckham broke ground on Real Salt Lake’s new stadium on Friday. That was followed by a standing room only crowd at Rice Eccles Stadium for the match between the two sides.
Given the resounding success of these international matches this summer on American soil, it is critical MLS continue to work each year to bring top European clubs to the USA. The new 8 year contract between the MLS and ESPN/ABC gives the league the cash and marketing ability to be creative and aggressive in promoting itself on an international level. This summer was a great start but more summers like this are needed before MLS becomes more engrained both in the American sports culture and in the World soccer culture.