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USL Marks Another Milestone

battery 1 t600 USL Marks Another MilestoneWith the release of the United Soccer Leagues 2009 D1 schedule and accompanying Fox Soccer Channel tv schedule, USL shows once again that MLS is not the only game in town.  USL proves again that it carries a lot of weight when it comes to professional soccer in the U.S.  The USL infrastructure is strong enough to continue to be a thorn in the side of MLS.  It has major partnerships with European clubs, its own youth and development leagues and a Women’s league.  

Unfortunately, the USL at the professional soccer level, has a lack of innovation and leadership.  There’s no backbone and no guts.  It has the same losing business model as MLS.  It suffers from an identity crisis, just as MLS does.

The key statistics to follow this year will be the same as it has been for every year that MLS and USL have been existence, attendance and television ratings.  The next significant key statistic to follow is how many goals are scored per game (Offense brings sports fans in the U.S.).

In order for one of the leagues to stand out and become mainstream, they must solve the puzzle.  It is the greatest sports conundrum in the history of modern American sports, why can’t soccer make it in America? 

The pot of gold is out there, it is buried at the end of the rainbow, but the rainbow is multi-layered and multi-dimensional.  MLS and USL will never be able to count on what’s happening with soccer leagues everywhere else around the world to be able to discover the treasure.  They must figure out how to market soccer, the beautiful game, to American sports fans and not just soccer purists and/or soccer enthusiasts.

The most interesting stories to follow from USL and MLS are its business dealings.  Both leagues are so lost in what direction they want to go.  There is intrigue involved at every corner of every new stadium being built, both the small ones and the bigger ones.  Sometimes, the strategies involved with play calling, coaching and watching games does not match the intrigue and strategies involved with which developing soccer areas of D2 and Premier of USL are next to breakout and become new soccer havens. 

Who will be this year’s Cleveland City? and What will be the next small city to emerge as having the label of a pro soccer city, like Austin?

To its credit, the USL’s D1 is hanging around.  Even as it struggles for its survival, it deserves to get attention when it makes news.  Today it made news and showed all of the U.S. soccer fans that it will maintain an appropriate schedule.  With its organizational strength, the USL is indicating a commitment to provide a high level of pro soccer for fans in North America and the Carribean to enjoy. 

USL and its teams have worked hard in recent years to gather business sponsorships and marketing parterships with major and minor companies.  It has also made tremendous leaps on the international stage and in the U.S. through its participation in sanctioned pro and open league tournaments. 

USL has earned a right to be mentioned in the same breath as MLS.  It’s too bad that what USL is inhaling is the same kind of poison that MLS is swallowing.  The lifespan of these leagues is hanging in the balance. 

USL is trying to put a veil over the real issues, just as MLS is doing.  New ideas must replace the stale ones if soccer wants the big piece of the sports action in the U.S.

14 Responses to USL Marks Another Milestone

  1. Disturbed says:

    Why do you insist on lamenting this false marketing ideal? Just as people who do not like basketball will not watch the NBA, those who aren't fans of the beautiful game will not come out to MLS/USL games. If you're such a marketing guy, then you'll know this one … know thy audience.

  2. Jason D says:

    While I'm an MLS supporter, I'm certainly an apologist. There is a lot the league is doing wrong in terms of marketing, and I think it's going to take some major out-of-the-box thinking to do any damage on the American sports scene. I think it's incumbent on EVERYONE who wishes for the league to succeed to try and be a thorn in the league's side and throw ideas at them; we may just be fans (both apologists and critics), but if enough fans make enough noise, the league will have to listen.

  3. dave says:

    What on earth are you banging on about? What “poison”? Be specific, please. This piece is nothing but a lot of vague generalities. Oh and this is a howler: “They must figure out how to market soccer, the beautiful game, to American sports fans and not just soccer purists and/or soccer enthusiasts.” You mean like indoor soccer? “Soccer” marketed to people who don't like soccer? Please. We have more than enough “soccer purists and/or soccer enthusiasts” in this country to make MLS and USL successful. Market to THEM.

  4. Enrique says:

    Mitch, what would you do differently to make soccer successful in America?

  5. Mitch Howard says:

    See the category American Soccer, and follow this category for more…

  6. Mitch Howard says:

    Enrique, that comment was for you about American Soccer category.

  7. Enrique says:

    I understand that there are different ways of going forward with soccer in America, however, I think we cannot convert people who do not like soccer. Americanizing the sport would lead to disrespect and it would be a detriment to what has been built already. We have to focus legitimizing our league, MLS has a bright future, even if it's not to the expectation of many or if it never reaches the level of attention fo NFL or MLB. There will be kids who will support MLS more and more even if they are a minority.

    Bringing and developing more quality players for MLS is the most important part of the growth of our soccer. It will slowly make the league better and give it more support. The soccer fan in America is very knowledgeable and it will know the difference of good league and a bad. We see the support that Real Madrid, Man U, Chelsea, Barcelona get when they come to play here. There are fans but we have to convert them by giving them a quality league that will be respected around the world and can give them the good soccer that they like to see when they watch European soccer or Brazilian, Argentine and Mexican leagues. The question is are we are walking that path? I believe yes, although there are stumbles we are creating a base of fans that over the years will keep growing and give the league an identity.
    Rome was not built in a day and not in 14 years either or any other league in America.

  8. NJ says:

    I honestly think the problem with attracting the casual fan, is the fact that in most areas of the country where fans have an opportunity to see an MLS or USL team, there is very limited coverage on both TV and radio. In the Chicago market, we get some coverage a one off article, here or there, and I don't blame that on the writers because we do have writers that try (it is getting better though). However, on TV and radio, there is very limited exposure, little to no mention on the nightly news and no mention on the Sports networks. The casual fans needs exposure to the game before they will be willing to follow it.

  9. Jonathan says:

    The USL has made its mark. In the CONCACAF Champions League that is. I'm a person who has very little time for MLS. The USL results has made me watch the sole USL game on FSC at the expense of MLS games.

  10. Henry says:

    The problem is the premise of the article, that soccer is something people would want to watch.

    It isn’t.

    The American sports are ever so much more exciting and dramatic; much more thinking games than soccer; much better on television, and on and on.

    Plus none of the BS with players faking injuries or acting like wimps.

    You fail to get the point, which is that Americans already have enough soccer to suit us; it can’t be made more interesting; there aren’t marketing ploys that turn a Yugo into a Mercedes.

    Its done.

    We had the World Cup and yawned.

    It’s over.

  11. Enrique says:

    Same old song with soccer haters, I guess Henry you don’t see the 100 million immigrants who do follow soccer in this country. If you didn’t know there are more than a couple soccer channels that are not ESPN. So what if American Soccer is not to your liking, no one wants you to watch, the people MLS is trying to pry do enjoy the sport and that’s more than enough. That’s probably why ESPN tried to buy rights to the EPL, becuse they see no future for it in this country, good thinking.

    It’s sad realize to that we Americans to this day have to belittle something in order to feel good, anything that is not American is not liked because is not understood. Just look around you, politically, socially, entertainment, etc. That’s ok though, because that’s not your fault, this has been taught to you for decades, the same ideals that have gotten us in financial and international mess. It’s sad that the lack of knowledge of demographics or history of this country. Your stance is the same old story, the same one baseball fans had about football before the 50′s and the same one people have about MMA, somehow with haters and all it has worked out.

    Keep believing what you want, is your right, but before you make your comments try to study a little about sports and your own country. By the way, the 94 WC was one of the must successful in history, you were just to busy hating.

  12. Roger says:

    Why US soccer has NEVER try a format similar to “soccer” countries?
    I have never understood that.

    *about a 16 or 18 first division teams league
    *a second division
    *PROMOTION AND RELEGATION

    that way the succesfull markets will rise to the top and the weak ones will be relegated,rivalries will be born,and most importantly soccer will grow from the buttom.

  13. Roger says:

    The MLS is run by lawyers that look at this as an “Enterprise”. They dont come from a soccer background, thats why we dont stop listening to the word marketing. They dont care about the game, just the money.
    There was a league allready in existence (USL), with teams,divisions,promotion and relegation(very important) fans and a very good soccer atmostphere in a few stadiums. Instead of making a few changes to the USL and build from a base that was allready there, the lawyers created a whole new league. They created teams , logos, uniforms. They did some “marketing” and brought some players way past their prime and placed them in strategic locations. A Bolivian in DC, a Colombian in Tampa, a mexican to Chicago and LA. They wanted tu use the momemtum after the 94 World Cup and make some MONEY.
    These bussiness people swowed no respect to an USL fan base loyal to the game thru times when soccer was considered a 3rd class US sport. Now the teams they love where part of a league considered inferior to MLS. Yet they are still there chanting and dreaming.
    Im realizing now that the real passion for the for the game has allways been there. It has just been ignored because some people on the top had other plans.
    Americans had never been exposed to a league with a serius resemblance to what soccer is around the planet (Single table, several divisions, promotion and relegation) , yet we have been sold the idea that in order for soccer to suceed in the US it had to be changed somehow and make it apealing for americans. DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE??????

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