Did Soccer Grow in the US this Summer?

As Premier League football fans languish in the desert of meaningful matches and as we’ve now reached a sort of middle point between the end of the World Cup and the beginning of the Premier League season, I can’t help but to wonder if soccer grew, stayed about the same, or took a small step backward in the US this summer.

As Europe’s finest clubs cash in and tour the States as we live and breathe and as the next so called ‘major’ summer friendly tournament kicks off, ends or whatever it is ‘major’ summer friendly tournaments do, this football supporter seems to notice a tad bit of exhaling from the tidal wave that was the World Cup and more specifically the USMNT’s successful ride for three weeks this summer.

Vanished are the new soccer fans that emerged to chat from around the water cooler at the office, gone are the packed pubs full of rabid celebrations and extinct is the feeling of soccer in the air one got when simply walking out the door when the World Cup was in full force.

As quickly and as casually as the additional troops mounted to represent Uncle Sam’s Army as the boys battled in South Africa, it was equally as quick that the reinforcements left the soccer battlefields and retreated to other interests.

But in my attempts to gauge if the World Cup had any lasting effects on the popularity of the sport in this country and with help from the readers of this article, I must first look at a few obvious points I’m currently observing and quite possibly hold off on passing any judgement on my fellow compatriots until the Premier League and other European leagues resume later next month.

(For the record, I believe the lasting effects concerning growth, either positive or negative, resulting from the World Cup won’t truly be felt or known for at least a few more weeks or months, and although the casual soccer newbies have dropped off like lemmings off a cliff, it’s still possible a new generation of soccer hard-cores were conceived during the World Cup. It will be these new soccer fans, lead by their friends and others who support club teams across the world that will prove whether or not a substantial growth occurred).

Point #1. The power of the World Cup

The World Cup always brings the most casual soccer fans out of the wood work especially in this country as the sheer bigness of the event itself is usually enough to hold the attention of even the most lackluster soccer fans. The point here is that the let down of momentum the World Cup concedes after it’s capitulation is only a natural result to an event that rages on non stop for a full month. Simply stated, when there isn’t much soccer going on, people don’t watch much.

Point #2. Who is the casual fan interested in watching?

As much as I enjoy watching Premier League teams take on MLS sides who have everything to prove, how much are soccer fans attending, watching or even enjoying these pre season friendlies? Is the reception the international club friendlies receive an adequate litmus test for the popularity of soccer in the US? I think it could be, but what happens when English and European giants leave the states for home? The hardcore support will always be there, but will interest and attendances wane from the casual observer who was so hot for the USMNT and so eager to catch a glance at a Premier League club?

As I view recent matches on Veetle and the dreadfully-still-in-standard-definition FSC, I seem to notice as many empty seats as I do full. Granted, recent matches were played in NFL stadiums boasting huge capacities, but major US cities such as New York left plenty of seats empty. Had the USMNT played any sort of meaningful match post World Cup, the stadiums would have easily been bursting at the seems with excitement and anticipation. Which leads me to my third point,…

Point #3. Country over sport.

Americans like their country first and their sports second. More specifically, I believe the USMNT has some incredibly devoted and brilliant fans. Yet I also believe that a pretty decent chunk of the pub goers, the downtown fan-fest attendees and the World Cup party hosts were fans of the flag on the shirt first, people who genuinely like soccer sure, yet not devoted fans of the sport we all love and hold so dear and thus viewed the sport itself as secondary.

Once the USMNT was eliminated, so too were the casual fans of the US team dismissed from the World Cup. They were never cheering for soccer in the first place, they were cheering for their country, and when their country exited, so did they.

And realistically, there’s nothing wrong with that sentiment when viewed from multiple angles, except in regards to the growth of soccer in the US as a long stay and mainstream sport. People have the right to move freely in this country and cheer on sports the way they see fit, yet that ideal doesn’t translate into supporters of the game, if anything, it detracts from it.

There is in fact a give and take to how incredibly supportive and patriotic Americans were for their country this summer. It was something to be proud of yet something I found myself oddly questioning it’s very authenticity when viewed as a soccer insider.

As a final example, I’ll point to the thousands of frustrated soccer fans in the US who have DirecTV as a satellite provider and who have waited patiently for the better part of a year or more for the provider to pick up FSC’s HD feed.

As last season’s domestic campaign blew away with the wind and the summer months pushed on, not a word has been uttered by the satellite giant as to when, if ever, soccer fans will be awarded for their patience and what’s rightfully owed to them.

In comparison, any number of NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB or any other sport under the sun available to consumers in this country are readily available in HD on a myriad of channels. And although HD broadcasts of the beautiful game have come along by leaps and bounds in this country, the two stations that provide the majority of Premier League games, FSC and FSC+ (and more football than anyone), each week remain almost unwatchable in standard definition.

One has to ask themselves, how serious does DirecTV take this sport in our country? Would they have changed their policy on picking up the HD feed had they been bombarded by the mainstream masses? As the smallish soccer community tried their hardest to persuade, DirecTV set up auto reply email responses thanking subscribers for their interest and automated phone lines with pre recorded messages to waft away the anxious. Can one imagine an NFL network in standard definition or such a prolonged wait for HD broadcasts?

As I’m only one man who can only observe so much, ultimately, I’ll count on the soccer community we’ve formed here to pitch in and tell me how the sport is now viewed in your workplace, area, community, city and state after such an eventful World Cup and summer in general.

Did soccer in fact grow at all this summer or does it remain our beautiful little secret, our niche sport that gives us our sense of purpose, or our singular ability to relate to the rest of the world?

61 thoughts on “Did Soccer Grow in the US this Summer?”

  1. I talked with a few people at work about the World Cup. Some seemed pretty knowledgeable about the game and the teams. But I haven’t talked soccer with anyone locally since then. Have they all hung up their vuvuzelas for 4 years? Or are they going to watch MLS or explore a little more about club soccer around the world?

    Most fans in this country are probably done with soccer for 4 years. Let’s be honest. Maybe 5-10% of those who watched the World Cup will watch some MLS games. Maybe 2-3% will become devoted fans of the sport. Still, every little bit helps.

    The World Cup and the success of the men’s team definitely helped the sport out in the US. I also have to believe that the excitement and edge-of-your-seat anticipation that accompanied those matches captured the attention of more than a few casual fans. It’s moments like those that can make people hardcore fans. They want to re-live those moments and thrills so will search out other venues.

    That’s certainly what happened to me. I watched a little of the premier league and MLS after the 2006 World Cup but there’s a different feeling this year. I have to have it. I’m desperate to recapture the feeling I had on Donovan’s last second goal. I have to determine based on my small-ish sample of 1 that it has happened to other people as well.

    1. I think sending people to the MLS is a sure fire way to lose them from Club Football. The skill level is akin to Serie B or League 1 and the tactics are largely (did not say always) negative.

      Real hard to go from WC2010 experience to a farm league experience. MLS has its place in the soccer world but it is not to hook the trendy summer WC fans on club/league football.

      1. everyone needs to stop knocking it, no its not epl soccer or serie a, but its just as good as championship(and serie b is as good as the championship) or low level epl(top mls); i was at the ny challenge sunday and yes the euro sides looked better for the most part but nyrb owned man city from the start basically, reserves blah blah the reserves and subs of a top epl team should still beat any mls team by your standards but they dont(pre season blah, its not that big a deal)
        why dont YOU give mls a chance and watch the game not pick it apart with its flaws

        1. I have and do give it a chance, I have been to over a dozen Dynamo games here in Houston and will be at the All Star game this evening. I am not picking it apart, I am telling it as I see it. I don’t think MLS is a good place for World Cup trendies to go after the WC final match. Not because I am picking on the league but because I see the league for what it is, which isnt a bad thing, just realistic. The play style is far too negative and not enough attacking to keep a trendy followers interest.

          1. The only way that football will grow in America is if people give MLS a chance and follow it as ardently as they do the foriegn teams and leagues. I cannot imagine avidly following Real Madrid, for example, on television every game but not being bothered to walk out of my door to follow my local team. It seems to me like everybody over there wants the glory without making the effort of following a side through thick and thin.

            I’ve seen some shit football following Stoke since 1986 but the high point that I’m experiencing now is all the sweeter for it. If you aren’t prepared to put the effort in you’ll never feel the same and believe me you’re missing out. It’s what being a true football fan is about.

            You have umpteen advantages as a nation and could develop a truly competitive league in a relatively short space of time, a generation say, if the fans backed the league and the league nurtured and retained it’s own stars.

            This isn’t meant as a dig but it would be nice to see in a few years time more emphasis on MLS Talk because this were happening and a lot of posters supporting European teams as their ‘second’ side rather than their first, as they are following a localish, successful and stylish MLS team.

  2. I think it grew. It grows slowly though. It’s like a sales projection. You get a baseline, then a huge wave. When the wave passes, it goes down again, but never as low as before. The baseline gets a little higher every time.

    Hopefully the people whose support the sport needs realize it’s a marathon, and not a sprint.

    1. That’s how its always been since 1990. There would be a slight uptick in numbers, then it would slide down, but every four years we see an increase in investment by Disney and News Corp. There’s no statistical support of an MLS WC bump, but I have a feeling this year will be slightly different.

  3. I am really curious as to what I will be complaining about after we get FSC in HD. I mean, I do a LOT of my complaining about this topic. Who will get the brunt of it next? Maybe we should take a poll.

    1. According to the author of this article, standard definition television is “almost unwatchable.” Give me a break.

      1. It is unwatchable on a high def television. On a regular old t.v., SD actually looks just fine, but typically people have the HD t.v’s in their main rooms – thus the frustration.

      2. If he thinks that’s “unwatchable” he should step into the shoes of us who have to watch the games over crappy internet streams.

        People in the US will watch soccer on tv when they show it on tv (believe me they watch a lot worse garbage). They are not going to run out and buy a premium channel for it, that’s for the hardcore fans. It’s nice ESPN2 shows a few games and if they show more I’m sure they could build a following. I’m starting to think things like FSC are setting the sport back here.

  4. I don’t know if it has grown this year, but I know my own experience. In 2006 I watched the World Cup, but knew very little about the world game. Then came the World Cup and every day I was watching and learning soccer. Since then I am I season ticket holder to the Columbus Crew and keep at with European soccer more than any sport in the U.S. If it were not for the 2006 World Cup I would not be the soccer fan I am today. I don’t know how many others are out there like me. Most of my friends watched the World Cup this summer, but that is as far as it has gone with them. I guess only time will tell.

    1. Todd, I am 100% with you. As a 22 year old who quit soccer at the ripe age of 12 (my parents couldn’t afford club soccer), I had the opportunity to watch every single WC2006 match since I had just graduated and was taking the summer off. When matches weren’t going on, I was playing on my high school field for hours at a time. The sport consumed me. Since then I have become a rabid Manchester City fan (before we got our billions, mind you) and haven’t missed a match since. I think there will be others like us who are seized by the passion that soccer offers for club and country. I must be honest, I can’t imagine there will be very many. I felt like the only one from 2006, glad to know there are two of us.

  5. I wont be able to tell until I start going to the pub for EPL matches this year, but I hightly doubt that there will be too many new fans there.

    I do agree with you that most people in this country are country first sport second. I think the guy that wrote this article (http://assoc-football.com/2010/07/17/merge-gold-cup-and-copa-america-for-genuine-tournament-of-the-americas/#comment-1568) has an amazing idea. Merge the god awful Gold Cup with the respectable Copa America. Look how popular the UEFA Euro Cup is by merging the Gold Cup and Copa America it would give Americans a stop gap right in the middle of the world cups would help generate more capital that the Copa America lacks right now.

    The TV rights for a true Copa America would be just as valuable as the Euro Cup if not more. Also by having CONCACAF teams playing the better sides from COMEBOL would force the CONCACAF teams to setup there game.

    1. You can’t touch the 2nd oldest international tournament, South America would riot. What I would suggest however is El Tazon de Americas (The Americas Bowl) This would be a 24 (10 Conmebol+14 Concacaf) team tournament held in the USA every 4 years. It would occur at night after the European Championship matches have ended. This would be to avoid conflicting with the Euros and the Olympics.

      1. nj,
        That sounds like a good idea as well but wouldn’t having that tournament make coaches choose which one they will have there stars play in? Since the Copa America is looked upon so highly in South America wouldn’t the COMEBOL teams send B-sides to the El Tazon de Americas since it would be going on at the same time? COMEBOL already sends invites to other FIFA nations because they only have 10 countries in it, so I think joining the two would be good for all parties involved.

        I don’t think that the US should host it every year though. I think it should be rotated like Euro Cup and you could use this as a way for countries to better themselves like they do with the Olympics, World Cup, and Euro Cup. Have the first one in the US and the second one in Brazil since they will be ready since they are having the Olympics and WC soon. Let smaller countries that can afford to do a joint bit like the Euros.

        I think you should click on the link I posted read what the guy wrote, but we really need to do something.

  6. I’ve been a casual fan since the World Cup came to the States in 1994, but this year something clicked for me. And it wasn’t Donovan’s goal–though I was ecstatic about that–or the US team performance in general. The game itself hooked me, most likely through the plethora of commentary I was able to delve into on the web. I have now watched all or parts of about ten games since Spain won the final–both MLS league games and club friendlies. I’ve scoured YouTube for 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 club-specific season highlight reels. I’ve chosen teams in each of the big leagues and put the RSS feeds of their supporters’ blogs in my Google Reader list.

    Here’s my dilemma, however: I’m a broke graduate student and cannot afford to attend with any regularity MLS games, even if I sit in the cheap seats. I’ve taken to finding decent college squads in the New York metropolitan area so that my wife and I can attend games this fall for roughly $10 a ticket. (I found the St. John’s University Red Storm, whose stadium is two subways and a bus ride away and whose tickets are $11 or $12 each.)

    There must be more out there like me, right?

    1. If there were an MLS team close to me, I would probably follow them and go see their games. I am, however, lucky enough that I can afford to pay extra for the soccer packages on direcTV. After the World Cup in 2006, I really didn’t have the money and ended up losing interest partly because of that. I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to sports and if I can’t get my fix, I’m forced to look elsewhere.

        1. Not particularly. I live in Southwest Virginia. The closest is probably 2 hours away (Richmond, VA). I saw a Seattle Sounders game when I was in Seattle in May. That was pretty fun. I might make a trip to see DC United (about 4.5 hours away). I have family up there.

          1. There are the Richmond Kickers, not MLS but pretty good quality. They play friendlies with DC United occasionally so maybe you can catch a decent game without the drive up to Northern Virginia.

    2. More power to you Brian, at least you’re making the effort and that’s the only way to expand your knowledge and for the sport to grow, for people to watch and become involved in the grass roots. If you ever make it over here let me know and I’ll sort you Stoke tickets out. I won 13 pairs last season and have already won a pair of the Stoke vs Man Utd match in October this season so am in luck again.

  7. 14 months ago i had been a casual fan at best of the national team – watching world cup games when i could but without any real emotional investment. i had stumbled across a champions league broadcast during those endless weekday afternoons in college – but couldn’t quite understand aggregate scoring and away goals. that all changed for me last summer with the confederations cup. the light bulb finally went off. i saw an american team playing like the reckless cowboys we all imagine ourselves to be. then landon went to everton – and the whole premeirship opened up for me. i get it now and i’m all in and i know im not alone. I agree the US needs another major tournement to bridge the gap and the copa america is the perfect opportunity for growth. in terms of the club game – i know it upsets the purists but the mls needs strikers and the best americans have to play on the biggest clubs.

    either way, i’ll be watching and that wasn’t true a little over a year ago.

  8. Some excellent comments here on budding football fandom in the US and its qualities. I’ve been watching since 1994 but the switch didn’t really go off for me until 2002, and my intellectual engagement with the game really started in 2006 and only gotten hotter. Books, newspaper websites, podcasts, blogs, twitter have really helped with the education and immersion in EPL/La Liga/UEFA/MLS etc after the casual rush of cheering for the US at the pub faded away.

    I did observe something interesting with a few friends and my wife (all very casual fans, though intellgent sports fans generally) with this year’s World Cup. There was a clear interest among them in the play of superior sides like Spain and Germany and Argentina, and the respective stars. MLS interested them less, though, other than a trip to a game occasionally. From what I gather, they want to start watching more EPL matches, but their ideal match would be a team like Everton w/American stars like Donovan & Howard vs a glamorous team like Chelsea or Barcelona. That way they get to see their “US guys” play against the best teams/players in a league setting.

    You could argue that the growth of this type of “fan” isn’t all that desirable because it would just lead to more over-coverage of the money/glamor teams, but that happens in all televised sports anyway. If it means continued growth and exposure and demand for the sport in this country, it can’t be a bad thing.

    Of course there’s nothing like country to fuel continued interest, and CTBlues’ idea of a Copa Cup is also great.

    And add me to the thousands/millions wondering when FSC HD and Gol TV HD will become more widely available. Seeing every WC game in HD on ESPN/ABC this year spoiled me massively.

    1. I’ll follow up my earlier comment by adding that my wife’s interest in the sport is not as rabid as mine has become; she too thinks that MLS games are “too slow” and would rather watch World Cup-level play. Without having watched a full regular-season EPL game, I think top-four (or top-six) EPL matches will satisfy her, and hopefully she’ll get roped in to some of the story lines and explore further. In our divvying up of teams, she took Manchester United, so it has been helpful that “her” team has been touring the US these past few weeks. I’ve chosen Arsenal, so I haven’t had the same luck with interesting preseason friendlies, though I’m looking forward to the Emirates Cup matches against AC Milan and Celtic.

  9. I am not what would be considered a soccer/futbol fan. I am a hockey fan. But there have been three times in my life where I have given soccer a legit shot. One: in 2005 (im not fact checking this, its on memory so ill probs be wrong about some stuff) Liverpool was playing some Spanish or Italian team for the UEFA Cup? Euro Cup? who knows. But it was a big deal and one of my friends is a huge Liverpool fan and literally forced me to watch with him. It was amazing. I had never watched a game before that and I was hooked right in. Needless to say it was an amazing game, so maybe that had something to do with it. Two: Same friend got me to go to a US v Latvia friendly in Hartford before the ’06 WC. Seeing it in person and being with the fans, locked down the fact that this is a seriously awesome sport. Three: 2010 WC. I watched every game the US played and a number of other games. Steaming it live at work and everything. It was so exciting, even when it wasnt the US playing. Its pretty easy to pick a side to root for even if youve never heard of a player on either side just by seeing who plays with the most heart and who wants it most. one of the things that is more apparent in soccer the most other sports is how hard they play and how dedicated they are (or how not dedicated: france)

    After all three of theses events I spent some time trying to follow the sport, get into the teams, learn everything you need to know. Everytime, its collapsed a few weeks later. I cant imagine im the only person who feels this way.

    The issue is, it is so unlike US pro sports. I follow hockey most of all, and a little baseball and american football. Each of these sports has a top league. NHL MLB NFL. From what I have read online (my only way of gaining knowledge) the EPL is the best league. The problem is that they dont have a lock on the best players. There are world class players in so many other leagues that it is to difficult to keep track of. Not to mention if you dont know the sport, its difficult to look online, find highlights and game recaps and stats and whatever and figure out who is the best.

    I am also a graphic designer, and I like random desktop backgrounds, posters, team promos, fan art, that kind of stuff. i make it for a lot of the teams I follow in the states. I have been looking around and its just not at the same level with the EPL. Team apparel on the team sites is minimal at best. It just doesnt seem like there is as much out there for fans who cant attend games in person.

    There are other things like the jerseys having sponsorships that we just dont really do here, and I can get over that. Or the players diving and flopping around, its lame and really unattractive for a fan of hockey, but its to gain a strategic advantage so I can get past that too. The lack of a clear top league that holds the top players, and lack of fan imersion (atleast stateside) is what makes me fall off after a few weeks each time.

    I looked around for the top blogs about the EPL specifically and I think this is one of the best. I have been reading all the posts since right around the end of the world cup and I am eagerly awaiting opening night for Fulham (my team of choice back when I would play FIFA 04 on xbox). Besides this blog, what else would you suggest a new fan do to get a true grasp on the sport and the teams and the leagues. Its a lot to absorb when you are starting from scratch.

    1. As an all sports fan, I for one welcome you.
      -To address the best players issue: money is obviously spread out more because of the respect for international leagues and federations. The Big 3 and NHL sadly don’t give their international governing bodies the time of day and have created a club above country mentality. With this you don’t see leagues growing at a good rate overseas because the talent is in America and stays there for the Hockey World Cup and sometimes the Olympics.
      -Highlights: footytube.com
      -Recaps: soccernet or BBC
      -Stats: never really that important
      -Leagues in America: I personally have adjusted from a mentality I held in the early 2000’s about MLS and the lower levels on the pyramid. I have come to realize that if American soccer is to succeed, one must invest in a club to help that club develop talent to progress American soccer. People want MLS to play at a high level and refuse to watch it, but MLS needs money to get to that high level, and thus needs more people in seats and watching TV. It’s a loop that I am happy I broke. It’s alright to have a EPL side and a local side.
      -Merchandise: get a scarf, simple enough, cheap, useful
      -Not watching games in person: I go to a college that is 2 hours away from the closest Top 3 level side. Without a car that is useless, but because all MLS games are now on TV, it means that there are streams throughout the web to watch them on. Also join a supporters group, if anything immerses you into a club, they will.
      -Jersey Sponsorships: Expect that to change here soon. Sports ownership in America is more about the bottomline now than the passion. With rising salaries and labor unrest, we may see NBA (25 teams having operating income in the red) take it up and perhaps the NHL (15 teams in the operating income red in 08-09). The Jersey sponsor thing gave me unease at first, but being for the constant growth of my teams, I saw it as something that could get another good player to help the team
      -Diving: everyone hates it unless one profits from it. Diving has worked its way into basketball (charges and grunting while going in for a layup) and football (WR’s falling to get Pass interference). I hope someone finds a way to stop it.

      As for the quest for further knowledge:
      Wikipedia. While not the most detailed of sources, Wikisurfing for hours by typing in EPL or MLS and clicking on other topics has led to a vast general knowledge.
      5 Live Football Daily, BBC World Football and 5 Live World Football Phone-in: podcasts that provide some good info
      Mustreadsoccer.com and unprofessionalfoul.com are both good sites
      If I think of anything else I’ll add a response

    2. Donovan (not Landon),

      The subject of getting into EPL/international soccer is ground that has been well covered, but you still raise great points. Apart from obvious cultural barriers, the proliferation of leagues can be overwhelming. Even if you restrict yourself to EPL, getting a handle on history and characteristics of different teams and competitions etc feels like a major project.

      This blog had a great list of recommended books on soccer a while back, and Chuck Culpepper’s Bloody Confused is a very good intro to EPL and the culture of English soccer from an American point of view, not to mention an entertaining read. I know this will make some cringe, but Bill Simmons had a long two part column on picking his EPL team in which he ran through the options based on certain criteria (some serious, some whimsical) and solicited fan feedback on the most popular EPL choices. You don’t have to go along with his criteria or judgments, but he provides a useful way to get your head around thinking about the teams, and you can augment all this with your own research from this blog, the Guardian, other websites/blogs, watching games on FSC, etc. Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated actively refers Simmons’ column to newbies because it’s approachable to people weaned on American sports.

      The Guardian has an outstanding podcast which helps a great deal with not only getting the latest news, but absorbing the vernacular of soccer (the same way listening to sports radio would for someone outside the US getting into hockey or the NFL, I imagine), but it’s a bit more intelligent than the shouting/quick hit judgments of Around the Horn or other shows of its type.

      The jersey stuff is interesting. I’ve never been a huge buyer of team memorabilia in any sport beyond a t-shirt or cap here and there, but my wife really wanted an Iniesta jersey after Spain won. Fortunately, Barca is so popular that there are plenty of dealers online to meet the demand for Messi and other jerseys (some more shady than others), but I also went looking for some Everton stuff and it was much more limited. I admit my knowledge is more limited in this area, though, and fantasize about a huge shop in London or Madrid that’s the equivalent of the NBA store in NYC with all sorts of team merchandise.

      Finally, if you can get Gol TV as part of your cable package (it was a very small added charge to mine), don’t sleep on La Liga or Bundesliga. The marquee Barcelona-Real Madrid-Bayern Munich-etc games will likely be televised on ESPN 2/3, but there are plenty of good games that don’t get picked up that are worth feeding your growing soccer habit. In the end, you many not care for spreading your attention that thin, but as someone who grew to love Spanish football, I personally recommend it.

    3. I second what njndirish and Jesse Chula said – welcome to the world of soccer/football.

      In addition to what they suggested, I would also recommend the European newspapers (as opposed to British newspapers) for their sports coverage. Spain’s “Marca” in particular has a level of analysis that is pretty much unrivalled in English papers, and I’m pretty sure there website has an english-language version. Some of their analysis may be a bit daunting to the average new-comer, but from my anecdotal evidence, American’s seem pretty keen to embrace the more technical/tactical analysis (perhaps because of the detail-obsessed culture of US sports).

      “Zonal Marking” is also a great website for tactical analysis. I’ve always found that it’s very understandable, and I feel I’ve learnt a lot from it despite having been a football fan for 20 years.

      Also, a great way of becoming knowledgeable/familiar with all the top-performers is to join a fantasy football league. It can be kind of engrossing, doesn’t require any real know-how, and it also gives you reason to root for someone in every game. The premier league official website has it’s own fantasy league which is pretty popular.

      As for the EPL being the best league – well that’s very open to debate, and that’s the whole beauty of soccer. The EPL is certainly up there with the best, the Spanish and German leagues could make equally plausible claims. If seeing the best players all in one place is what concerns you, then the best teams from each league face each other on a fairly regular basis in the UEFA Champion’s League.

  10. Jessie: Interesting thoughts, I also wonder if the sport is really going to grow here. I believe that every world cup will catch the fantasy of the casual fan much the way the olympics does every four years. You are probably right in that nationalism is the main reason. It seems like everyone is obsessed with Michael Phelps during an Olympic summer or Lindsay Vonn during an Olympic winter, but swimming and skiing don’t see consistent bumps the other 3.5 years.

    I also am a little put off by the undercurrent of disrespect for the American game in your writing. I think you generally do a good job, but I always catch a pot shot or two that smells of Anglo-elitism. How exactly do these MLS teams show that they have “everything to prove” as you so state? Do ANY of the regulars even play a full 90 minutes? The matches I have watched have seen the MLS teams completely empty their benches (including NYRB throwing on a trialist for the last 10 minutes as they tried to “slay” Man City). These frienlies are friendlies for both teams. Sure, the MLS might have a little more motivation…..but let’s not act like they are jeopardizing their league campaign and/or focusing on these matches with great intensity. I just think these comments take away from otherwise very solid work.

    1. Kevin,

      Thanks for the feedback. In all honesty, the “prove everything’ line was meant as a genuine compliment to the MLS sides.

      What I was able to catch of the United v KC match saw me witness KC giving their all, battling for every ball and playing an intense, physical match.

      All credit to them for sticking it to United that day. They played like they had something to prove and they did in fact prove it by beating United, 2-1.

    2. I agree that MLS does have something to prove when they play the EPL/INTL teams. The same way Watford has something to prove in the friendlies. MLS is probably 2 tiers below EPL and La Liga and there is not a darn thing wrong with that.

  11. Donovan (not Landon),

    Thanks for your feedback.

    In regards to your question at the end of your comments, of course stay tuned to this site for great analysis of the Premier League. Coverage will really pick up when the domestic seasons start back up.

    Also, get plugged into 2 or 3 podcasts. EPL Talk has one featuring some really smart guys that will be back up and running with in a few weeks. Really interesting coverage and not just people chatting or having a laugh. You’ll learn something from these guys.

    The Guardian also has a good podcast and you’re sure to find more if you go to the iTunes store and look around. Most all are free.

    If you’re looking for just news, ESPNSoccernet is usually my first stop most mornings. The big English papers like the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph and more have some of the best soccer journo’s in the world if you’re looking for in-depth opinion writing.

    Lastly, and most importantly in my opinion, get stuck into Twitter.

    EPLTalk has an official account that the Gaffer runs and he does brilliantly in keeping followers hooked onto every bit of news. A lot of the writers on this site including myself have accounts and most of the big name journo’s, blogger’s and even clubs have official Twitter accounts.

    Feel free to contact me on Twitter @JesseChula if you have additional questions.

    Hope this helps and glad you found EPLTalk.

    1. I will also toss in goal.com. Good light reading, prompt news and available in mobile form on most/all devices. Blackberry has an app that really makes following Football on the go pleasant.

  12. Soccer growth in this country is handicapped by the fact that there are no well-known sport journalists or TV pundits who are pro soccer. Can you think of any newspaper or TV programme that covers soccer properly? Watch ESPN and you get almost all of their pundits saying how much they hate soccer or how little they know about it. And this from a network that carries soccer.

    last week I had the opportunity to watch some of ESPN’s late afternoon shows when Thierry Henry joined the New York Red Bulls this is what I heard . First up was Jim Rome. He admitted to hating soccer (in fact he went further and said most American’s hate soccer) and said soccer would never become a mainstream sport in this country and that Henry’s signing would do nothing for the sport in this country. Next up was a show called Around the Horn where sportswriters talk about sports issues of the day. While not as negative they were still saying things like soccer would never become big in this country. Finally I watched a show called PTI which was the least negative about soccer but still not very positive about Henry’s signing. The point I’m trying to make is that unless the mainstream media treat soccer more favourably it will always be an uphill battle to win the hearts and minds of the people. Even if something is not true, if you say it long enough it becomes what people will believe.

    1. This will change as the mainstream media fall into the hands of a younger generation of journalists. Those from my generation were raised to hate the game and it is hard to shake them from that position.
      But US Soccer could do a better job of courting those who aren’t full-time soccer media. In fact, they’re pretty lousy at it currently. They take the attitude that if soccer isn’t your focus they have no time for you. Not going to convert many people with approach.

  13. Cricketlover, you’re right on the money. I’ve been saying the same thing for a long time. I don’t see soccer really growing unless there is a change of attitude by the media.

    1. espn’s frat boys will change their tune as soon as their next production meeting in bristol that includes both the bar graphs showing the rise in ratings/profits from the world cup and espn’s continued investment in the club game in the US and Europe. once you get past the jock act – they’re no different than a “reporter” on access hollywood and they’ll push what sells

  14. Thanks for the input guys. I am going to try and find some bars around Boston that show the games and maybe get down to Foxboro for a Revolution game before the end of the season. Getting into a supporters group is def a good suggestion. I think ill try and find one around here. Im sure there are some for the Revolution but idk if ill find a Fulham group around here.

    Two other issues I run into:
    Game times: It was an issue for the world cup, and looking through Fulham’s fixtures they have a lot of 15:00 games. if im not mistaken, thats a five hour time difference to the east coast, and those would be 10am games. Being up and functioning after a night out by 10am is much harder to manage then staying up for a 10pm start for a west coast hockey game.
    draws: obvi there is nothing to be done about this. I dont mind a 0-0 game as long as its well played, but when there are so many draws its hard to invest your time. Being an NHL fan I know that shootouts are NOT the answer. They totally undemine the integrity of the game, so thats not the solution. Im sure that having games end in draws is the least original issue anyone has had with soccer lol.

    Also, I never really got into baseball or american football until I started doing the fantasy teams for each. Baseball is still rather dreadful to watch on TV, but it still got me much more into the teams and players and everything. I am doing a fantasy league with a friend where you pick a roster every week for the games, but is there a more US style fantasy leauge out there that I just dont know, or has the fantasy sports idea not really caught on for soccer yet?

    thanks again everyone!

    1. Boston is a GREAT place to watch Euro football. There are many Irish pubs and Italian bars that are rocking on Saturday mornings. I don’t live in Boston anymore but I am jealous of those that do. If you was a small local pub with hardcore Irish followers, find the Castlebar in Allston. (on Washington, I think)

  15. Donovan,
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Boston did have a local Fulham fan club – they’re a popular team in the US for obvious reasons.

    Re: fantasy football – as I mentioned above, it’s a great way to get into following the game. As far as I know, it actually caught on in soccer before it ever did in American sports (I might be wrong). The official EPL one seems to be the way to go.

    As for draws, they’re part of the game in a league season. If you’re a fan of a smaller team, you’ll learn to love them – getting a draw at Man Utd for example will feel like a win. Not sure if Fulham are still “underdog” enough to experience this though.

  16. I’ve played soccer my whole life, but have not really followed soccer outside of the World Cup since 1990. This World Cup really fired me up as I was able to watch all the weekend games and stream all the other games from my Mac to my TV. Because of this I am super excited about the EPL this year and am looking forward to finding a team I can call my own (maybe Newcastle, maybe Spurs, maybe Villa, who knows?)

    During the WC many of my friends at work were genuinely interested. They would want to the final score of most games and I answered MANY soccer related questions. SInce then, nothing. They even roll their eyes if I mention anything soccer. I can guarantee that they will be interested in 2014, but that’s a long time for me to wait as I know nobody else who is interested.

    I think if the EPL got more press coverage in the States and showed more games it would go a long way to converting people. I’ll root for my Rapids, but I think that the MLS brand of soccer is boring. My friends say it’s like watching a high school game and while I don’t agree with that, it certainly doesn’t have anywhere near the excitement of any of the big European or South American leagues.

    Anyway, first time poster and now a huge follower of this site. I’m in it for the long haul!


  17. I’d say it’s grown, if only slightly. For example, my dad has expressed interest in watching some of the recent friendlies (which he never did before this World Cup), and me and him might be going to a few games of our local Rochester Rhinos.

    I suppose I’m lucky, because I have one friend who actually plays soccer and therefore pays attention to it on the pro level, and another friend who has been very interested since the fall of 2007, though he still is hesitant about the MLS. I saw a ton of interest on Facebook, even after the US was eliminated, though naturally that has died off since.

  18. Last post to this thread — I promise! It’s a request, actually. One thing that has mystified me so far — and I expect some of my American counterparts — is the economics of player transfers. I see big numbers associated with names, but I feel there are more factors involved in such “buys” than there are in contract negotiations in baseball, for example. I searched the EPLTalk archives for “finance” and “economics” but didn’t come up with a primer-type post. Can someone here point me to one? Or would it be possible for someone at EPLTalk to write one out by analyzing a trade/buy (or a few trades/buys) that have happened this season? Something comparing, perhaps, the difference between a free signing like Joe Cole with a not-free signing like (the rumored) Mario Balotelli arrival in England.

    Knowing Roman Abramovich as an art collector allows me to understand why Chelsea spent recently; having family members who own SUVs helps me understand why Man City has the money it does this summer. But anything to pull back the curtains a little further on £24 million versus £2.4 million deals would be much appreciated.

    1. I second this request. I have an idea of how it works, but I think I’m oversimplifying in my head. All I am learning about transfer fees and loans I learned from FM2010!

    2. As a basketball fan, I admit I long for something in soccer similar to Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ that explains all the arcana of managing salaries and cap space in the NBA. I do find the blog The Swiss Ramble extremely enlightening in its detailed focus on the business of soccer, and the extensive discussion of specific teams and transactions.

    3. Hey man, I know it’s a few days late and therefore the thread appears to be dead, but I stumbled upon this in a google effort to see if there was any news on FSC HD coming to my area (Seattle). I apologize if this was answered elsewhere and I’m too dumb to find it…

      Anyway, as a recent convert to the game (got hooked watching an inter/barca group stage champions league game last fall that I only intended to have on as background while cleaning or something), the transfer thing was weird to me, too, but it’s actually shockingly simple:

      Free transfer: A free agent.
      The player has no ties to any club because his contract has expired.
      Typically these players are lower-rated (either not considered as good by the club, questionable health, or maybe past their prime), because otherwise the club could’ve gotten big money out of them before their contract ended.

      Transfer fees: A player is currently under contract with one club, and that club has sold the rights to negotiate a new contract with another club.
      A better player will get more money on the transfer market, as will a younger player. A younger, proven better player will command crazy money (like Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from ManU).
      These are kind of like trades in American sports…. if you have a 22 year old superstar on your team who already is proven to be the real deal, but you know that he’ll be able to get a ton more money than you can or would pay, you will probably trade him for an awfully highly-valued set of prospects who will stock your team into the future. In soccer, you sell that guy for a crapload of Euros to one of the bigger clubs, who will then try and lock him up for the remainder of his productive career (or until they sell him for cheap because they think he’s washed up and they’ve moved on to the next big thing, which is just like trading the “washed up” player in American sports who makes the big comeback with the new team). If your team gets the real big money out of it, you can probably either buy other really young unproven players to develop, pay down debts, or fund a youth scheme from which you could develop other players who could become stars (like how I read Wesley Sneijder’s transfer from Ajax to Madrid alone could pretty much fund their youth scheme for years to come).
      It’s basically just that the American player trading system doesn’t translate well to an international, multi-league club setup, because it’s effectively a barter system, whereas paid transfers are done for the same reason we use money in everyday life.

      I thought I was oversimplifying it when I first realized that, but in getting more into it (and looking at it as somebody who’s taught college economics before), it really just is a simple system of player rights trading (though obviously there are things like loans and things negotiated into transfer agreements that can complicate things).

      Hope this helps shed a little light if anybody looks at this comment section wondering about them again. If I’m wrong, maybe somebody’ll correct me.

  19. If you’re searching for meaningful matches, how about turning on MLS regular-season games?
    I love the Premier League and Liverpool, but also MLS and the Crew.
    The notion that one can’t be a fan of domestic soccer and the world’s best league at the same time is absurd, especially since there is minimal overlap in their seasons

    1. I do find it absurd because of the negative tactics style of play. The skill level difference doesn’t even bother me but it is probably why there will never be a “total football” type of team. Heck, I’ll settle for one with a swift counter attack. The tactics and skill are just not there. I even live in a market (Houston) where the team tries to attach but the skill level is exposed. MLS is what it is, a league one level of play.

      1. Yes, and we’ve never seen negativity from Stoke, Wigan, Burnley. Only in MLS do they play negative soccer. Sheesh.
        What MLS is, is the domestic league of the United States.
        And Thierry Henry isn’t playing in League One.
        How many World Cup players are in League One?

  20. its growing everyday.. just look at how all little kids play soccer now in the u.s. It used to be baseball (tball).. but now its soccer.. its been happening for the past 10 15 years or so and is still growing.. With this you get a lot more respect and knowledge for the game cuz ppl have played it and understood it at a young age.. it just needs to hit mainstream so that younger kids can look at it and say “wow, i want to be a footballer” Within the next 10 years or so the USMNT will be one of the best.. its growing a lot and we will see the next generation blossom greatly..

  21. I watched the US play Slovenia and Algeria in the mailroom at my office, since they have the only readily accessible TV. The guys that worked down there would stop and watch for a few seconds when they were in between tasks, but in general didn’t really care what was going on. Towards the end of the Algeria game, though, they started to gather around and really seemed to take an interest. Of the four guys, three of them probably won’t watch soccer for the next four years, but one of them went out and bought FIFA that same weekend and told me that he’s really developed an appreciation for the game. 25% isn’t bad.

  22. The long term future of soccer looks promising. More kids are playing the game and they will eventually become soccer fans as long as there is a viable soccer league for them to follow. The MLS needs to up its game to tap into this market.

    Another promising sign is that the new ‘concussion awareness campaign’ in football will have a far-reaching effect on its future. Parents are going to think twice about letting their kids play football instead opting to let them play other sports and soccer could be a beneficiary.

    So, in the short term I don’t see much change in fan support for soccer but am more hopeful about the future.

  23. As I read, watch and attend(when I can) everything related with US Soccer in this country for more than a decade now, I have a different feeling of hope than the usual “hope of growth” that I have every year for soccer in this country. This year I have finally seen the steps taken for this country to become a soccer nation.

    I’m not talking about passing the “Big Three” or the fervor of MLS Cup to become like the Super Bowl every year but I feel that we can have an existence just the way MMA and other niche sports have a place in a country of more than 300 million (which is better than many countries around the globe). There is room and there is interest and no one can deny that, no matter what you think of MLS or US Soccer, South Africa changed things. Soccer in this country was finally taken seriously by a TV network and it proves that it was worth it.

    I find a lot of soccer fans that bash US Soccer in this country but judging without understanding the history of sports or even the history of this country is premature. MLS and US Soccer are fighting for relevance not only against the world (who has seen it with disdain), but its own battle with the sports landscape in this country (fans, media, etc.) that see’s soccer as un-American and foreign.

    I firmly believe that for all the failures and tribulations that the NFL, NBA, UFC, NASCAR, and NHL had when they first started, that for all the haters, media and non-believers when these leagues were young and not established, that MLS will be no different. The seeds have been planted and the roots are strong no matter what type of tree you think it is. We are a nation of different peoples and different likes and there is room even for soccer. I was born in Honduras and grew up in Miami loving my soccer roots, I think the strong national identity with US Soccer this world cup was a solid step forward for continued steady growth.

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