Major League Soccer Weekend Review: MLS Talk Podcast


The Major League Soccer season came to a close on Sunday, finalizing the four match-ups in of the coming conference semifinals. To talk about this weekend’s active, the coming playoffs, as well as where the eight eliminates teams go from here, I welcome co-host Christopher Riordan for this edition of the Major League Soccer Talk podcast.

Programming Note: Major League Soccer Talk will have three podcasts this week. This one will be focused on weekend review and wrapping up the seasons of the eight teams who played their last matches this week. Tomorrow’s will focus on the Western Conference playoffs, and on Thursday, we’ll take a look at the Eastern Conference ahead of Major League Soccer’s playoffs starting at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Also, Chris and I are conducting a giveaway contest during the playoffs. Listen to this week’s shows for details.

4 thoughts on “Major League Soccer Weekend Review: MLS Talk Podcast”

  1. hey guys. i wanted to chime in on the MLS doing a better job marketing itself and trying to appeal to fans.

    first and foremost i am flabbergasted and appealed that MLS still doesn’t get it. “regular” sports fans who are non-soccer fans ARE NOT YOUR target audience. they’d be better off not even bothering really. as i see it the following is a list of the groups (roughly) that MLS should be targeting for marketing and the groups they should be looking to appeal to/appease with all of their operational decisions that are geared towards attracting fans.

    1. long suffering MLS fans: those who have been their from the beginning and suffered through the years of Burn and Wiz and countdowns and shoutouts. in the past you have done everything imaginable to try and piss these fans off and drive them away oftentimes. they are still here. stop ignoring them and actively try to appeal to them. what appeals to them has proven 9 times out of 10 to be the right thing. these are the fans that often make up SGs. this also applies to each team and the fans who were there from the start of the team (or before in some cases). what they want is usually the correct thing for your team to be doing. they want to be able to create a better soccer atmosphere in a stadium?, want flags and drums?, want a supporters terrace/GA seating area? just F**KING DO IT! you’ll eventually end up doing it anyway and it will turn out to be the best thing to have done so just do it that way from the start.

    2. lapsed MLS fans: now MLS has burned a lot of fans with crummy play and retarded rules. teams have alienated fans with being more concerned with being a concert venue or attracting stray folks to their man malls than the actual team. these are the low hanging fruit. GO GET THEM BACK by appealing to the above group and making the teams and play better you might just be able to. you might have to apologize but it is worth it. these fans probably will join the above as that most passionate SG section of the fan base.

    3. “i like soccer, just not MLS” fans (aka Euro/Mexi/SA-snobs): THIS is the huge 800lb gorilla for MLS. THIS is the group that MLS most needs to attract and appeal and market to. they already like soccer. in a country where 50% of the nation thinks the sport is either Satanic, gay, or a socialist French plot to overthrow American that is already 75% of the battle. did i mention they already like, nay love, the product you are selling? you just need to get them to like your brand of it. now it won’t be easy, these folks have some pretty refined tastes. some call them snobs which surely doesn’t help and maybe that is true maybe it isn’t. but rightly or wrongly they are used to a top end product, sort of like a 5 star restaurant. but it is NOT impossible to get these fans. the more you improve your product the more you can get them. sure they’ll still prefer their “Ruth Crist” Euro league but most of them won’t mind hitting up a Ruby Tuesdays for a quick decent lunch now and again. and this isn’t a one size fits all sort of thing. there are 5 distinct groups of these types of fans. those that follow a Euro league exclusively , those that follow Mexican FB and those that follow SA football, those that follow the NT (should be the easiest group to get) and those that follow women’s soccer (often hot chicks! bonus!). each group needs to be mined and marketed to in a different way but all are very very important to growing the league to the size/popularity it needs to be.

    4. non sports hipsters: let’s face it soccer doesn’t appeal to everybody. but it is proven that it DOES appeal to a certain young, educated, cosmopolitan, often liberal type of hipster. they often find other type of traditional American sports do not appeal to them. maybe they were non-athletic nerds growing up?, maybe traditional sports just aren’t counter culture enough for them? who knows. but these folks are a GOLD MINE. GO GET THEM. this is the one thing that a team like NY Cosmos seems to be doing right and what SSFC did successfully. use cutting edge social media. use tie in’s to counter culture/hipster things (get Arcade Fire to do a show before/after a game for instance). get cool hipster sponsors and vendors (even if you get smaller dollars for these “smaller” sponsors or it is less profitable to use vegan/locally sourced food vendors for instance).

    5. soccer moms/youth soccer: this is a notoriously fickle group. putting any stock in them being the “core” of your support is/was a stupid idea. but they do have a connection to soccer and at least some effort should be made to engage them as much as possible. more emphasis should be made in tying the soccer playing tots to the MLS and it’s clubs through actually soccer outreach and training and camps than should be put into getting them to come as regular fans. do some group sales, do some youth club ticket tie ins and once their at the game make sure there is plenty of soccer playing related activities for them. BUT DO NOT do anything with the goal of appealing to this group that will in any way or has any chance of alienating any of the above groups. IT IS NOT WORTH IT. if you can put a kiddie mascot in a corner somewhere it doesn’t piss anybody else off fine. if in some corner of the parking lot you want a kiddie skills area fine. but NEVER go to your SGs and ask them to tone it down because there are “families” at the stadium. give those families and kiddies that find the SG/hardcore atmosphere offensive a small special section that is booze and cussing free but that should be the extent of it.

    6. other “fringe” sports fans: often times the mental attitude that leads one to being a fan of one “lesser known” sport might lead to the fan being open to being accepting of another “lesser known” (in the USA) sport in soccer. lacrosse, tennis, field hockey… whatever. this isn’t a big group and there shouldn’t be a bunch of effort put into it.

    7. “regular” sports fans: fans of the traditional sports of baseball, football, basketball and hockey are pretty much a lost cause. there should be ZERO effort to directly attract them. it simply isn’t needed. with all of the groups above there are plenty of potential fans to make MLS HUGELY successful. the only thing that should be done in regards to this group is MLS needs to fight for equal billing credibility as the 5th league. when ESPN does an article about the best teams in NA and only rates the 122 NBA/NFL/NHL/MLB teams THAT is a problem. MLS should be fighting to be included in such things. Forbes should be doing a YEARLY valuation of MLS franchises like it does for every other league (not just once in 2008). the same goes for getting a decent and regular presence on ESPN with highlights etc. as MLS is able to gain credibility as the legitimate 5th league the few of these fans that are open to being MLS fans will naturally gravitate in and those that are mentally opposed to soccer simply won’t but their mindset will at least be changed from “negative/mocking” to “neutral/sport i just don’t happen to like”.

    the KEY in all of this is MLS should always seek to appeal to the lowest numbered group in this list BEFORE moving on to the next group and NO decisions or efforts to appeal to one of the lower ranked groups should be made if it has any potential to alienate or upset one of the groups above it.

    1. Of course, Tom:

      a.) email:
      b.) email you pick to win at each round of the playoffs.
      c.) correct picks at the conference semifinal level are worth 1 point each. conference finals – 2 points. MLS Cup = 4
      d.) also email your predicted score for the MLS Cup final. This will be the tiebreaker, in case of a tie on points.

  2. Giggsy made a lot of worthwhile comments that I agree with. I think you began to see a rise in MLS popularity among established soccer fans once the game became more “authentic” (i.e. get rid of shootouts and countdown clocks) and was played the way it works in the rest of the world. Giggsy also pointed out that the best fanbase for any club will be the supporter’s groups and NOT the families/soccer moms. The most ardent fans in the NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL are adult supporters, and, especially the NFL, their games are not exactly the best family environments. If you want to establish family sections at stadiums fine, but any smart club will know it is those ‘loud-mouthed’ supporters groups that will pay for tickets through thick and thin. Lastly on this, I can attest to #4: I was an international affairs major in college and still an astute follower of international politics, and once I discover soccer and the economic and social machinations of the game, I was hooked. American sports just don’t have that same type of appeal. Giggsy’s comments very much stand on their own, so I’ll let him bask in that glory.

    As to the show itself, Richard, you made a fantastic point about the MLS conversational paradigm that no one discusses tactics and gameplans re MLS, but simply “Is it as good as league x and y?” “Or why don’t people like MLS?” Along the same authenticity line, I think MLS fans can now stop taking a victimization stance and start talking about what is on the field instead of what is/could be/should be happening off it. So Kudos to you and Chris for providing great analysis and insight, I enjoy the show even though I admitted to be disinterested in the last few weeks of the season due to the playoff teams already being established. But the playoffs are here now, and I can assure you I’ll watch all 4 conference semifinals this weekend.

    Lastly, I did want to add 1 more subcategory of soccer fan to Giggsy’s list: the bandwagon hater. There are some soccer fans who feel entitled to their team and their game, and they hate anyone who wants to ride on the coattails of their team or their sport becoming a trend. For soccer, this is inherently a bad thing. I know there are Americans who watched the World Cup to see the US, and once it ended, will go back to watching American sports, and that’s fine. But you do have to wonder about the people who had more than a passing interest in the game, and were subsequently turned off by people who told them they were nothing more than glory hunters or bandwagon jumpers. A link to a noted ESPN columnists mailbag talks about this more in length (it starts about 1/3 way down):

    I think on an individual level, soccer fans can encourage those with even a passing interest if it is there and not call people out for following the latest trend. Like Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, we need Mavens, Connecters and Salesman who use their love of the game to persuade and rub their enthusiasm on others. It will not stick with everyone, but even if you have a few converts out of it, it’s progress.

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