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Could The Window Be Cracked For American Soccer?

soccer ball over sky 300x300 Could The Window Be Cracked For American Soccer?

From The Americano

Mid-July 2011.

What is the significance of this date?

That’s when training camps for the 2011-12 NFL season would open. For the first time since 1987 however, the National Football League may experience a work stoppage due to the expiration of their Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association. There is always the chance that the sides may reach an agreement before training camps open, but at this point there are a lot of differences to be worked out, and there is a very real possibility of the owners locking out camps.

Could there be a better time for the soccer establishment to organize and activate? To put forth the resources to exploit this small crack in the bulletproof glass known as the American sports scene? To finally push MLS to a new level in the American sports psyche?

Work stoppages in America can be devastating for a sport. Major League Baseball closed up shop in 1994 for nearly 3/4 of the season. In 2004, the National Hockey League locked out for an entire year. In each case, the sports suffered dearly. It took MLB the better part of ten years to regain the fan base they lost, especially outside of the metropolitan areas. The NHL lost their contract with ESPN after their lockout, and the national popularity is still down despite attempts to popularize the game through offensive-minded changes  such as modified offsides and icing rules, as well as games in outdoor stadiums.

From a popularity standpoint, the NFL endured their last stoppage pretty well in 1987. Back then, the arenas of marketing and media seemed much less cutthroat. Not to mention that American soccer was in its deepest valley. In the case of the MLB strike, MLS was in its infancy and suffering from lack of quality. We hosted the World Cup that season, but didn’t have the organizational infrastructure or talent base to threaten baseball.

At this point in the development of soccer in the US, the politically provocative  words of Rahm Emanuel come to mind. This is a serious NFL crisis that MLS should not let go to waste. Already we have reports that Manchester United and Arsenal are considering summer tours of the United States. The Red Devils are owned by the Glazer Family, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL. It will be a grand time for them to send their product to the US, knowing full well the potential fight that they have on their hands with the NFLPA.

What say you? Can MLS and the other divisions get a foot in the door? Are NFL fans too difficult to win over? What strategy does MLS need to take going forward, with or without an NFL lockout to exploit? What would success look like, in terms of increased popularity? And finally, are there things we can do as fans to help in the cause?

85 Responses to Could The Window Be Cracked For American Soccer?

  1. Dan says:

    I think an NFL lockout/strike would be FANTASTIC for the MLS. I believe ALOT of NFL fans are almost impossible to winover right now since they are very meathead I wanna see people getting killed and hundreds of points in a game kinda guys but I do believe there are a lot of fans we could win over, not to replace NFL but to be alongside of it.

    I do however still feel that the heart of MLS success is still in the american soccer fan that doesn’t believe MLS is worth his time and bitches about its level while watching the Premiership and supporting a team that he doesn’t even know where the city is. I find it ridiculous but also if we can win these soccer fans over to MLS the MLS would have almost a doubled viewership!

  2. AtlantaPompey says:

    The NFL has little to no influence on whether or not people pay attention to the MLS. The NBA also has labor issues, but that is irrelevant as well. MLS is competing against the EPL, La Liga, etc because it is much easier to watch those leagues on television than it is to watch MLS. It is much easier to watch those leagues on television than to attend an MLS match. I live in Atlanta and we don’t have an MLS team within 500 miles of us, yet on any given weekend I can watch a dozen different live matches from around the world in HD, keep up with the leagues on the internet, listen to local radio broadcasts, podcasts, etc. I have absolutely no reason, yet, to pay any attention to MLS when there are far superior leagues more readily available to me.

    That, and I don’t care too much about the NFL anyway.

    • Robert says:

      Atlanta-

      I totally understand where you are coming from. The nearest MLS team is Galaxy/Chivas but I will never root for a LA team. So I spend my money down in TJ by supporting Club Tijuana to gain promotion to La Primera!

      San Diego has a few local clubs but they have zero shot of getting into MLS.

    • Charles says:

      Well at least you admit you are an EPL shirt wearing tool.
      I have to give you credit for admitting you are a frontrunner.

      I completely disagree with you about competing against EPL.
      Sure it would be nice to attract your type too, your money is still green…but your numbers are very small, Very small, compared to the typical Sounder’s fan….they have attracted the masses, who are also a Mariners, Seahawks, and would be Sonics fan too.

      Hopefully someday you will take down your tool banner and support Atlanta. They have a push going to trying to have enough support for a major league soccer team.

      • John L says:

        Is everyone who supports EPL a tool?

      • Mark says:

        This is the crux of the problem though; you tell someone to “support Atlanta”, but what exactly does that entail? Do you really expect this person to give time and money to go sit with probably less than a thousand other people to watch the Silverbacks, a team that just took two years off to “assess the soccer landscape”? There’s no promotion to play for – all there is is politics, the politics of one man looking down from his tower and deigning Atlanta a worthy market for another MLS franchise.

      • AtlantaPompey says:

        When I’m sitting at home, MLS competes against the other leagues on television. I’m not sure how you can argue against that. I’d love to have a local team to support, but that won’t happen for a long time if ever.

        A lot more people watch foreign leagues than go to Seattle matches. What Seattle has accomplished in developing a fan base is very impressive, and I’d rather watch a match from Seattle than just about anywhere else because of the atmosphere, but to think that the supporters of Seattle outnumber the supporters of foreign teams is not only wrong, but awfully egotistical.

    • Earl Reed says:

      So AtlantaPompey…what would it take for you? You trash MLS, but you offer absolutely no ideas or ways to mitigate the problems you list.

      So there’s no way you would become a supporter of Atlanta’s NASL team? Get involved in a local supporters club? Try to help soccer grow and thrive in Atlanta? If you can watch all these live HD matches, I assume you might have a DVR, you could probably tape those matches and go support a local team. It may not be top-flight quality soccer, but it’s a start.

      • AtlantaPompey says:

        What local team would you like me to support? My nearest high school?

        • Joe says:

          It would have taken you about thirty seconds on google to learn that Atlanta has a NASL team called the Silverbacks. You could watch pro soccer in Atlanta, but you choose not to.

          I’m not saying I would put any effort into support a lower-tier team in my area – I probably wouldn’t! But you pretend that you don’t have options is false.

    • Patrick says:

      I know that several MLS teams will be coming to Atlanta for the pro soccer challenge, you should check it out.

  3. Charles R says:

    It certainly can’t hurt, but can help the MLS. If MLS want to make some inroads:

    - play a few exhibition matches in NFL markets that aren’t MLS markets for matches they wou;ld play at their local markets mid-week, insted do it in those non-MLS NFL markets on the weekend

    - get the European & Mexican big clubs to play in all those NFL markets as well in the NFL stadiums. Showing the owners/stadiumns and fans that the USA loves soccer. Do a doubleheader with an MLS match.

    • John L says:

      Great idea. Columbus can play in cincinnati or
      Cleveland, Toronto can play in Buffalo (or Rochester as they have a better soccer following) and so on. I like this idea.

    • CACuzcatlan says:

      It wasn’t clear from your post if this is what you meant, but I think the big Euro and Mexican exhibitions in NFL cities should be against MLS teams. A game between two Euro/Mex teams will do nothing to further MLS.

  4. Michael says:

    MLS should be sure to emphasize the affordability of their tickets and the accessibility of their players compared to the other sports in this country.

    The rest is up to ESPN, quite frankly — they control what the average fan thinks. They’re nothing more than a giant advertisement for the NFL, NBA, and NASCAR nowadays, it’s difficult imagining them actually taking MLS seriously. Just look at the disrespect they show the NHL.

    • Clampdown says:

      I could not agree more, Michael.

      The public wants what the public gets …

    • Charles says:

      I was talking with a guy, and it ended up being a conversation just like that.

      $100 to go to a Blazers game, or 1/5th that for a Timber’s game.

    • gmonsoon43 says:

      I think you have a very good point about advertising the right message to fans. Fans will be disgusted with Millionaires(NFL Players) fighting with Billionaires(The owners). So advertise that you can see a game for much less than an NFL game, that most of the players make reasonable (close to “working man”) salaries.

  5. Robert says:

    MLS has to focus on winning over soccer fans who follow other leagues around the world before MLS starts worrying about converting NFL fans to MLS fans.

    Until MLS weekly games on ESPN can consistently beat out EPL than that is progress. MLS can not afford to continue having the Cup Final (Primetime Sunday Night) lose out to an EPL match on a monday afternoon (USA Time).

    • Charles says:

      Wrong.

      The “I will watch MLS when it is better then EPL” tools are not worth chasing after. For the most part they are idiots.

      We have seen example after example of them trying to run the league because they need things changed to match their needs.

      Go after the masses, soccer can be a mainstream sport, there is no need to chase after a few soccer experts watching streaming soccer on illegal internet sights.

      Especially since, once you get the masses, like the Sounders have, Vancouver will, etc….they will convert anyway. You can almost hear them in 10 yers saying I have been following MLS since the beginning.

      • Robert says:

        Charles,

        Its easy for you to be a MLS fan boy because you have a franchise in your city. You can’t deny the numbers that the EPL is crushing MLS and is getting a bigger push from ESPN. Sounders are a great franchise but MLS is holding back their potential. Just look to Champions League and how they measured up against our friends down South.

      • Dave C says:

        Charles,
        Why do you always bring up this idea of die-hard soccer obsessives watching illegal internet sites?

        Nearly every EPL/La Liga/Serie A match worth watching is shown on FSC or ESPN already. No-one has to watch illegal streams (unless you desperately want to watch a Tuesday night game between West Brom and Wigan or something like that). Isn’t the whole point of what every one is talking about the fact that EPL draws more audience figures on ESPN/FSC (i.e. not dodgy streaming sites) than the MLS?

        • Joe says:

          Hey Dave, don’t knock illegal stream sites. Some of us don’t have cable!

          • CoconutMonkey says:

            That’s right! If it wasn’t for “illegal streaming sites” I wouldn’t be able to watch MLS at all.

            Match Day Live is unavailable outside of N America. *sob*

        • Charles says:

          “Nearly every EPL/La Liga/Serie A match worth watching is shown on FSC or ESPN already.”

          Well that is not true….unless you agree with me that almost none of them are worth watching.

          I don’t care the EPL is has better numbers and MLS, EPL has close to zero growth potential.

          • Joe says:

            EPL has zero growth potential? I guess we know you’re not a businessman.

          • Charles says:

            I meant in the US.

            And Robert,
            I was a Sounder’s fan WAAAAAY before MLS was even a dream.

            NASL, A-League, USL, then MLS.
            Don’t make me post my FC Seattle pennant hanging in my garage from when the Sounders took a break.

          • Dave C says:

            I’m a pretty big EPL fan, and I’ve rarely had problems trying to catch any of the bigger games (to a neutral). The only time it was hard to find games on TV was when I was specifically following my home-town team (Hull), usually when they played against similarly unglamorous sides.

            As for “the EPL has zero growth potential”: firstly what grounds do you have to say that? I should imagine that there is a ceiling somewhere (given that it’s a foreign league in a fairly niche-interest sport by US standards), but to say it has zero growth potential (even in the US) is odd. Secondly, I don’t know why always tries to frame these discussions as “MLS competing against EPL”. They’re not mutually exclusive.

  6. Richard says:

    Building a the sport of soccer in the U.S. is not easy. I live in San Antonio and we are seeing this first hand. We love soccer in San Antonio and have two groups seeking to field a team in 2012: one in NASL and one in USL Pro. The San Antonio Spurs are fielding the USL Pro team and it came out in the news today that the county government has a non compete agreement with the Spurs so that the NASL cannot receive public funds to get a stadium even though the Spurs receive funds for the AT&T center. Now they are trying to derail them. Check out the today’s news article at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/politics/article/Northeast-Side-soccer-plan-now-faces-roadblocks-982398.php#page-1

    • Charles says:

      If you have enough support at the fan level it will succeed eventually, you might have to watch minor league soccer for a while.

      Even Seattle had that for 15 years.

      I enjoyed those Sounders games a lot. ( Lot easier to get to the games, better seats, less money, could take the whole family ).
      4 very exciting championships, that we will never forget.

      Enjoy and good luck.

      • Joe says:

        Counting on fans to show up for minor league soccer as a way to “prove” they deserve major league soccer is putting the cart before the horse. If we allowed the teams themselves to earn their promotion, the fans would follow.

  7. Charles says:

    Really when you look at soccer, there are very few potential fans who are not going to watch multiple sports.
    Not having football to watch may mean more soccer watchers for a time.

    The key for MLS in my opinion is to make it:
    Big time feel at small time prices ($20 or less)

    People still love to go to baseball games even when they can’t sit in the $50 seats. In fact the cheap seats usually sell better and faster.
    But they don’t want New England, NFL lines on the field ( another benefit of the strike ), that makes the league look second rate.

    IF NFL was holding back fans, LA should be packed every game, but there are many Seahawk’s fans at the Sounder’s games, hopefully there will be a lot of Bear’s fans at Fire games someday soon.

  8. GI Joe says:

    The growth of MLS can’t be just made on other sports costs! If this NFL opportunity appears, MLS should take full advantage of it (friendlies, all-star and MLS cup games on non-MLS markets, …), but this isn’t enough to grab more fans. The average american guy has still to embrace the sport, and that isn’t a done deal!
    The US has, at this point, enough soccer fans for the league needs, but they don’t turn the TV on and that’s the big problem. Making them focus more on the “domestic” game is the way to go for MLS.

    PS. The split between “Hardcore Fans” and “Soccer Families” is just non-sense!

  9. dcudiplomat96 says:

    Stikes had come and gone with pro sports, nothing new. MLS still needs to learn how to be American friendly. ON tv, thru marketing. MLS is directly competing with the MLB and NFL and NCAA, more than the EPL or some other europe league. PLus there isn’t a lot of demand for soccer from mainstream standpoint. MLS USSF hs to figure it out. IMO there needs to be more maketing and more american traditional approach

  10. I think its great you wrote this article and you are bringing attention to this issue. I agree it is critical that MLS take full advantage. What makes me think it won’t make a difference either way is that MLS should have already made greater strides with the sports fans when the steroid controversy made news in baseball.

  11. Jacob says:

    I wrote this last week about something I could think would really help get MLS on TV more often.

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/574994-commercial-success-the-simple-solution-that-could-save-mls

  12. Earl Reed says:

    The simple truth of the matter is, the more we say, “Oh this fan or that fan is a lost cause,” or, “We’ll never make inroads,” then you won’t because you won’t even try. Sometimes you have to take the first steps. Three years ago, if you asked me if I was going to be a soccer nut, I’d have said, “Probably not.” But a group of friends at work got me into soccer through the World Cup.

    One theory I have…soccer can be an awesome group sport to watch. If you’re a big fan you can sit and watch a match by yourself no problem…if you don’t know much about it, watching by yourself is not going to cut it. It’s not surprising to see the support by the Sons Of Ben (I live in the Delaware Valley) be so strong…and there are many groups around. We just need to find ways to make inroads to others…invite friends, coworkers, even to watch a match at the bar. It can’t hurt, right?

    • Joe says:

      I think that a large number American soccer fans would rather sit at home watching illegal streams of the FA Cup at 8 am on a Saturday than go to a bar with a friend and watch an MLS game. Sad but true.

      • Earl Reed says:

        And it’s not easy, that’s for sure. They’re gonna bitch, ask dumb questions, and probably be obnoxious. Might be worth the inconvenience…

      • Dave C says:

        Joe – your post is an example of the kind of strawman thinking that seems to take over whenever people discuss the MLS.

        Why does watching the MLS or EPL have to be an either/or situation. Do MLS games even take place at 8am?? (and if so, are they broadcast in bars at that time of day??). If not, then this idea of someone having to choose between watching an MLS game in a bar OR watching an EPL game on TV (or one of Charles’ beloved “illegal streaming sites”) is nonsense. They could quite easily do both.

        • Joe says:

          Well Dave, we all love soccer, but we also all have lives outside of watching soccer on TV. On one of my two days off a week, I’d rather pick one game to watch for a few hours than spend an entire day in front of the TV. Maybe I’m alone in this?

    • CTBlues says:

      I am a Chelsea supporting living in Connecticut. I got into the sport in 2008 after the football season was over and baseball wasn’t going to start for another month. I found a pub about 15mins away that showed EPL matches on Saturday and Sunday mornings and the place is always packed for the games.

      I belong to the Connecticut Blues an official Chelsea supporters group and I also know of CT supporters clubs for ManU, Liverpool, and Arsenal, but I know of no CT Redbulls or Revolution supporters clubs and Connecticut has no local clubs to speak of to maybe some day get added to NASL or USL Pro let alone MLS.

      But besides all that I also watch the Redbulls on MSG, FSC, or ESPN which ever they are on on occasion. I do want to try an see a match or two at Redbull Arena this coming season.

      Up the Chels!

      • Earl Reed says:

        That’s great! I can’t wait to go to my first Philadelphia Union game sometime this summer, and I want to go see the Harrisburg City Islanders USL Pro team a couple times this year as well.

        Why not shoot an email or two to the USL people? I’m sure they continue to look to markets for expansion, and maybe they have some contacts in that area to make a USL team a reality up there. I’d have to figure that, with John Henry’s involvement in Liverpool, there could be some interest stirred up throughout the northeastern states.

      • Charles says:

        CTBlues,

        Frontrunners have been a part of the sports landscape for more years than soccer has been part of the conversation.

        I don’t really see your point except it is hard to be a frontrunner in MLS because there is no clear cut favorite year after year.

        If it is a choice between a joke league like EPL/LaLiga with frontrunners or not having them follow MLS. I chose the latter.

        • Dave C says:

          Ha, a joke league…that’s why all the big names want to play in MLS, right…

          • Charles says:

            No, that is not why it is a joke league.

            It is a joke league because Man U is going to win another title. It is harder to pick the winner of a WWF match than a soccer league winner in LaLiga.

            You admit there is a ceiling for a foreign league, but you laugh at me for thinking we have hit that ceiling.

            Why ? What are these “new” fans waiting for ?
            This isn’t 1975, they know what soccer is.

          • Joe says:

            I think people who actually watch EPL and La Liga realize that there’s more to watching a sport than seeing who wins. I love parity as much as anyone, but to say that a league is not good because few teams win is kind of like saying it’s not worth watching a comedy movie because you know everything will work out in the end.

            For me, watching the sport is about enjoying the action, the artistry and creativity. I fully expected Manchester United to storm back and beat Blackpool this week, but that doesn’t mean that watching them will it to happen was any less exciting (and I don’t like like Man U!).

            If you can’t enjoy the magic of watching the game played at its highest level, if the only thing that matters to you is parity for parity’s sake, that’s a shame. You’re missing out on some good soccer.

          • Dave C says:

            Charles, it certainly seems like Man Utd is going to win the league this year, despite being unimpressive for much of the year (although I wouldn’t rule Arsenal out just yet). If that makes it a “joke” league then so be it. It seems like millions of people are happy to be watching “joke” leagues, and all the best players are happy to be playing in such leagues.

            As for the ceiling for EPL viewing figures – I’m not laughing at you for suggesting we’ve reached it already, I’m just asking what information you’re basing that conclusion on? Do you have any data that shows audience growth has stagnated?

            Although for what it’s worth, I don’t understand this obsession amongst commenters for comparing MLS with the EPL. You can be a fan of both, they’re not mutually exclusive.

  13. Green Bay Packers says:

    No one is going to watch your sissy sports, you wimps. If the league locks out, I’ll just spend more time with my family on Sunday afternoons. That’s all. It won’t affect ONE BIT your gay little league. The nerve of you losers thinking that us men will become fairies like you all.

    NO, WE WILL NOT FOLLOW YOUR LEAGUE. It is for sissies and wimps.

  14. Kevin Sutton says:

    I personally don’t think there’s all that much that a strike will do to the long term health of the league or the interests of sports fans who follow it. I don’t really agree that previous strikes had significant effects on their respective leagues. I would use as my evidence of that the fact that all of these leagues are essentially still all fine, still facing the same viewership and attendance trends, (I suppose hockey changing their tv carrier may be an exception –but that’s probably more about the tv contract itself) and more conspicuously –who can be said to have ever benefited from these strikes among the competition?

    Point being –while less competition can mean higher ratings for the duration, we shouldn’t expect MLS to be able to do something during this opportunity that no one else had done previously to any degree.

    • Earl Reed says:

      I’m not even remotely concerned about a lockout affecting the “long-term health” of the NFL. My point wasn’t that it hurts long-term…but more that short term there may be some people looking for an alternative to something that isn’t there.

      Have I sworn off the NFL in my own sports fan circle? Heck no. I will root for the Buffalo Bills until the day that I die. But even in that singular month of June 2010, my interest in soccer was derived. It’s not that the NFL is going to lose fans to MLS, but maybe there will be NFL fans who develop a taste for the sport in an involuntary fast from American football.

  15. ripsaa says:

    Garber take the training wheels off…and they will come

  16. Joe says:

    In unrelated news, I’m extremely confused by reports regarding Michael Bradley. Some say he’s off to Galatsaray (?) of Turkey, some say he’s now loaned to Aston Villa. Does anyone know what’s going on?

  17. nc says:

    i’d venture to say that if there is an NFL work stoppage, your average professional football fan is more likely to turn to watching college football on saturday to scout players for the draft (assuming there is one the followign spring), than they are to turn to a totally different sport in soccer. If pro football fans don’t want to fill the void with college sports, then I would say they will turn to baseball before MLS.

    this thought crossed my mind too before reading the article, but ultimately i think this is a non-event for the MLS

  18. Dave C says:

    I have to say I doubt that many people would be persuaded to go watch an MLS game just because the NFL goes on strike. Unless they have some pre-existing interest in soccer (e.g. they’ve always wanted to go see an MLS game, but just couldn’t find the time/money to go see an MLS game AND an NFL game), I think they’ll just stay at home.

    If the shoe was on the other foot (eg all soccer leagues were shut down for a few months), I can’t imagine thinking “oh well, maybe I’ll try watching baseball/NFL/NBA instead”. For most people, you either like the sport or not, and by adulthood your preferences are pretty much set.

  19. Joe says:

    For a while on this blog, I’ve always been very critical of the people who constantly go on and on and promotion/relegation being THE cure for what ails American soccer. And I still do think that there are other more pressing problems (getting consistent talent, for one). But I’m watching Manchester United vs. Southampton right now. Southampton is in the third tier of English soccer, and their stadium on TV sounds as loud as the Super Bowl. Yes, much of this is due to the fact that Southampton has a long history of success, and the locals won’t abandon their team no matter how far they fall down the pyramid. But one thing I can never imagine is this sort of scene in a closed league system where teams have no chance to get promoted.

    I’m starting to come around to the idea that, long term, promotion/relegation is the way to head here in the US. It’s not feasible for now, but I think it may be the only way to create the kind of passionate fans I’m seeing today in Southampton.

    • Charles says:

      Hmm, I agree with you that minor league soccer will never be supported like that the way it is.
      But, I think if you look at the attendance for an average game for non EPL, you will quickly come to the conclusion that it is beyond undoable in the US.
      My guess is there are a lot of Man U fans there too. I was watching a game where I thought Man U was at home once….Man U wasn’t

      • Joe says:

        Based on the sounds of the crowd when things were going well for Southampton, I’d venture to say at least 70% of the crowd were Southampton supporters.

        I think there’s many steps needed before promotion/relegation, one of course being to focus on talent development so that fans do get excited to be promoted into MLS. I think that if you had promotion to a good pro sports league on the table, you’d see those crowds in Rocheter, Austin, Miami, etc grow simply because those teams would have more to play for.

        • ExtraMedium says:

          The longer you wait the harder it’ll be to implement pro/reg. “You can’t relegate *us*! WE’RE DC UNITED DAMNIT!. We deserve D1 status!” The earlier the better, because those 1st teams have nothing to complain about…after-all, they’ve always been small-time.

          Here are the pro/reg steps:
          1. Announce USL is the 2nd division
          2. Drop those absurd D2 standards adopted last year.
          3. If you control more than one team, then you must rank the teams, and sort them into leagues based on the teams’ level w/n the club (yup, that means MLS will have to sort out the cross ownership situation).
          4. Puerto Rican teams may compete in the USSF pyramid b/c they’re a territory; all USSF clubs vote on whether Canadian teams may compete. Majority rule.
          5. MLS will run the 1st division with a maximum of 20 teams. USL gets D2 with the same number of teams. Home-and-away, no divisions. Playoffs? OK, but it’s a League Cup involving MLS/USL. Play League Cup final Memorial Day weekend. Play USOC final Labor day weekend. Play MLS/USL final rounds Thanksgiving weekend.
          6. USASA gets D3. Top 16 playoff for D2 promotion.
          7. US Club Soccer gets D4. Top 16 playoff for D3 promotion.
          8. PDL and NPSL merge for developmental pyramid (reserves compete in regular pyramid).
          NASL is a disaster.

          • Alan Higgins says:

            Most of the USL is on the East Coast except for the developmental league. That would need to be fixed first.

          • CoconutMonkey says:

            I hate to sound so cynical, but unless there’s some silent group of NFL fans who actually love soccer, I don’t think you’ll be making any converts.

            MLS stuggles enough for airtime on SportCenter. Between covering the labor negotiations, the rest of the big 4, college, etc, MLS might even be worse off than before.

            In fact (you’re gonna love this comment Charles), I would say the European game does a better job of turning people into soccer fans than MLS. The quality of play, the multiple competitions, and straight up different-ness can be quite appealing for a bored, yet open minded sports fan. If it worked for Lamar Hunt, I’m sure a few guys could be persuaded.

        • Dave C says:

          The crowd were undoubtedly at least 70% Southampton fans. When Charles has brought up this idea before (that English grounds only fill to capacity because of travelling Man Utd fans), I’ve pointed out that away fans are typically only allocated about 10% of the tickets, so the idea that it’s hard to tell who is the home team is ridiculous. I guess some beliefs (like the notion of die-hard Euro wannabes watching “illegal streaming sites”) are hard to shake.

      • Lysander says:

        How did Portland get 10-15K fans for their div 2 team?

        • meh says:

          Mid-sized city with few other competition for pro sports; centrally located urban stadium serviced by good public transit system; young, hipsterish type population friendly to soccer; past success as a soccer city in the original NASL.

  20. Charles says:

    ESPN:
    1 Southampton 301,136 21,509
    2 Sheffield Wednesday 239,356 18,412
    3 Charlton Athletic 184,726 15,393
    4 Huddersfield Town 189,912 13,565
    5 Swindon Town 130,259 8,683
    6 Plymouth Argyle 122,751 8,183
    7 Milton Keynes Dons 104,913 8,070
    8 Brighton 92,470 7,113
    9 Notts County 83,541 6,961
    10 AFC Bournemouth 86,536 6,656

  21. Derek says:

    @Charles
    Do all those random numbers have a meaning?

    • Earl Reed says:

      I could be wrong, but if I could venture a guess:

      Name of Lower Division City hosting FA Cup game today, Population of City, Attendance.

      The point is we have more populous cities than Britain, and most certainly could support a solid soccer pyramid.

      • Joe says:

        But I think the small size of the UK actually helps the level of passion for the sport. Bitter rivals that are hundreds of miles away here (Yankees-Red Sox, Michigan-Ohio State) are just up the road in England (Tottenham-Arsenal, Birmingham-Aston Villa, West Ham-Millwall). The only local MLS equivalent really is Chivas-Galaxy. The only US equivalent of an extremely bitter local rivalry that I can think of, and the best rivalry in American sports in my opinion, is Duke-UNC.

        Think global, buy local.

        • Charles says:

          You think ?
          Portland is the closest thing to Seattle, it is a three hour drive,
          Where do you end up driving three hours from London ?

          • Dave C says:

            A list of places and numbers with no context really means nothing. What kind of point are you trying to make? That America has more large cities than England (obvious)? That England is more densely more populated than America (again, obvious)? That the size of footballing attendance compared to the local population as a whole is significant in some way? I just don’t get it.

  22. Rex says:

    Heres the deal. During the work storage the MLS should:
    -Shortly before sign some know DPs in the summer transfer window,
    -Sign a few Americans after we win the Gold Cup.
    -Schedule big matchups during the stoppage. Seattle, Galaxy, NY, Houston, Philly should all have lots of home games.
    -Pray that Kei Kamara has a great celebration after a goal then suspend him for a game. Let it get blown up on twitter and the media.
    -Secretly tell all teams that if bunkering tactics are seen before the 75th min. allocation money ‘might’ be compromised.
    Follow my plan and the MLS will be awesome in 2012.

  23. ExtraMedium says:

    “In fact (you’re gonna love this comment Charles), I would say the European game does a better job of turning people into soccer fans than MLS. The quality of play, the multiple competitions, and straight up different-ness can be quite appealing for a bored, yet open minded sports fan. If it worked for Lamar Hunt, I’m sure a few guys could be persuaded.”

    Bill Simmons.

    • Charles says:

      Don’t turn The Sports Guy on me. I love the Sports Guy, epecially after he ripped on his beloved farse of a basketball league for moving the Sonics.

      I think I read that when he wrote it and I believe it was a while ago.
      He wrote an article about picking an EPL team and then never followed the team…at least publicly…I forget who he picked.

      He is VERY much against frontrunning, so it was tough choice.

      He has since written some great pieces about the atmosphere of soccer, he needs to come out to the birthplace of ESPN.com and go to the best game day stadium in the world.

      • ExtraMedium says:

        He picked Tottenham in 2006. He explicitly tried to avoid front running so ManU Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool were out of the question. He almost picked Man City because they were ManU’s little brother (this was before the Dubai money).

        • Charles says:

          What else could he chose ?
          The rest were going to be also rans forever.

          I think getting a SportsGuy type is exactly what soccer needs.
          Unfortunately ESPN is committed to getting an old sexist, racist to announce the games, not likey they are going to do that anytime soon.
          (The guy on Saturday AM ESPN games, was just as bad as Andy Gray in my opinion about the woman linesman and should be canned too)

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