In an interview released this weekend by Al Jazeera, FIFA President Sepp Blatter slammed Major League Soccer calling it “not a very strong professional league” and saying that “no professional (soccer) leagues (are) recognized by American society.”
The statements by Blatter will be extremely embarrassing to MLS and US Soccer executives particularly with the criticism coming from the most powerful man in world soccer.
In the above video (fast forward to minute 20:40), Blatter was asked whether he was optimistic about the future of soccer in the United States and China. Blatter replied that with China, he is definitely optimistic but that he didn’t share the same optimism about the future of soccer in the United States due to there being no very strong professional league in the country. Blatter says the United States has “just the MLS.”
Blatter goes on to say that there are no professional soccer leagues recognized by American society.
Obviously Blatter isn’t up to speed on NASL and USL representing two additional professional leagues in the United States, but nevertheless these words are incredibly damaging to the reputation of US soccer.
His belief that MLS isn’t recognized by American society is, I believe, focused on the American mainstream. And, based on the dreadful TV ratings that MLS gets on free-to-air national television, I think he has a point there. But while MLS is losing the TV ratings war, the league has made significant improvements on the local level so that MLS IS recognized as a major professional sports league in US cities such as Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.
Blatter also makes the point that MLS should have made more of an impact in American society given that Major League Soccer was founded in 1993 and started its first league season in 1996.
Regardless, Blatter’s words — even if he’s the laughing stock in most serious soccer circles — show how he’s out of touch with the developments of soccer in the United States. When was the last time Blatter visited a MLS game? Has Blatter ever attended a NASL or USL game? What is MLS’s strategy to make the league more credible in the eyes of international soccer fans who live in the States? Is US Soccer doing enough to update Blatter on the progress that has been made?