It’s Time For USMNT Fans To Brush Up On MLS Before World Cup 2014

Soccer in this country has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last two decades.  Some of that growth has been spurred on by the success of the U.S. Men’s National Team as well as the U.S. Women’s National Team. Undoubtedly, some of that growth is a result of a more financially stable MLS. However, most of that growth is a result of the large presence of European club teams in the US.

Every summer we see teams from European leagues come to the US as part of their preseason. Sometimes they play against MLS teams; sometimes they play other European teams. While preseason training is one goal for these clubs, the biggest goal, no doubt, is to promote the brand and make more money. The attempt to increase brand awareness for these clubs has been wildly successful, most notably among the thousands of kids playing youth soccer. Every time you go anywhere in the United States, you don’t just see Heat jerseys or Yankees jerseys. You see shirts for Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Arsenal, AC Milan, and others.

As hard as it is to believe, this can create a problem for US players and US club teams. It has long been the case in the US that there are more fans supporting the other team than there are supporting the USA.  That has started to change since 2007 with the emergence of groups like The American Outlaws and Sam’s Army.  One thing that remains the same, however, is that American players, even the likes of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, are strangers to most people in the US, while non-American players are some of the most popular athletes among kids.  In terms of popularity, soccer players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Wayne Rooney are on the same level as LeBron James, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter.

It is a little bit irritating to hear some kids saying that they will be cheering for Portugal and Germany to make it out of the group at the World Cup instead of the USA because Portugal has Ronaldo and Germany has Mesut Ozil. Fortunately, there are still plenty of Americans who will be cheering on the USA. Fan support is exploding to epic proportions, as evidenced by the fact that Americans have bought more tickets to the World Cup than anybody else, with the obvious exception of Brazil.

Some of the players on the provisional 30-man roster are a mystery to USA fans because they don’t follow MLS. They know all about who won the Premier League and who is in the UEFA Champions League Final, but have no idea who sits atop the Eastern Conference in MLS. This begs the question:  Can you be a true American soccer fan if you don’t support MLS?

Don’t get me wrong. I love watching the Premier League and the Champions League, but I love watching MLS too. I have no problem sitting down with somebody and talking for hours about the Premier League, Messi vs. Ronaldo, etc.  But it irritates me when I switch gears and try to talk about MLS and people just give me a blank stare. If you support the USA, then it would behoove you to learn about and watch the league where the majority of the players come from. Some of the players who have turned into mainstays for this US team – such as Nick Rimando, Matt Besler, Brad Evans, and Omar Gonzalez – star in MLS each week. Tune in and watch them sometime. If people choose not to, they have to ask themselves: Am I a true American soccer fan?

34 thoughts on “It’s Time For USMNT Fans To Brush Up On MLS Before World Cup 2014”

  1. “If you support the USA, then it would behoove you to learn about and watch the league where the majority of the players come from.”

    I refuse to spend my hard earned money on MLS and it isn’t un-American in fact it’s patriotic because I want independent clubs and pro/rel not single entity that caps player wages.

    1. So what you’re saying is that the way all American sports work are un-American? And the way sports work in other countries is American? I’m not sure how that works.

      You’re more likely to see European leagues adopt more of the MLS model than vice versa.

      1. Now that Fullham is in the Championship how would you feel if the FA said it will no longer practice pro/rel?

        1. I wouldn’t like it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point it happened (or if they reduce the number of promoted and relegated teams).

          But, when you start following a team, you buy into the currently existing system. If you hate the system enough not to buy in, I guess that’s your prerogative.

  2. Why does following MLS make you a true USA Soccer fan? Does following either of the two other domestic leagues (NASL and USL pro) make you not a true fan? Those leagues better represent sections of the Courtney than MLS. This is just being a MLS Snob to dismiss Euro Snobs.

    1. I don’t fault anyone for supporting their local club. The truth of the matter is that the country is too big to have one first division representing the entire country. There are always going to be places that only have a USL or NASL side.

      That being said, as an American fan you should have at least some knowledge of MLS. The same way an English fan of a club in the Championship knows what’s going on in the Premier League.

      1. People supporting clubs in the Championship know what goes on in the Premier League because they aspire to see their team make it to that top level… People supporting a team in this country have nothing to look forward to… CONCACAF CL? We all know how well the MLS does in that tournament… Not good just to remind you if you have forgotten and that is a second rate competition in its own right…

        1. Considering that most of the previous expansion teams since Seattle have been promoted from the lower divisions, you can still aspire to see your team move up.

          The current USL/MLS partnership also gives you a reason to follow an MLS club even if your hometown club is in the USL.

          1. “you can still aspire to see your team move up” for the ever-increasing price of 100 million dollars for the expansion fee. Add in a Soccer specific stadium too…wait, NYCFC didn’t do that…hrmmm…nonsense to suggest there’s hope in a closed system like MLS. It’s a rich kid club.

        2. Do me a favor and stop pretending like you speak for all “supporters of American teams”, m’kay? I have plenty to look forward to. The fact that you don’t think that this is true is a you problem.

  3. I’m sad and depressed, especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings, there is nothing to do, not much to read about, podcasts have no content, WST has no real content, I need soccer.

    I will not be watching the MLS.

  4. I am a Euro Snob and proud of it.. When MLS starts having teams that can compete with Europe’s best then maybe i will start paying attention.. The US national team is a waste of a World Cup spot that could go to a more capable team… And yes i do not think there is a group in Europe that the US team could have progressed out of… The facts are the facts… Accept the fact that people dont care about the MLS and may never….

    1. Your name only get 50% of your real handle… you’ve left of ‘… troll’ in your haste to get this piece of drivel up online.

    2. MLS teams can’t compete with the top teams in Europe that is true. But I watch enough MLS to know that the the first XI of a top MLS squad would be competitive with the first XI of a bottom half EPL squad. So saying MLS can’t compete with the top clubs is true. But then why should we watch Fulham play Crystal Palace? They can’t compete either.

      The US probably couldn’t get out of most European groups. But then neither could Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica, Australia, Iran, and Korea. Taking the best 32 clubs might make for a better tournament, but it would stop being a World Cup.

      1. If the US is a waste of a spot then we might as well just start at the quarter-final’s and the event be done in 7 days because 25 other countries also have no chance of winning. Doesn’t mean they can’t try for their people. I myself enjoy a month of world cup.

        1. Fulham is my favorite English Club. But I don’t live in England. I live in the United States. I also support my home town club (which happens to be the Seattle Sounders).

          I like watching soccer. I like going to soccer matches in person. I can only afford to go to England once every couple of years. For less than the cost of a plain ticket to England, I can get season tickets to the Sounders. I also get all of their games on TV. Because I have an interest in them, I watch some (but not all) of the other MLS games available to me. That usually works out to one Portland Timbers game, the national game on NBC, the National game on ESPN, and the game on Univision.

          During the EPL season, I also watch the Fulham game, and whichever other games NBC decides to air.

          In aggregate I probably watch more EPL games simply because there are more on TV. But I still probably watch 30+ MLS games on TV a year and another 17 (sometimes more depending on Open Cup and CCL) live.

    3. The US team is not a bad side, and they sure aren’t taking anyone else’s spot. Within the past year they’ve beaten South Korea, Bosnia, and Germany. I realize these are friendlies, but looking at their results in recent years, and results in tournaments (including the last World Cup), suggests they can compete with the best.

  5. Another MLS guilt trip article. Sorry but the MLS is a convoluted league and the gameplay is tactically and technically atrocious. And its not getting better.

    But good try.

    1. I’m not a big MLS fan, but it is getting better (partially because it couldn’t get worse). Some quality down there but it’s a bit watered down.

      Soccer in this country has to start somewhere though…

          1. No it’s really not. I’ve been watching since 1996. It really hasn’t progressed as much as it should have.

  6. If you really enjoy and love soccer there shouldn’t be hate between leagues. Sometimes people think they either have to be European soccer or American soccer. Why not watch and support both or atleast its growth for the good of the whole game. Doesn’t mean you can’t dislike some things and encourage improvements but this hate is just silly. Yes you want to see top quality players of the game, but in truth that’s only possible for like 10 teams in the world. Doesn’t mean I can’t support the growth for the rest of the teams to get better. There’s enough people in this country who still don’t like our game, so it doesn’t help either if we’re divided.

  7. Though I watch MLS, I don’t think anyone supporting the US team needs to watch it to brush up on these players. They’ve all been part of the national team set up for the past year (except Yedlin). If you don’t know that Besler, who plays for Kansas City, has been the US’ best defender heading toward the World Cup then you probably aren’t the sort to be reading this website anyway. Will US supporters really not know who Zusi is?

  8. I pointed out in a previous post that MLS needs to promote and sell some of their top American players. I admit I’m not a follower of MLS but I should know some of the players, beyond Dempsey and Donavan, through TV, advertising and product. Sell the players and they might be more interest in the league.

  9. MLS loses fans to European leagues because European leagues do more to attract US fans. When the quality in MLS goes up and the marketing isn’t hokey…MLS might recruit more fans.

  10. Always love seeing the Eurodouchery on this site. The MLS will never be the league you want it to be if its not supported, end of story. After all is said and done, MLS will be just fine without the Eurosnobs in the USA. Sure it has it has work to do but this gives Americans every reason not adopt soccer as mainstream in this country. Ill say this again…The sport WILL NOT be on any maninstream level if all thats supported are Euro teams. Do me a favor and go anywhere and ask someone how they feel about the soccer(Euro or domestic) and you will most likely get a negative response. But hey Go Man U!!!

    1. You can support any league you want but the fact of the matter is that if you are not going to support some level of US soccer, the game will never grow. I agree that the only way the game will get bigger here is support domestically. There is no chance in hell the Euro game will ever be more than a small niche market here. I’ve been listing to people tell me 30 years ago that euro soccer is going to make the game huge and it’s not. MLS tv ratings are crap and EPL is better but not by much at all. Barely breaking 1 mil viewers is s&&t compared to every other sport in North America.

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