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American Soccer Fans: United Like Never Before


It is a common perception that America’s football loving populace is divided three ways- European football lovers, fans of the American game and Latin futbol fans. But the truth is the subdivisions within these groups are enormous.

Let’s take the fan of the American game for example. MLS has sold itself as the all encompassing football product for the United States. Many MLS fans simply assumed for years that if you don’t support or watch MLS you don’t support the sport on the localized level. You were labeled a “eurosnob or mexisnob.” But in fact this is not true in anyway, and this myth was created more out of the marketing prowess of Major League Soccer and the follower nature of many non critical MLS fans.

Many fans and supporters of the American game work at the grassroots level in youth soccer, or with local amateur and professional sides. These people are often times several steps removed from MLS and for many years didn’t follow the league closely. This too was a pity as we have only one FIFA sanctioned first division in this country and if the game is to succeed MLS has to be the leader.

On the flip side many MLS fans behave as if whatever the number of MLS “franchises” is at a given time (15 now, 12 in 2005/06, 18 in 2011) are the number of truly professional outfits playing football north of the Rio Grande. These fans take a very American pro sports view of things, living in a self contained bubble where only their league matters and the teams in their league truly exist.

For these fans USL did not exist except maybe one day a year during an Open Cup third round match. Many of these people expressed shock and horror when USL-1 sides outplayed MLS sides in the recently completed CONCACAF Champions League.

A third group exists: those who live in A-League/D-3 , now USL-1 or USL-2 cities who only pay passing interest to MLS and seem to resent that their markets and teams aren’t deemed MLS “worthy.” These fans follow USL the best they can and also tend to be in a bubble like the MLS fans described above. I’ve had many a USL fan tell me in the past when discussing the USMNT “Oh I don’t know that guy because he plays in MLS,” right after telling me how great some USL player is and how well Clint Dempsey is doing at Fulham.

It seems the only times these groups converge or join hands has been for big US Men’s National Team matches. But after the national team is finished with their match or tournament everyone returns to their bubble.

Personally, I’ve been both in the MLS bubble in the late 90s, and then the USL-1 bubble in 2005 and 2006 while following European football and paying passing interest to MLS. But both times I was in a bubble, my bubble burst so to speak.

In the late 1990s MLS, I paid not even passing interest to the A-League until seeing Rochester take down one MLS side after another in the Open Cup. From that point on I followed the A-League as closely as I could. In 2006, after the world cup failure I realize simply watching a second division in my country and European football had contributed to the downfall. Showing contempt for Bruce Arena’s use of MLS based players as I did in the lead up to the World Cup and after had been snobbish and wrong of me.

I quit MLS in 2005 because the quality of play was unwatchable and the admission of Chivas USA had angered me not because we had a Mexican owned side in the league but because they put out such a bad product. In my view they showed a total disrespect for the American game by doing so. I was also disgusted in SUM’s continued promotion of the Mexican National Team on American soil, and felt that MLS was working against the USMNT in clever ways. I was scared about the prospect of Superliga which was discussed in 2005 and launched in 2006/07. I privately hoped FIFA would tell the FMF and MLS that they could not hold such an event. I was wrong at the time on all counts and will plainly admit it now.

I had in 2003 and 2004 discovered PDL and began following the league through the internet and specific players I saw in person as they moved into their professional realm. Two of these players, Heath Pearce and Michael Parkhurst became well known to American soccer fans.

After the Romario mania of Miami FC wore off in the summer of 2006, I returned to MLS head first and soon thereafter launched in cooperation with Christopher Harris of EPL Talk this site and the MLS Talk podcast.

But that simply meant I was following MLS and USL’s leagues. That in no way meant I got the whole picture. More recently, I’ve discovered the USASA’s setup in mass, followed the NPSL and PCSL, observed the USSF Youth Development Academy setup and much more. I’ve realized the game in this country is a grassroots driven phenomena operating outside the umbrella or confines of typical American sport.

I am not alone in this appreciation for the game at all levels. This year I have noticed as I travel and speak to those all over the nation, more interest in the Open Cup than ever before among MLS fans, more interest in MLS among those on the grassroots, more interest in USL among everyone and more and more people embracing all the facets of the multi level American soccer pyramid.

American soccer fans have discovered for one reason or another it doesn’t simply have to be MLS to be relevant or USL to have some redeeming quality. The game in this country has grown to an unprecedented and for many unexpected level. Everyone has played their part, and many are finally escaping their self imposed fiefdoms and joining the bigger party.

America’s culture of individualism may have contributed to the fiefdoms breaking out. But today more than ever a coming together is taking place. Looking ahead I only see clear skies for the growth of the game. Obviously the performance of the US Men’s National Team is the most important factor in this continued growth, but today unlike the past it appears more and more lovers of the game are on the same page and working together and respecting one another.

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  1. Soccer Guru

    June 11, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    I thought CSRN was dead and gone. I haven’t heard the 2Gs in ages and TASS is long gone also. MLS Talk now serves my TASS fix- not quite the same but having Denholm on last week was like old memories.

  2. eplnfl

    June 11, 2009 at 6:05 pm


    Say no to Fox News!

  3. Vnice

    June 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    I follow all soccer blogs and sites that I can…even bad ones.

    It’s the same with news…cnn, huffpost, foxnews, etc.

  4. James

    June 11, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    A great new soccer site that helps you become a pro player! Written by an international player, you have to check it out!

  5. eplnfl

    June 10, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    My thought are similar Kartik as I suggested in a recent post as to the fan base of the USMNT. We in the US have a richness in diversity in many ways and our soccer feelings are an example. I note the hopeful note that you finished with that all of the various factions of soccer supporters in the US can and should share a common ground with the USMNT. Hopefully, it will all come together soon.

    My personal journey so to speak has been from a generalized interest in the sport to a EPL interest to a preference for the American Game. The great thing is that the heart of the American season is different from the rest of the world and we have non-stop action year around. Another great thing about being in the USA.

    I see no need to attack website or blogs. I prefer what I view as` the thoughtful posts and readers and fans of the EPL/MLS Talk family of sites. There are many outstanding sites as is set out above. The variety and focus is outstanding, and in today’s world being a true fan may very well mean posting your thoughts on this site or your own blog or podcast. Each of us may have more then our 15 minutes of fame. To think that a week ago I called in to a talk show in Houston and on Friday’s e-mail my comments to the great World Football show on BBC 5 Live and listen to a Aussie sports talk show in my car makes one say wow!

    What fun it is for example following Tim Howard from MLS, to Man U, to Champions league matches, To Everton, to FA Cup finals, to USMNT qualifications. Let’s have more of it!

  6. Jason Freeman

    June 10, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I can’t believe anyone on here is praising CSRN, that includes you Kartik. How dare anyone praise a dead network where a “leader” has gone incredibly silent since Sports Byline USA bailed him out at the end of last year. Sorry, but podcast only does not make a network.

    As for those two disgraceful podcasts (that means you Winning Ugly Radio and Match Fit USA), all you do is generate plenty of traffic this way with your pathetic blow job analysis about MLS and the USNT. I lasted 1 minute on the site before having to have my eyes examined and lasted 30 seconds listening to your shows before needing my ears checked.

    Sorry folks, CSRN is a dead network. Folks need to wake up and realize it. The sooner, the better.

    Keep up the great work Kartik and don’t cave into these worthless morons. Why you even allow that more worthless than Ives piece of trash Daniel to even grace this site is beyond me.

  7. Jason

    June 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I mainly follow the US Nats, MLS & WPS seriously. I have followed USL-1 & college soccer casually, as well as the US development league when I can make to any local games. One of the best & worst parts of being a soccer fan is the sheer volume of games to watch. I would love to watch more leagues, but it is tough. I didn’t know, until this morning, that I could stream USL games from their site. I am pleased with that, and plan on following USL-1 and USL-2 a little less casually, especially now that EPL and Series A are not occupying my Saturday & Sunday mornings/afternoons.

  8. Theo

    June 10, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Alas, a post that’ll get me out of my lurking hole to say something. I’ve been a fan of MLS for almost half a decade now, having less to do with it being the “pro” league and more to do with having a franchise in my city. I fell into the MLS-centric (And still kinda am) category for a long time.

    The soccer fans I knew/know offline that aren’t MLS fans are what I’d call plastic eurosnobs. Totteham or Chelsea or Man U supporters with no affiliation or real tie to the team aside from enjoying how they play. Personally, still have no respect for that. I’m all for watching and enjoying all good soccer out there, but there’s a difference.

    As for USL… first exposure to USL was during the CONCACAF CL, watching some rather amazing play by the Whitecaps (I -think-). Personally am a fan of it, but would be a lot more interested if they played on better pitches (the games I’ve caught on FSC have been on some pretty horrid ones) and broadcast more of the games. One a week picked at random isn’t enough to hold me.

    So yeah, two cents.

  9. Cringer

    June 10, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Pretty good article, and yes all these groups are all around this country. I live in an area in which, while coaching youth soccer, I will have a player’s dad ask if I saw the Mexican League match last night way before they would bring up MLS. In other areas of life trying to talk MLS or even Mexican soccer with people is like pulling teeth because all they know is EPL.

    Really though, I think part of it comes down to time and how that puts people into their “bubbles.” For me to follow PDL, USL-1, USL-2, MLS, FMF, National teams, EPL and 10 other Euro leagues, I would have to devote a pretty good chunk of time and money which I just can’t. I like the MLS, we have a local PDL team new to the area this year which is great, FMF matches are on locally ALL the time here, and now because my daughter wants to see more I am catching the WPS games on the internet as much as possible. There is sooo much more I could be following in Europe and USL 1 and 2, and honestly I would like to a little more, but adding in what I do with youth soccer now there just isn’t time or money to follow everything on the different pay channels and services. It’s crazy, but very fun trying to get into things as much as possible.

  10. LSB

    June 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Actually it was a two part article Jason first wrote the 5 reasons the US would win and before he got to write the second story his partner Mr. Ginge then in turn listed the 5 reasons the USA would NOT win and Jason then posted that article saying he stole his idea, but it seems NO ONE read that part of the post.
    Who cares who got it right, who cares who got it wrong, more important is WHO is putting out quality content . Not just news and not just match reports but also opinions, drama and even some rumors outside the game on the feild. That is what this culture is all about.
    Well done Kartik on saying we all need to support one and other but recognizing we all do not have to LIKE one and others work. Enough of the cheap shots if you have a point to make then make it intelligently and with facts . If you have an opinion start your own damn blog and make them there.

    And what can you say about Ginge, he has no manners sometimes but we all learn to live with him

  11. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 10, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Regarding the errors in grammar, it is something we work on but please understand everyone who blogs here have full time jobs elsewhere as well as families and if we’re trying to make a point we sometimes do it in a sloppy fashion. Again apologies.

    Now to the more important business of discussing other sites/podcasts.

    Part of the reason factions have broken out in the American soccer community is because of the passionate following and personal shots bloggers have taken at other bloggers or radio hosts have taken at other radio hosts. I personally want no part of that debate as it continues to balkanize our footy following in the US.

    I will admit I do not read Soccer By Ives except in passing every now and then. Ives Galarcep is good at what he does- he’s a journalist with an expertise in news gathering. But as I get my news from other sources such as Soccer Insider by Steve Goff, Beau Dure at the USA Today and the absolutely incomparable DuNord run by Bruce McGuire, I don’t hit Ives that often. My personal opinion is that Ives is very credible and does a good job, but those who go to his site looking for analysis are probably in the wrong place.

    Now as far as Match Fit USA is concerned let me state I read that site everyday and listen to the podcast. However, I thought the posting of five reasons why the US would beat Costa Rica and then the post game reaction on that site struck me as naive and demonstrated to me that the site’s authors and podcast hosts aren’t as well grounded in the realities of US Soccer, its recent history and the realities of the domestic soccer setup as one would hope given the wide scope of being part of CSRN gives that show. We all make mistakes, especially those of us who have other employment to make a living, but to needlessly state things which have no grounding reality raises expectations. I didn’t appreciate the shot at bloggers/pundits like myself the day after that match who predicted doom at Saprissa and were correct. Anyone who has watched the US team regularly over a period of time as I have (over 20 years in my case) don’t fall into the trap of momentary hype over individual players or matchups. We have a proper perspective from which to base our opinions. I am not ridiculing anyone who has followed the USMNT for less time than I have or claiming I know more about the game as that particular post implied, but I have reasons based on history and long term observations of US, MLS, USL and woman’s game for writing what I do.

    This all having been said, Match Fit USA is quality site and show. The style is different than here and the opinions certainly very much different, but I would take Ginge’s advice and check it out although I think it is rude beyond belief to go on another website and advocate readers leaving in mass to another site, especially when ultimately we should be part of the same team trying to grow this sport here in the USA.

    We are trying to grow the game in this country and need to do it collectively. As I responded to the offensive Match Fit USA post the day after the debacle in Saprissa (which again was predicted here and not at that site) I restated that bloggers/professional journalists and others with ideas as to how to improve the USSF, MLS, USL:, development academies etc need to all work together and not lob missiles at one another.

    This blog post was very much about that spirit which I feel is growing through the US Soccer community. Sadly, some may have been late in getting the memo.

  12. Roger

    June 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Good piece, but you glossed over some key things.

    Along with eurosnobs and mexisnobs you describe are MLS snobs who claim you don’t care about the game if you don’t support a league whose hubris is amazing, in a sport where local teams and leagues are the backbone of the culture. In Europe people don’t adopt top flight teams for the sake of backing top flight teams when their teams are stuck forever in lower leagues but here MLS fans expect you to say that you like dc united and ignore that a local amateur, USL or PDL team may be down the street from you.

    MLS snobs are shallower and worse than eurosnobs. You imply that without really say that and refuse to confront it by pretending that sentiment is fading. I think it is fading slightly more to do with the Islanders and Impact totally showing up the entire MLS and its facade in CONCACAF but it is still more alive than it should be.

  13. Ferd

    June 10, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Good post.

    My biggest issue has been the snoberry of the American soccer press. To guys like Ives and Co. if it’s not MLS it doesn’t happen. He still doesn’t know USL or PDL exist. He is not truly a soccer writer because but more of an american sports writer because any soccer writer reared in futbol culutre from Europe or Latin America would never totally shut his eyes to lower leagues. He may have a foreign sounding name but he’s distinctly American in the way he covers sports.

    Thankfully with the growth of blogs like this one which to me is the best by the way and even the aforementioned Match Fit USA we get more USL, Open Cup and PDL coverage. Thanks to Kartik, we actually get PDL interviews. Inside Minnesota Soccer which you’ve linked in the past is awesome also. Actually a USL driven site.

    Bloggers are the ones cutting through the clutter and uniting us. The mainstream soccer press has let us down for years.

  14. Demko

    June 10, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Ignore these gasbags. Interesting post. Soccer in the U.S. is a dynamic, perplexing, unpredictable, ever-expanding beast. It’s what makes the game so fascinating to follow.

  15. adam

    June 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Match Fit USA? Please! That’s the worst site and podcast around. Full of windbag opinion with no real substance or thought process to back it up. I think Kartik’s grammer sux but his podcast blows that b/s windbag out of the water any day of the week on air. Besides he actually understands the game and how it works unlike that site. I go to DuNord, Ives, TIAS, Unprofessional Foul, and here at mls talk and epl talk, but Match Fit USA is actually on my list of sites I will never ever hit. Gave it a shot ginge and it is the worst, the absolute worst. The guys who write there should try and underastand us soccer before pontificating so openly and offensively.

  16. Ginge

    June 10, 2009 at 12:07 pm – top quality opinions. fantastic grammar. no run-on sentences.

  17. adam

    June 10, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Agreed park bolivar. kartik is bad but far from the worst in the epl talk network. his endless run on sentences are at least better than the incomplete and incoherent thoughts of feuerstein and some of the epl talk writers.

    i think this network needs a copy editor. that’s the bottom line.

  18. park bolivar

    June 10, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Kartik: Not to sound crude, but you really could use an editor.

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