All hail soccer, the great American sport, as we cheer and lament the U.S. futbol team that competed valiantly in the World Cup in Brazil. After the tournament, many of our best players will return to their respective European pro teams, and we will once again become indifferent to the boring “minor” league soccer (MLS) played in our country.
The MLS has been piddling along now for 18 years, following other incarnations of the world’s favorite sport in the U.S. Now it is reformulating itself once again, with some of the richest guys in the world buying into what they see as a virgin market opportunity–a chance to appeal to the millions of middle class kids running all over the “pitch,” only to ignore the game once they reach their twenties.
Can it play in Paducah? Will Americans ever buy into professional football (soccer) like they do in England, Argentina and Mexico?
I think it really is possible. Some people theorize that the utter ineptitude of the MLS folk to generate an audience is really a brilliant conspiracy by several NFL team owners to sabotage the league and safeguard the value of their National Football League properties. It may sound a bit far-fetched to bamboozle soccer as a defensive move, but the explosive growth in the value of an NFL franchise over the last 18 years coinciding with the boring product of the MLS makes the theory at least worthy of mention.
It is possible that with American kids’ participation in American football and baseball both on the wane, those super wealthy people pushing the rebranding of soccer here are finally going to strike a chord with the American public. American football is struggling with litigation and the devouring of its best players by injury. I think the game has peaked both in participation and popularity. Baseball is importing much of its talent from the Caribbean and Asia. This is also not a recipe for long term American fan support.
The National Hockey League, a truly international league, has found new life spurred by suburban hockey rinks and HDTV that finally makes the game television worthy. The NBA is also an example of a successful world league with its Champion San Antonio Spurs. The polyglot group of guys from Argentina to Mars is an archetype for world peace. But basketball still has its heart in the city playgrounds and backyard backboards throughout America.
Sports do go up and down in popularity. Could anybody have predicted the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts 10 years ago?
In my opinion, it is too early to say whether football (soccer) can actually take off as a spectator sport here. But I do think that this time around, some serious foreign money is really going to try to change our taste. If Americans can learn to love sushi and make the avocado the equivalent of the apple in today’s kitchen, we can adopt the world’s favorite sport.
The National Football League should be worried.
Question 1: Is the NFL too brutal?
Question 2: Is soccer boring?