Friday, February 24, 2006

Is the Soccer Revolution upon us?

It's not everyday that you get an article the puts soccer in amongst America's biggest sports, but today just happens to be such a day. Josh Simeone has a nice piece on the explosion that seems ready to happen to the sport in the US.

He points to a few good reasons why the sport seems set to take off.

First reason, so many people already play the sport:

According to a survey conducted by the Sporting Goods Management Association (SGMA) in 2003, outdoor soccer ranked second behind basketball in the number of organized participants, with more than six million people aged six and older playing the sport.

That's ahead of softball, baseball, volleyball, and tackle football. Impressive? Just imagine what these millions of potential fans could do for soccer in the United States.

Next up, MLS is a good value for fans:

According to the ticket order form found on the Chicago Fire's team site, four "Firehouse" tickets will cost you and your family an average of $18 per person, not including any applicable taxes.

The Los Angeles Galaxy offers a ticket package that includes four tickets to the team's home opener against the New England Revolution. The package even includes two soccer balls and an invitation to a preseason practice. The package will cost you $100. Not bad.

According to the Ticketmaster site for purchasing Colorado Avalanche tickets, four tickets found under "best available" to the April 3 home game against the Chicago Blackhawks will cost you $139.00 per ticket, and that's in advance.

Good luck trying to find a ticket the day of the event.

The final big reason, the sport is making it into pop culture:

In January, Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan was featured on an episode of MTV's "Cribs." Maxim, the popular men's magazine even took notice of MLS by featuring New England Revolution midfielder Clint Dempsey. Dempsey, along with fellow MLS stars Eddie Johnson, Taylor Twellman, Donovan, Brian Ching, Chris Albright and Pablo Mastroeni were all included in the Maxim photo shoot, set to appear in the March issue.

Perhaps it's just a phase, but having two of pop culture's biggest suppliers taking notice of the league is nothing to ignore. If it demonstrates anything, it's that the demand for soccer is higher than it has ever been. And if that means the league's best and brightest talent will soon be giving out awards for "best kiss" on an MTV movie awards show, then so be it.

He also talks about the recent purchase of Man United by Malcolm Glazer and the rumor of Jay-Z wanting to buy Arsenal.

As far as his three main points, the first two have been the case for the last 10-years, but it has not brought about a giant swell of fans. However, the third reason is a big one. The fact that soccer is starting to pop up in different and unique places is very encouraging. It takes me back to the early 90's when hockey players were suddenly on TV and in magazines that regular folks actually read.

I think hockey serves as a good case study. The league seemed to grow really fast and become sort of the 'it' sport, but it has since faded. There are numerous reasons for this (over expansion being a big one), and MLS would be smart to learn from NHL's mistakes.

But back to the article, could this recent surge in pop culture exposure be the first wave of an oncoming soccer storm? If so, will this storm have a life past the World Cup? If it does have a long life, will MLS be able to capitalize on it?

These are three big questions. I think our success in Germany will write the story. If we can make a good show out of it, there will be wonderful long-term outcomes. However, if we bomb out, it's going to be a difficult sell.


Anonymous Bob said...

It is a new take on a prediction that has been made so many times already. I hope he is right, but I'm not holding my breath.

1:45 PM  

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