Book Review : Star Spangled Soccer


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A few weeks ago I wrote a review of Beau Dure's "Long Range Goals".  Both Dure's book and Gary Hopkins' "Star Spangles Soccer" cover the growth and expansion of Major League Soccer but Hopkins expands his reach to include the growth of the game in America as a whole.  While Dure focused on Major League Soccer's history, Hopkins reels in the development and future growth of the American game in economic, social, and athletic terms.

Hopkins covers every base and hits the nail squarely on the head regarding just about every topic involving soccer in America today.  The book's complete title is "Star Spangled Soccer - The Selling, Marketing and Management of Soccer in the USA" and covers topics such as the award of the 1994 World Cup to the United States, the launch of MLS, the decisions and errors made in marketing the American league, television viewership, the creation of Soccer United Marketing, women's soccer, the US Men's National Team, youth soccer, the importance of the hispanic fan base, Americans abroad, the future of soccer in America, the possible return of the World Cup, and one of my favorite topics...insipid media.

Hopkins' theory is that the World Cup in 1994 was the springboard for the sport in the United States.  It spawned MLS, renewed interest, eurosnobs, Fox Soccer Channel, and awoke the sleeping giant.  Hopkins goes on to suggest that the World Cup on American soil in 2018 or 2022 will elevate the game to the next level of mass appeal which the other American sports leagues (and some media) fear.  Where have I heard that before?  Hopkins could not be more correct in his recapitulations, explanations, and theories.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book.  It's a very interesting read and uses an accountant/statistician's viewpoint to illustrate growth in a fashion similar to another great read, Soccernomics.

Here's a short excerpt:

"There are many misconceptions about the game in the USA, most driven by a condescending international media and entrenched American sports writers or fans that fail (or refuse) to understand that their country is changing, their kids are changing and their sports are changing.

It's very easy to bemoan the lack of quality in MLS, the media coverage in national papers or the lack of perceived interest from entrenched (read old) American sports fans, but smart investors look to future earnings and growth, not the past and the fundamentals for soccer's exponential growth over the next decade are firmly in place.  Nothing however will propel and fuel this growth more than the return in either 2018 or 2022 of the FIFA World Cup.  It has nothing to do with economics, nothing to do with the financial impact, nothing to do with elevating the status of US Soccer with FIFA and around the world.  It has everything to do however with turning America into a nation of soccer fans, a developer of top-class talent and cementing forever the future of the sport in the USA.  For if the impact was huge in 1994 it will be stratospheric and unstoppable if it returns."

I loved this book.



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  • awesome video!

  • Sounds interesting. For a more poetic soccer read, Edwardo galeano's Soccer in Sun and Shadow is the best.

  • Great review, GR. A good "companion piece" is today's NY Times.

    Key points: the US TV audience for the World Cup final exceeded the average audience for last year's World Series. More US fans bought tickets to Cup games than citizens from any other country outside of S. Africa.

    One question about MLS: what are the implications of the MLS single-entity structure for developing the game in the US? League controlling of the salaries, etc.. I think has been key to the league's growth, BUT can the MLS ever be a top league without allowing the type of unlimited spending you see in La Liga, the Premiership, etc...

    There are serious problems with the European domestic leagues--lack of competition up and down the table, indebtedness of clubs is a bad long term financial strategy, etc... But will the MLS ever attract top talent under the current cost-containment structure?

    Did Hopkins tackle that question in the book?

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    It's touched on but not expanded upon in terms spending like the Prem. Those steps are in tied into increased revenues, which Hopkins does discuss. He has some interesting views on how the salary cap should increase in the next 10 years.

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    I was at a conference last week and someone put up this quote from someone named Eric Hoffer. I think it is very apropos to the topic of the entrenched American media.

    "In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."

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