It’s that time again. Every 4 years, the critics and pundits in the grand ol USA get together to talk about the World Cup and how American soccer seems like it’s on the rise. Even the controversial conservative political pundit, Ann Coulter (who I used to respect), took a stab at it this year and tried to make some embarrassing points about the world’s most popular game saying that it was boring and didn’t have enough individual accolades or violence. Ann, you’re better than that!
The majority of people in the USA want “soccer” to fail. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps the feel threatened because they like NASCAR or the NFL/NHL too much. Wake up people, soccer makes small, successful steps every year and continues to attract more fans. In fact, the MLS has been around since 1996 and is turning into a legitimate domestic league with stars like Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and now Jermaine DeFoe. With the news coming in that David Villa will join NYCFC and Kaka/Robinho will most likely be joining the league next year (with Orlando City) as the new expansion teams will hit the field, there’s a buzz around the MLS and international stars are wanting to “retire” in the US. Furthermore, the MLS has built new stadiums all across the country, signed large TV contracts to get more exposure and is doing the right things to garner attention from the casual soccer fan.
But, the question remains, “Why can’t soccer grow?” Why do Americans continue to be mesmerized by other sports (American Football or even Hockey) that most of the world doesn’t even understand? How can Americans better understand the beautiful game and not think it’s boring even if does end up in a low scoring draw with few “rough tackles or yellow/red cards”? For starters, the MLS players need to be paid more. The average MLS salary is around $145,000 annually. Compare that to a couple million for NHL/NFL players, 3 million for the MLB, and over 5 million for an NFL “athlete”, and MLS players are clearly underpaid. Only 12 MLS players make over a million in a season. That’s just ridiculous and MLS players need to get more of their players properly compensated. Next, the MLS needs a better marketing campaign. They need to highlight the action and offer greater access to learn about more of these new stars coming over to the states. Lastly, the clubs need to get bigger sponsors and get involved more in the communities. As cool as Herbal Life and Life Vantage are, no one knows who the heck these companies are what they might have done.
How can the MLS transition from the World Cup in the middle of their season and keep the soccer interest of the country? It may be hard at times since they have international friendly tournaments like the Guinness Cup that bring powerhouses like Manchester United, Real Madrid, and AC Milan over to play in fun environments which can further take away attention for the league. Having fans intrigued by these international matches is great for the overall game of “football” but the MLS is not usually going after the big time soccer enthusiast. Instead, they want to capture the attention of the casual fan who doesn’t yet appreciate the game and try to get him/her hooked to the USA’s new product.
I’ve read and researched about how soccer needs to change some of its rules to make it higher scoring and allow the players (other than the goalkeeper) to use their hands at certain points of the game to make it more intriguing for the casual US fan. Is this right? Do other countries change the game of golf to make it more eye catching for them? I don’t think so…..
So, as USA fans watch the yanks’ matches and root for our team against some of the world’s best as the World Cup draws to a close in the next few weeks, here are some simple requests that I have for you so that you’ll be more respected internationally (because we’re all trying to be global citizens, right??):
- Be loud but don’t be obnoxious. If you’re going to curse, that’s awesome but sound like you know what you’re talking about. For example, don’t just say “come on, shoot it”. Say “have it” or “leave it for the mid” or “have a crack”.
- Attend an MLS game. Most big cities have MLS teams and the tickets are usually cheap. Additionally, there are a lot of bars in those cities that run transportation and drink specials so it’ll be a guaranteed fantastic time even if your MLS team stinks.
- Wear some soccer gear. With the US team getting out of the group of death, you need to invest in some USA soccer apparel– that means buy a t-shirt or a scarf if you can’t afford a jersey. Also, make sure you’ve got that new soccer swag on wherever you go to watch the squad play. Heck, even if you have random Holland jersey from the 1970s or Italy shorts from the early 1990s, just throw those on so you’ll be repping something/someone.
- Don’t ever call someone a “grass fairy”, say soccer is “boring”, rip on the occasional dive, or utter that there aren’t enough tackles”. Just don’t do it – ever.
- 3 lions, el tri, la roja, oranje, the black stars, les blues, la celeste, la albiceleste, the samba boys, etc. Start to know where some of the world’s best players are from and the nicknames for the national teams of different countries. If the USA is playing against them, it’s helpful to know a few players and where the heck the country is located. Plus, it’ll make it a better experience for you.
If you follow these 5 tips, I can assure you that your viewing experience will be more entertaining. Let’s continue to enjoy the USA’s World Cup ride and not let the interest wean when the champion is crowned in Rio. Have a look at what the MLS is doing and leave a few hours free on Saturday or Sunday to head to the pitch and enjoy some of the new talent that’s come to the states to build this country’s new love for the game.
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