Monday, April 28, 2008

MLS As Seen by the Brits

The Financial Times (London) takes a look at the MLS. I thought this a pertinent note:
He [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] hastily adds: “We remind ourselves all the time: we have not cracked the code for soccer in this country. We’re so much younger than the other sports here. If we continue to grow, if this country continues to change, I have no doubt we will be as successful as the other major leagues in the US.”
Another items from Stephen Goff noted that on Sunday, five MLS matches drew more than 20,000 spectators a piece.
Last season the MLS averaged nearly 17,000 spectators a game. That’s more than the fabled North American Soccer League managed in the 1970s, and about the same as basketball’s NBA and ice hockey’s NHL draw today, though admittedly the MLS plays fewer games.

Garber describes 2007 as “the best year in the history of soccer in this country. If you can get up to a game in Toronto, you’ll say, ‘I cannot believe this is Major League Soccer’. It feels like an English football match, from how they cheer to what they do. Nobody’s getting up to get a hot dog and beer, like at other sports matches in the US.” Toronto sold out every game last year in spite of being the league’s worst performing team. Seattle and Philadelphia have large fan clubs even though their teams don’t exist yet.
Toronto sells, Seattle and Philly may be able to sell out their stadia pretty easily when they start play. Having been to lots of soccer matches, there is really nothing like DCU's Barra Brava fan club rocking RFK (and I can't imagine what they would do in a Soccer Specific Stadium). Yes, the fan base is growing and for a league that is 13 years old and that almost no one gave a chance to survive, MLS is showing that it is a real league, with real potential, real attraction and a real future.

To compare MLS with the English FA or Spanish, German or Italian leagues is patently unfair. MLS competes at some point in their season with MLB, NBA, NHL and the grandaddy the NFL. When an MLS team draws more in its regular season than a team from NBA or NHL does (when those leagues play more games) in the same market, you probably won't hear about else where, but it will be huge. Of course, the MLS will need bigger stadiums to make that happen.

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