Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why Soccer Won’t Work in America?

Because of Chucklheads like this guy.from Laurie of the MLS Blog:
“The fact is, I think, that soccer doesn’t fit the taste of the American sports fan, who likes a finite chance of success or failure on every play,” Steinberg said. “It doesn’t have the type of pacing, like a lot of scoring. There is continuous play without scoring and the game is not susceptible to commercial breaks. Americans like fast burst of action and scoring. I would suggest tinkering with soccer, but I know that’s sacrosanct.”

– Leigh Steinberg, “the top sports agent who represents N.F.L. and N.B.A. stars,” who says that “soccer’s failure to earn the embrace of big-time TV coverage in the United States has doomed it to second-class status, perhaps forever.” As quoted in the NY Times soccer blog,
This guy Leigh Steinberg represented the U.S. 1994 World Cup squad but doesn't represent soccer players now, at least as far as I can tell.

Tinkering with soccer, um, no. And that is not just a purist talking, but a person who has seen NASL, MISL, WUSA, and the MLS. First, you can't tinker with the game and then expect to see FIFA approval and international play. Second, Steinberg assumes that America doesn't or can't get soccer. That assumes a certain amount of stupidity in Americans that frankly I find offensive.

I think the MLS model is pretty good. I would like to see a plan to move away from the single entity in the next 10-15 years and I certainly want to see an increase in salary for players and thus some depth to the squads. But all leagues struggle in their infancy and now in the 13th year, I think MLS has survived its infancy and has a solid model.

Steinberg is right about one thing though. We need a classic rivalary and one that evolves and it not based upon personalities. The LA Galaxy/Chivas USA Derby is great for the LA area, but we need to see a national rivalry or at least grow a couple more interesting regional rivalries. the addition of Philadelphia to the scene could create a great NY/DC/Philly rivalary.

American sports fans don't thrive just on scoring, they thrive on the intensity of the competition. What has made the NFL such a great commodity has been the parity in the league and the long standing rivalries amoung clubs. As teh MLS grows and those inter-club rivalries begin to form and regularly produce quality games that are exiting in and of themselves, then you will see MLS really take off.

What makes the MLS great now is the relative accessibility of the game, the players and the clubs. Making another NFL or NBA simply is not in the cards and shouldn't be. But that does not mean American soccer cannot thrive.

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