Who make up the fans of pro soccer

Discussion in 'Business and Media' started by Paul. A, Aug 4, 2002.

  1. Paul. A

    Paul. A Member

    Mar 16, 1999
    Wales, UK
    We obviously need to build on attendance for US soccer. So I was thinking on who makes up the fans of MLS? I guess this is not an easy answer. But I was thinking about myself and family who played soccer a lot but we never really went to pro games. My uncle has played semi-professionally in Britain and travelled to other countries to play, but he doesn't go to pro games. We did watch games on TV though all the time. OK, our local team was not Liverpool but Cardiff City.

    And I know this is America. But where do we win fans. I guess we need to win support of soccer moms here, but do players make the best fans? I bet in the UK some of the best soccer fans have never played much. Where do you think we can win most soccer fans for MLS?
  2. GoHawks4

    GoHawks4 Member

    Apr 24, 2002
    Liverpool FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I always thought the fans were real, now they are made up? ************.


    I'm a 14 year old male from the Chicago area. I go to about 2-3 games a year. I buy merchandise from lots of things, not only MLS. I have a jersey. I play as a hobby.
  3. Godot22

    Godot22 New Member

    Jul 20, 1999
    I think it's pretty clear that fans don't make the best players. There's millions of soccer players in the US. How many reasonably serious MLS fans are there? Maybe 100,000?

    Fans of other leagues who haven't already gotten the message simply aren't interested--if the World Cup didn't convince expats and so-called "Eurosnobs" that MLS is not a joke league, they are simply not open to being convinced. In any case, apart from the Mexican League fans, they are irrelevant in the long term--there's not enough of them to make a serious difference. As for MLS-agnostic fans of the Mexican league--why would they pay money to watch MLS when they can watch the teams they love for free?

    The fact is that essentially everyone who seriously cares about soccer in this country has already made up their minds about whether or not to support MLS.

    The next wave of fans will come from the general population of American sports fans--people who are neither friendly nor hostile to the game. People who have never really seriously given any thought to caring about soccer (as a spectator sport) one way or the other.

    If I knew how to sell MLS to them, I wouldn't be sitting on my butt, procrastinating about writing a paper, and making windy pronouncements with too many adverbs on some Internet message board, I'd be working for MLS and making pretty good money doing so. But off the top of my head I'd suggest emphasizing the following points:

    * Watching soccer is fun.
    * Watching soccer is a distinctly different experience from what you get at typical American professional sports events.
    * Because you watch soccer, you're not actually required to renounce interest in any other sport or become a pseudo-European microbrew-clutching poseur or become a car-smashing Visigoth, despite what the no-neck Sports column disgorger at your local paper seems to think.
    * Did we mention that watching soccer is fun?
  4. Paul. A

    Paul. A Member

    Mar 16, 1999
    Wales, UK
    A good post!
  5. monster

    monster Member

    Oct 19, 1999
    Hanover, PA
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    After yesterday I am convinced that drunk crazy people make up the soccer fan base. :D
  6. Sachin

    Sachin New Member

    Jan 14, 2000
    La Norte
    DC United
    Invite fence sitters to watch matches in the supporters section. I randomly sold a bunch of tickets in La Norte to a group coming to their first ever match. They loved it and now come to every match and are asking about season tickets.

    A fun, rowdy, yet safe supporters section will help sell lots of tickets. In DC, we're lucky that DC United recognizes that and helps us out.

  7. jmeissen0

    jmeissen0 New Member

    Mar 31, 2001
    page 1078
    i go beyond that sachin... i have done anything i can to get people that HATE soccer to come to matches with me (and the fence sitters)... once there, i get them liquored up and take them into section 8

    after that they are up for returning and bringing more with us... it also helped that i use to throw awesome tail gates at soldier field (i miss tail gating)... but at least there is a bar across the street and free parking in naperville

    i think there has only been one non-road game that i have gone to that i haven't brought at least one new person with me... everyone has loved their experience, everyone
  8. 442

    442 Member

    Dec 28, 2000
    Secret ArseAm HQ
    Here's my two cents:

    MLS has always tried to woo everybody and their mother to be a soccer fan. 'We'll get the soccer moms, we'll get the latin Americans, we'll get the Eurosnobs...' Also, they take such a soft approach to soccer haters or neutrals. 'Please try our sport, you won't hate it, we promise.'

    I say screw that. If I was D. Garber I would tell anti-soccer media and fans they could bite me if they don't like soccer. I would go to every MLS team in the country and hold a post-match town hall meeting. I would come to bigsoccer, I would write a column for Soccer America and I would say the same thing each time: 'If you are here/reading this you are a soccer fan. You are the only people I care about. I am going to make this game special for you. We're going to get small, intimate stadiums, you are going to have access to players and coaches, we are going to have the best give-away items in pro sports. Your neighbors are going to be jealous because you are having such a good time. If they want to come and join you great, if not, that's their loss. They are uncultured swine who are probably too stupid to enjoy the beauty of soccer anyway. But listen to me carefully. Don't ever be defensive about being a soccer fan. Jim Rome doesn't like soccer? Who cares? Joe Butface who writes for your paper doesn't like soccer? Who cares? Guess what? I don't care about him, so why should you? Soccer fans are the only people I care about.'

    It's time the leadership of MLS strap on a pair, make some hard decisions, and focus on what matters - soccer fans right now, not "potential" fans.
  9. NYfutbolfan

    NYfutbolfan Member

    Dec 17, 2000
    LI, NY
    It's nice to know that someone cares...sniff,sniff.
  10. NYfutbolfan

    NYfutbolfan Member

    Dec 17, 2000
    LI, NY
    I used to try to be a soccer crusader and try to convince others to try the sport. I hit a point somewhere awhile back, where I said screw it. I don't work for MLS or the USSF and I'll probably never make a penny off the sport. Hopefully, I'll be able to enjoy MLS for decades to come, but that'll have alot more to do with the next generation discovering the beauty of the game than anything I'll ever do.

    I hope that MLS presses the right buttons, the SSS's get built, the US Nats continue to shine, MLS continues to produce solid players and superstars and over time (probably the next 6-10 years), MLS will become the league that has the US's smallest but 5th major sport.
  11. 442

    442 Member

    Dec 28, 2000
    Secret ArseAm HQ
    Please don't misunderstand my point. I'm not saying fans should be supportive. I'm just saying we should stop feeling the need to beg everybody we know to pleeeease come to a match with us. If they want to fine. But I just don't bother having discussions with my co-workers trying to convince them how cool soccer is.
  12. MemphisGunner

    MemphisGunner New Member

    Jul 22, 2002
    Memphis, TN
    I agree. I've stopped wasting by breath as well.

    In several ways, the support of football is purer here in the States. Supporters follow the sport, and not the surrounding media noise and culture.

    We don't have the tabloid media reporting the personal lives of the MLS stars. There are no photos of the players with their wives or girlfiends on holiday. The photogenic Landon Donovan-- with the name and looks of a boyband singer-- could someday change all that. It hasn't happened yet. English supporters, however, get a daily diet of off-the-pitch news.

    Don't think that this doesn't affect attendance. A few seasons ago, I was seated next to a beautiful young lady at Highbury who was clutching a pair of shorts. As she explained, Emmanuel Petit had thrown them from the changing room window. Her boyfriend had caught them and now she was there hoping for an autograph. Petit had an off day but the girl didn't care. Football was the last thing on her mind; she was there for the shorts. I've haven't seen her since. Perhaps she no longer supports the Arsenal after Petit left. Perhaps she spends Saturdays at Stamford Bridge where Petit is having many off days. Or perhaps I'll see here next season at Highbury holding a pair of Robert Pires shorts.

    Few US supporters have parents who follow the sport. I've met English supporters whose great-grandfathers supported their club. Club and family are one. A girl I know has been dating the same guy for four years. She can't take him home to to meet her parents. If you're in the States you're probably thinking that there must some racial or political or religious objection. That's not it. This girl lives in north London and her boyfriend is a ManUtd supporter.

    Finally, for those of us in the States who do not live in a MLS market, there isn't a geographic connection to a team. English supporters grow up supporting the local team. It takes a brave Manchester lad to support Liverpool. Proximity creates connections. The English supporter went to primary school with someone who had a runout with the reserves or he drinks at the pub with one of the stewards or his uncle is a groundskeeper.

    I grew up near Tampa, and live in Memphis. So who do I support? There's not a MLS team left in the Southeast. I haven't been to a MLS game since the death of the Mutiny. Yes, I could drive nine hours to Columbus and I'm certain that I would have a good time. But I can fly to London in the same amount of time and have a splendid time.

    When I do watch a MLS match on television, I watch for the football. I don't watch because the hairstyles have been featured on Entertainment Tonight. They aren't; I can't even get the results on ESPN SportsCenter. And I don't watch because my father is watching. He's watching Tiger and the PGA. And I don't watch because the stadium is just down the lane. I wish.

    Some weeks the MLS football isn't very good. But then, I've seen some English matches-- ones in February or played by Everton-- that weren't good either. The hairstyles WERE better, though.
  13. Godot22

    Godot22 New Member

    Jul 20, 1999
    The problem there is that there's not enough soccer fans right now for the present situation to be good enough. Assuming that MLS doesn't regard their present profit/loss statements as the ideal, they're going to have to find more fans somewhere.

    I'm all about not being defensive about being a soccer fan--the little tit-for-tat game some fans play with ignorant sports columnists is just embarassing to me, and I don't listen to sports-talk radio, so I don't give a crap what Jim Rome thinks about anything.

    If we all had a sense of humor about our sport's place in this country, we'd be better off, but so long as the vocal minority keeps going nuclear over every supposed slight, soccer will be stuck with the reputation as the annoying kid brother of the American sports world--loudly demanding to be taken along everywhere, even when the big boys are off to do big-boy stuff.
  14. I do

    I feel I am the face of Soccer Fans in America. Some of you may hate to hear it.

    I have been reading BigSoccer for about a year or so, and havn't registered or posted because I feel I havn't had a lot to add. Besides, you all are so entertaining, I didn't need to add my 2 cents.

    I grew up a Bears, Bulls, and Cubs fan. True blue Chicago sports fan. I played 1 year of very confused youth soccer in the 5th grade. I didn't even understand offsides until I got to college.

    I never had a chance to watch soccer. Anywhere, anytime.

    I went to Wheaton College, a traditionally stong Division III soccer power. Because they were the best team going on campus, I began to watch their home games. Found I enjoyed them very much. I liked the atmosphere, the fan support, and the way the game held my attention. It also happened that after my freshman year the World Cup was held in the US. I watched, and I enjoyed, and I still remember the Brazil game - the fourth of July, the Balboa bicycle kick, how agonizingly close (so it seemed to me) we were to having had a shot of upsetting Brazil. (At the time - it seemed reasonable to me - I didn't realize how far behind them we really were).

    After that, I spent some summers in Europe, and got a grasp of how the game grips the world. I sat in hostels and watched some euro 96 games, and WC qualifiers in 97.

    All of that led me to feel intruiged enough to visit Soldier Field when the Fire came in 98. I loved it! I loved how accessible it was to get to games. I really enjoyed watching games, and have been hooked ever since. I purchased cable for the first time ever just to watch the world cup this year.

    Bottom line is, I am joe-american sports fan. I love american football, still love the bulls and bears, and now prefer the Fire over the Cubs. I was never a big baseball fan (especially on TV), but what else did I have to choose from? I still don't understand a lot of the nuances and details of the game. I'm sure there are some rules that I don't yet know. But it is a simple enough game I can watch it and not be confused. I don't have time to keep up with the rest of the world. I like to know who won the champions league, and wish I had the ability/time to see more, but it is unrealistic with the life I lead. I can, though, trot on down to Naperville, and catch an affordable game, watch players I know, and feel excited about introducing my friends to MLS.

    I agree with other posters - don't try to convince the haters. Find people who like to spend time with you, invite them to a game. They will enjoy it. One person at a time. All the marketing things that they are already doing won't hurt. But introducing one fan to another is how it will grow.

    Sorry for such a rediculously long post on my first time out, but this has been stewing in me as I've been reading through BigSoccer for a while. The biggest thing right now is to get teams their own stadiums so the games look good. Get good owners, and let the thing grow naturally. Get the World Cup back in the US as soon as possible. I don't ever see soccer supplanting the other sports. But I do see it succeding. Especially as a summer sport going head to head against baseball.
  15. 442

    442 Member

    Dec 28, 2000
    Secret ArseAm HQ
    FiredUp that is a solid effort for a first time post. I'm sure you'll grow increasingly hysterical, like the rest of us, with each passing post.
  16. PSU92

    PSU92 Member

    Feb 27, 1999
    Annandale VA
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
  17. Elizabeth

    Elizabeth New Member

    Apr 22, 2002
    Columbus, Ohio
    Memphis...good pts. Why is media so PC with soccer...and just lets us ave it with football, basketball, and baseball? Our players probably aren't asked crazy questions..but even with the DC rape thing in Columbus a few years back...it was a small little byline dealio and never a full blown thing.

    Or maybe the MLS is just chock full of boring individuals that don't warrant much press. I still think digging up some more interesting personal news gets attention for the mere fact, it's making them real and not just a foosball table.

    No interaction with players is another huge fault. The days of the OSU horeshoe with the team at the local bar post game...they are over. i saw players get loaded, picking up random beauties....fun stuff.
  18. DAKCrew

    DAKCrew New Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Columbus, OH

    Sorry, I had to say it.
  19. Northside Rovers

    Jan 28, 2000
    Austin TX
    FC Dallas
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Damn Fired Up: Best First Post Ever.

    Your story is the way most of us became soccer fans. We weren't born into it. We found it or it found us and there is no going back.
  20. USRufnex

    USRufnex Red Card

    Tulsa Athletic / Sheffield United
    United States
    Jul 15, 2000
    Tulsa, OK
    then and now...

    Sometimes I wonder if the old NASL was more of a curse than a blessing. I just don't remember the brigade of "soccer-haters" back then. It's funny to hear the creative memories of so-called sports journalists claiming the NASL "shoved soccer down our throats." It got good media coverage in the late 70s (better than today's) but hardly the kind of traditional coverage of every aspect of the game like baseball, basketball and football.

    I think MLS has started to recognize a successful scheme in appealing to the die-hard fan. No shootouts, no astroturf (the plastic grass in Naperville is a HUGE improvment over carpet-covered cement), no games played with infield dirt, no 35 yd offsides, clocks that run forward to 90 mins, no cheerleaders, etc.

    When MLS says "It's your game" it's really true. Baseball at Wrigley Field is more a social event than an athletic one. When the NASL attracted big crowds, one had to wonder how many REAL soccer fans were there. When I go to a MLS game, I'm convinced the fans are there for soccer, not the novelty effect of a recent World Cup (that is, unless there's a fireworks show). :)

    The process is slow, but someday with our own stadiums and a base of hardcore fans we'll start to catch on with the general public that currently knows little to nothing about the game except what they've been told by a soccer-unfriendly media.
  21. csc7

    csc7 New Member

    Jul 3, 2002
    I think I represent the type of fan that MLS can pick up (I started paying attention again after this World Cup). I played club throughout HS and we watched European games because MLS didn't start until my junior year. Obviously after having been exposed to years of European leagues, the first couple years of MLS looked pretty bad. I stopped paying attention after the second or third year (the fact that I wasn't near a city with a team didn't help). I would occasionally catch a game, but didn't look really closely.

    The play of MLS players in this Cup changed my perception of the league. I've started paying more attention (and the fact that I now live in a city with a team has helped, but just because there are more games on TV to watch) and have become a fan. I don't consider myself a 'Eurosnob.' I was just used to a higher standard of play than early MLS offered, so I turned it off. I think there is a potential generation of natural soccer fans about my age (22-26) that could come back to the league now that it's improved. Don't know exactly what MLS can do to get them interested again, but I think there is a big group out there.
  22. sebakoole

    sebakoole New Member

    Jul 11, 2002
    Players might make the best fans, but if they're the only fans then MLS won't survive. Please don't let soccer become like jazz. Jazz used to be much more popular in the US, but now it seems like the only people who really get into jazz are musicians themselves and so the jazz world comes across to non-musicians as insular, arcane and snobbish. If soccer takes this path I doubt that it will survive in the US.

    ..hmm, jazz/soccer, hmm...is Freddy Adu a reincarnation of John Coltrane?
  23. detter7

    detter7 New Member

    Jun 14, 2000
    I played soccer through my childhood and high school, so understanding the massive talent needed and the rules pertaining to the game was a plus. (It is so hard to explain off-sides to some people!) I helped out with youth soccer stuff in high school, and then slowly I began to discover MLS. Right away I was hooked.

    As soccer has progressed and grown, so has TV coverage. For me, that's been the biggest thing to get behind soccer. I don't live in a soccer city, I live three hours away from two soccer cities, though, I didn't really have an opportunity to go to any games. The '99 WWC at least gave more television coverage, and then the MLS fed the new soccer fans for the rest of the summer. But still, inconsistency, and really only one game a week on most of the nation's cable isn't enough to lure a lot of people into soccer. I've taken friends to games who have said that being at the game has made them soccer fans because of the atmosphere, and that it is now more respectable to watch when you compare the skill and size of the field that is often misrepresented on TV. Just simple coverage on the news and/or Sportscenter (HA HA!) would be a major improvement. Hopefully, all the kids who play youth soccer now will/have become pro soccer fans, and they can begin to raise a new soccer movement when they're adults.

    As shallow as it is, marketing the players to a female audience would probably help. Look at Landon Donovan's fan club of teenage girls. During the World Cup some entertainment show (I think it was Extra) did a piece on the "hotties" of the World Cup, showcasing Donovan, McBride, and Beckham (yeah, I know, he's English).
  24. DAKCrew

    DAKCrew New Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Columbus, OH
    The fans that the league want is the fans that will pay to see an MLS team play
  25. Vampeta

    Vampeta New Member

    Aug 14, 2000
    Portland, OR., USA

    Hey, now! I like other sports ANDdrink
    Eurobeer and 'Merkun microbrews, so put
    that in yer pipe and smoke it! :p

    Great post as always Godot22.

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