Why doesn't the American sports public embrace soccer?

Discussion in 'The Beautiful Game' started by uhclem, Apr 3, 2004.

  1. Steve Holroyd

    Steve Holroyd New Member

    Apr 19, 2003
    New Jersey
    Club:
    --other--
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    I agree with all this, but think that every sport has also needed a "Big Bang" to put it on the map.

    Baseball, by virute of being "first" and the "national pastime," did not rely on such a bang initially. But, with the sport floundering in the wake of the Black Sox scandal, it took Babe Ruth and juiced balls to revive interest in the sport in the 1920s.

    Pro football was a weak cousin to college football until about 1958 or so, when the famous Colts-Giants championship was televised, and suddenly people began caring about the pro game.

    Pro basketball stumbled along for years. Chamberlain v. Russell, the mighty Celtics, even Dr. J were not enough to make the game a truly successful national presence. It was not until the arrival of Bird v. Magic and, just behind them, Michael Jordan which put the NBA where it is today.

    And, with hockey, it was obvious: 1980's Miracle on Ice.

    MLS today is no different than any of the other sports leagues (well, the NFL, NBA and NHL) pre their respective "bangs": relatively stable (if not profitable), respectable fan base (even if not as "national" or across-the-board as the other sports), TV presence for those willing to find it. But it (and soccer as a rule) will need a "bang" to cement it into the national consciousness. It had Pele in the 1970s, but this was more a "pop," and the NASL owners didn't know what to do with it anyway.

    It's been said before, but it will take something like a World Cup victory to really make soccer "American." Until then, we'll get along just fine, just as the NHL did--even if it is in a limited amount of cities and without a lot of TV coverage.
     
  2. Pauncho

    Pauncho Member+

    Mar 2, 1999
    Bexley, Ohio
    Club:
    Columbus Crew
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Two key things you haven't discussed:

    (1) Bashing. Any American sports fan knows that if he displays any interest in soccer, he will be the object of ridicule by many other fans. This is enough to disuade most fans from ever getting started. Nobody becomes a hardcore fan in one day. It take a transition, usually of years. The Jim Romes of the world, big and small, work very hard at nipping this in the bud. When Joe Sixpack says he "doesn't care" about fencing, or lacrosse, it means he just has no interest and doesn't understand why anyone else does. Often, when he says he "doesn't care" about soccer, it means it's important to him to dis anyone who ever makes even a tiny favorable reference to it.

    (2) American exceptionalism. Many Americans, especially the bellicose 'real man' types, don't do "it" the way the rest of the world does just because they want to be different from the rest of the world. Not converting to the metric system costs us billions in trade every year. Guess why we don't?
     
  3. diablodelsol

    diablodelsol Member+

    Jan 10, 2001
    North Ridgeville, OH
    Part of the problem as I see it is lack of obvious incremental victories throughout the game. No clutch shots, no scoring runs, no fighting for a first down, no stolen bases...no little things that make it obvious to a newcomer that a team just did something good. These things draw the interest of a viewer who has no particular interest in the outcome of the game.

    Now - bet the newcomer $20, let him pick a team, then all those missed shots, crosses just over someones head, defensive miscues that leave a player wide open, shots off the bar, outstanding saves....all those scoring opportunities or half chances suddenly become a lot more interesting. Given the low scoring nature of the game, knowing one mistake can make the difference between winning and losing, especially when you've got a stake in the outcome, makes the game a lot more interesting.

    Plus - a lot of American soccer fans are whiney little pricks
     
  4. Oktoberfest

    Oktoberfest New Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    And therein lies the problem. The American sports viewership has been conditioned to have a short attention span. The TV networks certainly love it because inbetween the activity they can run commercials and make beaucoup bucks. Baseball is no different. Lots of airtime for commercials inbetween innings, although I'm trying to think back when the last time was that I actually watched a regular season baseball game on TV :rolleyes:
    But the gist of it is that soccer in this country would probably never be able to create the kind of hype that the superbowl generates. There is only a fifteen minute halftime break and that's just not enough time for Budweiser to blow away $200 Million on commercials. :(
     
  5. Joe Stoker

    Joe Stoker Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Stokerland
    So, combine Attention Deficit Disorder, dead brain-cells from alcohol overconsumption, clogged arteries from couch-potato inactivity and BBQ pork rinds, and you have the typical modern American NFL/MLB/NBA fan. Frankly, I believe us soccer fans will win in the end... We'll simply outlive them.
     
  6. ISAarchive

    ISAarchive Red Card

    Jan 7, 2004
    Florida, USA
  7. Anthology

    Anthology New Member

    Apr 2, 2004
    St.Augustine, FL
    Well I just saw some improvement. Alan Smiths' goal in the Leeds vs. Leicister match got #6 on SportsCenters Top 10. I don't think thats very common, plus there was a rugby thing at #9. The EPL on SC....who would've thunk it.
     
  8. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    Actually, goals from European leagues or Champions League play appear, I'd guess, about every other week. The rugby was a first for me, however.

    Anyway, anyone who's seriously interested in this question should read Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism (Princeton University Press, 2001), by Andrei Markovits and Stephen Hellerman. The first chapter goes through the stuff you have to go through to get published by a university press, but you can skip it. And after that, it picks up a bit and gives a pretty interesting history of the game in the 20th century
     
  9. JohnnyAlmonds

    JohnnyAlmonds New Member

    Jan 23, 2004
    Maryland
    Johnny would like to pitch in his two cents....

    There are numerous reasons as to why soccer isn't one of the big 4 sports in America. I think for the most part they've been re-hashed throughout this thread a couple of times.

    Truth is, we've seen the sport steadily gain more and more attention over the years. Someone posted that 50 years ago Football was a second tier sport and look at it's popularity now. I think this is probably something we can expect from soccer as well.

    Interest in the different sports is comewhat cyclical. Baseball was popular at the beginning of the 1900's when everyone played the sport. If you play you have a greater appreciation for the sport. I think somewhere along the line football became the sport everyone played and now it's the most popular sport in america. Now all the kids play soccer. In 15 years when they're all 30 years old, you can expect soccer to be very popular. We just need to wait for these older generations to die!

    In reference to these older generations, they just refuse to appreciate soccer. It's just not "cool" to them. They have that American machismo instilled in them and soccer just doesn't fit that profile. I think the MLS would do well to mainly ignore this demographic and plan for the long term. Give discounts to youth teams and players. Promote players on networks like Nickelodian (sp?), Disney, etc. There are dozens of ways to reach them. The baby boomers will only appreciate soccer if they somehow played when they were a kid, or their child got into the sport (as is the case with my father).

    In the end, the American public will indeed embrace soccer, we just need to give it time. The writing is on the wall.

    "The first time I met David Beckham I didn't know whether to shake his hand or lick his face" -Robbie Williams
     
  10. futbol571

    futbol571 New Member

    Apr 22, 2002
    Houston, TX
    The biggest reason is perception and much of that is done by ESPN trying to shoot-down futbol/soccer at any chance to the American public. You'd be very surprised to see how much ESPN has influence on this now.
     
  11. gambino

    gambino New Member

    Mar 23, 2002
    North Carolina
    In case no one has noticed the obvious, Americans are arrogant. Most people feel because it wasn't invented here, then we shouldn't like it. It's sort of on the same lines as football, baseball, and basketball calling their championship winners "World Champions". Even though they play no one outside of the US. I've given up trying to sell our game to my own country. So many people play the game now. I think it will come around.
     
  12. Anthology

    Anthology New Member

    Apr 2, 2004
    St.Augustine, FL

    Well the MLB includes two Canadian teams, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Montreal Expos (did they get disbanded?). But seriously, what American-football team outside the U.S. would have a chance in hell of beating ANY NFL team. As far as baseball, some Latino countries have many good baseball players, but do they have teams that could come anywhere close to challenging the Yankees? **** no. Japan has some good teams I think, but I highly doubt they could compete with MLB teams. But it should be noted: Asia (Japan) has won like 10 Little League World Series' in a row.

    B-ball? Well I hadn't heard that we didn't qualify for the Olympics for b-ball, I know that we didn't for baseball. But as far as "club" teams go, NBA has all of the best players (Drejer I'm talking to you).

    Anyways I think it's quite simple why America hasn't embraced soccer yet:

    The older generation, baby boomers ect, didn't grow up playing or even following the sport, so why should they care. But as this generation gets older, I think the popularity of soccer will grow exponentially.
     
  13. Thomas A Fina

    Thomas A Fina Member

    Mar 29, 1999
    Hell
    Club:
    New York Red Bulls
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Uh, you do realize that you have also just described your typical English/Dutch/German hooligan, right? :D

    Soccer is doing better in 2000 than it was in 1990 (remember the WC '90 on TNT with commercials (yet somehow Ernie Johnson was still plugging away. But I digress...)), than it was in 1980, etc... I expect it will do better in 2010 and 2020.

    and yes, there is a specie of soccerfan who, like any zealot, do more harm than good.
     
  14. voros

    voros Member

    Jun 7, 2002
    Parts Unknown
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Will some moderator please explain to me, as I looked up at the poster's name after reading this, why there isn't a red card listed above his name?

    Surely this rises to meet the standard of a red cardable offense. Does it not?

    Man we need some retroactive birth control for some of these people.
     
  15. voros

    voros Member

    Jun 7, 2002
    Parts Unknown
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I find generally labeling a group of around 300 million people as "arrogant" to be a particularly "arrogant" thing to do. Everybody else is an uncivilized arrogant moron, while you're the bastion of humility and wisdom. Do I have this interpreted correctly?

    I guess the people of the Dominican Republic and India are arrogant too since they prefer Baseball and Cricket (respectively) to soccer. Damn arrogant Venezuelans...
     
  16. Etienne_72772

    Etienne_72772 Member+

    Oct 14, 1999
    I just wanted to throw one thing out. A co-worker of mine, who is not really a soccer fan (but was recently coerced to play goal for a local team) decided to watch the DC game on Sat. after I talked about Freddy Adu. His comment to me was that he could not watch soccer because of these two reasons: the players whined too much at the referee and milked fouls for calls. He told me each soccer player needs to grow a pair and let the ref do his job without questioning every single call he makes--and that each player needs to be tougher out there, so when they get hit they "take it like a man" instead of rolling around like they got shot.
     
  17. uhclem

    uhclem Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Spring Lake Park, MN
    Hello.

    I'd like to thank all of you for your responses, including even you AZ-Alkmaar, even though I disagree with almost every thing you have posted in this thread. I do support your right to post everything you have posted, however, and I commend everyone who pointed out the many flaws which appeared in your posts.

    I would also like to explain to MattR why the WUSA collapsed and why the fact that it did further proves my point about why the American sporting public doesn't embrace soccer.

    Women's soccer is not a sport. Soccer is a sport. Women's soccer is a variety of soccer. Just as indoor soccer is a variety of soccer. Women's soccer is not the performance pinnacle of soccer. Men's soccer is. As great of athletes as women soccer players are, you could form a World's All-Star Women's soccer team, prepare them for a year, and they would still not be able to defeat, say, any men's club team from the top twenty-five leagues in the world, at least. When America is great at the pinnacle of soccer, that's when the American sports fan will embrace soccer.

    The WNBA draws less than a third of the NBA. The LPGA draws far less than the PGA. Women's boxing is considered a sideshow in comparison to Men's boxing. Generally speaking, when comparing the level of support received by the men's and women's version of any sport where the disciplines are comparable (with the singular exception of figureskating), the men's version wins. America is great at basketball, golf and boxing. So, the women's versions of these get just enough support to survive. America is not great at soccer, so... :(

    Understand, no one should misconstrue that I think that women's sports deserve less support. Any version of any sport deserves any level of support it can garner for itself. There are lots of women athletes who are entertaining to watch, including women soccer players, and I encourage fans to watch them.

    You are correct that America is good at soccer. According to FIFA they have been one of the top twenty performing soccer nations in the world, at least in level of play. But being good at a sport is not good enough if you want the American sports fan to embrace it. You have to be at or near the best. Being in the top twenty isn't going to do it. Being number two and knocking on that championship door might do it. Being the best will.

    And, by the way, I do not consider "front-runners" bad people, any more than I consider people who think Pauly Shore is funny bad people. I am being very sincere, here. Like any form of entertainment the most important part of fandom is the enjoyment a person gets from it. If someone gets the most enjoyment from rooting for whoever is winning, I sincerely say, "More power to them." I'm not that kind of fan, but I don't insist that people be my kind of fan, either.

    Signing off to go give my support to the Women's Professional Hot-Oil Wrestling League :eek:, I remain

    That little old jersey collector

    Me
     
  18. voros

    voros Member

    Jun 7, 2002
    Parts Unknown
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Yes that's why the Cubs have trouble drawing at Wrigley Field, and also why English Div. 1 teams draw equally as well as Manchester United.

    Americans are no different than anyone else in what they want and like and don't like. That we're not the best in Soccer is not why the sport isn't as popular professionally here. It's not as popular here professionally because it hasn't been here nearly as long as other sports, the vast majority of the adult population did not play or watch the sport growing up and that we have had other sports that have become part of our culture.

    I'm tired of this "Americans need to be the best at everything" nonsense. It's insultingly stereotypical and doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. Worst thing about it is that half the people are Americans who have somehow managed to become convinced that what they are is something to be ashamed of.
     
  19. 100_Fires

    100_Fires New Member

    Oct 24, 2003
    so cal
    Good thread and good points uhclem. But, don't be so quick to discount the fact that soccer, for those of us who weren't born and reared into the understanding of it like our orthodontically challenged cousins in the UK, is an acquired taste. A least for people who are introduced to it via TV, you need to have an above average ability to appreciate the subtleties of passing, off the ball movement, etc. Live football is a different story. I have had a good deal of success turning people on to soccer by dragging them to games where they can see the entire field , the atmosphere, etc. But the person that falls in love with soccer via the TV is pronbably smarter or more aware or just more open-minded (not a very american trait ,lately) than the average bear.
     
  20. uhclem

    uhclem Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Spring Lake Park, MN
    Hello.

    Well, it looks like I going to have to do a little review for a couple of people.

    For voros:

    I really shouldn't have to repost this, since it was in the first post of the thread.

    [Poster's note: The following post will be filled with generalities. I am aware that there exceptions to some of the statements I will be making. I am noting general trends and characteristics and extrapolating from them. I don't believe that the exceptions invalidate my conclusions.]

    Yes, I am using stereotypes. Of course, not EVERY American feels that he or his country needs to be the best. But the evidence suggests that the stereotype has some validity to it. Ask the members of this forum who are from other countries. And, it does stand up to scrutiny.

    Now, I'm no Michael Palin, but I have had travelled over about 3/4ths of the Pacific rim. I have met and talked with many people from many countries. I have had the opportunity to observe my fellow Americans as tourists. And, while we are generally well-liked as people, I have frequently been told that we are, well, a bit full of ourselves. I know that the vast majority of Americans believe that they "live in the greatest country in the world." Most people from other countries tend to say, "I like my country best." There is a significant difference between the two.

    Understand, I am not claiming that this is just an American trait. The same was said about the British during their Empire days. And about the Spanish when they were amassing their colonial holdings. And about the Romans, when their upperclass citizens all spoke with English accents (I have got to quit watching 50's gladiator flicks). The citizens of whichever nation is the current BMOC frequently have a tendency to exibit an air of superiority.

    I don't think anyone should be ashamed to be an American, but I don't think we should be particularly proud either. I think a person should be proud of what he accomplishes or what he helps other people to accomplish. I served honorably in the military (or so my discharge papers say), but I hold no pride in the United States having the most powerful military in the world because, frankly, my contribution to that was pretty darn minor. I am not proud of our advances in medical science, because I had nothing to do with that. I'm glad America developed those advances, but not proud. I am proud that I have been able to help people in my life with problems like chemical dependancy. I am proud to have demonstrated for free speech. I am proud that, through Amnesty International, I write e-mails for people who are unjustly imprisoned. I am ashamed that, as a kid, I sometimes teased other kids about things like their acne and hurt their feelings. I am proud or ashamed of the things I do.

    "It's [soccer is] not as popular here professionally because it hasen't been here as long as other sports,..."

    Kudos to NYR Metros for the following:

    Transatlantic Connections:
    Britain, America and Football

    Football was slow to become popular in the USA despite the efforts of British influence from as far back as the 17th century. But over time, and with the help of expatriates from Britain, the game took on baseball and basketball and found its own place in the nation's affections. Ben Lyttleton reports.

    The historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote in his account of the 20th century, War and Peace in the 20th Century, that in cultural terms, "it has been an American era, but for one area: sport". One sport, football, has become the leading game in every continent but has been slow to conquer the USA - the reason, though, has nothing to do with a lack of early football experiences.

    The Pilgrims of the 17th century record the existence of a Native American game called 'Pasukkquakkohowog' which translates as: 'They gather to play football'. The game was played using an inflated bladder between two large teams on a narrow pitch up to one mile long. It was similar to the game of folk football played amongst the British colonists and their descendants in the towns of New England and Virginia, but the Boston authorities issued a 1657 rule banning it from town centres.

    For more see:

    http://www.footballculture.net/history/history_transatlantic.html

    By the way, here's a list of U.S. Division One Pro Soccer League champions:

    American Soccer League I

    1921-22 Philadelphia Football Club
    1922-23 J. & P. Coats
    1923-24 Fall River Marksmen
    1924-25 Fall River Marksmen
    1925-26 Fall River Marksmen
    1926-27 Bethlehem Steel
    1927-28 Boston Wonder Workers
    1928-29 Fall River Marksmen
    1929 Fall River Marksmen
    1929-30 Fall River Marksmen
    1930 Fall River Marksmen
    1930-31 New York Giants
    1932 New Bedford Whalers
    1932-33 Fall River Football Club


    International Soccer League II

    1961 Bangu (Brazil)
    1962 América RJ (Brazil)
    1963 West Ham United (England)
    1964 Zaglebie Sosnowiec (Poland)
    1965 Polonia Bytom (Poland)


    Major League Soccer

    1996 D. C. United
    1997 D. C. United
    1998 Chicago Fire
    1999 D. C. United
    2000 Kansas City Wizards
    2001 San Jose Earthquakes
    2002 Los Angeles Galaxy
    2003 San Jose Earthquakes
    2004


    North American Soccer League

    1967 Los Angeles Wolves (USA)
    1967 Oakland Clippers (NPSL)
    1968 Atlanta Chiefs
    1969 Kansas City Spurs
    1970 Rochester Lancers
    1971 Dallas Tornado
    1972 New York Cosmos
    1973 Philadelphia Atoms
    1974 Los Angeles Aztecs
    1975 Tampa Bay Rowdies
    1976 Toronto Metros-Croatia
    1977 New York Cosmos
    1978 New York Cosmos
    1979 Vancouver Whitecaps
    1980 New York Cosmos
    1981 Chicago Sting
    1982 New York Cosmos
    1983 Tulsa Roughnecks
    1984 Chicago Sting

    Seems to date back to 1921, doesn't it. The first national league in Spain was formed in 1928. Brazil didn't have a national tournament until 1959 and didn't crown a national champion until 1971. England's first National champion was crowned in 1889. Thirty-two years really isn't that much of a headstart over a time frame of 115 years.

    And here's a list of all U.S. pro soccer league champions:

    http://www.rsssf.com/tablesu/usa-overview-champ.html

    Gee, that seems to date back to 1894.

    Oh, yeah, and we reached the World Cup semis in 1930. Soccer has been here a long time.

    "...the vast majority of the adult population did not play or watch the sport growing up..."

    The vast majority did not play or watch the sport because America was not very good at it and America was great at other sports, which were the ones they watched and played.

    "...and that we have had other sports that have become part of our culture."

    Like hockey, which wasn't part of the sporting culture for most of the country until we got great at it. Or like bicycle racing which ceased to be a part of our sporting culture when we ceased to be great at it and is becoming part of our sporting culture again now that we are great at it again.

    And as for your opening statement, I don't know how it is relevant. The reasons for a sports team's popularity and a sport's popularity differ in many aspects, although they do share a few simularities. I didn't see a winky face ;) , so I'm assuming that you weren't kidding. The Cubs actually draw pretty well at Wrigley Field. The were third in the National League in attendance last year and are usually in the top half of the league. It is interesting to note, however, that generally speaking, the higher the Cubs finish in the standings, the higher they finish in the league in attendance. The lower, the lower.

    And as for Manchester United's attendance, well, I hope a Man U supporter doesn't see your post, as he will need an oxygen tank to help him recover from the hour-and-a-half laughing jag he'll go on.

    West Ham United is currently leading the first division in attendance with a per game average of 31,352.

    Manchester United is drawing 67,646.

    Don't feel too bad. You're only off by a little more than half.

    To 100_Fires:

    Until the Human Genome Project isolates and identifies the Sports Appreciation gene, I'm going to assume that any sport is an acquired taste. :)

    As to my opinion of understanding the game as a pre-requisite for fandom, see my post of April 5th on this thread.

    Thanks for the compliments, though. And thank you for lugging people to the game. Every little bit helps.

    Lugging myself off to bed, because every little bit helps, I remain

    That little old jersey collector

    Me
     
  21. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    In addition to being a pretty decent team from the 20s, when soccer, while not as popular as college football, could hold its own with the fledgling NFL (and pay it's players at least as well as the English First Division of the day). . .

    [​IMG]

    Bethlehem Steel also gave us what was quite possibly the first soccer-specific stadium in the US. Or if not specific, at least, soccer-predominate.
     
  22. Steve Holroyd

    Steve Holroyd New Member

    Apr 19, 2003
    New Jersey
    Club:
    --other--
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Actually, Marks Stadium in North Tiverton, Rhode Island (built 1922 or so) was the first "major" soccer specific stadium (actually, "specifically built for soccer" is a little more accurate) in the U.S. Home of one of the greatest American teams, the Fall River Marksmen--so great, in fact, that they even get a mention in that History of Football DVD series.

    Now is not the time or place, but an entire thread could be devoted to how American soccer had plenty of opportunities to get itself embraced, but never followed through--either because of internal mismanagement or plain old bad luck.

    Uhclem touched on some of this--yes, we had a pro league in 1894. Run by baseball owners. But so poorly managed that it died about 7 games into the season. Google "American League of Professional Football" and you're bound to come across a pretty good article on the subject. ;)

    The American Soccer League of the 1920s was probably the second-most supported professional team sport in the country. An internal "soccer war" between the ASL and USSF bled a few clubs dry, which left them ill-equipped to deal with the Great Depression. So the "major" ASL disappeared, replaced by an all-ethic version which made no attempt to ever be anything other than a group of ethnic social clubs.

    The NASL? Check out the thread in the American soccer forum regarding Pele and his impact to see how those boys missed their chance to imprint soccer on the sports landscape.
     
  23. Pmoliu

    Pmoliu New Member

    Jun 7, 1999
    Princeton, NJ
    I think everyone has made some good points.

    But I think more to the point is relevency. How can MLS, within the context of soccer in the United States, become relevent to the US Soccer public?

    Paul
     
  24. Steve Holroyd

    Steve Holroyd New Member

    Apr 19, 2003
    New Jersey
    Club:
    --other--
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    From my POV, this is where the "big bang" I mentioned earlier comes in.

    Soccer will survive as a professional sport--as has box lacrosse and arena football and, yes, indoor soccer--but it will not be on the general radar screen until we get a big event.
     
  25. SYoshonis

    SYoshonis Member+

    Jun 8, 2000
    Manistee, Michigan
    Club:
    Michigan Bucks
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    The original question, why doesn't the American sports public embrace soccer, takes the macro view of things, whereas I believe that a more micro approach holds the answer. Simply put, there aren't enough local MLS teams for America as a whole to embrace the sport.

    The vast majority of sports fans in this country have learned their sports through watching a rooting for a specific (usually local) team. And, even if they become a more generalized fan of the sport as a whole, most of them remain at least nominally a fan of that team. Even much of the so-called impartial sports media have to suppress their previously-held allegiances when doing their jobs, some more successfully than others.

    Being a fan of a team is a very visceral, emotional and illogical endeavor. It involves such things as love, devotion, allegiance and caring for a team (or, as Jerry Seinfeld and others have pointed out, laundry). American sports fans have shown beyond doubt that they are capable of this in huge numbers, and even embrace it. The point that I believe that most people miss about soccer is that, before MLS, it was extraordinarily difficult for any fan of a team to retain and nurture that allegiance long enough to truly absorb the sport in the same way as the other sports, let alone to pass that allegiance along to their kids. The long and sad history of soccer teams moving or dying because they didn't produce the quick buck gets in the way of people who would be inclined to give their wholehearted allegiance, the way that they do to the Cubs or Red Sox or Blackhawks or Lions (the exceptions are obvious for all to see, in any of the ridiculous "Bring Back The Cosmos" threads we see here, for example). But, soccer fans have been asked to love a sport as a whole, and while we here do just that, the majority of sports fans lack that "in" to the sport, which was their "in" to whatever sports they do watch, and that is the devotion for and attention to one specific team.

    MLS is changing that by not routinely folding or moving teams, and allowing them to set down roots. MLS allows people to become fans of their local team, and that's exactly the right path to take.

    How many of those Americans who are fans, or were before MLS, became fans while visiting overseas, and getting caught up in the fervor and devotion by the locals for their team, and stayed fans of that team, along the way learning the subtleties and nuances of the game? How many of us few fans of the sport of soccer in this country consciously choose a team to root for, usually overseas, since those teams aren't in danger of suddenly disappearing? And, how many of those fans have never seen their team play in person? My own profile shows that I'm a Celtic fan, but I have never been to Parkhead, and may never get there. Also, I call myself a Fire fan, but that's largely for three reasons: first, I admire their front office and the way that they do things, Peter Wilt in particular. Second, they're closest to me (actually, it's about a dead heat with Columbus). Third, it's in Chicago, a city I adore visiting. But, if Detroit gets a team in MLS, my Fire days are over, since all of my other teams, the ones I grew up with, are Detroit teams.

    The fact is, soccer, like every other team sport, is about the team. Until fans care about whether or not one team wins or loses, soccer is forever doomed to its niche status here in the USA. The fact that America as a whole DOES have a team (two, actually...), and that the country notices when it does well, as in the last World Cup, which set records for viewership on ESPN, tells me that, when there is a team that they can root for, people will watch soccer. And, the more they watch, the more they'll understand, and then the question posed in this thread goes away.

    But, there aren't enough local teams in MLS. Huge potential fan bases have no MLS team to call their own, and so the opportunity is currently lost to bring those fans, and other future fans into the fold. When that happens, the question that started this thread will be nothing more than a quaint anachronism, akin to "When will the NBA really take off?"
     

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