Growing the Sport in the United States

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Post by McLewis Sat Mar 09, 2013 1:02 pm

As for my opinion on this, I think it's a game of patience. As a fan of the sport first and foremost, I'm just happy to see more Americans taking an interest in it beyond watching their kids play it.

It's all about baby steps in terms of getting more people interested. Watch a Portland or Seattle home game. Watch a Sporting KC or Philly Union home game while you're at it as well. The atmosphere at these venues has been fantastic. As someone now used to watching MLS being played in football stadiums in front of fans who could hardly be heard, this is absolute progress in the truest sense.

Soccer is here to stay in the US. It's integrated and assimilated itself into our culture and society so it will likely never go away and that only development or stagnation. For decades, it was the latter of the 2, but finally we're seeing more of the former now and that can only be a great thing for US soccer.

As for Lalas' comments, I don't think it's as black and white as its made out to be. I can't speak for anyone else, but the way I began as a fan of this sport was by watching the European leagues first. Then after watching that stuff for years, I began to wonder...."What kind of league does America have to offer?". That's when I began following Chicago and MLS in general. Is the quality on par with Europe? Nope, but then again, why should we expect that from a league that isn't even 20 years old yet? It's unrealistic.

However, that's ultimately what I think will change in the coming years. Instead of watching Europe first and then coming back home to 'Murica, as MLS gets bigger and better in quality, we'll see the inverse of that. When that happens, we'll see way less of this type of talk in bars that Lalas' spoke of.

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Post by mr-r34 Sat Mar 09, 2013 1:59 pm

This happens down here in OZ as well, too much euro snobs for my liking. They have never watched an a-league game because it's too 'shit'. But latley the league has picked up massively in popularity with the liked of ADP, Hesky and ONO gracing our shores. Just need someone like carra , scholes or giggs to come down for a laugh, would have massive impact.
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Post by iftikhar Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:29 am

It's 18 years and MLS now has the second generation of supporters. Now do these people have the same apprehension about a young player like we have about Rahim! Will they act in a similar manner when MU supporters camped outsidee Rooney's house! How did the rival (!) responded when LA signed Becks! Will anyone be down like when Lampard retires!

Though I don't have any idea about US society or MLS, but don't you suppose one will find these things with Red Sox or Lakers fans!
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Post by McLewis Sun Mar 10, 2013 12:08 pm

The Red Sox have been around for nearly a century though (if not longer) and the Lakers are a storied franchise that have been around over half a century as well. They are deeply engrained in our sporting culture so yes, they have built-in fanatical fanbases, as well they should considering how illustrious they are.

It's a little unfair to compare those teams with MLS teams haven't been around 5 years let alone 50. Like I said, it's a game of patience.

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Post by donttreadonred Sun Mar 10, 2013 12:38 pm

For me, one of the major factors is the media coverage. Believe it or not, it's actually easier for me to follow Liverpool, watch matches, get news, etc. than it is to follow the Fire. Media coverage of MLS is quite pathetic. Unless you're within the immediate media market for the club, you're going to have serious difficulties. NBCSports's coverage is sporadic and ESPN's is practically non-existant. They treat MLS as a pure after-throught. Much like the european leagues, there has to be something special for anything "soccer" related to make it onto SportsCenter.

The lack of media coverage is something of a conundrum to me, as "soccer" in the US is one of the fastest growing sports across all levels of the activity. I believe I saw that MLS is the only major professional league besides the NFL to record increasing attendance over recent years. Local coverage of the MLS may be improving. Unfortunately, I can't tell as I am not in what is considered the immediate media market for any team. However, on a national level the league/sport still seems to be completely shut out. In my opinion, the national media still seems to want to keep the "boy's club" of football, baseball, basketball and hockey intact, and is stubbornly refusing to change. We can only hope that NBC's acquisition of the EPL's rights will boost viewership and force the sport into the national spotlight.
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Post by McLewis Sun Mar 10, 2013 1:20 pm

Well yeah media coverage has indeed played its part, but this won't continue forever. MLS will eventually get into that boy's club, as long as it continue to grow the fanbases of each of its clubs and improves on the quality of the league as a whole, more and more people will continue to align themselves as supporters of these teams. It's a matter time really. An eventuality.

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Post by Motogp69 Sun Mar 10, 2013 3:08 pm

I agree, I think if we want to continue to grow soccer in the U.S. the MLS has to be successful. Honestly, I think with the way our society develops sports talent this is an absolute must.

What makes our athletes arguably the best in the world is we take something and we make it better than it should be able to be made (think Messi/CR7). We do this with so many other sports, but we haven't really done this with soccer. Admittedly, I believe we've barely even begun to develop soccer talent in this country which will grow with the growing visibility of the MLS.

I think a thriving MLS makes this dream a reality, but it won't take effect over night, I think we won't see the fruits of this labor for another 20 years. However, when the US wins a World Cup in the next 30 years I'll know why it happened...
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Post by RedOranje Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:09 am

MLS equals MLB in popularity with kids
March 7, 2014 By Roger Bennett

Are MLS players now America’s “Boys of Summer?”

For the first time in the 20-year history of the ESPN Sports Poll, Major League Soccer has caught up with Major League Baseball in one significant marker of popularity.

In the survey, both leagues can claim 18 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds as avid fans of their sport, the poll said.

The ESPN Sports Poll Annual Report, which is managed by Luker on Trends, interviews 1,500 Americans per month and tracks interest in 31 different sports. In 2012, the poll determined soccer was America's second-most popular sport for those aged 12-24, ahead of NBA, MLB and college football. Respondents are asked to rank their affinity for sports (how avid a fan they are), athletes, sponsorships and other trends.

The NFL led the poll with 39 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds saying they are avid fans. The NBA, NCAA football and NCAA basketball were all over 23 percent. The current poll was released on the eve of MLS’s 19th season.

“MLS has been around since 1996,” said Rich Luker, who has been with the poll since its launch. “It is phenomenal that in just one generation it has gone from zero adherents to tying MLB, especially when you recognize this is the first generation to only know the United States with a professional soccer league. MLS is in their generational DNA.”

Luker admits it would have been difficult to predict this outcome event five years ago.

"It was not so long ago we used to do focus groups and raise MLS to the room and hear crickets in response," he said. "Although a lot of American kids were playing in organized soccer environments, there was no connection between that game, which everyone plays to learn the basics, and MLS.

"MLS also did not have a defined personality that sufficiently contrasted to the European and South American leagues."

The poll suggests that reality has changed significantly.

"Over the last five years, our research shows even American [soccer] fans who were born in other parts of the world, like Europe and South America, are starting to respect MLS," he said. "They have seen the fan bases in Portland and Seattle. It is hard not to be impressed.

"You need to understand, [the] 12-17 [demographic] is among the hardest to win over. At that age, they follow a whole lot of everything."

Luker couldn't point to one specific thing that is driving the change.

"[David] Beckham’s stardom definitely plays a role," he said. "EA Sports' FIFA [franchise] has also contributed to the liking and knowledge of the sport in a way other sports video games have not, because Americans really did not know much about soccer before they started to play, as opposed to Madden, where they already understood plenty about the NFL."

The sports poll will track the trend to see if it continues over the next 12 months.

"There is a lot of evidence to suggest MLS's growth will continue," Luker predicted.

"Now that EPL [English Premier League] and the other leagues are widely available on television, the sport of soccer is much more likely to be part of social conversations, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of people taking the underdog stance of supporting MLS and continuing to grow the league.

"While there are questions about which direction MLB will go in for 12- to 17-year-olds, we have no reason to believe the trend for MLS will be anything but up."


Growing the Sport in the United States - Page 2 Soc_chart_trends_576x324


http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1740529/mls-catches-mlb-espn-sports-poll?cc=5901
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Post by BarrileteCosmico Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:22 am

What happened in 04 and 09 to cause those huge popularity spikes down?
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Post by rwo power Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:09 pm

BarrileteCosmico wrote:What happened in 04 and 09 to cause those huge popularity spikes down?
Actually that loss of interest also affects the other sports (bar MLB in that time), too, so there must have been some general problem.

BTW, "In 2012, the poll determined soccer was America's second-most popular sport for those aged 12-24, ahead of NBA, MLB and college football." - it would be interesting to determine, how much of this is due to the usual success of the USWNT.
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Post by sportsczy Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:22 pm

BarrileteCosmico wrote:What happened in 04 and 09 to cause those huge popularity spikes down?
Sports that are not shown in the graph became highly popular. For example, in 2009, professional poker became a hugely popular thing believe it or not... it was getting massive TV ratings. Kids were playing online all the time.

What happens is that MLS games aren't carried on TV as they are bumped out by other sporting events. I'd bet that something similar happened in 2004 where the TV coverage of the MLS happened to be poor that season for whatever reason. Olympics and other summer events also cause problems for popularity.

You have to understand that kids in the US are exposed to a ton of different sports... there's no monopoly. So it's vital for a sport to remain "cool" in the minds of the kids. Otherwise, they just move on to something else. Most kids play 2-4 sports competitively in a year...
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Post by FalcaoPunch Sat Mar 08, 2014 4:02 pm

Yeah I remember playing football for highschool (no playing time whatsoever, then basketball, then soccer.


This was the same routine for all of middle school then in highschool I played just soccer for two years then decided to give Lacrosse a shot. Wish I had stuck to just one sport.
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Post by too many oranges Sat Mar 08, 2014 4:39 pm

Well, one thing to consider is that Hispanic communities (Specially in the west of the country) i think tend to put "Soccer" in front of all other sports, as the main or only sport they follow.

If i'm not mistaken, studies have shown that the U.S. hispanic population will be the majority in the future, so this should probably end up helping the MLS as there will be more "Soccer" fans.

Living in the U.S. though, i can testify to the fact that i can't remember the last time i heard or saw anyone talk about the MLS in english tv channels, and when we look at the hispanic tv channels, in california they will either transmit highlights of the mexican league, or of the spanish league(only madrid and barca of course) ( or leverkusen and man united and real sociedad since some mexicans play there)

I think from my experience, that MLS coverage is still pretty poor, and the demographics that are fans of soccer are also not given enough reason to watch anything.

Also, look at Formula 1 and Soccer, two of the most popular sports world wide, are also two of the areas American Sports are not at the top of the world at, the MLS will never be the home of the greatest caliber football and for many people that might consider watching it, they might consider it a waste of time.

There's plenty of things up against Soccer, and imo the coverage of it is pretty lame tbh, i don't watch much tv but if i didnt know the MLS existed, simply by watching local tv channels, that wouldnt change.


I also think this country has stereotypes against soccer that other countries most definitely dont.

Does "soccer mom" culture really exist in europe, central and south america, etc?


Last edited by too many oranges on Sat Mar 08, 2014 4:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by VendettaRed07 Sat Mar 08, 2014 4:43 pm

Wonderful news. l always believed that MLS's biggest competitor, for now atleast is the MLB, not NFL as l think many just assume.

l have a feeling these numbers are going to skyrocket in the next 5-6 years as well. New TV deals, MLS heading back to fox will most likely get better coverage and attention after they lost out on the BPL... 2 new teams (replacing chivas is practically an addition) coming into the countries two biggest sports markets in the next two years. Orlando and Atlanta probably to follow soon.. And lf something can be done with the revs getting a downtown stadium in boston anytime soon, this league will really start to soar. Especially amongst young people.

l don't think kids in america have the attention-span or patience to watch or play baseball as much anymore. Even if they did, the league is run by a bunch of Dinosaurs that are content with the sport being so exclusionary and seemingly aren't interested at attracting new fans.
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Post by LeSwagg James Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:55 pm

So MLS is 6th in the 12-17 range but 2nd in the 12-24 range (2012).. What's going on from 17-24, dafuq?

Hipster years I guess :coffee:
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Post by Lord Awesome Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:43 pm

I can vouch that MLS is quite strong in the Hispanic-American community. As Oranges mentions, Hispanic TV channels provide La Liga & Mexican League mostly but for the past 4 years we've seen an intrest in MLS matches. Nowadays I don't even need to be on the computer to watch Galaxy play week in and week out like I have been. Heck in the past 2 months random people I meet outdoors have been asking me, ever since I bought my Galaxy jacket, if I think that Galaxy can win without Beckham. I tell em' we still have Donovan. Most of the time I get a "Yeah we do". Convo ends there. When I hear "we" though, fills my heart, though. The older gen, "our parents", still pay more attention to the Mexican & Spanish Leagues but people around my age are actually talking about Galaxy here in LA. I'm starting see Omar Gonzalez wallpapers everywhere in L.A.

Simply put, the MLS community, at least here in LA, is defo growing.
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Post by rwo power Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:08 pm

too many oranges wrote:Does "soccer mom" culture really exist in europe, central and south america, etc?
I looked up "soccer mom" a while ago in another context, or I would never have known something like that existed - so no, in Germany you don't have that "culture", but maybe it is because there are so many football clubs for kids around that the kids mostly don't need to drive so far that it is not necessary for the parents (or moms) to be around all the time.
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Post by McLewis Sat Mar 08, 2014 9:45 pm

I'm not too surprised by the reports. As the article points out, this is down to a new generation being born with MLS in existence. Their parents may remain utterly indifferent to the sport, but these kids won't be and they will likely pass this on to their kids.

The older generations who see soccer as the red-headed step child of American sports are on their way to being a distinct minority based purely on the passing of time and the growth of their children as fans of the sport. This is quite natural.

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