Soccer will some day be a big deal in the USA: That is the hope of every soccer mom in the US as she signs her kids up for the next big elite sport: Lacrosse. The problem with soccer in the US has as much to do with perceptions as with the game. The perception is that soccer is an elite sport. Joe six pack ain’t much interested in elite sports, and Joe is an important fellow to advertisers and ticketing organizations. If you doubt that check out attendance at NASCAR or American Football events. Bristol Tennessee has the largest sporting venue in the US seating approximately 170,000 at one of two short track NASCAR events. Yeah, some of the drivers whine about how slow the race is and how many wrecks there are, but when your event is sold out years in advance … well boys, flash Joe a big smile, then go race. That short banked track stresses cars, pit crews, and drivers in ways a long fast track can never do, and Joe is well aware of that. A few college football stadiums seat more than 100,000 paying fans. Nothing else comes close in North America. The American football is one of the most unstable balls used in any sport. Anything can happen in an American football game and often does. Neither American Football or NASCAR were ever imagined to be elite sports. When their favorite team looses Americans usually don’t wreck the stadium, stampede, or behave like international soccer fans either. That behavior internationally, even though it may be unusual, is always eventually reported, and effects the perception of soccer here. We go to a race or a game to spend time with friends, to experience the event, to be there, and we know our team may loose, so we are perhaps less emotionally invested in the match. Our football and our NASCAR are also different. They don’t resemble each other in any sense, although it has been suggested the worlds largest American Football game could be played between UT and VT on the infield @ Bristol. I happen to like that idea. Soccer, hockey, and perhaps basket ball are too much alike. Basketball goes on too long, college games are more real than pro, and seating at the basketball arena don’t compare to Ameican football or NASCAR. In a lot of ways soccer, hockey, and basketball are competing for the same fan base, so the overlapping seasons don’t help much either. We Americans like team sports. We like stars to be leaders of teams. We like to see people work together to get things done. We don’t care all that much for inflated personalities showing off on the field. Too many egos spoil the game and make it not fun. Americans like to feel elite but we dislike elitist behavior. Americans have always viewed Europe and things from Europe as elite. That tradition goes back to colonial times. BTW if you think NASCAR is not a team sport check out what happens when the pit crew drops the gas can. Check out all the NASCAR stars after the victory lap. You NEVER hear them dis the pit crew, because their success depends mostly on the crew. If the driver can’t drive, the crew will find a new driver.
To conclude it don’t matter much what MLS does or does not do, Joe is the ultimate consumer, and everyone is watching him. Joe uses his hands. Joe identifies with players who use their hands. Joe identifies with the driver and the pit crew. Joe don’t play footsie and he don’t identify much with those he thinks might do so. Right, Wrong, or indifferent, thats just the way things seem to be, especially on days I work in the sports office.