The MLS is growing nicely and an increasing number of people in the US are beginning to become obsessed with soccer, but here are SEVEN more ways to make them fall head over heels in love with the game that pretty much rules the roost in rest of the world.
I will start with a disclaimer; I have referenced football as soccer simply to avoid confusion with American Football.
The sporting big-hitters in the US are all saturated with stats and Americans can’t seem to get enough of them. I love stats too and maybe there’s more need to be assimilated into the game? How about stats that accurately measure pass length and accuracy? Stats that illustrate just how far off target an average goalbound effort ends up? At present, the game of football has only the bare minimum to keep budding statisticians happy, and it needs to learn from cricket, a sport that should have done so much better in America as it’s as stat-saturated as any sport in the States. Obviously by pushing the stat envelope, you help build the Fantasy Football market also, and then you help create even more potential lovers of the sport!
Cheerleaders, lots of them!
Okay let’s get this one out of the way. It’s a bit of a stereotype, but in many ways a bit of eye candy can work wonders. Hell, I am not being sexist about it, we can have male cheerleaders too; something to spice up the breaks in play never hurt anyone. Other sports big in the US are more than happy to employ scantily-clad mascots jumping around like maniacs, so soccer shouldn’t be above such displays of frantic frivolity!
Improve the fan experience
Many people in the States appear to be of the opinion that facilities at soccer stadiums are by far and away inferior to the likes of MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA. There are obviously exceptions to this rule, but it does seem that the fan experience as a whole is not so great for those who happen to follow the great game of football. Another gripe with many are the stadiums themselves. Teams who have purpose-built soccer stadiums have a much better atmosphere as they are a) closer to the pitch and b) not only filling one-tenth of a huge American football stadium, therefore sapping the life out of those present in a sea of empty spaces.
More star players from abroad
Bring in more top-quality names, but not those nearing an end to their glittering careers angling for huge salaries. There is a place for David Beckham at present to really push the game, but in the long run, such signings could well lead to another bankruptcy. This is obviously in many ways easier said than done, but there are more than enough players out there in Europe of high quality who are sitting on the bench of teams full of international hotshots, who could well consider a move across the pond to be beneficial to their careers.
Maybe this would be for a couple of years rather than a whole career but, either way, players who can greatly help the MLS grow in a more organic and sustainable way. Names currently milling in my head who could fulfil this kind of role would be Shaun Wright Phillips, Louis Saha, Samuel Eto’o (supposedly not a first-choice starter at Barcelona!) and Hernan Crespo. All top notch players who are by no means finishing their careers, but could well be open to a move. Also, why are there not more players brought in on loan from Europe? This could also be a great way of improving the quality of the game and would rub off on the Americans playing alongside them.
This is a segment in itself and there are many changes that could be made to the game to make it more appealing to the US market. These alterations to the game can verge from the vaguely plausible to the downright ridiculous. The most obvious ones could relate to simply breaking the game into four quarters, which could of course increase advertising revenue which is in many ways the lifeblood of the major sports in America. You can of course also go down the route of removing the offside rule to create more goals and more goalscoring opportunities, this is one rule change I would advise against. It would be much better if the changes made were simply superficial rather than totally changing the game as a whole.
Create a Intercontinental club league
Forget one-off friendlies to boost the brand of football, how about coming up with some kind of league format that actually had sides from America and Europe competing in a meaningful way? This could take the form of a season-long competition that would take place every two months or so, so that it doesn’t affect any country’s domestic league. This would serve to help in two ways; firstly playing against higher quality teams would improve the general standard far quicker than a one off pre-season match and secondly, it would help improve the stature of the game in the US on a financial level and would help bring the game to an even wider audience eager to see the top quality players on show.
A great national team!
The US is pretty much the best sporting nation when it comes to the main four team sports in the country and that’s pretty much a self-promoting tool i.e. if you’re the best at something you never gonna get enough of it! The American soccer team has improved immeasurably over the past decade, but imagine it was truly a competitor on the world stage! Obviously this is easier said than done and will come as a result of all the reasons given prior to this one. When you consider how much more engrained the sport is in Europe and South America than it is on Stateside, it is no surprise that they still trail behind in terms of quality. After all, those nations that rule the sport (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Brazil, France etc) have a century headstart but there is no reason that the Americans can’t catch up.