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Major League Soccer

A professional soccer league based in the United States and sanctioned by United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer).

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Soccer will never become an important sport in the United States.

  • Nov 17, 2009
  • by
Rating:
-2
I have been hearing the same story for more than 40 years now.  Soccer is going to take America by storm.  You just wait and see.  Well, I have been waiting and waiting and still it has not happened.  And in my opinion it never will.  Soccer might be a blast to play but it is still a boring sport to watch.  In spite of the fact that we have now had several generations of youngsters playing the sport soccer has simply not caught on with the vast majority of sports fans in ths country.  It is still for the most part a fringe sport enjoyed by a rabid but relatively tiny audience.

Why do I say this?  Let's take a look at the television abysmal ratings for MLS for the 2008 season as reported the on the website majorleaguesoccertalk.com

"According to the latest issue of the Sports Business Journal published by Street and Smith’s (now the parent company of the Sporting News incidentally)  MLS TV ratings are about as bad as can be imaginedESPN2’s Thursday night rating fell this season and the telecasts averaged a 0.2 rating and was watched in an average of 251,000 homes weekly.  ESPN2 has achieved higher average ratings in prime time for such sports as Poker and Bowling in the last year.  However, those sports have limited upside potential when compared with Football.  But Football in the US fans clearly aren’t enamored with MLS:  US National Team telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2 have averaged a 0.6 rating this year and the Euros averaged a 0.8 on the networks. The lack of viewership on ESPN 2 is a major concern as the network has invested a rights fee in the league for the first time.  Despite the signing of David Beckham, MLS averaged less viewers in 2008 on ESPN2 than the league did in 2006 before Beckham was signed and before the new TV deal took effect.  But even more worrying is that MLS games averaged according to BNet a 0.5 rating on ESPN and a 0.3 rating on ESPN 2 for the 1998 season. MLS also averaged a 0.9 rating on ABC that season, when the network broadcast 13 regular season games.  The lone ABC telecast this season between the league’s two most successful clubs historically, garnered a 1.1 rating as a lead in to the Euro 2008 final which achieved a 3.2 rating. So in essence a smaller percentage of TV viewers nationally are watching MLS in 2008 than did in 1998, despite the league having more of a mainstream media presence and having two more franchises. I would note that personally I probably watched more MLS games in 1998 and 1999 than I have in 2007 and 2008 because the league despite the funny clock rules seemed to have better quality to it in those days and some teams like DC United circa 1996-1999 were in my mind as entertaining to watch as any club in the world. MLS currently does not provide that sort of entertainment and looking at these figures I am not alone in believing that."

I rest my case. The fact that the national TV ratings for Major League Soccer have actually declined over the past ten years should be the tip off.  Here in New England the Revolution draw respectable crowds to Gillette Stadium.  In 2008 they drew an average of 17,500 fans per game.  However the team averaged more than 19,000 fans per game back in 1996.  Evidently all those kids playing youth soccer has not translated into making lifelong paying customers.  Is there a place for Major League Soccer in the United States?   I suppose so but the leagues and TV networks should be realistic about their expectations. The truth is that soccer has never really made it in America much to the chagrin of those who love the sport.  And I will argue that at least for the foreseeable future soccer will remain what it always has been in this country.....a fringe sport.  

Soccer will never become an important sport in the United States Soccer will never become an important sport in the United States Soccer will never become an important sport in the United States Soccer will never become an important sport in the United States

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November 19, 2009
I am one of those kids who grew up playing soccer and played competitively and I still have never been to an MLS game. I woud add the following to your expert analysis:

1.  MLS isn't "the best".  The major sports in this country claim their champion to be WORLD CHAMPION.  You can make arguments to that claim, but no on in their right mind would claim the MLS champion to be world champion.  In that light, we are watching a developmental minor league version of the sport and American's don't like it.  Hmm...I wonder if this theory can explain why NASCAR is so preferred here over the faster Formula series.

2.  Nuance isn't enough action for the American sport fan.  It is entirely possible to go a complete game and see no goals.  There are long periods of time when play is focused in the middle of the field with balls being switched from one side to another and possession changes.  That lulls the American viewer because it doesn't appear to be aggressive.
November 19, 2009
Thanks for your insightful input on this subject. You know a lot more about it than I do. But I was really taken aback by just how poorly soccer does on TV. I mean worse ratings than Poker and Bowling!
November 19, 2009
I think poker beats NHL hockey too. Crazy.
 
November 17, 2009
Thanks Paul. I think the main point effecting soccer in the US is that interest in Soccer was only really begun when Pele came here in the late 70's/early 80's. Besides the four main sports that were dominant we have things like NASCAR, Golf and Tennis which are also very popular. It is difficult for Soccer to make any inroads into the established fan base of all those sports. In many of the countries around the world there may be only one or two other sports for the fan base to follow. In some cases the populace as a whole may not have the funds for equipment for some of the other sports. Soccer costs virtually zero to play. Even a sport like basketball requires a paved ground with a hoop and backboard. Soccer can be played on any grass surface, using virtually anything for the goalposts. In the US, is a very minor consideration. Most schools provide equipment that their teams need to play. Lastly, in the US the salaries for soccer are so low compared to any of the other sports I named.
 
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More Major League Soccer reviews
review by . November 06, 2009
posted in Yank's Soccer
MLS to Winter Schedule?
It is inevitable that soccer is going to continue to grow in popularity here in the US. Many changes have been made and millions have been invested to get the biggest sport in the world to be popular in the biggest economy in the world. But why is it that Soccer isn’t already huge here in the states?  Many things were done wrong when soccer was first introduced into the professional sports market of the US. Also, many things were and still are currently “different” than …
review by . November 17, 2009
I think the main point effecting soccer in the US is that interest in Soccer was only really begun when Pele came here in the late 70's/early 80's. Besides the four main sports that were dominant we have things like NASCAR, Golf and Tennis which are also very popular. It is difficult for Soccer to make any inroads into the established fan base of all those sports. In many of the countries around the world there may be only one or two other sports for the fan base to follow. In some cases the populace …
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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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The league comprises 15 teams, 14 in the U.S. and one in Canada. MLS represents the top tier of the American and Canadian soccer pyramids.

Major League Soccer was founded in 1993 as part of the United States' bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The first season took place in 1996 beginning with 10 teams. Seasons run from late March or early April to November, with teams playing 30 regular season games each. Eight teams compete in the postseason MLS Cup Playoffs culminating in the championship game, MLS Cup.

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