The State of American Soccer

It’s hard to say that American Soccer is on the decline – I mean, something has to go up to come down.  Sure, Major League Soccer has been around for 16 years (which is a hell of a lot longer than most people thought it would last), but with attendance figures averaging ~15,000 tickets (1/4 of their stadiums’ capacities) per home game for the teams that don’t have David Beckham, only the WNBA is less-watched.  In short, America is giving professional soccer the same “I told you so” that they’ve been giving it since the late 70’s.  As it turns out, that “I told you so” much resembles this photo:

Eh, wot?

The team that does have David Beckham, the LA Galaxy, apparently needs him pretty badly, as evidenced by the fact that they went 9-14-7 last year.  And I know all that “one man can’t make a team” crap, so just know that they also have America’s sweetheart Landon Donovan, and are coached by Men’s National Team coach Bruce Arena.  Yet they’ve decided to loan ol’ Becks out to AC Milan?  Huh?

I mean, I get loaning players to other clubs.  That’s commonplace in club soccer – it shows goodwill, builds relationships, all that … What I don’t get is, 18 months into a 5-year contract, allowing  a three-month loan of your entire league’s god damn meal ticket to the biggest team in all of club soccer, and expecting to get him back?  Even if Los Angeles were the biggest city in England or Brazil, that’s just naive, dog.  But the fact of the matter is that when they finally nabbed a world-class player, they needed to market him and exploit him much better than they did – not loan him out in the middle of yet another losing season.

This woman is smarter than all of Major League Soccer.

And sure, they’re holding firm now in regards to making him come back, but it’s not gonna last.  I mean, with the MLS strategy as short-term as it must be (the whole damn board must be diagnosed myopics), we can’t honestly think they’re not going to take the money for Beckham and run.  Then when he leaves for good, America will give MLS the same treatment they did when Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer (The first and third best players of the last century, respectively) left the failed New York Cosmos in the early 80’s.  Did I mention they failed?  Of course, that was a different league and a different time altogether, right?

The fact of the matter is that Beckham’s early departure is going to be the threadpull that unravels the sweater that is pro soccer in the US, because the rest is already in place:  Planned expansion from 15 teams to not less than 20, amid dwindling support and attendance, putting teams in places that don’t give a rat’s ass (Miami is one contender for 2009’s team, their last MLS team shut down in 2001), and the fact that half the teams you have don’t even play in their own soccer-centric stadiums …

Let’s just say it doesn’t look good.   It’s unfortunate, but I just don’t think America will ever be able to support the most popular sport in the world.  That’s not to say we don’t have some pretty awesome sports institutions of our own.

(Go Big Blue!)

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