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A Soccer Question

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Yesterday was UEFA Champions League final, an all German affair won by Bayern Munich. I've been watching Sportscenter this morning hoping for highlights as I missed the match yesterday. I am now 35 minutes in and no luck. Not even a mention yet. This got me to thinking pondering the answer to something of a chicken or egg type question.

Does soccer get no coverage in the country because no one cares about it or does no one care because it gets no coverage?

There was one game in the NBA last night. One. And that game didn't decide anything, yet the NBA has had the lion's share of the coverage on Sportscenter. The QB of NB leaving the school has had the second most coverage with the Indy 500 3rd.

By contrast, the second biggest soccer match event went on in England yesterday (arguably only a World Cup Final is bigger) and ESPN can't be bother to show highlights. My local ABC affiliate didn't show any last night either, nor did they even mention the match. The MLS had 6 matches yesterday and has 3 today. Zero coverage of those.

I am baffled. Truly.
 

drumlinboy

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I was lucky enough to watch the game live, but then I am in Scotland so not a surprise.

I think your coverage sounds an awful lot like what our coverage of the NFL used to be like 20 or even 15 years ago. In other words minimal at best

To be fair I did hear it get mentioned on PTI on Friday but then as that show gets broadcast in Europe I guess they have to mention it.

It was a very good game with some great goals but the ref bottled it big style. Should have sent of 2 from Bayern.

Out of curiosity what European Team/see do you follow.
 

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I was lucky enough to watch the game live, but then I am in Scotland so not a surprise.
It was shown live in the States as well but I was out of the house all day so didn't get to see it.

I think your coverage sounds an awful lot like what our coverage of the NFL used to be like 20 or even 15 years ago. In other words minimal at best

To be fair I did hear it get mentioned on PTI on Friday but then as that show gets broadcast in Europe I guess they have to mention it.
Hit or miss is probably a better way to describe it.

It was a very good game with some great goals but the ref bottled it big style. Should have sent of 2 from Bayern.

Out of curiosity what European Team/see do you follow.
I have heard there were some questionable calls, yes. Another reason I want to see the highlights...so I can judge for myself.

As to teams, well, to be honest I am still sorting that all out. I have a number of friends who big fans of the European game. Their allegiances swing the gambit from Man U to Arensal to Bayern to Barca. Most have reasons in their personal history to explain their random but I am left in the odd position of having no real ties to any team over there and so am just left to choose one, something I have had problems doing. Most recently I have found myself pulling somewhat for Tottenham, largely due to the presence of Dempsey on their roster.
 

Lanky Livingston

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A little from column A, a little from column B. People don't care about soccer so they don't cover it, but they're not exactly gaining new fans from the lack of coverage.
 

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First off, I'm not sure I buy that no one cares. The MLS has a higher average attendence per match than either the NBA or the NHL. Granted, some venues in the MLS are larger than the largest in the NBA or NHL but most of the soccer specific venues hover right around a 20K capacity. Throw in the fact that none of the soccer venues are climate controlled and they play all summer through the heat and you begin to see that folks want to see the sport.

Then consider that interest in the sport is never higher than when the USMNT is playing and coverage is never better than when the USMNT is playing and you just have to wonder.

I mean, it is the most played sport in America and yet I couldn't get highlights of the UEFA Champions League final on Sportscenter the morning after. I had to get them from the ESPN Highlight Express. Even then all I got was that one game. Nothing from the 6 MLS matches that took place on Saturday.

I have to wonder how a channel dedicated to sports action can be so derilict. It isn't like we are at a busy point in the sporting year. Sure the NBA Playoffs are going on and the Stanley Cup Playoffs but we are deep into those so it isn't like there are a lot of games per day. What else is happening on the American sporting front other than golf?
 

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Neo, I have discussed this before, but figure it deserves a mention here. I read an article several years back that suggests soccer does not take off in the USA because it is not a ghetto sport.

What is a ghetto sport you ask? Well, it is a sport that any kid who has the talent can break out of poverty to become special/successful. The author of the article poses the question...who is playing soccer in the USA?

Overseas, kids in the ghettos are playing soccer. It is a way of life for many...they want to be Pele. Who plays soccer here? White suburban kids are the largest demographic in American soccer. While talented, they lack the fire to succeed in their sport because many of them know there is going to be a career outside of soccer.

The kids in the ghetto here in the USA are playing the sports that pay off here...basketball, baseball and football. Just like the kids who play soccer in other countries, there is a passion for the sport that middle class white kids lack...poor kids play and dream for a way out. Soccer doesn't offer that to kids here in the USA, the other sports do.

Since that article was written, the MLS and soccer as a whole has grown tremendously. But the largest growing group watching/playing is the hispanic community. I believe the writer was onto something, that and the need for instant gratification here in the US... a 0-0 draw does not excite those who yearn for a dunk, a HR, or a TD that we see with regularity in the major US sports.
 

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Neo, I have discussed this before, but figure it deserves a mention here. I read an article several years back that suggests soccer does not take off in the USA because it is not a ghetto sport.

What is a ghetto sport you ask? Well, it is a sport that any kid who has the talent can break out of poverty to become special/successful. The author of the article poses the question...who is playing soccer in the USA?

Overseas, kids in the ghettos are playing soccer. It is a way of life for many...they want to be Pele. Who plays soccer here? White suburban kids are the largest demographic in American soccer. While talented, they lack the fire to succeed in their sport because many of them know there is going to be a career outside of soccer.

The kids in the ghetto here in the USA are playing the sports that pay off here...basketball, baseball and football. Just like the kids who play soccer in other countries, there is a passion for the sport that middle class white kids lack...poor kids play and dream for a way out. Soccer doesn't offer that to kids here in the USA, the other sports do.

Since that article was written, the MLS and soccer as a whole has grown tremendously. But the largest growing group watching/playing is the hispanic community. I believe the writer was onto something, that and the need for instant gratification here in the US... a 0-0 draw does not excite those who yearn for a dunk, a HR, or a TD that we see with regularity in the major US sports.
Great analogy, and i can fully see where the original idea comes from. But here is the twist, over here Football/soccer is consider the peoples game, the game most kids play, your taught young only the toffs play Rugby, and cricket is expensive so stick to footy. The EPL is now paying a fortune in wages, for example it was reported that Manchester City have a weekly wage bill in excess of $50,000,000, thats every week for 52 weeks a year.

So many down South and up here see the EPL as the land of milk and honey, a bit like what the NFL is seen as to "Ghetto" boys.

As a side note, on cricket not being for ordinary kids, last year the BBC on a cricket club touring the UK from the Compton distric of LA and how cricket was changing the attitude of "gangbangers".

Pick a league and pick a team you know you will enjoy it more.
 

Lanky Livingston

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Its because we grew up with Michael Jordan and Walter Payton, and not Pele. Has nothing to do with the "ghetto," IMO, rather what we are exposed to. Go to rich, suburban neighborhoods in America and there are kids throwing a football and shooting a basketball, pretending to be Brett Favre and Kobe Bryant.
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And yet all those same kids are likely on a soccer team, Lanky, and probably have been since they were 6 or 7 years old...The participation is there. They just don't stay with it even though you don't have to be a physical freak of nature to play the game.
 

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Lanky, that's my point...glory and riches come from football and basketball here in the US, not soccer. In other countries where kids want to rise from their circumstances, they play soccer because it is a way out...like the major sports here.

The best talent in sports is often from the less than affluent areas.
 

Lanky Livingston

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And yet all those same kids are likely on a soccer team, Lanky, and probably have been since they were 6 or 7 years old...The participation is there. They just don't stay with it even though you don't have to be a physical freak of nature to play the game.
Yeah, but they are likely on soccer teams because the parents want to wear out their kids. :p I was on a soccer team for years, but never watched a second of "pro" soccer. I WAS watching Gibbs & the Redskins and begging my parents to let me play Pop Warner (they did not let me play until high school).

Lanky, that's my point...glory and riches come from football and basketball here in the US, not soccer. In other countries where kids want to rise from their circumstances, they play soccer because it is a way out...like the major sports here.

The best talent in sports is often from the less than affluent areas.
Right, but I think its simpler than that. The reason why those sports are the big money sports and the "way out" are because they're popular here. I am of the opinion that if Adrian Peterson, Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, etc. trained at soccer their entire lives, the US Olympic team would dominate. The problem is, they would all be playing in Europe, not on MLS teams. Most people on this board likely make more than the average MLS player.
 

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Yeah, but they are likely on soccer teams because the parents want to wear out their kids. :p I was on a soccer team for years, but never watched a second of "pro" soccer. I WAS watching Gibbs & the Redskins and begging my parents to let me play Pop Warner (they did not let me play until high school).



Right, but I think its simpler than that. The reason why those sports are the big money sports and the "way out" are because they're popular here. I am of the opinion that if Adrian Peterson, Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, etc. trained at soccer their entire lives, the US Olympic team would dominate. The problem is, they would all be playing in Europe, not on MLS teams. Most people on this board likely make more than the average MLS player.
I now have this image of LeBron James as a dominating centre half or a physical centre forward impossing his presence on others. The more talent you have playing the game the better chance you have of having a great national team
 

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But again, you're reinforcing my point. Here in the States, the appeal for soccer is less because the other sports are the "way out" for kids...the ticket to riches and fame. The players of the caliber you mentioned don't play soccer because it is not an avenue toward riches.

Nonetheless, I think it is an interesting theory to say the least and I think it plays into Neo's original post.
 

drumlinboy

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But again, you're reinforcing my point. Here in the States, the appeal for soccer is less because the other sports are the "way out" for kids...the ticket to riches and fame. The players of the caliber you mentioned don't play soccer because it is not an avenue toward riches.

Nonetheless, I think it is an interesting theory to say the least and I think it plays into Neo's original post.
I agree right now the inner city kids do not see it as a pathway to riches, but once they see the likes of Wayne Rooney (from an inner city background) earning in excess of $300,000 per week they might start paying more interest.

Yes young Mr Rooney gets that every week, 52 weeks a year and every penny is guarranteed.

I guess right now soccer is seen a rich kids pastime fashionible in europe, but if coverage of leagues like La Liga, Bundisliga and the EPL improves and the riches on offer gets known that might just change.
 

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I love soccer and am an avid MLS supporter so I'd love to chime in on this issue. :)

And I apologize in advance for the very long, sort of stream of consciousness essay to follow. But I love talking about this. You can skip to the bottom (In Summation) for cliffs notes.

First off I think it's important to differentiate between two separate issues: first, why isn't soccer as popular as other sports in the US, and second, why is coverage of the sport apparently so sparse on TV?

Why isn’t soccer (specifically the MLS) as popular as other sports in the US?

To the first point, I think some of the issues have been covered already. Quite honestly, money is a major factor. Athletes generally follow the money and the simple fact is that American soccer players don't earn as much as baseball, football, or basketball players, so I don’t blame an athletically gifted kid for pursuing one of those other sports. But the money is getting better. You can Google MLS player salaries and see them going back to 2007. I believe the minimum salary is somewhere in the low 40's now (lower for younger players), but most players obviously make more than that. The guys making the minimum are generally the league's journeymen and young guys straight out of the academy (aka 17-18 years old). So I don’t think it’s fair to say that most of BGO make more than the avg MLS player, especially once adjusted for age.

Salaries are paid by the league and are driven by the league's strict salary cap, which is in place to promote parity amongst teams. (And it appears to have helped so far, as I believe nine different teams have one the MLS cup since its inception in 1996.) The cap tops out individual player salaries at 350k. Each team is allowed two designated players (most popularly, the David Beckhams and Thierry Henrys of the league) who can earn more than the max, so long as the individual team makes up the difference in 350k and the individual's salary. And any team can have more than two DPs, as long as the team pays a 250k fee to the league for each DP beyond the initial two (and as long as they make up the difference in salary). There are currently 28 DPs in the league, and 32 more former DPs who are either playing under regular contracts or no longer in the league. The issue here becomes, where are individual teams getting the cash to pay DPs?

This is where the second money-related issue comes in to play – stadium revenue. Five years ago, seven MLS teams played in their own stadiums. Now 13 teams play in their own stadiums, 2 of the remaining have stadiums in construction, 1 shares a stadium with another MLS team, and that leaves just 3 (DC, New England, and Seattle) without their own stadium or one in the works. With their own stadiums, more teams are now able to generate revenues, and with higher revenues, we can attract more players. I think stadiums also bring intangible benefits – that is to say, a new soccer-specific stadium indicates that the team is here to stay and that the locality is invested in the team’s success. In a country where many people don’t put the MLS on the same level as the top pro leagues, state of the art stadiums go a long way in proving that people are in fact interested in the league, and in its fans. TV deals are another factor, and one where individual teams still struggle, even though the league has started to improve visibility.

Beyond money, the second major issue in the US is that successful soccer players aren't built like successful football, basketball, hockey, or even baseball players. The world's best soccer players don't learn their skills on the local rec fields, top high schools, or even top colleges. The world's best soccer players are developed in youth academies which are associated with pro clubs, and this type of system defies the American sports machine which relies on high school and college. But soccer development requires much more playing time than either of those sports, and it requires you to start at an early age. And the sad fact is, most youth soccer coaches in the US are ill-equipped to developed good soccer players. It's gotten better, for sure, with more certification and training programs, but we're far from where we should be. MLS teams are starting to get the hang of the academy system; the league’s rookie of the year a few years back was actually a 17 year old DC United academy product. But we still have to move beyond the American structure for pro-athlete development and allocation which feeds off of high school/college and the draft.

Why is TV coverage so sparse?

I think this boils down to two issues: we don’t understand it and it's not.

While many Americans may have grown up playing soccer, as alluded to above with the coaching and player development issue, we don’t grow up truly understanding how to play well. As a result, we don’t really appreciate what we’re watching on TV, and soccer doesn’t lend itself to in-game analysis like other sports do. Go home tonight and watch a baseball game and watch how much time is spent dissecting a pitch or a player’s swing. You simply don’t see that with soccer. You may see replays of amazing goals, but the announcers do an awful job of explaining the play that led up to the goal…of explaining the off the ball movement, or the first touch, or the placement of the ball in the net. As a result, the average viewer doesn’t see the strategy that goes in to the game.

So why don’t ESPN and co. provide more coverage of the game? I honestly believe it’s because they’re ill-equipped to do so. When the avg ESPN analyst starts gabbing about soccer (usually just about Messi, let’s be honest), I cringe because they really have no clue what they’re talking about. ESPN is supposed to be coming out with a daily ESPN FC show which will air on the deuce. I’m interested to see what comes of that. But until then, I’m happy to flip over to Fox Soccer and watch them run through literally every game from the week.

While it may not be commonplace on Sportscenter, soccer is actually really easy to find on television if you are looking for it. Between Fox Soccer Channel, NBC Sports, GOLTv, BeIn Sport, and the various Spanish channels, you can watch soccer pretty much any day of the week now. Off the top of my head I know I can watch MLS, EPL, Champions League, La Liga, Liga Mx, Budesliga, Serie A, and A League games all on American cable TV. It’s awesome, but it’s also a double-edged sword.

Unlike football or baseball, where we know that the NFL and MLB are king, we don’t know who is the king of soccer, probably because there isn’t one. You can argue about the best team, but best league gets more difficult. So then which league do ESPN and co. focus on? To this point they haven’t figured it out. Each league has sort of found their niche on one of the networks I’ve mentioned above, but the American public generally has no idea which they want to follow. ESPN tries to shove certain players/teams down our throats, but that’s not how you build support for a league as a whole. (MLS doesn’t seem to understand this either as they consistently put only NY games on national TV.)

So basically, the fact that the soccer market is flooded is a major challenge to the sport’s growth in the US because people don’t know who to follow. Soccer snobs refuse to support MLS because they’re not a top-tier league, so said snobs spread their support about the various top-tier leagues in Europe and as a result mainstream US media has no idea who they should promote in a given week, so they don’t really fixate on any one league, thereby not catering to any one audience, which doesn’t generate any kind of consistent ratings, and thus moves the vicious circle round and round. Everyone will agree that UEFA Champions League is the best of the best, but even fixing on that is problematic from a TV standpoint, because the tournament is spread out across 10-12 months.

In summation:

To the first point, MLS is not as popular as other American pro leagues because there’s not enough money in American soccer and our current structure for athletic development is not conducive to the development of soccer players, but we are improving in both aspects.

And to the second point, TV coverage is so sparse because we don’t understand soccer strategy and we don’t have announcers capable of truly dissecting that strategy, and because coverage is actually not sparse at all. In fact, the market is flooded with coverage, it is just spread across multiple channels which show various leagues and the American public has no idea who to focus on so we don’t focus on anyone.

Of course it’s also important to note that the TV issue feeds in to the popularity issue in that if kids aren’t watching soccer on TV, they’re probably also not striving to be professional soccer players. In that regard, the Messis, Beckhams, and Donovans of the world are great for the sport, because they give kids an individual to look up to. We are just now starting to see the first generation of kids who grew up watching/following MLS, and I think that’s an important factor to remember. Love for a particular team isn’t usually built over night. It most often stems from childhood or family memories which are built from a young age, and MLS is just now getting to the point where those kinds of relationships with the league and its teams are present.
 
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I'm off to see Orlando City play Colorado tonight at 7:30. Should be a great match, with Orlando getting a shot against a MLS team.
 

tshile

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While not disagreeing with some of the deeper points made, I think the overall issue is simpler.

Soccer is not an "American" sport.

The two biggest sports in the country are the NFL and MLB, respectively. Both sports are 100% "American" - hell, the MLB's nick name is (but used to be used much more) "America's pastime."

I also think there's a little snubbing from the soccer fans when they start saying that the reason we (I'm included) don't 'get into' soccer is because we 'dont understand it.' I actually really like soccer (in term of liking the sport and what is involved), but I'm just not into the MLS despite having a good local team.

But when world cup comes around I definitely pay attention and watch lots of the games (even ones the US isn't playing in.) I have a sense of pride in the sport (my country playing) that I otherwise would not.
 

tshile

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i love watching little kids play soccer because they just swarm the ball like a giant mob.
 

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the best players are not created in academies, they come from the streets, where their natural ability grows.

if every player was coached in academy the game would be boring, as they would all play the same way.
 

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I also think there's a little snubbing from the soccer fans when they start saying that the reason we (I'm included) don't 'get into' soccer is because we 'dont understand it.' I actually really like soccer (in term of liking the sport and what is involved), but I'm just not into the MLS despite having a good local team.
I guess my argument is that no matter how much the avg person understands about the game, watching it on TV isn't the same as watching a baseball or football game on TV, which is where the issue lies in the US. Soccer games don't give us the same level of in game analysis as those other, more popular sports, which makes it difficult for the casual viewer to continue watching.

And to your point about MLS, as I mentioned there are a ton more leagues than the MLS, which is both a blessing and a curse.

the best players are not created in academies, they come from the streets, where their natural ability grows.

if every player was coached in academy the game would be boring, as they would all play the same way.
I guess I should clarify to say that the best players are developed in youth programs which differ greatly from the typical American development system which just sends kids through high school and college teams. I'm not saying you can pick any random athlete and put them in an academy/youth program and turn them in to a star - I'm saying if you have a talented player, they are generally much better served playing in a youth program than going through the regular American recreation, high school, and college system.

If every player didnt flop, need to be carried off on a stretcher, cured with magic spray, and sent back in



The game might be worth watching lol
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I believe this argument is tired and overblown. I agree soccer is notorious for flopping, but there's flopping in every sport, you just don't see as many gifs or youtube reels of it. What I do think needs to happen is that a player who goes down and causes a stop in play should be taken off the field MUCH quicker than they currently are. This is a reffing issue in my opinion, and the refs need to grow some cajones and start punishing players who refuse to get off the field, especially those who go down literally 2 inches from the edge of the field.
 

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