Is America ready to become a Soccer Nation in 2012?

If you ask Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber then it’s a simple answer.  “YES”!!! This year, the MLS surpassed NBA & NHL in average per game attendance with 18,000 fans per game.  Last night’s at MLS Cup 2011 over 30,000 fans witness the Los Angeles Galaxy and David Beckham defeat the Houston Dynamo.  (The 16th MLS CUP was telecast live on ESPN.)

The MLS is arguably the fastest growing sport today.  This season consisted of 87 sold out engagements.  The Seattle Sounders lead the MLS in attendance  per game with 38,000 fans per game.  The MLS is most diverse US sports league, with players from 57 countries.

Garber has been the Soccer CZAR since 1999 and his previous experience with the NFL (1983-1999) in an executive level.  Currently, there are 18 teams with Portland and Vancouver debuting this season.  Montreal will be added in 2012 and hoping to expand to a second team in the New York market in 2013.

The league has its version of the New York Yankees – the Los Angeles Galaxy has the high priced talent that paid off with a championship this season.  Currently 12.2M of its payroll is allotted to David Beckham ($6.5M), Landon Donavan ($2.3M) and Robbie Keane ($3.4M).

Garber is hoping for more credibility and relevance with this national network deal with NBC Sports Network.  It’s reminiscent to the National Hockey League’s commissioner Gary Bettman’s decision 5yrs ago to move away from ESPN TO VERSUS network. (Now – NBC Sports Network) Garber stated the key is to align yourself to hungry partner  – you have to take some risks and have some guts”.  Next season, there will be 49 games (with 4 US/INTL exhibitions) that will be televised on NBC.

Here are a few items that must be addressed:

  • Two week gap bet conference finals and MLS cup is first for the league.
  • Needs more water cooler talk / Covered in traditional sports blogs
  • More sports highlights in local and national areas.

2 Comments

  1. Fox televising the Premier League on Sundays is another big step forward. You can say that’s European Soccer (Football) but it still helps build interest over here. Chelsea v. Liverpool was a great match and can’t help but build demand.

    Thanks for getting soccer some pub.

  2. I sincerely hope it starts to become a bigger deal, and I think the television deals are a huge step in the right direction. I’ve been a soccer fan most of my life, and I’ve been following the MLS as a Rapids fan for the past 8 years or so. The biggest sticking point is that it’s very difficult to find your games televised. I think the quality of play has dramatically increased in MLS over the past couple years, and if we can get a few more viewers, it will really start to grow. Another sticking point is that most of the teams are fairly anonymous. Probably about 80% of all MLS coverage is about the Galaxy or the Red Bulls (they do have most of the big names afterall). The Sounders and Timbers are huge in Pacific Northwest, but they don’t get much interest out of there. Trying to find Rapids coverage on the west coast is pretty fruitless. I think if there was a more distributed coverage of the teams, the league would be a little better off.

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