I enjoy soccer. I won’t lie.
I follow Liverpool FC from my humble North American home on my humble Chinese-made laptop. I follow the USMNT and the World Cup is something I look forward to every four years.
That said, I have never been a major league fan of Major League Soccer.
I have been given free tickets. I live on the same street, 70 blocks north of Toyota Park in my hometown of Chicago. I have wanted to go see this game that they say is getting bigger by the year. But, for whatever reason I haven’t been to an MLS pitch anywhere in the US.
In fact, despite my fanhood of the game, my exposure to the MLS was limited to the ESPN2 monitor at work and the All-Star game on a Bennigan’s bar TV.
Last night, for a reason unbeknownst to me, I came back to my dorm and decided to turn on the MLS primetime Thursday doubleheader that featured the Chicago Fire against the New England Revolution and later the Los Angeles Galaxy drawing the San Jose Earthquakes. I watched the entire first game and the majority of the second. It was 10 fold of the total MLS action I had seen in my life up to that point, in one night.
Consider me hooked.
When I haphazardly watched the MLS before I never paid any attention to the style of play. I assumed that the game was sloppy, inept and weak. I was dead wrong. Without a doubt, the MLS is not even close to the level of the European class, but the game is crisp, clean and exciting.
I don’t know when this happened, but I can attest that the Beckham factor certainly helped. I didn’t care about the Chicago Fire before Cuauhtemoc Blanco arrived on the South Side, but the star attraction attracted me to watch the game.
And as much as I like Landon Donovan, I am more interested to see Beckham with the ball on his foot. The combination of Donovan and Beckham makes the Galaxy a great team to watch, no matter what league they play in.
The proponents of soccer in the United States, a group I have long considered myself a part, have been looking to attract those who do not know much about soccer to the MLS. This is the wrong way to go about it.
Shoot the easy kill first.
The main goal of American soccer ambassadors should be to bring the overseas game to America both on the pitch and in the stands. Across the country there are thousands of Americans who, like me, follow the European leagues and couldn’t care less about the professional game domestically.
How can American soccer expect to attract new fans of soccer when the game is inferior here in the states? Take the ones who love the game and convince them that the drop off is not as significant as it was merely five years ago.
The MLS has convinced me, but I’m a pushover. There are plenty more easy targets across the US that merely need be exposed to the light. The young people will come soon, but if the league can convince those who already love the game that the MLS is legit, the league will soar to new heights.