Once again, the Los Angeles Galaxy plan to host the UEFA League Champions for a friendly in August.
And once again, the MLS misses the entire problem with U.S. professional soccer:
No one cares.
It’s just that simple. Sure, bringing Inter Milan to play MLS squads will bring big crowds to L.A. and Dallas for two games, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that the MLS title game almost gets pushed off ESPN2 for Trick Pool.
The MLS needs to build a product for the people who are going to watch, and those people aren’t in America.
So guess where they should look?
Hint: It starts with an E and rhymes with syrup.
The market is already there. Europe loves soccer almost as much JaMarcus Russell likes cake. Do you know what my German cousin wanted as his No. 1 souvenir from his only trip across the pond? A David Beckham GALAXY jersey.
The only time Californians put “David Beckham” and “Galaxy” in the same sentence is, “The only thing that could hurt our state’s economy more is another David Beckham contract with the Galaxy.”
So the MLS should take note and take advantage. Send the friendly to Italy. Inter Milan practically sells out every game, so even if they played the Washington Nationals, there still would be more than 80,000 people filling Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, which is nearly triple the amount that fit in the Galaxy’s Home Depot Center.
Now that’s real exposure.
If they can split the revenue with Inter, even 40-60, they can join Floyd Mayweather for a making it rain “fiesta.” Retail tickets for Inter games can be more than € 60 Euros, and that’s not including all the souvenirs. Everyone knows that soccer fans are a big fan of a riot, and what better way to do it than in Landon Donovan’s No. 10 after the Galaxy win in Milan?
Okay, scratch that. Let’s take it one step at a time.
Think about the reason U.S. soccer has gained any acclaim and support going into this year’s World Cup: playing well internationally. In the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, the U.S. took down FIFA’s top dog, Spain, and nearly upset Brazil in the championship.
People started to notice the U.S. because they weren’t bottled up at home, playing against the inferior competition. They snuck up on the defending Euro Cup champion and made themselves a slight favorite to advance from pool play in June 2010.
Translate this to the MLS. Simply take the product and put it overseas against the top teams. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friendly, because there’s no chance Manchester United, FC Bayern, and AC Milan take it easy and risk losing at home in front of their stark raving fans. Coming over to America and playing mediocre won’t matter for UEFA clubs, but any competitive soul defends its home turf to the fullest.
Sorry, Orlando Magic.
Sure, these MLS might get annihilated against UEFA’s heavy hitters, but losing exhibition matches isn’t U.S. soccer’s problem. It’s their lack of fans. Ask any American soccer fan what their favorite soccer team or who their favorite soccer player is, and 99 times out of 100 it’s a European team. You may like Donovan Ricketts, but we all know Cristiano Ronaldo is “ya boy.”
So to quote Missy Elliott, why not put our “thing down, flip it, and reverse it?"
Send MLS teams to Europe, get them on their international screens like how the UEFA championship was on ESPN, and schedule more exhibitions than Jackson Pollock. If they start to perform better, MLS followings in Europe can start to pop up, which is easier than hoping they pop up in the homeland, because at least Europe already likes the sport. Might as well infiltrate a market that enjoys the product for sale and has money to spend.
MLS, take a page from other U.S. pro sports. Play some regular season matches overseas and consider putting a team in London like the NFL. Play offseason matches in China like the NBA. Go to places that want to watch soccer.
Yes, I may be underestimating the monetary ramifications of all this globetrotting, but if the Galaxy can spend $250 million on Becks, they can fly business class to Europe and stay at a four-star hotel and have enough money left for some good bagels and lox in the morning.
Oh, and don’t forget to leave Beckham there when you go. Actually, he’d probably just stay on his own.
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