Let me not say ruined, because it would be a far stretch to say that one of the best franchises in MLS could be ruined by an international choke job pulled off by the U.S. Soccer team in the Confederations Cup final. But, for as much as the surprising run to the world’s stage did for soccer popularity in the United States, it could likely have a significant impact on the appeal of our own D.C. United.
As the domestic appeal of soccer grows, D.C. United’s distance from international play won’t help it’s cause to become more popular in our area. Even with multiple championships, the only thing that can help soccer in the Metro area grow is for casual soccer fans to have consistent exposure to local players that can grab and hold national attention.
Attention that can only be rightly earned in international play.
D.C. United had a long history of players competing for the men’s national team; not so for this year’s Confederations Cup Roster. And of the few players that do compete stateside in MLS, Landon Donovan is the only one that brings back some national credibility and recognition from South Africa.
Our homeboy Freddy Adu, who plays professional in France after a much-hyped-yet-non-descript tenure with D.C. United? He didn’t even get on the pitch.
People who truly enjoy soccer in this area have stronger ties to international competition than the domestic professional leagues. As diverse as the Baltimore – Washington area is, young fans of soccer are going to grow up following the names that they heard most often during the U.S.’ stampede onto the world stage; Donovan, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Jozy Altidore who plays in Spain, and Tim Howard who plays in England.
There are D.C. United fans who root for the team because it is a professional team in the area. There are those who grew to love the team because of their championship-winning ways. Perhaps that is enough to sustain and grow a loyal following in the Baltimore-Washington region, but if the U.S. maintains this level of growth on the international stage, while the country’s best players continue to play professionally out of the country, it can’t be good news for any domestic pro soccer franchise.