May 21, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT
About a week ago I shared a conference room with other journalists, cameramen and MLS commissioner Don Garber, who answered questions about the new stadium going up downtown and what it means to the professional game in the States.
In that room I found sad reminders that so many myths and stereotypes remain attached to the game – incorrect assumptions about professional soccer that stubbornly prevail.
Myth No. 1: That soccer still needs to “make it.”
Here’s a question straight from the 1992 journalists handbook: “When will soccer ‘make it?’ ” The thin query usually gets asked by a general news reporter or a newspaper columnist who doesn’t have sufficient depth of knowledge to ask a more pertinent question.
I always think the same thing: I’d like to query the questioner, “When will Thai food ‘make it’ here?’ You know, it’s not as big as Chinese food! It’s got to ‘make it.’ Right?
The reporter would probably say, “Well, it is what it is. What does it matter whether Thai food or Chinese food is bigger?”
It’s certainly fair if we want to discuss market share in the U.S. sports scene, or the competition for marketing dollars or strategies for cracking hard-to-reach consumer demographics, etc. But generally, the game is growing apace and doesn’t need to “make it.” That’s just kind of silly.
Myth No. 2: The marketing model is still about selling to families
I suppose the soccer world is more insular than I sometimes understand. People who follow the game understand how the professional game’s marketing strategies shifted so significantly about five years ago. It’s all about 20- and 30-somethings, about creating “real” fans. It’s about making the club matter, establishing a base of supporters who truly care about club, who rejoice at wins and sulk forlornly at setbacks.
It’s hasn’t been about suburban families looking for something to do on a Saturday night for a few years now – not in most markets, anyway.
But I forget that a substantial number of U.S. consumers don’t live in MLS markets – so we’ll need more time to kill off those old school beliefs about the tired marketing models. Because the questions about families and suburbs and pro soccer are still out there.
Myth No. 3: That professional soccer’s success and acceptance of the game at a greater level are inextricably linked.
Two words: they aren’t.
Major League Soccer is the game’s most visible property, so I get this one, that pro soccer is frequently linked to the development of the game at a broader level.
I get it, but that doesn’t make it any less incorrect.
Soccer as a game is what it is. It’s a popular activity, a great sport for kids, a staple of many ethnic communities, a sport with burgeoning awareness at international level, etc.
Now, “professional soccer” still has scads of room to grow – but that’s a different matter altogether. “Soccer” as a sport has ample societal acceptance here. (Who really cares if a few older white guys with a certain media influence still want to bluster about a “boring” game; there were more of them 10 years ago, there will be even fewer of them in 10 years to come. Believe me on this one.)
“Soccer” is not going away in the United States – no matter how fast or slow the game develops at professional level.
I suppose, all things considered, I should be happy that old guard general sports columnists and pretty news anchors don’t still ask if we should widen the doggone goals in order to promote greater American acceptance? I do believe, at very least, that we’ve finally killed off that one.
Sep 5, 2015, 11:06 AM EDT
Another team for Mario Balotelli, another manager that’s unhappy with his performance.
Sep 5, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Raheem Sterling’s latest social media post had many people laughing. Liverpool supporters, not so much…
Sep 5, 2015, 8:17 AM EDT
Catch up on all of the action from Friday’s international friendlies, as Mexico has some improving to do before the CONCACAF playoff.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:39 PM EDT
The United States put in a pretty good team performance tonight, but questions still remain at center-back.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:55 PM EDT
A superb second half comeback from Klinsmann’s boys has exonerated some of the Gold Cup demons.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:37 PM EDT
Jozy Altidore was handed the captain’s armband tonight, and his two goals were the difference in Washington D.C.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT
The skipper stepped up big time to turn things around.
Sep 4, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT
U.S. trailed 1-0 at the break after this goal from Chavez via Gonzalez’s back.
Sep 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT
Paul Pogba was wanted by every club in the world this summer, but even some pretty massive wages couldn’t bring him to leave Juventus.
Sep 4, 2015, 7:02 PM EDT
Tonight’s match may be a friendly, but it’s way more than that for Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States.
Sep 4, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT
After being essentially cut from Tottenham, Adebayor was a no-show for his national team.
Sep 4, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT
The transfer window may have closed, but the war of words between Manchester United and Real Madrid is still going strong.
Sep 4, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT
A massive loss for the Cherries as Tyrone Mings’ season is over after tearing his ACL and MCL against Leicester City.
Sep 4, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT
We need a bigger term than sitter for this Japan miss. Sofa? Futon? Beanbag chair?
With two friendlies before the Confederations Cup playoff, who should be the USMNT’s center back pair?
Sep 4, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT
The USMNT’s Tinkerman takes a lot of risks with his formation and use of his best players (See: Bradley, Michael), but there is at least one area where we just don’t get it: center backs.
Sep 4, 2015, 12:37 PM EDT
We caught up with the man tasked with taking the USA to Rio.
Sep 4, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT
Who knew we could’ve settled this whole thing ages ago, just by asking smokers in England?
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