Skip to content

Stamping out stubborn myths of soccer in the United States

May 21, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

NASL ball

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?”

Exactly.

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Juventus agrees new deal with Premier League transfer rumor mill mainstay Paul Pogba

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Pogba broke through with 9 goals and 10 assists across all competitions for Juventus last season and a goal and assist at the World Cup.

  2. Still defending racial incident, seething at bite talk, Suarez returns for Barcelona

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Luis Suarez, Neymar AP

    It’s going to be ugly and we’re going to shake our heads. Some will feign shock. And the whole cycle will repeat itself again at Barcelona.

  3. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

    DiMaria Getty Images

    Here’s how PST’s editor and lead writer sees things panning out this weekend.

  4. Americans Abroad preview: Eyes on BuLi – Green, Brooks, Johnson tested

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Fabian-Johnson-Borussia-Moenchengladbach-Getty-Images Getty Images

    Perhaps a respite for Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, as their clubs face lesser competition this week in Burnley and QPR, respectively.

  5. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 9

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every game during Week 9 of the PL.

  6. Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. Manchester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer League Cup

    It’s a top-four battle — no, seriously — as Manchester City rolls into Upton Park to take on Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United.

  7. An end-of-season (mostly) uncapped MLS for Jurgen Klinsmann’s approval

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v FC Dallas - Pre-Season Friendly Getty Images

    Who makes the cut as MLS players deserving of a look at USMNT camp?

  8. Two left flying MLS flag in 2015 CONCACAF Champions League quarters

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Ignacio Piatti, Connor Lade, AP

    An all-MLS final appearance is impossible thanks to seeding, and Montreal and DC can only face-off if they win in the quarterfinals this winter.

  9. Introducing: “The 2 Robbies ‘Football’ Show” on NBCSportsRadio.com

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:38 AM EDT

    Earle-Mustoe

    The purpose of the show is for the Robbies to hear from the fans on this call-in show, so dial 855-323-4622 and have your say.

  10. El Clasico: Luis Suarez, Barcelona and Real Madrid together at last

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-REALMADRID-BARCELONA-CLASICO Getty Images

    El Clasico is upon us, and my goodness will it be a doozy between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday at the Bernabeu.

  11. Tear gas and rubber bullets used by Lille police against Everton fans

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:31 AM EDT

    France Lille Fan Violence AP

    French police had arrested a man for selling drugs, according to the BBC, and that earned the ire of already on-edge Everton supporters.

  12. Top European clubs prefer to play Qatar World Cup in May

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT

    Qatar 2022

    The European Club Association includes at least one club from every nation in UEFA and includes Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona.

  13. Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama fearful of Ebola at Africa Cup of Nations

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:06 PM EDT

    Nigeria's Super Eagle goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama catches the ball during a World Cup 2014 qualifier football match against Ethiopia on October 13, 2013 in Addis Ababas. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA Getty Images

    Lille and Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama thinks it would be dangerous to hold the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ebola outbreak.

  14. Dunga, Brazil football federation create new code of conduct for national team

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Carlos Dunga

    Brazil’s national football team has a new code of conduct under manager Dunga.

  15. WATCH: Spurs midfielder Erik Lamela strikes astounding ‘rabona’ goal

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-SHERIFF TIRASPOL

    Wonderful touch and power utilized on a first-class goal from Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Erik Lamela.

  16. Tottenham striker Harry Kane scores hat trick, then allows goal as emergency netminder

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane, left, and Aston Villa's Matthew Lowton. AP

    Harry Kane notched a hat trick in Tottenham’s Europa League victory over Asteras Tripoli, and he then found himself manning the goal as a netminder following a Hugo Lloris red card.

  17. Lille 0-0 Everton: Toffees stay unbeaten in Group H

    Oct 23, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    distin_3083675b Getty Images

    Lille and Everton played to a 0-0 draw at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Europa League group stage competition.

  18. Frank Lampard could be fit to play in City’s match vs. West Ham

    Oct 23, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    Manchester City’s Frank Lampard could be fit to play against West Ham in Premier League competition on Saturday.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?