Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It is Official! Soccer will NEVER catch on in America

This is the first ever Sully Baseball post about soccer and I can't imagine there will be many more.

Let me say this again.

Soccer will NEVER EVER be a popular professional spectator sport in America.

I know it is the most popular sport in the rest of the world. The rest of the world should be a wonderful consolation prize for soccer.

It's not happening here.

They've tried everything.

They brought Pele here in the 1970s.

They tried a league in the 1970s and 1980s that folded.

They tried an indoor league.

The brought the World Cup to America.

They formed another league in the 1990s.

They introduced Alexi Lalas, an actual American soccer star.

Brandi Chastain took her SHIRT OFF!

Nothing worked.

Bringing David Beckham to Los Angeles was the last chance... and while there was a fascination at first, I think most of the gawkers thought he was a good looking dude who is married to a Spice Girl who just happens to play a little sport.

In his first exhibition game, Beckham was on the sideline in a suit and tie nursing an injury.

The General Manager of the LA Galaxy said "We didn't sign Beckham for this exhibition game."

Au contraire! He needed to be playing that day because it was the only game maybe in our lifetime that America was watching an American soccer game.

He needed to bend it like... well... Beckham, not look dashing in a nice suit.

It was like the second season premiere of Twin Peaks. Everyone watched expecting to find out who killed Laura Palmer. And when the episode ended and the killer wasn't revealed, everyone stopped watching the show.

Well guess what? I live in Los Angeles and the LA Galaxy have absolutely zero buzz in the LA Sport scene.

And now Beckham is leaving LA and leaving millions of dollars on the table.

Can you blame him?

He's a major league talent playing in a minor league.

Just calling this league "Major League Soccer" doesn't make it a major league... just like calling the Angels "Los Angeles" doesn't change the fact they play in Anaheim.

American sport fans like to see the best compete.
The best baseball players in the world come to play in the MLB.
The best basketball players come to the NBA.
The best football players go to the NFL.
The best hockey players go to the NHL.

The best golfers are in the PGA.
The best tennis players play the US Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, etc.

If you are a great soccer player, are you thinking "Man, some day I'll play for Real Salt Lake?"

If you were in Spain and you saw they had a baseball league, would you expect the quality of play to be very high?

So no... it will never happen here.

Every four years, people in America will get interested in the World Cup.
But every four years people in America get interested in track and field, figure skating and curling.

And don't believe the "Kids of America are playing it and they'll grow up big soccer fans" theory.

Kids don't play soccer because they love the sport.
Kids play soccer because it is a hell of a lot cheaper to get a ball and a big open field and start a league than it is to start a baseball league, a football league or a hockey league.

In our town in Massachusetts, we played a variation of Dodgeball called "Crackabout." We played it almost every day.

Would I watch Crackabout on ESPN if it were on?

Well, if I knew they were the BEST Crackabout players in the world, then probably yes!

I'd watch that before I watch a bunch of soccer players who weren't good enough to play in Europe.


  1. Anonymous6:08 AM

    the only sport i love more than baseball is soccer. but i only watch US soccer if its all that's available. it is truly "the beautiful game". baseball is like chess, whereas soccer (futbol) is like playing the drums--all rhythm, baby!!!!! you'd think americans would know rhythm, seeing as how its the home of james brown, duke ellington, elvin jones, art blakey, etc. but a couple of those cats had to go to europe to get paid to play.

    by the is a close third to me after futbol and beisbol (pelota).

    great blog. i've been really enjoying the commentary and of course the all time homegrown vs aquired teams.
    i've linked to you from mine

  2. Americans DO know rhythm.

    We also know a second rate product and that what the MLS is.

    If the best soccer players in the world played in America, it might catch on.
    But nobody cares about a minor league

    It's why people actually DO watch the World Cup in the States
    The best are playing.

    It's why people in the states DO watch the Olympics.
    Not because everyone has caught gymnastics or synchorized swimming mania

    Because they want to see the best

    The best don't play for the New England Revolution

  3. Still, you're kicking Mexico's arse these days:

    In my experience the main reason Americans give for not taking to football was that there "weren't enough goals scored".

  4. Funny enough - there is one full time channel for golf, one for football, one for hockey and one for baseball.

    But there are TWO ful time channels for soccer in the USA (not including ESPN's crap coverage). Yeah, right - soccer will never catch on ?

    What you fail to realize is that American soccer fans KNOW what the MLS has to offer - a marginal level of the game. But at least we are producing player capable of playing in the best leagues in the world - England, Italy, Germany and Spain.

    The beauty of modern sports is that I don't have to live in England to be a fan of the Premier League - any more than I have to live in New York to be a Yankee fan. It comes to me.

    ESPN and the two soccer channels (plus the internet) give me all I need to be an international soccer fan.

    And while we are at it, there are more English speaking players in soccer than in baseball - welcome to 2009 !

    America is losing its grip on being top dog in baseball and basketball - and except for the leagues being in the USA - its full of foreigners.

    I used to love baseball - but now its taken a big back seat to soccer - which I watch EVERYDAY on American sports channels.

    Thanks for writing about soccer - it will not be your last.


    keep up the good blog.

  5. Oh I am sure this will be my last post about soccer in America, which was the point of my post.

    You tried to refute my saying that soccer in America will never catch on by saying "They can watch it in England" and "The best American players can go play in England, Italy, Germany and Spain"

    Um... isn't that proving MY point?
    Isn't that showing that the product in America is minor league and second rate?

    And yes there my be more English speaking players in soccer than in baseball... but all of those Spanish, Japanese and Korean speaking players are coming to America and the best ones play in the MLB.

    And where do the best NBA players go out of there way to play? The NBA
    Where do the best hockey players come from all over the Eastern bloc to play?

    It's not Spain.

    And as long as the only way you can watch the best soccer is watching an English game with an 8 hour time difference, it will be a fringe spectator sport in America.

    Just like baseball will never be a premiere sport in Europe.

    Soccer fans in America always get so defensive and I don't understand why.
    You love your sport and the it's the most popular sport in the rest of the World...

    You'd think that would be enough. But it will never ever EVER be a major spectator sport in America.


    Pele and David Beckham couldn't get people to watch it.
    Just imagine in Albert Pujols went to Italy and basically played in a AA league. Pujols would get bored and the product would stink.

    But hey... enjoy your soccer. I never trash a sport itself. Any sport played with the best talent can be compelling. That best talent ain't coming to America. Which is why it's not compelling here.

    Thanks for reading the blog


  6. Anonymous8:10 PM


    As an expat Englishman mired in Cincinnati, I trawl your happy musings to arm myself with bones of contention to throw into conversations about baseball with my much better informed native friends.

    I have been here for almost 20 years and outside of the boring questions about which is tougher - rugby or American football*, I get this question about soccer all the time. You speak good sense. A cursory viewing of the fox soccer channel will wake you to the fact that the MLS is more than a yard and a half off the pace. Staying with baseball for a moment, nobody seems to play it for fun after school age but softball is wildly popular, why hasn't pro softball taken off? Apart from the fact that it is crap.

    On the other hand, what is the highly popular college football/basketball thingy, if not a load of second rate fare compared to the Pros? People will watch lesser athletes if the conditions and traditions are there.

    *Answer breaking an arm playing rugby hurts exactly as much as breaking it playing American football. Interestingly it seems that most long term knee and ankle injuries (of the career ending type) seem to happen in soccer, which over here seems to be equated with ballet.

  7. A big reason for college football and basketball's popularity is two fold...

    The most popular teams tend to come in cities without a pro team (Los Angeles, Gainesville, Tuscaloosa, South Bend, Chapel Hill, etc)

    Also there is a great interest in it as a minor league. Which player goes to which pro team is a big reason to follow the games.

    For the record I think Rugby is tougher... they are in their underwear in that sport!!!

  8. Anonymous12:26 PM

    it will overtake baseball in the us no longer than 10 years.population demagraphics point to a large hispanic dominance which will be reflected in politics,sports,entertainment and the arts.who has the money,has the power>.

  9. BS...

    If you are a top soccer player where are you going to play?
    Real Salt Lake?

    Americans like watching the best and it is a fringe minor league and will remain that.

    Check back with me in 10 years