Today’s blog post, on the growth of soccer in North America.
Soccer – in particular MLS – has succeeded by carving out a niche (through careful expansion and the cultivation of friendly stadiums and strong fan-bases), gaining exposure and familiarity (largely through greater youth registration), and catering relentlessly to their fan/consumer base. It may not be the sport of the future, but it’s a big part of the sporting landscape in the present, and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue to be for a long time.
These friends of ours who get it, the ones who wake up early on weekends to watch the English Premier League or flip on Univisión to watch Club América. The ones who fill up football stadiums when Barcelona or Manchester United come to visit. The ones who proudly sport the jerseys of their favorite European or Latin American teams.
It’s time they became MLS fans, too. Luis’ Real Madrid blanco can live side-by-side with blue and black in his veins. Pat must understand that his Toon Army cred doesn’t prevent him from cheering with the Empire Supporters Club. Allen’s Rojiblancos pride can translate directly to the Rojiblancos in his own backyard.
Tucsonans are proud of their long ties to baseball — Mr. Elías and others recall watching Willie Mays, Randy Johnson and other greats — but soccer is perhaps a more natural fit in a city where clubs and schools are brimming with thousands of players. This month, Tucson hosted an annual youth tournament that drew 327 teams from six states, the city’s fourth-largest tourist event.
Latinos, who make up about 40 percent of the population, add to the soccer craze. So do the thousands of Mexicans who came last year to see the Red Bulls and Sporting K. C. play an exhibition match that filled Hi Corbett Field even though the event was put together just weeks before. The teams also played F. C. Tucson, a new, home-grown amateur team.
It seems appropriate, then, that Liverpool is in the final of the Carling Cup, the competition that no one is sure whether they care about. Fans of big clubs generally have little regard for the tournament, though they doubtless get excited when their side reaches the final. And so, as the debate will rage on, the perception of Liverpool’s season will differ wildly.
Last May James ranked 10th on our Celebrity with earnings of $48 million. His Liverpool investment will only make him richer. Of course, his best move may have been working with Henry, who as I pointed out in my story of Wall Street sports owners, has been hugely successful.
On Tuesday morning, Liberation published an interview with the soccer star. In it, he revealed that he was not running for president, but wants presidential candidates to make affordable housing a primary issue in the elections and support the Fondation Abbe Pierre