18 thoughts on “Why Soccer Marketing In America is Doomed

  1. Dennis Lang says:

    And for a bit more on the subject. If I did this right there should be a link following. Here goes:

  2. The acting depends on the league. In the scottish league, for example, you won’t see much of it. In the spanish league though you’ll see a ton of diving divas.
    I’m glad to hear you appreciate soccer though… our head here is totally different about it, for us the timing and its bending is normal and the clock going backwords would be weird.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      I was exaggerating a tad, but those are all issues I hear Americans moan about, especially scoring. When you’re not a sophisticated enough fan to understand subtlety and strategy, lack of scoring is mind-numbing (see baseball). What do you think about doing something structural to make for more scoring — bigger goals, fewer players, less grasping allowed?

  3. john sherman says:

    The real reason soccer will go nowhere in America is that the t.v. networks can’t make any money on it. From the stand point of the networks, the ideal event is something like the Kentucky Derby–a little over 2 minutes of event and a couple of hours or more of b.s. much of it advertising. Somebody put a stop watch on the Super Bowl and discovered the actual football came to 23 minutes of action in the four hours or so of hype and advertising. In soccer 90 minutes of soccer takes place in basically 90 minutes with advertising time amounting to about nothing.

    People who don’t like the low scoring shouldn’t watch soccer or hockey, but they could watch pinball tournaments where even the losers score in the millions.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      You make a great point, John. I’m sure the purists would freak, but maybe go to quarters and insert a few TV timeouts? The choice is either change the flow of the game a bit or remain largely off the air and out of mind.

      Clearly basketball has opted for compromising the flow of the game. The flow of the game, particularly in the last few minutes of each half, would be so much better if they eliminated TV timeouts and reduced the number of team timeouts, but that would reduce advertising revenue and value of the TV contract.

      If I were an MLS owner, I’m not sure what I’d do. My guess is that if adding in a few more breaks would get them on the air, MLS owners would do it. But even with more advertising opportunities, the audiences just aren’t there to justify a TV contract.

      1. john sherman says:

        If we did as you suggest, the rest of the world would call us candy-ass punks.

        The first world cup broadcast in the U.S. maybe 20+ years ago had a border around the picture saying something like “Drink Budweiser” on all four sides. It wasn’t particularly memorable but it was there the whole time and the cost of production was probably about the coffee budget for a Superbowl ad.

  4. leftymn says:

    I just read a blog on this issue that argued the reason is that soccer in America would need to have the same economic return to the aspiring players that basketball, football and baseball have. A young soccer player currently has the opportunity to move up to the national team or play for the Columbus franchise and make maybe $60,000? Not exactly like the monetary potential for a middling lefthanded reliever in MLB which is well above $300,000 or more. Even the ability to get a full ride to college in soccer is much diminished compared to football or even basketball due to the sheer numbers involved in football teams, and the number of college programs playing basketball even though they only likely have about 15 scholarships per basketball team (football can have 80?) . If the European leagues were to establish the MLS here as a 2nd division Euro league and put developing European players in it and bring up the best USA players so that they had a chance to make it to top level and top paying european league teams it probably would develop the sport.

    I am less convinced of the TV issue being a detriment. I believe the USA England and the USA Ghana matches had Nielson ratings comparable to the average ratings of last years World Series. The demographics of America sub 40 year old population is favorable toward soccer on TV.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Hmm, I think there’s some truth to that. But at the same time, the U.S. somehow gets young people to go into sports like swimming and track, where we compete very successfully internationally, despite the fact that those sports typically don’t offer young Americans much of a financial payoff.

      1. leftymn says:

        i understand the argument regarding minor sports, one could add the success in this years Winter Olympics to that. However its not a direct comparison. Soccer is better compared to basketball, football, and baseball in respect to its actual standing in the sports culture in most other countries. One could say that Europeans and Brazilians will never excel in baseball for the same reasons as Americans may never overall excel in Soccer. Also for the very best swimmers, track athletes and skiers there has been significant commercial payoff for success.

        I had 4 kids who played soccer in their youth. My oldest son played travelling soccer and was on his high school varsity team. I think soccer is popular in the suburbs for two reasons. First it has a very specific time structure (forget the stoppage time and referee clock nonsense, youth soccer is fairly consistent) which allows parents to plot times very well and adjust schedules. Secondly it doesnt have the physical violence that football and hockey and even basketball has. This is attractive to suburban parents who are hoping for 34 ACT scores and scholarships to Stanford or Northwestern.

      2. Joe Loveland says:

        Another reason why soccer is popular with parents: In those early years, the choice of spring/summer team sports is primarily baseball/t-ball/softball or soccer. Baseball is deadly sedentary for little kids. It’s fairly complicated to understand, and there is not enough action to hold their interest or burn off their energy. So, even a lot of parents who love baseball and don’t love soccer opt for soccer, because it gets the kid more activity and holds their interest. That starts them down the soccer path, and many stay on it.

        I read in Time magazine that soccer participation is second only to basketball participation among American kids. At some point that has to gel into a bit more of an American fan base. The growing Hispanic population will help too.

        Still, my teenage son, who also plays travel and high school soccer, watches a hundred times more baseball than soccer. He’ll play soccer all day, but he isn’t that interested in watching. This is a very tough market for soccer.

  5. Joe Loveland says:

    From the Kansas City Star:

    ABC and Univision had a combined 24.3 million viewers for Sunday’s final in which Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0. ABC’s telecast delivered an 8.1 household rating, according to the Nielsen Company. In Kansas City, the game got an 8.2 rating.

    But history says the increased soccer interest will soon disappear.
    Witness the 2006 World Cup final, which had 16.9 million viewers. That exceeded the viewership for the final game of that year’s NBA finals. However, Major League Soccer ratings on ESPN2 were just 0.2 in 2006 and it has remained around that level.

    Go back to 1999 when the Women’s World Cup final between the United States and China drew 18 million viewers and there was talk of soccer fever sweeping the nation. It obviously didn’t happen.

    “Quite honestly, you’re never going to have the level of obsessiveness over soccer in the U.S. because there are a lot of other things to follow,” said Lee Berke, sports media consultant who has worked with teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL and major-league baseball.


    ESPN hopes to build on its soccer success. Not only were the TV ratings great, but online as well. ESPN said 1.1 million people watched at least some of the USA’s 1-0 victory against Algeria as it was streamed on ESPN3.com.

    “We are bullish on the sport aside from the World Cup and will continue to be bullish on it,” Guglielmino said. “Ratings across the board have been going in a positive direction. When you start talking about growth in audience, we need to look at all the platforms, including ESPN Deportes, which is doing very, very well from serving a Hispanic marketplace, which we know is an avid soccer marketplace, and also on broadband service and online as well.

  6. Expatriate says:

    Soccer needs more scoring just as Hemingway needed more words, Mondrian needed more circles and “Eleanor Rigby” needed a drummer.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      Yes. I don’t even understand the game but after a while it achieves an almost hypnotic, fluid effect and we watch with anticipation for the goal in that very rare moment out of thousands when the score actually occurs.

      1. Expatriate says:

        Honest truth — out of hundreds of matches, the most exciting match I ever experienced ended 0-0, and I couldn’t even see it because I was listening to radio commentary.

        I could explain how such a thing could be possible, but then, such an explanation would have sounded like insufferable, unbelievable, I-can-out-esoteric-you nonsense prior to my conversion to footballism in a flash of English lager about ten years ago. It’s pointless, and I’m weary of the discussion.

        The Beautiful Game will not come to you, non-believers. And that’s just fine. It doesn’t really need you. But if you one day choose to hearken to its voice, the path to enlightenment stands before you. Taste, and see that the game is good.

        That being said, this was a crap tournament.

      2. PM says:

        Well, it was a crap tournament if your were an England fan…

        Seriously, the Germany/Uruguay game was wonderful, as was the Netherlands/Brazil. Those were my personal 2 favorites.

        I do love the fluidity of the movement, watching the rythm develop on the field, but I can’t enjoy listening to it on the radio (and I have listened to a number of Premier League matches on the BBC on saturdays and Sundays). maybe you just need to be really familiar with the players, teams and their styles in order to visualize a game based on the audio.

    2. Joe Loveland says:

      I knew this post would flush you out of the weeds, Expatriate. I actually understand what you experienced in the 0-0 game, because I have a similar feeling about Jack Morris’s 1-0 victory over 10 innings in Game 7 of the 1991 MLB World Series. I actually went to the ER in DC for ulcers that night. If I tried to explain the appeal of that defensive battle to a non-baseball fan, they’d think I was a hopeless geek.

      P.S. In a USA Cup match in Blaine this morning, my son’s team just scored a 1-1 win over some Illinois ruffians who gave him a concussion. And no, it wasn’t a flop.

  7. Dennis Lang says:

    Actually, the radio commentary has its own poetry (for lack of a better word). All the action seems to be in medias res, unlike at-bats, or plays in football, or trips down the basketball court, individual events each having their third-act conclusion. This is a game where all is in constant suspension. And I love that color guy. Tommy Smith?

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