Friday, November 13, 2009


People from other countries sometimes ask me why soccer isn't as popular in the US as it is internationally. Here's why.

1. 0-0. Too often, nothing happens. When the cup came to the US, the big match between Belgium and the Netherlands was hyped to death. Americans tuned in. Nothing happened.

2. Poor production values. Watch an NFL game. Cameras are everywhere. They put you right in the action, up close at almost all times. Angles constantly change. By contrast, soccer games are filmed like American sporting events in 1955. One camera high up in the stands tilts back and forth. The viewer sees a bunch of dots running around. Recently, some soccer leagues made it to the 1960s, with one or two cameras on the sidelines.

3. The game is already too corporate to succeed here. Consumers have limited room in their heads for brand names. The space for corporate sports is already full.

The way ahead:

Dump the offsides rule. Are goalies really necessary? The American indoor game, which had no out of bounds and balls bounced off the wall, was great. Soccer needs something like the NBA shot clock. Not moving forward should be penalized.

Also, the men's game should look to the women's game. Female soccer is wide open and aggressive. Sportsmanship reigns supreme. Women's games don't feature the lazy, lawyerly play of sleazy teams like Italy and Argentina, flopping to maximize the rules to their benefit. Unlike Scandinavian male teams, the women can find the goal without a map.

American soccer could also point the way ahead in terms of marketing. Corporate sports are riding for a fall all over the world. The masses lost interest long ago. More money is being made, because the core audience will pay any price. If American soccer could connect with the masses, that would be a major coup.

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