American Soccer begs the question is the time right!
Wow! This summer more Americans than ever before were to see Soccer played at the highest level. TV and its saturation ability this week reached an estimated 22 billion viewers watched the game between Belgium and the U.S. A great many more viewers than watched either the World Series, or the NBA final game.
The World Cup easily eclipsed their highest audience numbers. However, at this time, the Super Bowl still wears the viewership crown as America’s most watched sports event.
Many might think that Soccer is finally arriving on America’s big stage and ready to take off. Let’s have a serious discussion.
As most of you know in the ‘60’s , the 70’s and the early 80’s, I promoted big events for numerous sports… football, hockey, basketball, volleyball, golf, tennis, daredevils and even along with my pal, Clair Higgins, almost did an Outrigger Canoe Race through shark-infested waters from Marlon Brando’s Island, Teteora to Papeete, Tahiti.
I never thought about Soccer in a realistic manner. In 1953, at the University of Massachusetts since I had completed all my unit requirements, I needed a course to take for my last semester. I wanted something easy and fun, I studied “Soccer Coaching” which filled the bill. It was an enjoyable moment in my life, but did not make much of an impact.
My brother Bobby who is a big guy played for Boston University. At the time, it was still a club sport. However, as a grandparent, I truly enjoyed watching my 5-year-old granddaughter Jilian playing AYSO, sixteen years ago. The most fun part was when she and her girl friend would skip down the field holding hands oblivious to what might be going on, or even where the ball was located. But she was tyne happiest kid in the game.
Actually, Soccer has had a checkered stop and start type of reaction and support by an ambivalent public. Some variations of soccer and supposedly the modern game entered America in the 1850’s. Basically, it was in New Orleans when Scottish, Irish and German immigrants brought the game with them.
However, the real credit for actually making Soccer part of the United States firmament goes to Alan Rothenberg , a friend and on occasion, my Attorney. From 1996 to 1999 , the Alan Rothenberg Trophy was awarded to the winning MLS team.
Prior to that, he was President of U.S. Soccer ( the governing body of American Soccer) during the ‘90’s and oversaw the 1994 World Cup in the United States as well as the establishment of Major league Soccer in 1996. In 2007, Rothenberg was inducted into the National Soccer hall of Fame. To this day, the 1994 Cup in Los Angeles remains the most successful.
Congressman Jason Chafetz’ father, John, when he was Commissioner of the AYSO in the 70’s, firmly believed that as more and more children played Soccer , the interest in the game would grow and Soccer would become a major U.S. Sport, because it will have spawned home grown talent.
Furthermore, he firmly believed that more and more parents, (mothers in particular), would rather see their children,(especially sons) playing Soccer than risking the chance of injury in a sport like American Football.
Ironically, he resigned from that post because he could not take the constant interference of the same “Soccer moms”, (parents).
Today, 35 years since its founding, the AYSO has over 50,000 teams with approximately 1,250,000 members between the ages of 4 and 19. Somewhere among that number is the next Landon Donovan, Alexi Lalas, or Tim Howard.
I believe that U.S. Soccer is knocking on the door to becoming an elite team. Since the 1994 U.S. World Cup and the Women’s Championship in 1999, soccer viewership has been rising.
The brilliant young writer Evan Wiener recently wrote about Rupert Murdoch’s FOX Network investing half a billion dollars secure the exclusive rights to the 2018 and 2022 Men’s World Cups. FOX also now owns all FIFA Soccer rights from 2015 to 2022. This includes the Women’s World Cup in ’15 and 19,
as well as all Under- 20 and Under- 17 matches.
All network executives are now extremely interested in Soccer predicated on the Nielsen ratings demonstrated in the 16 and 17-year-old categories.
All those “: Soccer Moms” mean big bucks to advertisers.
“U.S.A… U.S.A… U.S.A.”