Sunday, June 27, 2010

Soccer still faces tough road in U.S.

So, quick, who leads the Eastern Conference of the MLS? Give up?
New York and Columbus are tied, with 24 points. Think 1 percent of Americans know that?
The English and Americans are out of the World Cup after the weekend.

Beyond that, the two nations have little in common when it comes to soccer. Soccer is a real passion in England, where the Premier League pays top dollar for talent and the game is played at the highest level. And you can bet English fans know their standings.

The U.S. made an exhilarating run to the round of 16, but soccer enthusiasts who believe interest will spike in the Beautiful Game will be disappointed. Youth interest is phenomenal, but soccer has never turned that into interest at the gate for the professional game.

The MLS claims that only two teams in 2009 were profitable, Seattle and Toronto. The league has 16 teams but not one, right now, between Washington and Texas. MLS salaries are well below the European leagues. Only one New York player makes over $1 million, and many are well below $100,000 in salary.

The American run was amazing, and the U.S. team and coaches deserve praise for what they achieved. But in the end, we couldn’t beat Ghana, a small country with 24 million people. The exhilaration of the run left one feeling that soccer remains like an Olympic sport – one with some passionate fans, but many who engage only every four years.

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