When I became a fan of the world’s game of football/soccer my first club was Manchester United. I loved how the club represented, loved the pyramid structure, loved the entire idea of promotion/relegation, and love the structure in England, Europe, and elsewhere. So naturally I wanted to find out about the American game and wanted to support a local club I could get behind. When I did, it was the Columbus Crew SC and for two years I went to the local games and gave my energy and voice to support my club. At that all I knew was that Major League Soccer was the top league in our nation, the only one who can be competitive in the world’s market, and that their structure would counter the rest of the world.
Then reality came to me and I began to question if the MLS is the best league to represent our nation to the world.
It started with the youth leagues and the “pay for play” structure that we have which give the privilege a chance to play, but for anyone else outside of suburbia and the affluent neighborhoods of America they would have a harder time getting their chance to play. It went on when I started to scrutinize the MLS convolute rules on everything from players salaries to who owns the clubs to what a supporters group can or cannot do during matches. It was a micro-managers dream of having total control of the operations of American soccer.
The result: Soccer has barely made a ripple of becoming America’s top sport in our nation. Sure, there is more interest in the game; sure, the league has grown and great exposure on television to show their matches on screen or on line; sure, they boast some of the best players in the world (who’s average age is 27 years old and past their prime).
Time for the cold water of truth America.
MLS tries to give the best show possible in being the only capable league to lead America into the world as our best football. In reality, we don’t even come close where the game is at. Soccer clubs with front office and fans from lower leagues like United Soccer League, North American Soccer League, and others work hard to be a part of the MLS. Right now the league is opening a space for up to three, possibly more, clubs to be chosen in the MLS’ expansion period. Cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis, San Diego and others are putting on the best show possible with incredible play, fan support high, and the proof that their cities are ready to for bigger exposure to the world. To me, they are doing more in gaining the world’s attention than joining up with the MLS. If these cities determine to join the MLS, then it will be up to these clubs to fit the bill for things like club dues, new stadiums, and to give most control of operations and picking up the players they want to play for their clubs to the MLS.
In the rest of the world, a club from lower leagues would progress by effort and merit to reach their Premiere league in their nation. They would not lose their chance to pick the players they want, they would not lose their autonomy of operating their clubs, they would not have to limit the type of pay they could offer to the top players in the world to play for their club.
So please, fair critic, explain to me and to others why watching leagues outside of the United States is (as you call it) a “Eurosnob”? This is the slur those in MLS circles will levy towards others who refuse to give the MLS a chance. I challenge those who throw those type of slurs towards other American soccer fans to justify their league’s practice and how this betters the American game as oppose to the world. The truth is the International system of football is a stronger system than anything the US is using. Fans in this country know where the better system is and if being called snobs is the price they pay for wanting a better product than buyer beware we’ll keep watching outside our nation’s borders.
If you, as an MLS fan, love the league and how the close system this nation is currently on is a viable product to watch; if you think that keeping the cost low so the threat of going broke won’t happen and that the game can grow at a snails pace is your thing, fine. Neither I, nor anyone else, will fault you for being supportive of your league. I won’t bad mouth your club, your fans, and the supporters who will throw their full throat and voice for your club to win.
But I do believe this league and their players deserve better.
The MLS’ micromanaged approach to the game may be a great way of keeping cost and turnover down, but in the bigger picture it fails the fans and the players from having a competitive and strong side which can send players to display their craft on the world stage and not miss a beat.
But if some fans of the MLS think their only way to defend the way their league operates is to put down fellow world football fans as “Eurosnobs” without a strong and intelligent reason why this system is better than the one the world is currently operating on it shows weakness on their part. But if both sides can agree on one thing it is this: We want to see the players in the MLS become some of the world’s best. This means MLS fans must demand better! It means they must get angry with the way the system is in place and ask their front office, players, and club staff why do they continue to bring players from outside of the United States who are past their prime to the MLS to play? Why do the numbers of home grown players that advance to their home team seem low compared to other clubs outside of the United States? How can they continue to say the current system is a good one when players are paid lower than what International players are paid and when the last players negotiations with the league came up there was very little rise in the players basic pay?
How can a league be taken seriously when they refuse to give a player what they are worth for the hours and effort they give? And yet clubs from lower divisions are killing themselves to be part of this? I personally think they are better off where they are where they have more say of how they want to pay their players than they would in the MLS.
But when someone like me raise my voice about the way the American system is shortchanging the world’s game in our nation there are those who will criticize our patriotism or show no “brand loyalty” for wanting to see a better product. I’m here to tell people like me love our nation, some learned about world football while in our time as military members serving our country, want nothing more but to support all forms of local and national football here in America. But I (and others) believe in freedom and the right to seek out the best product that we feel address our desires and enjoyment. If we feel the best football is not in this nation but outside then this means I as a consumer have good taste. We like a good meal, we like good drink, we like the best venues, and we are willing to seek out the best atmosphere possible to make our experience worthwhile.
If the MLS is offering a package that looks, smells, and taste like world football, but it doesn’t have the quality and the product is by products instead of top line and organic ingredients than why should we put our energy and hard earned money to a substandard product? In fact, the question should be asked to every MLS fan who continues to watch this product? It should be asked to those cities willing to sell their identity and autonomy to play in the league are you really going for a cheap experience instead of something authentic and unique?
Being mad at critics like me or others for seeking out better product outside of the United States isn’t the way to handle it. Put down the fork, pull your chair away, and look at your meal and the entire atmosphere you are in. Truly ask your self “could I do better? Can they do better job at this entire experience?”
Forgive me for having to go watch world football from another country because my nation fails to do its job to bring a package of equal value or surpass it with what the rest of the world is doing. To me, it’s like if you have a problem that should be solved on our shores and then I can rally behind a good product made in America.
I know this game we love—football/soccer– is but a distraction to our day to day, but let’s face it a lot of what’s happening with this game in our nation parallels the unwillingness to move to make the game work in our nation in ways that just astounds the mind. We think all we need to do is convince those with money and power to see things our way. I’m sorry, but they will never submit and humble to anyone who are not from their world. What is needed is the courageous to stand up and say “we’ll take it from here because obviously you are doing it all wrong” I think the power to make this game work in this nation isn’t held by those who have the dollars, but the untapped potential of the fan and supporters who can shake the very ground of the game to its core to demand change, to demand a better product, to demand something that the world can support and be proud of and that we as Americans can support.
We argue everyday of the MLS and how they are the “big boys on the block. Look at them! Just look at them! Craven, cowardly, and inept in their attempt to camouflage their brand trying to make us believe pee is lemonade. We know how bad their brand is; we all know it doesn’t even cut the mustard to the rest of the world. This is where I think the only way we can change the course of this debate is to leave the MLS behind and prove with what other leagues are daring to do and show that the way the world’s game operates can work here too if we let it. The fans have spoken. Those who are the debaters have spoken. If the corrupt think their voice is the only voice that matters, think again. Ultras in other nations have made clubs bend to the matters of the people they represent. Fans world wide can join together and for the right cause make leaders cower because they don’t’ want the force of many to come at them in droves.
I think American soccer fans nationwide should be sick and tired of the product on the field. If they won’t put up with a bad meal, if they won’t put up with bad service on their cars, if they won’t put up a half-assed job by a doctor on their body, then why do Americans put up with this farce they call “world class American soccer”?