Archive for the ‘Hope Solo’ Category

Soccer and the United States normally are not associated together. However, the sport that so many bash because of the most humorous score line in athletics, “Nil to Nil,” is not foreign to common fans in the states.

Even the typical football junky, who lives and breathes for the bone-crunching NFL, gets excited for the World Cup every four-years. Yet, until a winner is crowned in red, white and blue, the average Joe and Josephine will note be enthralled to watch.

Baby steps have been taken both on the national team landscape, as well as the Major League Soccer platform. Once the United States got their shot at hosting the World Cup in ’94 that was the catalyst to announce the game’s presence.

Still, it wasn’t too long ago when MLS games were relegated to Spanish broadcasts. Now, soccer fans have options to watch league games on multiple platforms on cable and satellite providers—including primetime slots on ESPN. However, when a great moment in U.S. soccer history is made, sometimes the Spanish announcers tell the story the best.

The jubilation that “neutral” commentators possess in moments like that, are timid compared to fans across the fifty-states.

Soccer is spreading, whether the general public takes note, or not. Remember the videos that went viral capturing American fans erupt when Landon Donovan scored against Algeria.

Fans understood the moment and what was at stake, even though the opponent was Algeria. That one moment propelled U.S. soccer, to where it presently sits.

Major League Soccer is more popular than ever. With that popularity, also brings stability for the entire soccer federation. League expansion has unfolded with new teams in Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, as well as the construction of multiple soccer-specific stadiums.

Looking across the league, ten of the 17 MLS stadiums are soccer-specific complexes built after 1999. Thirteen of the league’s stadiums were built after 2002, including Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, and Qwest Field in Seattle, where the Seahawks and Sounders both call “home.”

State-of-the-art stadiums are a necessity in any sport. Although, just like the mainstream sports, the classic mainstay stadiums are an attraction in their own right.

Take the NBA’s Madison Square Garden or the NFL’s Lambeau Field; those bleachers are always packed due to constant tradition within the community. And winning isn’t required, with the Chicago Cubs proving their ineptness at Wrigley Field since 1916.

The MLS has a similar keystone stadium in Portland, OR. Jeld-Wen Field (formerly known as Multnomah Stadium) opened in 1926. However, prior to the MLS expansion of the Portland Timbers, Jeld-Wen Field underwent a $31 million renovation in 2010.

Upgrades are nice, but the fans still need to pile into the barn each home game. Capacity tops out at 22,000 patrons, but the anthems and overflowing support in Portland is eerily similar to the English Premier supporters.

The Timbers home stadium isn’t the Rose Bowl or “The Meadowlands” yet on an average Wednesday night, Portland Pride was a 12th, maybe a 13th man.

A team and a fan base outmatched national superstars and world-renowned athletes Landon Donovan and David Beckham. The same backdrop has been present in Los Angeles at the Home Depot Center, Chicago, Philadelphia and all the MLS stadiums.

Many might not believe 20,000 fans at a sporting event is subpar compared to the other professional heavyweight leagues in the states, but the contingency is strong for soccer.

Baseball might appear strong in the major markets, yet the Florida Marlins pull in 3,000 fans on an average night. In the MLS, the stadiums are averaging 13,000 fans per game across the 18 organizations.

And sellouts are up 62% from the 2009 season. People are flocking to the new sparkling facilities across the states, and even the women’s game has lured eye balls to watch.

ESPN drew 13.5 million viewers for the final between the U.S. and Japan, the net’s largest audience ever for a soccer match — outperforming Major League Baseball’s All Star Game, which had averaged an audience of 11 million five days earlier.

The Women’s Professional Soccer league won’t be booming to those numbers anytime soon, but the World Cup still exposed viewers to the league.

Fans in the United States are still missing the one aspect of a sport that every fan enjoys: the sweet satisfaction of victory. Once the United States wins the World Cup, fans will fully accept soccer as a national sport.

Published on August 6, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”