The Great American Soccer Boom: Not Gonna Happen

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Last week, I wrote a post about the Rockets lowering ticket prices, and I made a comment about the Dynamo playing in a minor league. And that is a comment that I stand by, though several of you got upset. And the responses that I got were the same as I always get: soccer is the most popular sport in the world and that the sport and the MLS are growing inside of the United States.

And I'm really sick of hearing these responses. Because I've been hearing this crap since I was kid way back in the 70s.

For a major league, like the MLS is supposed to be, it gets about the same publicity as a minor league. It's got no national TV contract with one of the broadcast networks, nor does it have any national radio network. Hockey, which is primarily a regional sport, has a major league, the NHL, which has teams throughout the United States and the Canada and is supposedly dying. Yet it has a national game of the week on a major broadcast network every Sunday afternoon. And when the NHL playoffs start, there will also be games broadcast on NBC.

The MLS, which is the league of the Houston Dynamo, used to have a national game of the week on ESPN 2. But the ratings were so anemic, so microscopic, that ESPN dumped the Game of the Week concept and now just uses the MLS the way Ted Turner used to use the Atlanta Braves for TBS; when it needs something to fill programming, it sticks in the MLS. That's not exactly the way a booming, national, and major sport is supposed to be treated.

And could anybody see a team in MLB or the NFL or the NBA or even the NHL being owned by the same company that owns another team in the league? But this is a common occurrence in MLS. The group that owns the Dynamo also owns the Los Angeles Galaxy and Hunt Sports owns the teams in Columbus and Dallas. Now that's rather common in minor league sports, but it's not exactly major league - this couldn't happen in the major leagues now because of that whole conflict of interest thing.

So tell me. Just when exactly is this soccer boom ever going to occur? Like I said, I've been waiting since I was a kid going out to the Astrodome to watch the Houston Hurricane of the NASL - a professional soccer league that had a national broadcast TV contract with ABC and in which the best of the sport wanted to play and weren't busy trying to escape from. - and they were playing before bigger crowds than the Dynamo.

Millions of children were playing soccer in the 70s, and they were all going to drag their parents to the professional games. But that never happened. And you can tell this to me now, all over again, but it still ain't happening. So please stop feeding me this same line of bull over and over again.

Soccer, or football as billions refer to it, might be the most popular sport in the world. But it's not here in the States. And despite the best efforts of U.S. soccer fans over the past 30 some odd years, it's nowhere close to being a major U.S. sport. And it probably never will be. So just count me in with Dan Rydell. I'm tired of people telling me I don't understand soccer and that it's the world's most popular sport. This isn't the rest of the world. This is the United States. And here, it's just a minor league sport with a niche audience.

If the Houston Dynamo ever get off the digital channels, and if the MLS ever gets on a broadcast network with the real major league sports in the country, and if the MLS teams can ever draw legit crowds for actual games against other MLS teams that don't involve David Beckham, then I might be willing to listen to you talk about the great so-called soccer boom. But until that time comes, please, just give it a rest. I've been listening to this for over 30 years, and I'm really rather tired of it.

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