In a national embarrassment, the United State’s under-23 men’s national team did not qualify for this summer’s Olympic Games in London.Instead, our region (CONCACAF) will be represented by Honduras and Mexico.
Those two teams aren’t horrible – in fact, Mexico is very good.
What’s truly shameful is that the US team wasn’t close to qualifying.
Canada made it further.
It’s been almost 20 years since the US hosted the World Cup in 1994.
Why do we still stink at this sport?
The reason is not that the United States does not produce amazing athletes. We do.
LeBron James would be an elite striker. He’d be nifty up front, too. Derrick Rose could wear number 10 and distribute and score from the right side of the mid-field. Darrelle Revis would shut down the world’s best scorers.
The problem, for American soccer, is that our most athletic and coordinated people all give their lives to other sports. They do not play the game, I believe, because no American soccer player has demonstrated how much upside there is to the sport.
Americans have had very little exposure to the Michael Jordans or Peyton Mannings of soccer – the winners, the guys who become billionaires, the transcendent greats who inspire children to play out the last seconds of a championship match in their heads.
None of them play for the American national team, and while the MLS is an improving league, it remains definitively third tier.The only real stars in it are well past their primes. The league champions are not regarded as true champions on the world stage. Nor are they ever given that chance.
The Michael Jordans of soccer play in far away European leagues that Americans do not pay attention to.
So what’s the solution?
America loves a winner. So let’s buy one.
Some very wealthy business person needs to make the no-brainer decision to buy one of the marginal premier league teams – might we suggest the Wolverhampton Wanderers? – and move this team to New York.
This would be a smart business decision because any franchise moving from Wolverhampton, with a population of 220,000 people, to New York, with a population of 22 million, would increase in value from maybe $300 million to $2 billion or more, overnight.
Let’s address some obvious objections you might have.
You might argue that the other Premier League teams would never allow this to happen.
After all, it was only a couple years ago that they voted to bar Irish and Scottish teams from joining the league.
This argument ignores a crucial point: the entire Irish and Scottish markets combined – 9 million people – do not nearly equal the size of the New York market. Nor do either of those markets match the promotional power of New York’s massive media, advertising, and tourism industries.
Moving a Premier League team to New York would instantly add billions of dollars in to the values of Premier League by marketing the teams to the US and even more loudly in the world.
The New York franchise would likely also have to agree to some sort of profit-sharing. Two dozen Major League Baseball teams exist profitably thanks to major franchises like the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
” url=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/clintw/3025507444/”]You might argue that it would be physically impossible for a New York team to play in an England-based league.Not true!
It takes the Seattle Seahawks, a very isolated and yet successful NFL franchise, hours longer to fly to Florida or New York that it would for a New York team to fly to London.
One important thing this franchise must immediately do: shell out lots of cash for some of the world’s best players to make the team an instant powerhouse. We’d suggest the team start with Christiano Ronaldo, a man designed by god for the soccer field and Times Square billboards. This plan may sound like a too simple way to the top, but it’s exactly what Manchester City’s new owners have done in the past four years.
Would the MLS try to block the move? Hell no! Having a global contender on US soil would be excellent marketing for the game in this country. It might even be smart for MLS owners to pool their money and take a large stake in the New York franchise. If they owned it, they could play it against all the MLS teams in annual exhibitions. The constant contact – and solid play against a top tier Premier League team – would legitimise MLS clubs in the world’s view, and give their best players incentives to improve.
And that, the idea that this team will inspire great soccer play from Americans, gets us back to our original point.
The best way to attract the best athletes in America to soccer is to show them the insane glory that playing the game can bring.
Kids play baseball because it’s fun – and because of Babe Ruth and the big-budget, 27-time world champion New York Yankees.
Soccer is already more fun than baseball. All its missing is a world-beating American champion and stars making plays like this one:
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