Permit me to step away from the news for a second. A friend sent me this picture yesterday of himself and his baby boy at a Seattle Sounders game. It got me thinking about the future of American soccer. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in good hands.
My friend never went to a soccer game before moving to Seattle. Now, he talks about the Sounders nonstop. He even started bringing his child — earphones and all — to matches. You better believe that boy will grow up a fan of the beautiful game.
Drew Carey and the gang did something important in Seattle: They built an environment that works for all kinds of diehards. This isn’t new news, but the ramifications are perhaps overlooked. We can talk all we want about the need for soccer-specific stadiums (and I totally agree), but what we really mean is we need incredible soccer environments. Seattle has one. Montreal has one. Portland has one. Etc. Etc. Now Houston has one with the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium, making 6 soccer-specifics in 2 years. They are spreading around MLS.
One big advantage of MLS is the price. It’s significantly cheaper than other sporting events, both for individuals and for families. The key is getting people to go once, then return again.
The point here is the future of the game in the United States is tied to the future of the country as a whole: The Kids. The sport needs to win them over early and that happens on an individual experience level. Last weekend’s fantastic EPL finish was great for the game in the US, but that excitement only lasts so long (and comes once every, well, basically never). Going to a game with an incredible atmosphere will keep kids and their families coming back, even if they were not soccer fans initially.
Just ask my buddy’s kid. You know, as soon as he learns to talk.