TSG Potluck: Pre$eason tours

Is MLS hampered by the European pre-season tours?

Potluck question from the venerable GeorgeCross (this was briefly discussed yesterday):

With many European teams coming stateside for their pre-sea$on tours, how do you think this hampers the growth of MLS / capturing non-MLS football fans?  Especially when United knock Seattle for 7.  It gives these fans an even bigger reason to say MLS is a joke, and this is the reason they don’t follow MLS, but a Euro team.


24 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve Trittshuch on 2011/07/22 at 8:55 AM

    I tend to think more people don’t go to MLS games because they’re simply not fun vs. they think MLS is a joke. There just aren’t many Eurosnobs outside of the bubble that is soccer bloggers/Shin Guardian readers/actual Europeans.

    Sounders and Timbers games look incredibly fun. That’s why people go. Driving to Frisco in the summer when its 100-plus degrees for FC Dallas games — not so fun.


  2. These pre-season tours are a double-edged sword from the American soccer perspective. In the short-term they make bank bringing these teams in, but when they get slaughtered (like Seattle, etc) then the Euro-fan or the casual fan gets a poor impression of the quality of the league… so the long-term is put up as sacrifice to make the pay now.

    No self-respecting MLS fan is going to claim that our league is on par with European teams l like Real or or Manchester United, but we’re already in on the league and so these summer results are disappointing, but we’re not leaving the league because of them.

    Euro-fans just have their preconceived notions reinforced for another year (or forever) and casual fans interested in high-quality play often come away an inaccurate assessment of the state of the league.

    The irony of it all is these big pay days allow the clubs to invest further in new players, development, academies, etc and improve the quality of play in the long-term, but will anyone outside already MLS fans notice?


  3. Posted by T-Muck on 2011/07/22 at 8:58 AM

    I don’t think it hinders the growth of the MLS. Seattle getting pounded was expected, in the non-MLS football fan’s mind. So there’s nothing lost there, but they are a great opportunity for a gain. If the MLS teams start competing and winning a lot of these games, people are going to take notice. Winning will always bring more fans. If the MLS didn’t play these games, it would matter how much us “soccer geeks” claim the talent level in the MLS had improved, or the quality of play is better, people would always say, “yea, but they’ll never be as good as the , that’s why I don’t watch the MLS.” So long and short of my rant, getting pounded doesn’t hurt the league, winning would help the league bring in fans, and I think the league has to do it, because it will always be compared to those leagues.


    • Also, we should remember that what these scores really reflect is the difference in depth between MLS and bigger leagues. In almost every case, the MLS teams have generally held their own in the first half, before making massive substitutions.

      Think about it is way: Rooney makes more in 1 MONTH than the entire Sounders 2nd-team squad he faced gets paid in a YEAR.


  4. This is a great question and gets to the heart of what perceive to be one of most misunderstood aspects of the American soccer audience. When so-called experts in the sports world start discussing how to increase MLS attendance or viewership (or explain why the season can’t be moved) they focus on competition from the big three sports in America (Football, Baseball, and Basketball). But the REAL competition for MLS among existing soccer fans in America are European, South American, and Mexican league teams.

    Now that American can find nearly every match on cable, satellite, or the internet – the question becomes about whether they would prefer to watch DCU vs Chivas or Barcelona v. Real Madrid or ManU v Arsenal. And for pure entertainment value, there is no question which are the better options.

    As for these summer tours, the fact that MLS teams are getting pummeled 7-0 is not the problem. The fact these European teams are playing incredibly fun, attractive soccer and have players that can perform near miracles with the ball at their feet is THE ISSUE. Like it or not MLS is in a highly competitive market and their product is just not as good as the alternatives now available. That does not mean that MLS is doomed… far from it. Instead, they need to continue finding ways to improve the product on the field, find ways to build local communities around clubs (like Seattle and Portland have done so successfully). But, that is a WHOLE different discussion…


  5. Posted by EFG on 2011/07/22 at 9:25 AM

    So I’ve been to games from the USL-1 level (Richmond Kickers all the way) to MLS to USMNT friendlies, WCQers, Gold Cup, to the MLS v European clubs, and even just two European clubs playing each other in the States and I don’t have a problem with it.

    Sometimes it’s just a nice change of pace/a treat to see Man City take on Inter in Baltimore or DC United play Real Madrid in 105 degree heat in DC. It’s fun. Had you told me 5 years ago that I would be able to see these massive players and clubs in person I wouldn’t have believed you and it isn’t hurting the growth of MLS and I think it sometimes helps. DC United’s had some pretty nice wins against European competition (AC Milan, Celtic come to mind) which only helps the exposure of the club.


  6. Posted by Crow on 2011/07/22 at 9:51 AM

    I’m so glad I drove down to the Union/Everton game despite the heat. I haven’t seen the Union control a game like that the last two years. Granted they were poor in the final 1/3, but they had to have 70% of the ball. I think they outshot them 18-7. And they did it, even though they were missing Le Toux, Ruiz, Califf, and Modragon. In the 2nd half, they brought in academy teenagers who had never played for the Union before. Everton had all of their starters playing except Howard, Fellaini, and Osman. Even in the 2nd half.

    The future looks bright for the Union. I can’t believe Valdes didn’t make the all-star game, and Okugo is going to be in Europe soon. I know it was just a friendly and the heat was bad, but I’m wondering if Everton is going to get off to their annual slow start this year once again.


  7. Posted by Crow on 2011/07/22 at 9:53 AM

    Moyes and Neville had some very cheritable things to say about the Union which was nice. They also said that the atmosphere at PPL Park was the best they had experienced in MLS. They called it ‘like Europe’. And Everton has played in Seattle before. I liked that.


    • Call me cynical, but don’t you think there is a self interest to what they** are saying and the clubs main objective in playing in America? If you’re trying to drum up new business in a new market, of course you’re going to make complementary comments. They may well be speaking the truth, but just saying…

      **not just Moyes and Neville, but all Euro managers and players.


      • Posted by Crow on 2011/07/22 at 11:39 AM

        I think there is alot of truth in that statement, because usually that is the case, but I think Moyes and Neville were fairly sincere. I could see when the players walked by right out of the locker room and during the game on the field, they were truly frustrated. Moyes seems like a good guy as well, he’s part of the reason I pull for Everton in the EPL.

        The atmosphere was very good and the Union played a very good game. I hope they do the same against Real Madrid. I’m really impressed with some of these academy players as well. They seem to have real quality.

        There was a nice article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about Nick Sakiewicz, one of the “owners” of the Union. It talked mainly about his ups and downs with the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Red Bulls. The struggle to get a stadium in Harrison, NJ. And then the struggle to get the Union established as a team while he was personally battling with leukemia. I’m going to miss the Union when I move to the West Coast. Hopefully they can make a playoff run this year.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/07/22 at 3:13 PM

        I had to opportunity to hang out with the Man U training staff after the Union friendly last yr and they said Ferguson beat into the squad the entire trip the importance of how they performed here and to treat it seriously. Union outplayed them for long stretches and Ferguson was visibly upset after. Ironically, the see the US market as a gateway to the growing Hispanic population, hence the Chicharito signing.


  8. A slight tangent: it is only going to be a matter of time until FSG owned Liverpool will be playing at Fenway and all of their games shown on NESN. How does the NE Revolution compete with that? And what about Villa in Cleveland and Arsenal in Denver?


    • I’m honestly surprised there isn’t a Liverpool v Roma match at Fenway this summer. There has to be one next, right?


    • Posted by John Henry on 2011/07/22 at 10:04 AM

      Side note response: Liverpool reruns were already on NESN last season. I doubt they’d be able to get live-game rights without having to hash out a deal with FSC and ESPN.


  9. Posted by DF on 2011/07/22 at 10:16 AM

    I think it’s important to realize that, regardless of how painful some of these scores may be, they are not at all indicative of the “gap” between Euro soccer and Stateside soccer. They are friendlies. Simple as that. They are glorified training sessions intended to get internationally famous teams some playing time while making boatloads of money for the parties involved and a chance to spread their (Euro teams) brand in the U.S. Anyone using these games as a measuring stick is probably looking for these scores so as to give credence to their argument. It’s always the same: If the MLS team wins it was because the other team is playing a friendly and taking it easy; if the Euro team wins, it’s because their are galaxies better than us and we’re crap… Yes, they are better. But I can guarantee that with something on the line (like a serious cup, for example) both teams would take it much more seriously and you wouldn’t see 7 or 8 second- and third-string players come on at the half. ManU would still be a favorite over an MLS club but it wouldn’t be nearly as easy. There even might be an upset.


  10. Posted by kaya on 2011/07/22 at 11:33 AM

    Well, the fact these teams are coming to play individual MLS teams instead of just the MLS all-stars or Mexican or another Euro team means there’s progress, right?


  11. Posted by mike on 2011/07/22 at 1:28 PM

    They beat Blackburn 7-1 last season, guess that means the PL is a joke too.


    • But there are not football fans in England who watch MLS over EPL. This is not a pissing contest. It is about getting more American football fans interested in / watching / attending the domestic league.


      • Posted by mike on 2011/07/22 at 6:26 PM

        I know there isn’t I’m just saying the score itself means absolutely nothing. Nearly everyone on earth knows who Man U is, even the most casual observers probably don’t think that them winning big means much.

        On a side note, I am surprised that MLS hasn’t tried to get into the European TV market a bit more. You said no one in England watches MLS over EPL well because of the seasons, they don’t necessarily have to. During that dead period in the continental leagues MLS should be trying to give people an alternative.


        • Posted by David on 2011/07/23 at 10:58 AM

          Agreed! Think of the sports you’ve watched not because you were personally invested in the game, but simply because it was on. If nothing else is on TV, Brits would watch MLS soccer. They may scoff at it, but they’d watch.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/07/24 at 11:39 AM

          Any reasonably educated person will realise what happened in this game. But the random person, whether it be in the USA or in Europe, will see this score and solidify their beliefs about MLS…


  12. Posted by Matt on 2011/07/24 at 8:18 AM

    I really dislike these MLS midseason vs European preseason matchups and I have no interest in watching them. This is where MLS proves to be a mickey mouse league. If you asked 80 percent of the world leagues to play friendlies in the middle of the season in 90 degree heat you would get told to piss off. The MLS is a viable enough league in its own merit without gouging fans to see Gabriel Obertan. I prefer to see the Juve/Club America or Barca/ManU matches. I don’t like seeing my MLS club scheduling midseason friendlies.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/07/24 at 12:04 PM

      Our southern neighbors are playing friendlies right now overlapping with the beginning of their league play.


  13. Posted by Bob on 2011/07/24 at 8:27 AM

    I think MLS is very similar to AAA baseball. If you go to a minor league baseball game, you expect smaller stadiums, players on the rise or in decline, etc etc. I really don’t expect a 7-0 blowout to affect MLS attendance or popularity. Just like I would not expect a 20-0 blowout by the Yankees against their AAA affiliate to affect attendance at minor league baseball games.


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