American soccer gains recognition

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United States fell flat on its face in the Gold Cup this summer; however, it has definitely improved the sport in this country. Former manager Bob Bradley took the team as far as he could go, and the individuals who called for his firing should also thank him for opening the door for Jurgen Klinsman, who will help bolster domestic soccer in America. We’re going from a manager who stresses foreign experience for his players, a la Clint Dempsey at Fulham and Stuart Holden at Bolton Wanderers, to a manager who wants homegrown talent, e.g. Brek Shea at FC Dallas and Teal Bunbury at Sporting KC. This alone will continue to bolster an already successful league.
Naysayers will claim that the MLS stands for Minor League Soccer, but when arguably one of the most successful managers in soccer, Sir Alex Ferguson, says that the league has “unbelievable possibilities,” that is very good news. With now over 17,300 fans attending every game on average (putting them fourth among professional sports leagues in America, higher than the NHL), the MLS definitely has hit the tipping point.
At 18 teams  (with Montreal poised to become number 19 next year) cities across the country are jockeying for the next expansion, as the league has proven to become financially viable. New York, Las Vegas, Detroit, Orlando, San Diego, Atlanta and San Antonio have all had representatives in talks with the MLS to have an expansion team. Atlanta is trying to follow the Philadelphia Union’s structure, with Atlanta Falcons owner speaking with Jon Bon Jovi in order to sell shares of the Falcons to finance the construction of a soccer-oriented stadium in the Atlanta area. Orlando wishes to restart the MLS in Florida, where it flamed out in the league’s early years.
Wherever the new club turns, it is eminent that the MLS has desired to make a successful franchise in the southeast. It is very possible when international exhibitions are being held at the Georgia Dome and other stadiums to thousands of spectators. Even more, every expansion team has helped bolster attendance, with Seattle Sounders FC now over-capacity on average, forcing the upper deck to be opened for the first time, and over four million fans seeing MLS games last season.
As someone who has seen an MLS game (Columbus Crew versus Chicago Fire), I can say that the atmosphere is electric. While it still has a way to go to match that of La Liga, the Barclays Premier League, or the Bundesliga, people are coming and experiencing the economic success.
The Columbus Crew Stadium kick-started a wave of soccer-oriented stadiums which helped generate growth and expansion in areas needing an economic boost during a tough economy.
Since 2004, the league has become economically viable, prompting the expansion battle. It is truly great news for men’s soccer in America.
With the Women’s World Cup this past summer, there has been a rapid interest among fans. Even if only for the sex appeal, you can’t deny the interest in soccer in America has grown. Males and females have their heroes both at home and abroad, but the Americans are becoming household names. Everton F.C. lives and breathes by the saves of Tim Howard in the Premier League, while kids back home in America try to be as good as their hero, the same one who had ribs broken by the evil English a year ago in the World Cup.
There have been moments in American soccer that will be remembered as beneficial to the growth of the sport, namely the 1994 Men’s World Cup, 1999 Women’s World Cup, the 2002 Men’s World Cup, the 2010 Men’s World Cup, and the 2011 Gold Cup. Yes, we lost that, but the introduction of Klinsman is going to help bolster this nation and our version of the “Beautiful Game”. But in essence, the state of American soccer is good, and I can’t wait for the future.

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