Ssshh, the MLS has started
You know, the MLS.... Major League Soccer, Becks, Posh. Come on, keep up. Well the new season started last weekend and no one realised, because you see it only really starts when Becks shows up with his new haircut in August.
My boys Chicago Fire
, who I've promised myself I will try to see this season, began with a fine home win over New England Revolution
in front of a decent crowd of 15,353. FC Toronto
, managed by Mo Johnston are the latest and 13th team to join the MLS and it is them who will host Beckham's debut on August 5th. Three other teams are slated to join by 2010.
It has been a struggle for 'soccer' teams in this country but Beckham's arrival plus to a lesser extent former national captain Claudio Reyna has given the game a boost and most importantly for the first time it is armed with a significent TV deal
. ESPN and Fox have stumped up $20m per year for 7 years and will televise every game. Of course as the Premiership is slowly finding out the key to making that TV experience work is by filling the stadiums and that has been a problem, particularly in busy sports markets like New York, where the Red Bull New York
side played some games last year in front of just 10,000 fans, in a stadium that holds 76,000.
However most of the clubs now either have 'soccer' specific stadiums, such as Chicago, or are building them and its these clubs who are building the best fanbases plus of course gaining important revenue streams.
Another recognition by the MLS is the Hispanic dollar. Millions of Mexicans watch the Primera División de México
each week on television and are also avid followers of the European game but they rarely attend MLS games. A few years ago Chivas USA
were formed and play in southern California and this year the league has come up with the SuperLiga tournament in July, featuring four MLS teams and four Mexican clubs, with a $1m going to the winner.
The US national team have also been invited to play in South America's equivalent of the European Championships, the Copa America
. This will be held in Venezuela June 26 and July 15.
I will be interested to see the countries reaction to David Beckham, I hope it works out because you sense that 'soccer' is growing slowly in this country. For example more people watched on television the world cup final (17 million) than baseball's 'world' series. Other lesser known Brits have joined the circus as well.
Welsh midfielder Carl Robinson
left Norwich for new-boys Toronto. Ex-Sunderland player Andy Welsh is there too, as is Jim Brennan, who played in England for a long time, although Canada is his homeland. Many players have also arrived from Central and South America. New York have signed 50-cap Austrian midfielder Markus Schopp and ex-Rangers keeper Ronald Waterreus is at The question remains though, are these players here to grow the profile of 'soccer' amongst the American mindset or a nice pay-off because they are too crap to play anywhere else?
Compare Welsh and Robinson with Wisconsin native Jay DeMerit
, who left behind the MLS to make it in the English league. The Watford defender plays in the semi-finals of FA Cup today.
Interestingly Beckham's return to the England squad is being played down by the MLS because a clause in his contract allowing him to return home for internationals would mean a no-show at sold out league games. The US don't utilise the same international calendar and LA Galaxy
playing in packed stadiums without their superstar is not something the powers that be want to see as they bang the Beckham-mania drum.
Chelsea and Celtic will also once again include the States on their pre-season tour (yawn) and I will try to keep an eye on the season and particularly the impact that Posh & Becks have on 'soccer' in this country as the summer moves on.