That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary
Back in 1994 during the World Cup USA ’94, I covered that event for Telemundo Bay Area. I had the privilege of interviewing the incomparable Edison Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé); considered the Babe Ruth of Fútbol in the world. Pelé was traveling as a an ambassador of soccer, with the Brazilian team, who won the cup that year. Among my many questions, I asked Pelé was the future of fútbol here in the United States? He told me: “In about twenty years, it will be one of the top sports in this country”.
It is true, a lot of kids are playing soccer nowadays in the United States, but that has not translated to world class talent in the world professional stage for the United States. No sport can succeed today in this country without a big television contract. I have talked about the MLS from the very beginning, the only thing it has that is “major”is the name, but the talent is not. They have tried, bringing great starts, like David Beckham and such.
Since my interview with Pelé in 1994, kids have played and are playing soccer in the US, but how many American born soccer stars do we have? We are knocking on the door of 2014, It has been twenty years since my interview with Pelé. Is Soccer/Fútbol, any competition in television ratings or revenues to the other professional leagues here in the US? No, not even close. The World Cup is it, but that happens every four years, and yes it is the second sporting event in the world, only second to the Summer Olympics.
Many, many words have been spent on other websites, forums and social media theorizing why MLS ratings were poor in the past. FOX Soccer was blamed for its poor production value. FOX upped their game but the ratings didn’t prosper. Many MLS fans argued that NBC would be the answer with its better production values and ability to show games on national television. However, despite better ratings than FOX Soccer (it couldn’t have gotten much worse), those vocal critics of the poor job that FOX did and how NBC would change everything are now silent.
The bottom line is that Major League Soccer is sub par to the other leagues that are available on television.
Even with a more consistent schedule, a night dedicated to a game of the week, and other changes, the fact is that it’s not going to make that much of a difference.
Based on TV ratings, the growth of soccer in the United States has been largely fueled by the US Men’s National Team, the US Women’s National Team, the Mexican national team and English Premier League. Major League Soccer is not on the map compared to the other pro-sports league in the US.
For Telemundo and Univisión it is a big deal, but although this country is becoming more bilingual by the minute, still MLS (Major League Soccer) is not even close to the NFL, MLB. NBA or NHL.
I still believe that for soccer to be a success and a rival to the other leagues here in the United States, this country has to produce American superstars in the world scene, even though it is not a sport in which Americans have been raised with, not a part of this culture, the public in this country wants to see stars. Does US soccer have a LeBron James? Soccer is not indigenous to the country, marketing and the American public do better when they have-home grown stars they can promote, otherwise it will continue to be an imported product. Now, I remember when I first arrived in California, back in 1969, California wines were good, but could not rival those of Europe, today California grows some of the best wines in the world, but that has taken over 40 years. Maybe soccer in the USA can catch up with Europe in ten or 40 years from now.
Amaury Pi Gonzalez is in the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame and does News and Commentary each week for Sportstalk Radio