At the annual retreat for work, one of the sessions involved presenting about organizations we found interesting or good models. Finally, all my knowledge and time spent on BigSoccer and MLSNet paid off. Not all of us were tagged to present, and I felt really bad for eveyone else who actually spent some time researching and preparing for their presentations. I just came in ready to wing it, with some main points I’d thought of on the drive in, and somehow managed to impress the judges enoough to come in first. Here are some of the points I made, as best as I can remember.
I chose Major League Soccer (MLS) as the organization I presented on, not because they are doing very important work or working on some great cause. But they are trying to succeed at something – selling soccer to Americans – in the face of many challenges. First off, the team sports marketplace in the US is crowded with the NFL, MLB, NBA, and – until the lockout – the NHL commanding most sport’s fans attention. Second, they are trying to sell a sport which is seen as foreign, unexciting, unmanly by many sports fans and sports reporters. And finally, a number of sports leagues, some better backed and marketed have failed recently. The XFL, backed by Vince McMahon, failed after only one season. Even the WUSA, founded on the heels and hubris of the USA Women’s World Cup soccer team, was forced to fold after 3 seasons.
This week’s sudden announcement that the women’s professional league in the US was folding prompted a lot of discussion in the soccer world. A good analysis of the situation is at the LA times. While this piece on dailycamera.com hopes to silenece the folks who think this is a sign that soccer in the US is not viable.
I was at the inuagural WUSA game here in DC and also at one or two DC United/Freedom double headers. I’m sad not for the star players of the game, they’ll still be playing on the National and Olympic teams, but for all the other middle and lower tiered players who were trying to make a go of it. I hope all of you find a spot in the game either coaching in college, running clinics, or in the WPSL and that the next first division women’s league comes along real soon.
In a telling sign that Major League Soccer has a little more business acumen than the WUSA is this article in USA Today.
The USSF staff and MLS’ central office and teams are providing virtually all of the tournament’s organizational and business-side structure.
The league’s investors also took considerable risks when they built soccer-specific stadiums in Columbus, Ohio, and Carson, Calif., and when they assembled a production and marketing entity that paid a reported $40 million for the U.S. English-language TV rights to the 2002 and 2006 men’s World Cups, as well as this Women’s World Cup.
Now they stand to reap a reward in the form of TV ad sales, corporate sponsorship deals and stadium fees.
If the USA does get it, it should only help the dying WUSA which has burnned through it initial investment money, has two of its media funders – Time Warner & Comcast – pulling out their involvement, and had its founding member take a paycut. I hope Women’s Soccer can make it as a pro-sport even though its a tough environment for pro-sports overall, as I think it can only help grow soccer overall.
There’s a lot of speculation over where the event would be held, since stadiums will likely be taken over American Football by then. I think the mind’s at MLS would love to have some of the tournament games in Columbus Crew Stadium and also in the LA Galaxy’s new stadium. I expect most of the games to be held in city’s that have a WUSA team and a big stadium like Boston, Washington DC, and San Jose.
Details available on the NY Times, Washington Post, and New Jersey Start Ledger.