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Sepp Blatter is the head of FIFA which is the world governing body of football (or soccer). He recently laid the wood to MLS in a recent interview on Al Jazerra TV. While Blatter has been the head of FIFA since 1998 and no doubt has a tough job he obviously has no idea about how to do business in North America.
In North America, the MLS competes with the following sports for attention, space and airtime; NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL (When they play), College Football, and Mixed Martial Arts. That’s a pretty good set of competition. No other country in the world has that much competition and in every other country, except a few, football is the 800 pound gorilla. Not so in North America. That title belongs to the NFL or football as it’s called here.
Blatter said that it’s been 18 years since the US hosted the World Cup and still does not have a strong professional league. In that time the MLS was formed and launched. It has expanded to 19 teams with 14 of those playing in their own soccer specific stadiums. Another team moving into it’s own stadium in the next year (San Jose) and the 2 others that share stadiums with professional football teams (Seattle and Vancouver). These last 2 teams also rank 1st and 6th in attendance respectively.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber is a very smart guy. He came from the NFL so he knows what MLS is up against. He knows that MLS could not survive if it went to the normal FIFA schedule which is from August-May and competed directly with the NFL, NBA, College Football and NHL. He also knows, and has said in interviews, no one is going to go to a New England Revolution game in Foxboro, MA in January or February. They barley go right now during the summer (they are also one of the teams without a soccer specific stadium). MLS’s best bet is to keep it’s current schedule, take on Major League Baseball during the summer and the occasional UFC event.
Blatter does not understand that. He has a one size fits all mentality. While he wants the game to succeed he does not understand how to do that in North America. Don Garber does. We can only hope that Blatter takes Garber up on his offer to go to an MLS match the opening weekend of the season. The word “hope” might be a stretch here too considering that Blatter has dismissed the use of goal line technology, replay and has been accused of corruption charges more times than…well probably anybody.
But we can always hope.