Blind Blatter Gives American Soccer A Tongue Lashing

As the New Year has come to the fans and writers of US Soccer, we have to start discussing the wonderful world of FIFA President Sepp Blatter. He has done it again, as the Gaffer detailed in his recent posting.

blatter get 438 300x217 Blind Blatter Gives American Soccer A Tongue Lashing

Blatter Is Not Satisfied

The question of the popularity of soccer in this country has been brought up a lot over the eighteen years of Major League Soccer’s existence. When it comes to the popularity of the world’s favorite game, questions always land here in the United States. We know that the top sports leagues in this country from a popularity standpoint have been the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, NCAA Football and Major League Baseball. There has been plenty of time for American Soccer to grow, but someone wants it to be top sport of our land - and it sounds like he wants it yesterday. That person is Sepp.

In an Al-Jazeera interview embedded in the above-linked article, Blatter was published saying the following: “It is a question of time, I thought — we had the World Cup in 1994, but it is now 18 years in so it should have been done now. But they are still struggling.” 

There has been tremendous growth from the people who support the game and in Major League Soccer. We are only four stadiums shy of having all nineteen sides playing in their own facilities (in 2014, that will drop to three with the opening of the new San Jose park).

We should also point out that American players who got their start in Major League Soccer are also being respected abroad like never before. We know goalkeepers like Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, and Tim Howard have been coveted by European clubs, but we’re starting to see more attacking players gain credibility overseas. Clint Dempsey features at Tottenham, a team that finished in the EPL’s Top 4 last season. Jozy Altidore is in the top 5 of goalscorers at Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. And Michael Bradley has moved to A.S. Roma, one of the top sides in Italy’s Serie A, after an impressive stint at Chievo last season.

But all of that doesn’t register with the “great” President from the House of Football. He is trying to force this “growth” down our throats. The popularity of football in the USA hasn’t met his lofty goals. Once again, he needs a bit of an education to understand certain things.

At the time there were two professional leagues before MLS came around: the United Soccer Leagues (formerly known as the U.S.I.S.L.) and the A-League. When those two sides merged to become the USL in 1996 and officially managed the lower levels as MLS is now the top tier in US Soccer.

Then a reshuffling occurred at the lower levels in 2011, as the North American Soccer League (NASL) was reborn as a USSF-sanctioned D2 league. USL continued to operate at the D3 level with USL-Pro, and also oversaw the amateur sides of the Premier Developmental League (PDL).

That has strengthened MLS. While there is no promotion and relegation, there has been steady expansion after a dark period in the early 2000′s when the contraction of Miami and Tampa Bay occurred. The Pacific Northwest made solid contributions with the Sounders in 2009 and Timbers in 2011. With teams coming over from Canada true expansion sides (Toronto F.C) or clubs that have been in the lower leagues making the leap via financial promotion (Vancouver & Montreal), the league is at a solid 19 teams and still looking to add. This should show Blatter that the Pyramid in the US is getting better. 

But it really bothers you when Blatter makes a quote like the one above without fact or without actually making a trip to the US outside of a CONCACAF Gold Cup Final. Blatter wanted to see soccer dominate the American sports landscape by this point. While he’s welcome to have that desire, it’s nearly an impossible task in a mere 18 years since the ’94 World Cup - especially given the crowded landscape.

Are we struggling here in MLS? Maybe there are times. It’s not a positive thing when a stadium is half full. That shouldn’t mean the top tier has failed, , especially when attendance can be an issue for many teams in other American sports. It also doesn’t mean that MLS is not a strong professional league. We can always question some of the directions they have taken, but MLS has succeeded.

The country has accepted the world’s favorite game, but instead of pointing the finger at MLS and US Soccer, most of the blame should fall to the mainstream sports media. Those are the people who have truly failed the sport. They refuse to give credence to the sport, outside of the once-every-four-years World Cup. Even when the U.S. has qualified for several tournaments in a row, the big networks seem to lack enthusiasm towards the cause.

Not only that, it’s the stodgy editors of certain newspapers or stuck-in-the-mud producers of sports talk radio in many markets that give soccer the silent treatment. And that’s at best; if they do bring it up, it is often to lampoon it with all the typical stereotypes we’ve heard for many years.

We have spoken, and we know that our voices are being heard. Slowly but surely this game will be on the lips and fingertips of the mainstream sports media and there will be nothing they can do to stop it. It’s only a matter of time.

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20 Responses to Blind Blatter Gives American Soccer A Tongue Lashing

  1. CoconutMonkey says:

    Perfect headline.

  2. Harry Cee says:

    Good article. Once again Blatter shows just how much he is out of touch. Maybe he hasn’t seen how many new facilities have opened or seen how many new teams have been added just within the past 10 years. Some times an explosion is not what you need but a good smoldering flame that catches on.

  3. Brad says:

    Clearly we didnt bribe him. That appears to be the method of getting what you want within his organization.

    • Clint says:

      It is simple. Soccer is the top 1% of $$$$ in the rest of the World. Not even close to NFL+MLB and the franchise that go along players. As the “Worlds Sport” Sepp controls the $$$ there. USA doesn’t play that game! So he is irked. I feel for the man, because when the USA does take charge of “the Game” he’ll be “Red Carded” out.

      For the rest of the posters here, wake up, US media plays what US $ buy. Do yourself a favor and see how many European channels show MLS fictures (aka soccer games). Zero, 0, null, nada! Then make your educated comments?

  4. Charles says:

    DF, why do you bring up players playing in Europe when saying that MLS is doing ok….if MLS were doing better, they would be playing here. Isn’t that proving his point ?

    I agree with the media, but once the fans show, as in Seattle, the media jumps on board very quickly.

    Ps Vancouver, Portland, Seattle and New England all share a stadium. It is at least 5 right now, if you care, which I don’t.

  5. Mark A says:

    Disparaging comments by a corrupt homophobic racist? Should be a badge of honor…American soccer is alive and flourishing. Time for Blatter to be shown the red card.

  6. Kurt says:

    Growth of American soccer doesn’t occur because you have more teams and soccer specific stadiums alone. It really grows when kids play it in grade school, play competitively for their high schools, then as adults take their children to the games.

    Just noted the figures, but soccer now ranks #4 as the most favored game by American females in high school, surpassing softball. Soccer is #5 for males.

    Americans are “sports crazed”, not simply for soccer, but many sports. That won’t change overnight. With more quality teams and advanced stadiums, the gaps will be closed. I played in my youth and took my daughters to soccer games any time I could. My daughters, both adults, don’t go to baseball or football games (well, they do go to college basketball), but never miss the local MLS team.

    I posit that American soccer will grow based on the participation of American females. The more who play and participate will expand the fan base. When they have kids, they’ll be available to coach. This will take time, but will be successful. Eighteen years isn’t sufficient time to change 100+ years of tradition.

    Blatner is goofy and wrong!

  7. Dan Phillips says:

    The reason MLS and soccer is not more succesful in US is mainly the lack of scoring. If you talk to any non-soccer follower in this country, he or she will say, because it is too boring to watch 0-0, 1-0, or 2-1 games. Americans love offense and lead changes. Get rid of the antiquated offside rule, as well as some other changes, that increase goal production and you would see soccer thrive here. Until then, soccer will only make incremental progress at best. That is the sad reality!

  8. Alex says:

    in the first blatter article i made the mistake of not actually looking at the video. now that i have i have to say everyone is taking blatter’s words out of turn. from what ive seen he didnt criticize our level of play. he criticized how theres a gap between our youth levels and MLS. we tend to focus too much on MLS and not give NASL or USL the time of day. they have a hard time keeping up and developing players. how many stars have we seen come out of NASL or USL? we rely too much on the college draft to be the influx of players between our youth levels and MLS. thats what i got out of Blatter and frankly i agree. he says “soccer is the most popular game at the youth level, not american football or baseball; but soccer” yet he makes the point we dont take advantage of that. youth players get to a certain point then stop. either they are drafted or are lost. theres no direct avenue like in other countries. are we trying the fix that? yes. MLS is growing no doubt, and im proud of that but the problem of youth development exist and thats what i feel he points out.

    • Charles says:

      I could say

      “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”

      and you would read Pro/Rel, not the best judge.

      Soccer doesn’t stop at the youth level, there are 12,500 soccer players in college. That is crazy to believe, considering when I started playing, maybe 10% of the population knew what soccer was…probably not 10%.

    • Clint says:

      England has a park on every corner with a pitch, not a diamond or court. US has a park, a Y, school, or club with a diamond, a court, and/or gridiron instead. We play, just “Not” soccer only.

      FYI: Germany has almost the same, Belgium not quite as much. All this means is we train at more sports as kids. We do quite well on international levels in all sports, and frequently beat other nations at “their” own sports like soccer.

      Much ado about nothing, really!

      As for US youth I have coached youth here, in baseball, football, and soccer. Seen the soccer academy concept and now “suffer” (due to infighting and arrogance)the competitive level as a father . Fact is: US soccer has put $$$ before sport just as Blatter has done on the global scale. Perhaps what he is ‘wizzing’ about is we don’t pay him enough. Or, we don’t pay him at all???

      Make it a game not a career, and they will come.

    • Da Gooner says:

      Agree completely. While the MLS is a legitimate professional league, the NASL and USL hold open tryouts for all their teams, and salaries are not enough to live off of. The USL is the equivalent of the Blue Square Premier in England, its just not good enough. Personnel changes almost entirely between seasons. While I believe the MLS has progressed, these leagues are still floundering, and with little to no support from the top, it isn’t changing.

  9. Speaking of sports media, here in Seattle where the Sounders have a fanatical following, the local ESPN radio affiliate completely ignores the team, save disparaging remarks about soccer and a lone Sounders talk show in the Saturday morning ghetto timeslot during the season. The Seattle Times newspaper offers some coverage at least.

    When a team does as well as we do and has so many fervent followers but gets so little respect in its own town it shows what kind of difficult road MLS has ahead of itself. That said, all we have to do is maintain the level of growth and interest and success will eventually come.

  10. Da Gooner says:

    Blatter is a bit out of touch, but he does have a point. Starting next season every EPL game will be accessible on live TV. The MLS gets 1-2 nationally televised The games a week. This is the wrong direction, but the networks see money to be made in the EPL and not in the MLS. The MLS doesn’t have very good strategies for promoting their league. For one, there is no team between FC Dallas and DC United. The league has completely ignored an entire region of the country, and to be a big time league you cannot do that. Second, MLS teams are marketing themselves based on these washed up former European players, and the international image is that the league is more of a retirement home than a viable league. If you want people like Blatter to take you seriously, you have to do big, bold things, and ignoring millions of potential fans, failing to market yourselves well, and maintaining a small canvass isn’t bold.

    • Da Gooner says:


    • The Gaffer says:

      Da Gooner, every EPL game next season will not be accessible on live TV. Many of them will, as they are now on FOX Soccer. But not all (some will be shown live on the Internet instead courtesy of NBC).

      The Gaffer

  11. Josh Jackson says:

    Crazy…I’m reading this article & the posts & you guys are missing the mark completely.

    Popularity of the sport is not lacking in this country…rather, it supersedes so many sports its not even funny….quit comparing it to leagues that have been established in this country for 100 years, please.

    It’s not about lack of scoring or talent or growth…all those things are fine. The Beckham experience has only given more credibility to the league, & other such signings only get more soccer fans to the stadiums rather than people who aren’t soccer fans at all.

    You guys are completely missing the mark on Sepp’s statement. He’s never had a problem with the enthusiasm or popularity of the sport. He knew way back in 1990 that granting the USA World Cup ’94 would be a huge success, whether we had a fully-functional outdoor league or not. His main problem is out league still operates during the scorching-hot summer which makes things in his office a nightmare to deal with.

    (Chuck Blazer) “Hey guys, we got this World Cup to plan”
    (Sepp Blatter) “Wait, aren’t the American’s playing soccer right now this whole month?”
    (CB) “Yeah, we have to because we used to have to share out venue with American football teams!”
    (SB) “Grow up.”

  12. David says:

    “He is trying to force this “growth” down our throats.” Um, did you think this sentence through before you wrote it?

  13. read this says:

    Yes! Finally someone writes about facebook.

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