US Soccer & TSG: On Soccer Growth USA

Always kind of US Soccer to take TSG’s calls. We had a chance a few days ago to chat with them for a bit on a variety of topics.

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One topic that we brushed on more from a conversational perspective and less from an official statement of USSF is how the growth of soccer manifests itself in the coming years…and we learned something new as we meandered through that one.

Part of reason we asked the question was because we were about to publish our ways to improve ESPN article.

Here’s how it went down:

Question:

What is most important to the growth of soccer to the mass audience in America: brand advertisers, gate attendance, television viewing  or other? While they all go hand-in-hand–if you had to pick one that you could have/increase–which would it be and why?

TSG’s contention is that ESPN more than any other entity will have the single biggest say on how soccer grows in the coming decade.

The Gist from USSF:

USSF general message was this:

ESPN as an outlet to follow the game is important. The game is going to grow now and ESPN recognizes the growing fan base across the country.

The coverage of soccer and the interest level now is huge and ESPN is one of its the biggest vehicle and will be a big part of the growth in the next 10 years.

Also, Univision–don’t forget about Univision as well. There is a huge Hispanic market developing.

Actually, a big driver of growth for US soccer is coming from the Hispanic market. Many fans are now not just fans of one national team. It’s not uncommon to hear from a fan, “I’m a fan of US Soccer and Honduras.”

Why not root for both? (courtesy Matt Mathai)

“I’m a fan of US Soccer and Costa Rica.” Guatemala and Mexico as well.

There are a large number of Hispanic fans being converted to the US Soccer market and this is a huge opportunity that Univision realizes.

—–

Wow, learned something new on that one. Thanks USSF. Next up for TSG? Reach out to Univision….

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bob on 2010/03/25 at 12:22 AM

    I would guess that the increase from Hispanic fans would coincide with the increase of Hispanic players in MLS. When I lived in Cbus, there was a strong Hispanic supporters group for the Crew that sat alongside the biggest supporter group, Hudson Street Hooligans. Some of those same fans would wear tri jerseys when the MNT played in Crew stadium, but then quickly change to yellow and black for most of the MLS season. Guys like Blanco, Scheletto, and Angel obviously help with that growth. Also, I wonder if players jumping from MLS to Mexico (like Gomez) or Mexico to MLS (like Orozco) are also sparking interest from the Hispanic fans.

    Reply

  2. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/25 at 6:17 AM

    As a recent immigrant myself, I will probably never be a “proper” MLS fan – it just feels really strange supporting and cheering for another team that is not ingrained in me. However, as a football fan, I love watching a game live, so while I may not wear the colours of the local team** (in this case NYRB), it doesn’t mean that I won’t go and watch as many games as I can. Perhaps NYRB’s can tap into the marketing brains of the Yankees – I see lots Hispanic men and women at any game I go to supporting the home team in full gear.

    **But it also means that I respect the teams and real supporters by not wearing Palace or England to a match – IMO completely wrong and unnecessary…

    Reply

  3. Posted by Ryan M on 2010/03/25 at 6:33 AM

    Even as a born-and-raised n’th generation American with no Hispanic background, I’m a fan of Honduras now.
    After the Hex, I support Honduras, third only to the US and Ireland.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is Univision’s coverage of Central American teams could help them pull viewers even from outside of the Latino/Hispanic demographics.

    Reply

  4. “TSG’s contention is that ESPN more than any other entity will have the single biggest say on how soccer grows in the coming decade.”

    It’s not ESPN’s fault if people fail to tune in. It will be really interesting to see the WC numbers this summer, because ESPN is throwing more weight than they ever have before at the event.

    As for Univision, I think they might have more impact on U.S. soccer growth than ESPN.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Berg on 2010/03/25 at 9:24 AM

    Here’s how my day started. Roll out of bed and stumble on one of the many suitcases my girlfriend deems necessary to take on a vacation (I mean seriously, swimsuit and flip-flops, that’s all you need).

    Me: “I’m excited for tonight.”

    Girlfriend: “I am too. It will be good to away to some warmer weather for a while.”

    Me: “I was talking about watching the opening Sounders and Union game in HD.”

    (Incredulous blank stare from my lovely significant other.)

    No real point to the above story, but I’ve been thinking It’s a bit unfortunate that a game like this is playing against March Madness. It will attract the hard-core soccer fans but everyone else is going to tuned in to see if those plucky Ivy leaguers can stick it to the John “Vacated Wins” Caliparis. This kind of situation isn’t a one off though. Soccer faces an uphill battle to gain a prominent place in the hearts of the general sports-watching public.

    I really agree with the thoughts you’ve posted now and in the past about ESPN being a major catalyst if not a driving force, in the potential future of the MLS and USMNT. Truly, the continued growth of the Hispanic market within the States places heavy development of the sport in ESPN’s best interest. Someone is going to service that market. So who is it going to be ESPN? You or are you willing to stand by and let FSC and Univision grab that market?

    Now I’m willing to credit ESPN where they are due. Playing EPL games is a great move and one that really doesn’t come with a heavy amount of risk for the company. The matches occur early in the morning, far away from the money-making prime time slots and the thought must be that those who really want to watch the games will arise coffee in hand at 7 am to watch the Gunners face the Toffees on a Saturday morning. As I sort of danced around earlier though, ESPN should/needs to grow beyond this built in audience. I believe that they have the know how and the brains to do so. ESPN turned poker into a national phenomenon, with college kids everywhere donning hoodies and sunglasses slugging Nattie Light as they tried to win their roommates’ beer money.

    The World Cup is coming and with it comes opportunity for the league, for the sport and for everyone associated with either to benefit. But what we can’t have though is what I’d best describe as “Olympics Syndrome”. That is, everyone and their mom gets really excited to watch the USA in these less visible sports. For 2 weeks everyone loves those sprinters, bob-sledders, curlers or whatever but one month later the pageantry and pride have faded and these sports have receded into relative obscurity. To some degree, the longevity of positive effects brought on by the World Cup is dependent on success on the field. Still, we need to see a continued effort to keep the sport and its marketable personalities kept in the mind of consumer. This sport can and I believe will succeed in the USA. The degree and speed of this success though, seems intrinsically tied to the efforts of our friends over at ESPN.

    Reply

  6. Posted by marcos on 2010/03/25 at 2:13 PM

    as a mexican american i grew up watching the mexican soccer league and was a fan of el “tri”. Little by little did my interest for the U.S began to grow until a couple of years ago i dicided that i would be a U.S soccer fan. I support the U.S national team but i also watch Mexico as well (dont worry whenever they play against each other im with the red white and blue all the time) i know many latin americans that were born here that are starting to support the national team and im glad that we seem to be growing in numbers.. now about the MLS: i am more interested to see a player like Omar gonzalez or danny cruz who i can defently identify myself with rather than Cauthemoc or scelotto.. i think this is going to attract more latin americans into U.S soccer in the future

    Reply

  7. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/25 at 2:45 PM

    Univision piece on Mediapost — Mediapost is important because it is read by multiple large advertising agencies:

    http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=124920

    Reply

  8. i am a hispanic american i was born in the usa so i do support the usa and i support el salvador my parents countries team also

    Reply

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