Roger Bennett has written a follow up post to Alexei Lalas’ provocative Tweet from January:
Last night this was discussed: If you live in the U.S., can you call yourself a “soccer fan” even if you don’t support @mls?
— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) January 29, 2013
Bennett explains how Lalas came to write this Tweet:
…once he posted the above statement the following morning, he was instantly exposed to an avalanche of heartfelt arguments from Euro snobs obsessed with the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga, as well as MLS stalwarts.
“Some people were insulted that I could possibly doubt their standing as soccer fans just because they did not follow MLS,” Lalas said. “Others heartfeltly agreed there is a patriotic responsibility to be an ambassador because MLS needs you.”
First of all repeatedly chastising your target audience with the epithet “Euro snob” doesn’t seem to me to be a winning strategy for getting these viewers in the fold. And patriotism and guilt don’t tend to drive TV ratings, which is what MLS desperately needs to shore up its on-field product.
I have my own theory as to what MLS should do. Target younger stars currently languishing on over-stocked Big Club sides as potential DPs, maybe. But more importantly, use the United States best sporting intelligence—which includes sports science and analytics—to make Major League Soccer a major global development league.
The lack of relegation provides should push teams to experiment with young players and in-depth, cutting edge scouting strategies. Instead, some of the less impressive sides don’t employ an analyst and used the head scout role as a patronage appointment to an old ally (which club is he talking about, folks?).
Garber could lead on this rather than hammer home the notion that MLS will somehow catch up with Europe because you know, yeah. And MLS’ boosters might look for ways the league could stand out in an increasingly competitive global field.