As I watch Manchester United versus FC Barcelona I find myself looking away, finding other things to do. In what is considered an exciting 2-1 game at the moment, I still find it somewhat boring. It got me thinking… In a game that is so globally renown, the most popular sport in the world, why in America is it considered a 4th or even 5th sport (behind football, basketball, baseball and arguably even hockey)? So being the guy that I am, I came up with 5 ways to change that.
1. The Backfield Rule
I find the most irritating part of soccer is that they spend as much if not more time in the backfield, strategics on how to attack. Looking for holes. The action in indoor soccer is much more exciting. Always attacking. More scoring. And that is the essence of what Americans find exciting. Action. Thus, “the backfield rule”. In the NBA (and obviously all levels of basketball), they have the backcourt rule. You cannot advance to the front court and then go back to the backcourt. Once you are in the front, you are forced to stay there or it’s a violation. Thus a turnover. If soccer had such a rule it would force more action and attacking. Less delays. Once a player advanced the ball to the attacking half they would have to keep it there or lose possession. That rule alone would make the game more exciting. Sure, it would take the strategy out of a lot of the game. But in America we just want to see scoring. So force the action and by default you would have a more exciting game.
2. The 15 Second Rule
Much along the lines of the backfield rule, the “15 second” rule would speed up the action. Force players once they take possession to get it across the midfield line in 15 seconds or lose possession. Once again forcing the action, forcing teams to push up field. The rules originates from the NBA’s 8 second rule. Realizing that soccer would obviously need more time to accomplish this task, 15 seconds seems fair.
3. 4 20 Minute Quarters
Let’s face it, we as Americans have short attention spans. Two 45 minute halves is just too long to keep it. Break it up. 20 minute quarters. 4 quarters with a half-time. It would allow for us to get up and get a beer without fear of missing the goal. Sometimes the only goal. Nothing is worse than watching a soccer game just to get up to go to the restroom and miss the only goal of the game. Breaking the game up into quarters would allow for more distraction, relief and consumption without worry.
4. Marketing and Main Stream TV Deal
If you are not watching ESPN do you have any clue that something exciting is happening or about to happen in soccer? Probably not. Without marketing the game, Americans won’t watch. They don’t know. They don’t care. If this Man U vs FC game wasn’t here in DC and buzzing on my Facebook then I wouldn’t be interested in seeing what’s going on. Sure I saw an ad on ESPN, but for a game this big in terms of fanbase why is it on ESPN2 and not ESPN where they are currently showing Nascar? ESPN is not even showing it on their main channel. That’s how low soccer is in America. Get MLS a deal with Fox/NBC/ABC or CBS. Have a Saturday game. Make it a 1pm EST game every week with the league’s best match up. Advertise it. Make it seem like something we can’t miss. We will watch. The more epic you make it the more important it seems to us even if its a complete dud. This game in DC tonight is the largest soccer crowd here ever. People will watch and come out if you tell them to. Soccer has such a huge international crowd, that with America’s flux of people from other countries living here, they will go to see soccer when its a “big” game. They have repeatedly shown that support. So make every game seem like a “big” game just the same as the NFL does on Sundays. But without the marketing, people won’t care.
5. Pay The Players
Talents brings people. Look at the Yankees. When was the last time they didn’t sell out? Look at the excitement that David Beckham created when he came to play MLS. Truth is that soccer players in America don’t make any money. Players want to come and play here, more marketing for them. Putting their faces on American TV is money. Deals with Nike and shoe companies, apparel deals and the like. But their salaries with MLS teams is abysmal. They make 10’s of millions playing overseas in Spain, England & Italy. As well as other countries. Why play for chump change here? If you pay the players they will play here. If you have the elite players as proven tonight for this game in DC, the crowds will show up. True soccer fans will pay anything to watch some of their favorite players and clubs.
As proven with World Cup games, both male and female. Proven with international exhibitions like Manchester United vs FC Barcelona. People will support the game. They want to come out and see it. So give them a reason to. Make the action more fast paced. Less strategy and more attacking. The 15 second rule with the backfield rule gets the game in the attack mode. That alone is the first thing to change.