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Matt Shepard

Shep's Take: Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves

 

Ok, let's pump the brakes a little. Shall we?

I mean I'm glad soccer fans are caught up in World Cup fever, but we've got columnists asking why we don’t have an MLS team in Detroit, and we've got on-air personalities suggest soccer is close to joining the “major sports.”

Hold on people. It's a win over Ghana for crying out loud. It's bad enough that the worldwide leader is filling our sports plates with an extra heaping of Algeria and Belgium, only to add a side of Mexico and Brazil, topped off with a bowl full of Germany and Portugal for dessert.

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Their website, every day, lists the top four stories soccer-related. Do we need to push the envelope and put a professional team in every major market now? There are already 19 MLS teams, nine of which have seen attendance decrease from last season and seven has seen their numbers increase. Six of the franchises average less than 80% capacity. In fairness, as of last year, there is expansion expected in New York and Orlando and there is a possibility of franchises in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Miami or Sacramento.

The franchise value has risen, and the average MLS team is now worth $103 million.

I will be the first to admit, I don't care for soccer. Never have and probably never will. I am not one of those guys who bash on it even though I've never seen it either. I have been to a game in person in Europe, where it was crazy and a cool atmosphere. I have called indoor soccer, and yes, my children all played when they were younger. Thankfully, they gravitated toward other sports, but it's not like we have never been exposed to it.

I could use an entire blog listing the reasons I don’t like the sport: fake injuries, low-scoring games with very few chances at scoring, over-the-top celebrations and referees flashing little cards in players faces. But I also understand there are plenty of people who don't necessarily care for the sports I truly enjoy (football, baseball, hockey, basketball, lacrosse and golf).  

And before you go knocking hockey, which many do anyway, saying "nobody cares," know this: Only one team entertained average audiences under 80% capacity last year -- the Florida Panthers -- and 16 teams boasted 100% capacity or higher in their buildings on average. In other words, the league played to 95.5% capacity every night. Per Forbes, the most valuable MLS franchise is the Seattle Sounders, worth $175 million -- the same value as the least valuable hockey franchise: Columbus Blue Jackets.

Selfishly, I'd rather have a major league lacrosse league here. I think the sport, like hockey, epitomizes America: tough, fast, and rugged, but that doesn't seem to matter anymore. We want to be "accepted" by the rest of the world, and because soccer is the "world's game" we will strive for inclusion.

Look, I see the soccer ratings where 11 million people watched the U.S. vs. Ghana match. That was really impressive, but a lot of it is because of patriotism. You can’t compare the World Cup with regular season games in other sports. Those are games, this soccer tournament is an event like the Super Bowl. This past year's Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos drew 111.5 million viewers. The game in 2013 attracted 108.6 million!  

Go ahead and cheer for soccer if you want, but don't give me the numbers associated with this tournament and compare to the other four majors. Soccer is still minor league and always will be here in the U.S.A.

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