What is Our Obligation to the MLS?

Posted: February 2, 2011 in Major League Soccer, US Soccer
Tags: , ,

On the eve of the 2011 season a lot of my players have been giving me a hard time. I love the MLS! I think it’s a huge privilege to have a professional soccer league in my country. My players on the other hand think we need to be supporters of European clubs to be real fans of this beautiful game.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching European soccer. I’ve been watching EPL, La Liga, and Serie A matches since I was a little kid. I spent part of my childhood growing up in Europe and Asia, and soccer was much more available on public TV than it was here in the USA. The quality of soccer in these traditional regions is undeniable (along with Latin and South America). But one thing I learned hard and fast growing up as an expatriot was a deep passion to see my country develop and succeed. Any international competition was a matter of pride. As a US citizen I had to rely on the summer Olympics, baseball and basketball to really come through for me. But something happend in 1994 that shaped my love for the US-MNT forever; we didn’t fair too badly! In fact, we out right belonged at the World Cup! I was able to hold my head up high around the neighborhood and not be ashamed of how my country men faired in the greatest competition of the world.

When I moved back to the USA I started supporting the MLS right away. Here was our chance to make an impression and develop the internationals that would challenge for World Cup glory. Sure it wasn’t as sharp and beautiful to watch as some of the soccer I saw growing up, but it’s OURS!

I still love to watch international clubs. Watching Barcelona dominate every match with beautiful team play and amazing ability is something you can’t take your eyes away from. And yet there is something about sitting in the stands of a professional soccer match here in my home country supporting a sport I love, and want to see grow from where it is right now.

We’re starting to make our mark on the world. The 2002 WC was another very exciting time for us, and whether you thought 2010 was a success or a disappointment the fact of the matter is we have higher expectations of our MNT than we did in 1994. We expect to make it out of qualifying as one of the top two teams in CONCACAF. We expect to come away with points out of our group at the WC, and we even expected our team to win the group and press on in the finals of the WC. This shift in our presuppositions has a big part to do with the development of our domestic league.

So what is our obligation to our home league? Do we owe it to the MLS to pick a team and sit through the season pretending to be a fan? WHY NOT? These boys are playing the best soccer our country has to offer (and I’m not one of them even if though I tried my hand at it). I’m coaching young, aspiring athletes and my dream is to see them play at our collegiate or professional ranks. What am I communicating to them if I don’t even watch it?

Why not be a fan of MLS? Doesn’t mean we can’t have our favorite teams in La Liga or EPL! But if we were real fans of the game wouldn’t we want the best in our nation to be better? And how can our league grow and expand if the soccer faithful here don’t even support it?

I really didn’t have a club in the MLS because I grew up moving around so much as a kid. California, Colorado, Georgia, etc. So when I finally landed in Dallas, TX I adopted FC Dallas because it was the first city I had the privilege of living in that had an MLS franchise. I attended as many games as I could, took my players to local SMU and FC Dallas games, and became a fan. Even though I don’t live there anymore I’m committed, and I make that known to my players. I still support PSV and Everton, but I make sure people know my first love is the MLS and our MNT. We need to start developing a national pride and support for our home teams. We need to be passionate when we talk about the USA WNT dominating international competitions. We should be sitting around TV’s on game nights supporting our MLS clubs like the American football and baseball fanatics.

The soccer culture in the USA needs to make this transition to become a real sport culture in our society. If we don’t have national pride and support for our own soccer, we’ll never develop the growth or the players to compete. And I believe it’s happening. Some of the clubs in the USA are really showing how local support is growing (FC Dallas struggles a bit though). Let’s keep it going! If you’re a citizen of the USA and haven’t found an MLS club to support I challenge you to adopt a team that puts even a small fire in you.

  1. val says:

    I feel your pain. I coach girls and try to take my team each year to Washington to see the Freedom play, but the team has been bought by the guy who invented the CarJack phone and he wants to take the team to Miami. In fact, he has floated the idea of the team playing half its home games at Miami this year. So the pro leagues for both genders suffer a bit.

    While I follow the MLS, I have to admit that I don’t watch it at all. I don’t have a TV so to see a game I have to go to my father-in-laws house and I’ll only take the trouble to see a Premiership game.

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