Manchester v. Manchester?

The big soccer story on Monday was not an American soccer story.  Rather, it was the battle for Manchester and the Premier League lead when Manchester City hosted Manchester United as the EPL nears the end of the 2011/2012 campaign.   Although the match took place in England, the significance of the game was evident in the United States, and that makes this proper fodder for a blog covering the business of American soccer.

The game was highlighted on the front page of CNN.com (the main site not CNNSi.com) with a lengthy piece about the impact of the match and the way the event was being celebrated around the country.  Bars and pubs opened expecting sizable crowds to watch the game, despite the mid-day start time.  Employees took late lunches or arranged early departures to ensure a seat to watch the game.  ESPN pumped the match with fervor despite a very busy time in the American sports calendar. Twitter was alive with commentary about the game from soccer and non soccer media.  The game was featured on mainstream sites such as USAToday.com, New York Times and elsewhere.

So what is the business significance?  Even in the three plus years that this website has been in operation, the change in soccer prominence has been readily apparent.   While there are still plenty of soccer “haters” among mainstream sports fans (try listening to east coast sports radio when soccer is raised), the game is continuing its creep into the American consciousness.  Soccer continues its rise as a marketable property and a potential source of revenue.    Over the next couple of months, every EPL match on the last day of the season will be broadcast in the United States, each Euro 2012 game will be available on standard cable television, Olympic Soccer (despite the absence of the USA) will be telecast  and games from Spain, Germany, Mexico and the United States will be readily accessible on major American networks. The game is rising fast in the United States and American sports fans seem willing to climb aboard.

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One Response

  1. The primacy of sports in America has historically evolved over time. In the 20’s and 30’s, horse racing (“Upset” is a horse racing term) and boxing reigned, then baseball in the 40’s and 50’s, then pro football had it’s run on top. If the sports landscape in America didn’t change, it would buck the historical trends and I would be very surprised.

    And soccer is poised to move up (even if it’s not ultimately #1 in America) because it is TV friendly (continuous action, predictable game times, and fan atmosphere outperforms most pro sports) and already has a primed global audience (making it a scalable product with global revenue streams). Granted, there is a lot of work to do. But considering the highest value sports club is ManU: would you rather invest 200-300M for an MLS team and try to make it a global brand in 15-20 years, or spend 2+ Billion for the Cowboys or Yankees and hope the club has (relatively) modest returns over that time? Is it easier to interest London sports fans with the Galaxy, or the Patriots? In 2015, or 2020?

    Obviously, I find it hard not to be optimistic about the growth of soccer here.

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