US Women Come to Hartford

For the second time in 2010, the United States National Team will play host to European competition in East Hartford, Connecticut.  Last time, it was the Men hosting the Czechs, today it is the Women hosting Sweden.  It will be the second game of a two game series against the Swedes (the teams played to a 1-1 draw earlier in the week) and will be televised on FSC at 7:30.  After the team trained no Friday, we got a chance to speak with a couple of players about some business issues.

We spoke with recently first time capped Sarah Huffman and defender Ali Krieger following practice.  Both are “Nike athletes” with Huffman playing for the Washington Freedom of the WPS and Krieger playing for Frankfurt in the Women’s Bundesliga.  Both player spoke glowingly about the travel accommodations provided by the USSF with Huffman indicating that the accommodations are  “the best that it could be” and Krieger indicating that USSF travel is “more luxurious…they take good care of us”.  Both described the differences between club/college travel and USSF travel with the most notable difference being the willingness of the USSF to travel to a location earlier than the day before a match.  Because both athletes are sponsored by Nike, there is little transition when to the National Team because of the USSF’s Nike sponsorship.  Other players may have to make a change, but are allowed to keep their cleats.

We also asked whether the players are cognizant of media coverage, marketing and attendance at their matches.  Krieger indicate that Womens’ Soccer gets “way more advertising” in Germany…”billboards and things are always up around the cities, so I think there is more coverage there”.   She continued, “I think it is a huge deal, because the more people that come out and get interested in the game they are going to tell their friends and family to come out and enjoy the game.   There are different age groups that you have to target and I don’t know if we are targeting every one of them. We need more advertising and commercials to get different age groups out…right now we are targeting the younger age groups and their parents…In Germany you have older guys and their dogs coming to the game as well.”    Krieger also stated that the ready availability of WPS matches on television is a distinct difference from Frankfurt and Germany, where the games are typically available online.

We were actually surprised at the limited number of media in attendance, especially with local product Kristine Lilly such a headliner.  However, it may be that the local media is suffering soccer fatigue after the tune up match,  World Cup and Thierry Henry.  The field was in great shape (a thought echoed by the players), and advertising for the game was not yet up in the stadium.  It was horrendously hot on the field and the practice was fairly quick. Although the stadium typically hosts UCONN football, the only reference to the Huskies were some bowl banners at the top of the stadium.  After the practice, USSF p.r. staff was exceptionally helpful in arranging player interviews and providing logistics for the rest of the scheduled events.Thanks to Ali Krieger,  Sarah Huffman and the USSF.  The game against Sweden is tonight at 7:30 on FSC.  We will offer some post game business thoughts as well. 

Americans in Hartford: A Business Recap of the US v. Czech Republic

Last night the US  Men played the Czech Republic in our backyard before more than 36k.  Because we were at the game last night, we thought we would revisit some of the business aspects of the match in East Hartford.   The total attendance was extremely impressive and the crowd was dominated by fans of the American team.  The crowd was an interesting mix of 20 somethings, youth soccer teams, soccer fans and locals out for the unique experience.

The price point was quite high for tickets, but that didn’t prevents fans from turning out in big numbers.  The parking lots were open 4 hours before game time and filled quickly with tailgaters and early arrivals.  Stadium prices were high; a hamburger, fries and water cost $14.  Beers were selling for $10 for a 10oz draft and parking was $15 a car.

Stadium signage included the usual USSF sponsors, including Castrol, Gatorade, Jose Cuervo and others.  McDonald’s sponsored the pre-game ceremonies with all 22 kids involved with the starting lineups wearing shirts with the Golden Arches.  The new Nike commerical ran at least twice in the stadium in its entirety and the ESPN feed ran throughout the game on the big screen.

Coverage in the local media was fairly extensive, especially after the game.  Most of the major networks ran multiple stories following the game both as part of their news coverage and sports reporting.  The local paper, the Hartford Courant ran photos of the game on both the front page and sports page, but pregame coverage in the paper was lacking.  The local ESPN affiliate broadcast its drive time show from the stadium, and guests included Sunil Gulati and Alexi Lalas.

Overall it was great night for the Greater Hartford area and a great audition for a future games with US Soccer.  The US Women will be in East Hartford in July.