Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dream Sporting Event: Real American Soccer

By Rick Morris

We're introducing a new feature in The FDH Lounge, and it comes at a great time since we're at the deadest point on the sports calendar: Dream Sporting Events. Quite simply, each feature will discuss an idea whose time has come -- a big-time sporting event that could happen if only the Powers That Be in sports, television and marketing could appreciate the fact that big money could be rolling in with proper execution.

We led off the series with a true, best-of-the-best motorsports championship miniseries previously.

This installment concerns a way to do what many think is truly impossible: make soccer really relevant in America.

The premise is that FIFA would decide to make real penetration of the American soccer market its “Manhattan Project” as a means to expand its reach in a true global sense by tapping into the world’s most dominant consumer market. FIFA does have it within its reach to apply the pressure needed on the world’s soccer circuits and tournaments to be able to make this league happen.

In order to have any chance of making soccer important in America, the best players in the world will have to participate, because Americans just won't embrace a game missing all but a small handful of the world's best stars -- and that's where the FIFA leverage comes in. They would need to arrange for clubs the world over to make their stars available for play in this league; after all, the money could take care of all concerned parties -- the leagues and their stars.

The best time on the schedule for such a new league, if it were to avoid conflicts with other existing leagues, would be June/July. However, the obvious problem with this would be an overlap with the game's biggest event, the World Cup, every four years starting with 2010 -- and an overlap with the European championships and tournaments involving other leagues every four years starting with 2012.

So we start from an admittedly controversial jumping-off point: a league that could only play its games every two years, starting in 2011. Hopefully, this condition would help to build anticipation -- because it would, after all, involve the best of the best in the world.

A draft would be held with all top soccer stars in FIFA-certified leagues being eligible, certainly to great anticipation at the outset. For these purposes, we selected the six cities most likely to be able to support big-time soccer in the form of sold-out football stadiums. They are: Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Houston, Washington D.C. and New York.

Each team would play everyone else one time, with an additional game being played in order to create a six-game regular season. From there, the playoffs would consist of semifinals based on regular-season records and a league championship.

Given that even the MLS has been able to achieve national television in the form of ESPN2, it can be regarded as almost certain that this new league would achieve even higher visibility -- likely through a combination of ABC/ESPN outlets.

Here is a sample of what the first season could resemble in 2011:

Tuesday June 7
DC at NY
Seattle at LA

Wednesday June 8
Houston at Chicago

Sunday June 12
LA at DC
NY at Houston
Seattle at Chicago

Thursday June 16
Seattle at NY
LA at Chicago

Friday June 17
DC at Houston

Tuesday June 21
Chicago at DC
Houston at Seattle

Wednesday June 22
New York at LA

Sunday June 26
Chicago at NY
Houston at LA
DC at Seattle

Wednesday June 29
NY at DC
Chicago at Houston
LA at Seattle

Monday July 4

Sunday July 10

With such a small sample of games involving the world's best players, the league would be very likely to see each and every one of its games regarded as a big event. The amount of money generated from the gate and from television would likely be enough to help FIFA achieve what so many have thought impossible: making soccer important in the United States.

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