US Soccer Marketing Problems


I spent the weekend at the Chicago Magic’s “Best of Midwest” tournament and am playing catch-up so this post will be different then most. Fist let me start by saying I live, breath, and eat soccer. I coach, train, ref, at the youth level, and I bleed “Chicago Fire Red” blood. I am my 4 boy’s most fanatic fan, even if they don’t play soccer.

US Soccer Marketing Strategy

Is there any? I’m not trying to be cute here, but really, is there any? To me it seems the US Soccer strategy is HOPE! Let me give you an example of what I think the US Soccer marketing plan looks like:

We, US Soccer, HOPE:

  • that people will somehow learn that soccer is a sport in their country
  • that people will want to come to a stadium and watch a match
  • that people will get tired of some other sport and maybe consider Soccer – if that would be OK with you other sports out there.
  • that sponsors will see the light and choose to purchase TV coverage even though we won’t try real hard to increase the market share.
  • that more kids each year sign up for soccer leagues even though we aren’t sure what to do with them after that.
  • that people learn just how popular soccer is by the tens of thousand of teams playing each month at a tournament – even though we won’t make any effort to let anyone know ourselves.

Major Problem – Relegation

  1. US Soccer doesn’t seem to want to fight against the other US sports to gain market share.
  2. They are willing to take a back seat to all other sports – even NASCAR. (someone drives in a circle for HOURS, and it beats out soccer programing and news coverage!!!!)
  3. They don’t capitalize on the World Soccer movement. The #1 watched sport in the world.
  4. There is a strong US Youth Soccer movement, that is untapped and taken for granted.
  5. There are several key tournaments every month going on somewhere in the US and you would think the sports news reporters thought these were quarantine zones to avoid.
  6. TV coverage is poor at best. There are a dozen good US matches on in a week, we can see 3 if we are lucky. (MLS, USL-1, W-League, MNT, WNT, etc.)
  7. The MLS leadership/owners demands new mini-stadiums, further validating the sport is smaller then the others – AND THEY CAN’T FILL THEM!!!!

Get Serious – Become #1 – or at least try!

If US Soccer is going to do anthing, they had better start acting like they should be the #1 sport. Whether they can do anything about that now or in twenty years, I don’t care. Stop acting like table scraps is a great way to dine, and demand some steak!

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  1. #1 by Walt Everhardt on May 28, 2008 - 5:19 pm

    Great post. As a soccer fan, it’s always amazed me why soccer has become more popular in this country. It is the most popular sport in the world, it’s a great game, but here it just hasn’t caught on. Plus, I would bet we have more kids playing soccer than any other sport (that’s just from my observations, not hard numbers). I would think US Soccer should be able to keep this fanbase, but I’m not sure if they will, or even if they have tried.

  2. #2 by Tim Rueb on May 28, 2008 - 6:04 pm

    Walt – Thanks for the comment. For a year round sport like soccer, three outdoor season’s (spring / summer / fall), a winter indoor season (granted I’m in the north so other areas of the US will be different.) it is hard for me comprehend another sport with as many kids playing year round. I’ve spoken with coaches that played youth soccer 10 to 20 years ago, and there doesn’t seem to be any traction with US Soccer in the media, the US sports industry, and in the public in general.

  3. #3 by Tim Rueb on May 31, 2008 - 9:09 pm

    More evidence:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/sow/blog/sow_experts/post/English-Premier-League-rankings?urn=sow,79491

    AT&T Yahoo Soccer Blog not updated for over 30 days! Wow.

  4. #4 by Tim Rueb on July 13, 2008 - 9:12 pm

    Another example of poor product placement, on the way from some Super-Y matches in Ft. Wayne, we tried to listen to the Eurocup final of Germany and Spain and could not find it on any radio station.

    We found some NASCAR, you think it’s boring on TV, try radio. Even the car crashes, the only redeemable parts of the sport, are boring on radio.

  5. #5 by Tim Rueb on July 21, 2008 - 10:04 am

    This thought will be expanded in a future marketing post, but my experience with USL Super-Y has been that clubs are fighting clubs more then the sport of soccer is fighting other sports for a bigger piece of the pie.

    It’s good to attract the better talent to the stronger clubs, but wouldn’t we all love to see a bigger selection of players in comparison to other popular US sports.

  6. #6 by Tim Rueb on September 8, 2008 - 8:24 am

    I found a great blog post and wanted to make sure it was added to this thought stream:

    http://saturdayrugbyday.wordpress.com/2006/01/04/womens-sports-still-fighting-for-respect-on-small-screen/

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