A Futbol Future?
Feb 24, 2013
I’m sure I’m not taking a wild shot in the dark when I say that soccer probably isn’t high on everyone’s sports totem pole. In fact, I bet there are several of you who have bust out a Daniel Tosh-esque rant on the game from time to time.
If that’s somewhat similar to your opinion, I hope I don’t lose you for the remainder of this blog. I enjoy the game. I grew up playing the game. I even lasted past the reversible jerseys, soccer moms in minivans hauling half the team around, and the whose turn is it to bring the orange slices and Gatorade phase. Don’t get me wrong, I will never protest that I was any good, at any stage of development, I don’t even recall if I cracked the starting lineup at Senior Night of my high school finale! I own an Arsenal jersey, albeit I cannot wear it regularly anymore, thanks a lot, Robin Van Persie.
So, color me excited when I see a Major League Soccer team visit the Triangle. If you missed it, the Vancouver Whitecaps visited WakeMed Soccer Park on Sunday for preseason play with the Carolina Railhawks. It’s nothing new, of course the Railhawks stunned the MLS champion L.A. Galaxy in the past. However, it’s hard to put aside the feeling that this wasn’t a glimpse at the future too. Professional soccer at the highest level’s been talked about before, but every year the rumblings seem to get a bit louder.
“The end goal is to get better every year and grow professional soccer in the Triangle,” said Carolina Railhawks President Curt Johnson. “To bring a championship back to the Triangle, certainly.”
It’s not an overnight process, and no one is going to pretend that it will be. On the whole, the MLS has failed to succeed in the Southeast. Both Florida franchises in Miami and Tampa Bay were 86’d in 2001 and there’s been currently no presence along the East Coast further south than Philadelphia. Typically, the league looks for venues that can house 20,000-25,000. The facilities at WakeMed are on their way though. The $7 million dollar upgrades now offer 10,000 seats, a party deck, four additional suites, and improved concessions and amenities. Johnson says ultimately the fans and the owners will decide what level the ‘Hawks will play at.
“More importantly, the growth in partnerships, in terms of sponsorships, season tickets, and overall attendance growth,” Johnson said. “We doubled our attendance.”
There’s no denying that the interest is here. And growing.
“The passion for the sport at all levels is here,” Johnson said. “You see the success stories around the country, in certain marketplaces selling out regularly. Seattle averaged more than 40,000 a game during the regular season over the last couple of years. There’s no reason a similar level of success can’t happen here.”
Meaning the Whitecaps and Galaxy could become regular visitors in regular season affairs, as opposed to just special events.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” said Johnson.
Could Major League Soccer lie underneath? I, personally, hope so.
Currently listening to: The Black Keys, “Little Black Submarines”
Most Recent Comments
RE: A Futbol Future?I should add that while I think soccer is a complete bore, zzzzzz, I do enjoy watching the UNC women's team completely annihilate any team in their way. That is awesome.
RE: A Futbol Future?First off Jared...burn that #20 Arsenal jersey. If he doesn't want to be a Gunner, then let him go. I will proudly wear my #9 Podolski or my #10 Wilshere and support the side.
I enjoy watching the BPL, UEFA Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup & Capital One cup matches. I also keep up with the USMNT and USWNT. We have to remember that the rest of the world has like 100 years headstart on the US regarding interest in the sport. Will we ever get there? In all honesty, probably not in my lifetime.
But there are things that the US can do. First, I agree with Paul (even if he is a Blue), we have to get on the world schedule. That would make things so much easier in regards to loans, transfers and scheduling internationals. I also think this would help our USMNT with training. Also, we do need to keep developing players. The US is more than just Howard, Dempsey and Bradley. We have Brad Friedel @ Spurs, Brad Guzan @ Villa, Danny Potts @ West Ham, Jermaine Jones @ Schalke and Jozy Altidore @ Alkmaar, just to name a few. We probably have 20 or so players playing in Europe right now at various levels. Could we say that 20 years ago? We are getting there. Finally, I love that Jurgen Klinsmann was named USMNT coach. He understands the world game.
Anyone who doesn't like futbol can reduce it to the lowest denominator. I mean, isn't tennis just hitting a ball back and forth until someone misses, isn't golf just hitting a ball in a hole or isn't basketball just shooting the ball into the basket?
For those of us who love the beautiful game, it's much more than just kicking a ball around. A nil-nil draw can be a great game with lots of action.
So...go watch a Railhawks game or catch a college game in the area. Understand that the quality is not on Europe's level (hey, the Bulls or Mudcats are not MLB), but supporting local futbol develops interest which develops talent.
RE: A Futbol Future?Have to admit, not a huge fan, but have been tempted to go catch a Railhawks game. Hoping that watching it live may make it more attractive. Going to a Durham Bulls game is one of my favorite things to do and I love the sport of baseball, but I can honestly say that I can not remember the last time I watched an entire game on television. I'm willing to give anything a chance, but even if I don't enjoy it, I'm not going to degrade it, I just won't go to games or watch it.
RE: A Futbol Future?Jared,
We are getting there in the US. The changes have been subtle over the last 40+ years that I have been doing this futbol thing. We, now, have a viable top pro league that have great stadiums and s in those great stadiums' seats on a game to game basis. The Triangle produces many great youth players (both boys and girls) that play at the top of the next level. In fact, it is, probably, the sport that produces the most top level Division I athletes from this area, no matter how you analyze the data. It is a continuing growing sport that has finally settled into its niche and that NICHE is growing. I, for one, am looking for continued growth....here and elsewhere across the country! Thanks for putting your sentiments into words! Charlie Slagle
RE: A Futbol Future?Good blog. I think the comments are a reflection of the attitude towards the sport, as it stands with 4 so far, 1 hater, 1 big fan, 1 supporter, and a passing plus 1.
Myself, a person who has played, been a certified ref, and Chelsea fan, I also watch the GAME.
Because it is a game. The attitude of the hater, is like the one who hates on NASCAR, "cars driving in circles". If you don't truly understand the sport, you cannot appreciate it. If you don't understand what a it really takes to play the game, (can you run for 90 minutes?), the skill entailed in dribbling (watch Lionel Messi), and just try and kick the ball in the goal, now do it again with a team defending. A 0-0 can be an awesome game, if you can appreciate and understand fundamentals, which just goes to show why celebrations of goals are so passionate.
The hurdles that the US needs to get over is a REAL development problem, such as good programs for the youth, (major clubs outside the US all have youth programs), a real dedicated tiered division structure (MSL > NASL? > USL? ), and also a MATCHING schedule to the rest of the world.
I think the Railhawks are generating buzz in the Triangle and it will take support to make them grow. Obviously the facilities are good enough for the US Teams to play on, but a dedicated stadium should be built, with the Wake Med park be a training ground. There is quite a bit of good land right near the airport that could be developed.
I like RVP, he is on my fantasy team and wish he hadn't gone to P-U, but it demonstrates the need for World Class strikers. Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard represent the US well, but we need more like them. Michael Bradley is getting there, but is improving.
What is needed is better coverage of the sport on a broader range of channels and streaming media.