At the Red Bull New York-New England Revolution game Saturday night. (The Mighty Revs won 1-0 on what the replays showed to be a beautiful Andy Dorman goal; I missed it because I was text-messaging Mrs. Curious Capitalist). Attendance wasn’t really as dire as it appears in the above photo. Presumably to make things look better for the TV cameras, Red Bull ticket sellers cram people into the north stand:
Reported attendance was 13,819. Which looks really lame in Giants Stadium, but wouldn’t be bad for a hockey game, a basketball game–or a soccer match in most smaller European nations.
Amid David Beckham’s grand entrance in California Friday, there was lots of jabber on the TV and elsewhere about whether Becks could either “save” soccer in the U.S. or vault it into the ranks of the NFL and MLB. Meanwhile, there’s been tons of dismissive talk in especially the English media about how Major League Soccer is miles below the top European leagues in quality.
But to become a permanent and successful part of the American sports scene, all that MLS really has to do is become a bit more popular than the NHL and field teams good enough survive in a second-tier European league like the Dutch Eredivisie. This is an age of niche entertainment, and the MLS can do just fine economically merely by broadening its existing niche a little.
Soccer already has a much bigger fan base than hockey here. It’s just that most of those soccer fans think the MLS is too low rent or too Anglo for them. There’s also a big talent pool of American players; it’s just that many of the most talented young ones would rather try their luck in Europe than use the MLS as a springboard.
Will David Beckham’s arrival change any of that? How the heck am I supposed to know? He will, definitely this year and probably for the next two or three, bring out lots of people to MLS games who have never been before. And he will sell tons of L.A. Galaxy merchandise. Especially to his relatives, as the Washington Post‘s intrepid sports blogger (or bogger) Dan Steinberg learned Friday:
I should note that I stopped into the team store to look around, and suddenly the place was locked down and Posh Spice was standing a few feet away from me, snapping up Beckham merchandise. Soccer balls, warm-ups, jerseys. The final tally came to $583 and change. She saw me writing down her purchases.
“We’ve got to look good for the first game, right?” she told me. “We’ve got three boys, myself, my sister, my sister’s children, my brother, my dad, David’s family.” I asked how many t-shirts she was buying.
“A lot,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of family.”