If I were to be granted one wish for the 2012 Major League Soccer season it would be to see an end to that small group of North American fans who seem to be obsessed with the way that the League is covered in the foreign press.
Of course “foreign” largely means “British” in this case, and barely a week goes by without somebody somewhere bemoaning either the lack of coverage of MLS, or the fact that the coverage is in some way condescending.
One can only imagine the howls of outrage when on the Guardian’s “Football Weekly” podcast James Richardson informed listeners that they were “watching the MLS Cup Final so that you don’t have to”, providing one more wound in the death by a thousand cuts that MLS seems destined to endure at the hands of the media overseas.
Two points occur to me.
Firstly, it doesn’t matter. How people who are not interested in the League feel about it is of zero relevance to either the present or the future of soccer in North America. Very few sports fans in Europe care about the NFL or the NHL but that doesn’t diminish the importance of those Leagues to the domestic audience.
The future of MLS depends on growing the number of local fans who will attend games or watch them on TV, not on how it is covered in other countries.
Secondly, the MLS actually gets a ridiculously high ratio of coverage compared to other Leagues in the world.
Admittedly it may not be up their with Spain, Italy and Germany (and neither should it be) but compare the print or air time that MLS gets in comparison to the French, Dutch and Portuguese Leagues and suddenly it seems to be very well served indeed.
Go further and contrast its coverage to long-established Leagues in genuinely soccer loving countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico and it becomes clear that MLS isn’t being done a disservice by the British media, it is actually being covered to a degree that it’s quality doesn’t yet merit.
People will quote the “Beckham Factor” as being the prime mover in the amount of coverage received (French soccer is currently enjoying a mini “Joe Cole Factor”) but that doesn’t take away from the simple fact more British soccer fans could tell you that the “MLS” is the name of the league in North America than could tell you that “Superliga” is the league in Portugal or that Brazil hosts the “Brasileirão”.
In short, soccer in North America has never had it so good when it comes to international coverage, but you wouldn’t know that if you listened to some fans of the game here.
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