Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sunil Gulati's Disservice to Soccer in the U.S.

Someone has to explain Sunil Gulati’s thinking here: U.S. Soccer’s reigning president says he wouldn’t sanction a 39th round of Premiership matches in the U.S., but would relent if FIFA insisted. OK, chances are it won’t happen because the plan is already being flogged everywhere else, England included.

But why would Gulati dismiss it out of hand? Is it not his responsibility, above all, to promote the game here in the U.S., more so than the king of any other football federation in the world? The world doesn’t need the U.S. to embrace football, but Gulati sure as hell needs the U.S. to embrace football.

Bringing a round of English matches to the U.S. would be a coup, a tremendous opportunity to expose fans to something that’s really out of the reach of most. International football has more than been embraced in the U.S. National team matches are consistently sold out and well received; matches are telecast nationally. I attended a Brazil-Mexico friendly this year in Foxboro, Mass., along with 68,000 rabid fans. If you put a quality product on the field, fans will go; they will pay; and they will celebrate the game.

Is it an overall positive for the game? If anything, it’s a neutral to negative--English fans aren’t exactly anxious to dole out their game to the Yanks for one round a year. And I’m sure the players aren’t thrilled about the prospects of 5-10-hour flights to play in the States.

But looking at this strictly from an American point of view, Gulati is doing a disservices to fans and needs to be questioned.

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