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Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It's called "Brews and Views" and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We've got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we'll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we're asking our respondents the question, "Why American soccer?".

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we've got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world's game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It's ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men's National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA's Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, "Why American soccer?", then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that's like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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"American Soccer: The Revolution Has Only Recently Been Televised"

By Elliot Turner/ Futfunatico.com

In my younger years, I fell in love with the band "Built to Spill." Why? In the roaming fields of perpetually bored fly-over country, individuals with a disdain for commercialism clung to bands with independent labels and non-formulaic song structures. The two things largely coincided. We cluttered into foul-smelling college town dive bars, due in equal part to the band's originality but also the relationship's intimacy - we looked around and felt we were the only fans of these poor touring folks. Then Pitchfork happened. And by Pitchfork, I mean the internet. Geography eliminated, local talent more easily identified, financial success re-defined, another Pacific Northwest band floated out of my radar and into chorus-driven commercial oblivion.

This is the indie dilemma. In success, there is a threshold, a line to be crossed with care. Contrary to popular belief, soccer has had a loyal fan-based in America for decades. But, as David Wangerin noted in his book "Soccer in a Football World," the sport belonged largely to well sprinkled and unconnected immigrant communities. Those communities are now pretty connected. In particular, Hispanics have stepped to the forefront. But as the soccer revolution enters a new era, the looming specter of "gentrification" rears its ugly head. Will soccer challenge the mainstream or be gobbled up by it? 

First, let me admit that, in principles, MLS probably needs to increase revenues in order to acquire more talented players. However, my most serious concern is also personal - I personally enjoy watching two 45 minute halves of uninterrupted sporting goodness. Television timeouts in American football and basketball pose an ominous threat to the joy of flow and the delight of continuity. The NBC broadcast deal could be the smoke before the fire - can a major network and its sponsors cope with so little time & space to shout about tangentially related products? The great danger is that MLS will go the way of Modest Mouse, blandly accepting redundant choruses to the tune of bigger bucks. 

Second, as attendance steadily grows at MLS games, how much longer until we see significant ticket price spikes? Right now, an MLS game is per seat the best deal in town. For a Red Bulls regular season game, tickets generally vary from $25 to $65 dollars. Hockey prices are comparable but a bit higher. Baseball tickets range from $75 to $330 dollars. Basketball tickets range from $22 to $1770 dollars (note: I think this StubHub quote includes corporate suites). American football tickets go from $54 to $600 dollars. Basically, the cheap seats are about even between MLS and other sports, but the huge disparity in prices between bad seats and great seats is very limited. A decade from now, will you still be sitting with your kids at the halfway line? Only time will tell. 

I give lots of credit to Don Garber for getting rid of frills like the walk-up-penalty kick and focusing on simply selling the product to people who want to buy the product. If the rest of American businesses had followed this model, they would similarly be selectively expanding amidst domestic economic stagnation. But the temptation to water down the product is about to grow from a trickle to a tsunami. Some day, we may be subjected to John Madden cleaning his own drool and Terry Bradshaw shouting to the backdrop of animated robots who alternately explode and play soccer. Let's try not to let that happen. 

Elliott blogs about soccer at Futfanatico.com. His recently published first eBook, "An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish," is available on the Kindle and the Nook.

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