Monday, June 11, 2007

Target audience

Since the start of Major League Soccer, league officials have tried to lure Mexican fans. The league brought high-profile Mexican players such as Jorge Campos, Carlos Hermosillo and Luis Hernandez in as part of that initiative. The league also brought in Central Americans and players of other nationalities but until there is a FAS USA or Comunicaciones USA, the American-based Mexican soccer fan will remain the league's number one target.

Perhaps they're going after the wrong crowd.

Home Depot Center played host to doubleheaders on Thursday and Saturday that featured the U.S., Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala and El Salvador. On Thursday, some 22,000 came out. Saturday's games were played before a packed house.

While on Thursday, the U.S. was jeered by the large Guatemalan contingent in the stands, after Saturday's Central American clasico, many stuck around to watch the U.S., and many actually cheered for the hosts.

There were plenty of fans who had no problem showing support for two countries. Guatemalan and Salvadoran fans cheered against each other for the first game, then rooted alongside each other in the second match.

I guarantee you that the response would have been far different if Mexico had played in the first match. Mexican fans would not have stuck around for the U.S.-Trinidad game, and most of those who had would not have cheered for the U.S. Anyone who saw the Cuba-Panama match on Sunday can attest to that. Giants Stadium cleared out quickly after Mexico lost to Honduras.

In Los Angeles, the Salvadoran and Guatemalan communities are sizable. And these respective communities are also lovers of the beautiful game, as evidenced by their recent turnout. Fans are there for the taking, fans who are receptive to American soccer. Major League Soccer just needs to go out and get them now.


bigbluepescado said...

your generalization that none of us would stay around to cheer for the u.s. is completely mistaken, there are a lot of mexicans who consider the u.s. their adopted country and love to see the u.s. win when they're not playing against our native country. you can see many of our t-shirts and hats that have both flags together. especially in europe we love to see the u.s. win because they represent our region.

EdTheRed said...

There were tens of thousands of Salvadoran fans in DC the first two years of MLS...then Raul Diaz Arce was traded (one of the league's first salary cap casualties), and on his way out told the local Spanish-language press that the team treated the Bolivians better than him...and 140,000 or so potential supporters became 140,000 or so Galaxy fans (Cienfuegos) overnight.

This led to a series of "Angry Salvadoran Nights"...whenever the Galaxy or whatever team Diaz Arce was on at the time came to town, 10,000 or so Salvadorans would show up at RFK to cheer as passionately for the visitors as they once had for the home side. Many orders of nachos and cups and bags full of urine were thrown. Lots of fights. One stabbing (though that might have been an MS-13 thing).

By the early part of this decade, "Angry Salvadoran Night" was generally avoided by most of the "soccer family" crowd...although I really did enjoy the hyped-up atmosphere (bags of piss aside).

Then Cien retired, and that was that...but at some point during the Galaxy-United match at RFK this August, when I look around at the thousands of screaming tweens and teens, I just know that I'm gonna miss the old days, when Cienfuegos and the Galaxy came to town, and RFK felt like it had been transported to San Salvador.

James said...

Carlos Ruiz? Pando Ramirez? Cienfuegos? They brought a few fans to every match, but never caused their fellow countrymen to fall in love with the team. Ethnic pandering is a failure in MLS.

alan said...

DC tried to resurrect the Salvadorean experiment a few years ago by signing Eliseo Quintanilla, but he never really did all that much. He's starting right now during the Gold Cup. I'm sure that if another player came along from El Salvador DC would be interested. That said, RFK is a lot less rough than it used to be and I'm not sure if DC front office misses it all that much

L.B. said...

I'm not saying they need to go out and sign half of the Guatemalan national team.

I think the league's desire to grab Mexican fans' attention might have come at the expense of passionate soccer fans who are open to embrace American soccer.

A soccer fan wants to see good soccer regardless of birth certificates and all that. Sure, there are people who like to watch players they like and can identify with but when it's all said and done quality soccer transcends those types of things.

Anonymous said...

"Carlos Ruiz? Pando Ramirez? Cienfuegos? They brought a few fans to every match, but never caused their fellow countrymen to fall in love with the team. Ethnic pandering is a failure in MLS."

They brought more than a few fans to Galaxy games and while Pando was essentially a failure here, lets not forget the great impact that Carlos Ruiz and Mauricio Cienfuegos had on the league and the Galaxy. Also, the Galaxy has won two MLS championships, on two goals by Guatemalans (but yes, Pando unfortunately sucked).

L.B. said...

MLS needs to pander to soccer fans, and there were almost 60,000 of them at HDC over the last four days. I guess that's what I was trying to get at.

Doug said...

edthered, I remember those days fondly. My kids still ask me what happened to Cienfuegos. Not only did he bring the Salvadoran fans out, he was liked by just about everyone. And, I remember watching that game at DC and thinking "who's the home side here?"

Cien should at least be a manager or coach.

James said...

hey anonymous,
In Cienfuegos' best years the Rose Bowl wasn't full of El Salvadorans. I don't see any attendance or ethnic difference from the time that Ruiz was here either. Hong Myung Bo is another example. Chivas USA is the best example. Pandering does not work.

diego r. said...

one thing I think MLS should strive for is to become the first choice league for the best of CONCACAF (Mexico excluded). When Gold Cup comes around the top players from each country (ie: Carlos Ruiz, Dwayne DeRosario) should be playing in MLS. It'd be a good thing to strive for and I think would help a lot in so many facets of the game: play, attendance, passion, etc....