how the world sees america

U.S. Soccer: Betting on Beckham

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Manchester - Global soccer god David Beckham is coming to Los Angeles this summer, playing for the Galaxy, hoping to make Americans love soccer as much as the world loves him. But back in the town where the legend began, patrons of a local pub called Sku tell me they’re disappointed their hero is turning down the European world of real football for nothing but glitz and glamor.

Americans, I’m told by a girl named Emma Crompton, don’t watch football (as they call the sport here) because there are “two halves, and they’re forty five minutes long in each half, and I don’t think they [Americans] have got enough concentration to watch it.” She pulls out an example, and another speculation: “In the '94 FIFA World Cup, when it was in America, they tried to change it to quarters for ads and, I reckon, because of lack of concentration.”

Beckham-Bucks.jpg
The Sunday Times Magazine says Beckham shouldn't move.
Student Rich Stott chimes in, “You've got three hundred plus million people in your country and money. I'm sure you can make a fantastic football team. Already you've got a great player, he's originally from Ghana, Freddie Adu.” There just needs to be the excitement for the sport. Excitement Beckham and co. is to bring.

Beckham, you see, doesn’t come alone. His wife, Victoria Beckham, or “Posh” of Spice Girls fame, joins him with her own reality TV show. They hang out with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, living in Beverly Hills and sending their three kids, one of whom is named Brooklyn, to local private schools. “Posh wants to be famous around the world; that’s why they’re moving. Beckham is going to regret it.”

By moving from Real Madrid in Spain to America, Beckham will make some major, largely unpleasant adjustments. American soccer locker rooms are open to the press, unlike the European ones, so he’ll be swarmed before and after the games. He’ll have to learn to sing the Star Spangled Banner, which as British magazine author Chris Goodwin notes, was written in opposition to Britain in the War of 1812. And most importantly, he’ll have to content himself with less able competition, one tedious game after another.

Will these sacrifices make soccer big in America, make Posh an international star, or barely make a ripple? The jury is still out. As I pose this question to Rich, he suddenly becomes distracted, his eyes darting up from my camera to the projector screen above.

A dreadlocked athlete in Chelsea’s blue jersey races down the field, soccer ball between legs. The din rises. He shoots, the net ripples, there’s a millisecond of astonished silence and then screams of “No! No! No!” Beer bottles break on the floor and old men with gnarled knuckles weep.

With fifteen minutes left in double-overtime, Chelsea scores the first and only goal of the game. Manchester United loses the FA Cup final.

It was not a spectacular shot by any means, just one that seems to have been placed far enough from the lanky goalkeeper's grasp. “You waited an hour and a half for that?” I wonder aloud, remembering my days as a tiny running back playing high-school American football. There, every moment had a bang. The clock ticked on every play. The touchdowns were grand. Maybe it’s the concentration, like they say. Maybe I’m just unfamiliar with soccer. I decide to give it a few more tries before making any judgments.

The only thing I know is in this exasperated crowd, with riot police poised just outside, I should look after the safety of my video camera. I pack up and leave, deciding to let the miserable throng console its members, and wondering whether its Beckham's star power or soccer skills will change American soccer, or whether he'll do little at all.

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Comments (46)

oli:

I have to say im english and what the emma said was retarded, but i cant watch a whole american football game, i get bored, all the stopping and starting does annoy me but i guess its cause i grew up watching and playing rugby. i find that even tho a game is 60 min play time, how can justify so much wasted time in between. when someone hits the floor, why do they stop. rugby is considered better in england because it goes on and on it has very few stops they do not wear pads and if the get their head stomped on if their not dead they get back up and keep on playin.

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Nicholas Laine:

Wow, If there's anything on the internet more full of close-minded stereotyping, I haven't seen it. But it's what I come to expect from the Washington Post, so I'm not in total shock.

I've noticed that a lot of these anti-American sentiments have stemmed from an ultra-generalization of a population who are truthfully the MOST diverse collection of people in one country in the world. I've seen my fair share of ignorant thinking and condescending attitude towards other's culture, so
I've learned to accept that some people think that way. But I felt compelled to reply to this blog.

When someone like your Emma Compton says “...I don’t think they [Americans] have got enough concentration to watch it.” I see a remark that's not based on experience, but a desire to blast the Americans for yet another imperfection.

Americans can't watch a game for 90 minutes? Its true that American football games are clocked at a mere 60 minutes. But that's 60 minutes of "play time", meaning with all downs and time outs, etc.. considered, a game can last over 3 hours! That's two soccer games back to back. I've been to a few soccer matches. They aren't long. I remember the first game I attended, I was surprised at how quickly it all ended. Short and sweet was how I remembered it and definitely not the endurance test Americans go through at every American Football or baseball game (which also lasts over 3 hours). So where's the legitimate proof that Americans have short attention span? In a football game, we watch every play, every down, we wait in anticipation to see what the verdict is on a penalty flag, jeer at the opposing team's defense as they set up, cheer the running back as he breaks through the line and runs for a touchdown, hold our breaths when the quarterback throws a long forward pass. Every single minute, even those not being played, presents an chance for the losing team to come back and win a daring victory. Many of my European friends, all of whom are soccer fans do not understand the excitement many Americans experience at a football game. Using the same argument as Emma Compton, I could say that they just don't have the patience for that kind of game. Yet they can follow every move of the soccer ball with zeal so what gives? It is not defective behavior that explains why soccer isn't popular but football is or vice versa, and to suggest so is just plain ignorant (and arrogant). There's a better explanation for the discrepancy between the Americans and their European brethren: Culture. Yes even Americans have that.

And by the way, if Beckham and his wife wants to come to America to seek "glitz and glamor" that's their vice, not the Americans'.

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David:

Oy, of course, two halves of 45 minutes each~ are you joking me?? You expect me to watch anything for that long? An hour and a half?
Of course, America's most popular spectator sport is baseball, quite possibly the slowest sport on earth, made up of nine innings at roughly 20 minutes per inning, which if my shaky American math serves me right, equals roughly 3 hours of undivided attention. The shortest baseball games possible are typically longer than the average length of a soccer football match. Not to mention that I have rarely met a European who can tolerate watching a baseball game... but other than these, I'll stick by the degenerate brevity of my national attention span, thank you very much!
No wonder so many Americans go hunting for 14 hours at a time. It's that American need for speed!

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Amar C. Bakshi:

Mike,

I was curious about your comment and worked with Nuzhat Naoreen for washingtonpost.com to look into it a bit. We're not sure of the validity of your statistic, but are eager to learn your sources and be corrected. We found in terms of viewership in the U.S., the Superbowl trumps the rest by leaps and bounds. Then comes the World Series, which is losing viewers but still seems to have more than the World Cup, and then the World Cup which has the least but is growing fast. Anyway, take a look at the info below and please do respond with your sources. Looking forward to hearing from you.



1) World Cup

*
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/hiestand-tv/2006-06-15-weekend_x.htm

But the reality, based on TV ratings, is the Cup is a healthy niche TV event.
The Cup games in Germany are best compared with 1998 Cup games in France rather than 2002 Cup games in Japan and South Korea, which presented big time zone differences for U.S. viewers.
ABC's first three games averaged 2.2% of U.S. households — down slightly from ABC's first three 1998 games, but those included one U.S. game. ESPN2 is averaging 1.4% of cable TV households, up from 0.6% at this point in 1998.

*
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/10/AR2006071001163.html

World Cup Final Receives Its Highest TV Rating Since 1994
Tuesday, July 11, 2006; Page E02
The World Cup final earned a 7.0 preliminary national rating for ABC, a 180 percent increase from the 2002 final in Japan.
Sunday's final in Berlin, in which Italy beat France on penalty kicks, was also the third-highest-rated men's soccer game on ABC since the network resumed airing the World Cup in 1994. Only the '94 final, when Brazil beat Italy on penalty kicks (9.5), and a second-round match that year between the U.S. and Brazil (9.3) had higher ratings. . . .

*
http://www.rasmussenresearch.com/2006/June%20Dailies/soccer.htm

Updated on July 10, 2006: Italy defeated France to capture the World Cup Soccer title this weekend. The game ended in a 1-1 deadlock and was decided in a penalty shootout, which Italy won 5-3.
But despite a high level of media coverage for the World Cup soccer tournament, three-fourths of Americans (78%) are not following the action very closely if at all. A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 adults conducted prior to the World Cup semifinals found that just 6% are following the tournament very closely.
Nine percent (9%) of men are paying close attention along with 3% of women.
The Super Bowl remains the biggest sport championship in terms of fan appeal. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Americans say it’s their favorite championship to watch. The World Series is the only other championship to reach double digits—12% of adults say it’s their favorite.
One-fourth of all Americans (25%) say they don’t want any sports championships.
Despite the general lack of interest in the World Cup by the US audience, the soccer tournament is more popular than the NBA basketball championship and the NHL’s Stanley Cup hockey title. Both of those events were being held at the same time as the World Cup.
Fourteen percent (14%) of Americans say they played soccer in an organized league at some point in their life.
Fifty-two percent (52%) of Americans believe there is a professional soccer league in the United States (and they’re right).
The survey was conducted before the U.S. soccer team was eliminated. However, few were surprised by the lack of success--just 5% of the nation’s adults thought it was very likely the U.S. team would win the tournament.

*
http://www.amconmag.com/2006/2006_07_17/article.html


Yet during the first weekend of the 2006 event, more people in America watched the World Cup on foreign-language networks such as Univision than on English-language ABC. Univision has paid $325 million for the Spanish-language rights in America to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, while Disney (ABC and ESPN) chipped in only $100 million for the English-language rights to these same 128 games. NBC, in contrast, bought the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2012 Summer Olympics for $2.2 billion.

* http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/12/AR2006061201055_2.html

"Soccer is just a sport that's still not dominant in the United States," said Randy Chavez of Albuquerque, N.M. "I'd rather follow baseball, football or basketball, rather than what the rest of the world calls 'football.'"
Indeed, the world's most popular sport is big only around the fringes in the United States _ played by plenty (mostly kids) but watched by few (mostly diehards).
The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association said more than 17 million people played soccer at least once in 2006, third among team sports behind basketball and football, which has actually surpassed soccer in the past year.
"The NFL and baseball appeal to people who aren't even fans of the sport," said Tink Lim, also at Pocono Raceway to watch a NASCAR race. "It's a cultural thing."
Not surprisingly, early TV viewership has been modest. ABC reported overnight ratings for Saturday's England-Paraguay game and for Sunday's Mexico-Iran game at 2.7 _ about 3 million households for each. Spanish-language network Univision was also televising the games. Figures for Monday's game involving the Americans won't be available until Tuesday.
By comparison, the French Open women's final, televised early Saturday on NBC, drew viewers in about 1.9 million households. Even on its worst nights, the Winter Olympics drew about 16 million viewers in February.

2) World Series

* http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/wstv.shtml

You can find a good ratings chart on this site

* http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/29/AR2006102900488.html

World Series Ratings Hit Record Low
By RONALD BLUM
The Associated Press
Sunday, October 29, 2006; 6:29 PM

NEW YORK -- A World Series to remember for the St. Louis Cardinals was one to forget when it came to television ratings.
The Cardinals' five-game victory over the Detroit Tigers averaged a record-low 10.1 television rating and 17 share, Fox said Sunday. This year's rating dropped 9 percent from the previous bottom, an 11.1 for a four-game sweep by the Chicago White Sox over the Houston Astros last year.
What made the low rating more remarkable was that this year's Series went five games and was not a sweep. St. Louis' 4-2 victory in Friday night's finale got a 10.3/18 in figures compiled by Nielsen Media Research, just above the record low for a Game 5, a 10.0/17 for the San Francisco Giants' 16-4 rout of the Anaheim Angels in 2002.
Games 1 (8.0), 3 (10.2) and 4 (10.4) also were record lows for their games, and Game 2 (11.6) was above the low of 11.1, set last year.
Still, in an era of declining network ratings because of the spread of cable television, Fox was pleased it won prime time in all five nights among viewers 18-49. In an effort to avoid low-rated Saturday night games, the World Series will start on a Tuesday next year, the first season of baseball's new TV contracts.
"We are in the business of winning nights and the World Series consistently helps Fox achieve this goal," Fox Sports president Ed Goren said. "There is also no questioning the tremendous yearly promotional power that one of the worlds greatest sporting events and its 15.8 million viewers per night provides the network."
The Pittsburgh Steelers' 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in February's Super Bowl got a 41.6/62 on ABC, while the Miami Heat's six-game win over the Dallas Mavericks in June's NBA finals averaged an 8.5 rating on ABC. NBC televised the final five games of the Carolina Hurricanes' 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in June's Stanley Cup finals, averaging a 2.3/4.
In St. Louis, World Series Game 5 got a 51.7/71 and the Series averaged a 48.9/65. Detroit got a 34.3/50 for Game 5 and averaged 36.9/53 for the Series.
The national rating is the percentage of U.S. television households tuned to a program, and each point represents 1,114,000 homes. The share is the percentage of households watching a broadcast among those homes with televisions in use at the time.


3) Superbowl
http://www.nielsen.com/media/pr_070131.html
SUPER BOWL XL SHOWS SLIGHT INCREASE IN VIEWERS (NIELSEN MEDIA RESEARCH)
In 2006, an average of 90.7 million Americans tuned in to the ABC Network to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks. The event averaged a 41.6% household rating, up slightly from the 2005 match-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, which was watched by only 86.1 million viewers in an average of 41.1% of U.S. households.
In local markets, the highest overall local rating in 2006 – at nearly 58% -- was in Pittsburgh, PA., home of Super Bowl XL champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The second largest local TV audience, with an average of 55.1%, was in the Seahawks home town of Seattle, while Detroit, the hosts of Super Bowl XL, ranked third with an average of 52.6%. Denver, Jacksonville and Cleveland followed respectively as the next three markets with the largest Super Bowl audiences (see TV Ratings chart).
Over the past ten years, the most-watched Super Bowl was the 1996 contest between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX, which drew 94.1 million viewers for an average household rating of 46%. With a rating of 49.1% the 1982 Super Bowl is the most-watched Super Bowl of all time and the fourth-highest rated television program since 1961 (just behind the final episodes of M*A*S*H, Dallas and Roots Part VIII). Overall, the Super Bowl accounts for seven of the top-10 telecasts of all time. Of the top-40 sports telecasts since January 1961, all but six telecasts were Super Bowls.
Super Bowl Viewers Reflect Diversity of American Sports Fans (Nielsen Media Research)
Although men are the demographic with the highest interest in watching the Super Bowl on TV (41.0%, or 42.6 million viewers), a significant number of women, Hispanics and African Americans also tuned in to the broadcast.
Approximately 34.7 million women over the age of 18 watched the 2006 Super Bowl for a 31.0% average rating. Among women viewers, those in the 25-54 age group had the highest interest, with a 33% average household rating.
An average of 27.2% of African Americans, or approximately 9.7 million viewers, tuned in to Super Bowl XL. The highest watching African American age category was 25-54 years olds, with a rating of 33.4%. An average of 15.7% of Hispanics, or approximately 6.1 million viewers, watched the 2006 Super Bowl. About 19.1% of Hispanics over age 55 watched the game, the highest rating for any age category of Hispanic viewers.

Mike:

Can this article drip with more ignorance?

Last year more Americans watched the World Cup than the World Series. Plenty of Americans don't need Ritalin to watch a soccer game.

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi Erica, I'm certainly not trying to create an imaginary fiction between the U.S. and the UK, and I appreciate your perspective on the bar scene. Very neat indeed that we're commenting together on this event, showing perhaps multiple vantages on the same scene. I was sitting in the far back of the room by a large projector TV. Behind me were a throng of very drunk men, to the left of me very gnarled men with dozens of beer bottles strewn about them, and just three blocks away from me near the Starbucks on Oxford Street stood the policeman I spoke to. As to the alcohol comment, that will be sorted with Erica. And if she feels her comments have been misconstrued, let her say so on this forum. I would be glad for a live correction in content and a discussion, as this is a blog. But I feel between the quote in the article, and the video, her view was accurately expressed. Hopefully Erica can weigh in on that front. As far as football louts rather than the main crowd, both the people I talked to would probably resent being called football louts as to the throng in the opening shot! But perhaps we define this person differently? Thanks again for your perspective. Hope this clarification offered something. I think the posts coming in the next few days might make you feel better about perceptions of the US-UK relationship. I'm in Lancaster now and have had some very interesting conversations, compelling ones, with a mother who performed in the circus for a decade whose son is now going to war in Iraq, a factory worker who strongly supports Bush, and a man who works on sheet metal who believes the U.S. and UK must cooperate on the environment. Anyway, all this to say, each post will focus in on one particular person within a broader scene, and try to be true to that scene. As always, I appreciate feedback from readers and will try to incorporate it everywhere possible. Thanks again.

T.J:

To be honest guy's i think it's got rather off the point if you're pointing out spelling mistakes that aren't there.

Are we not talking about Beckham here?

Erica:

Firstly, all I was saying is that he seems to have twisted the truth a lot and I was there so I know exactly what the atmosphere was like.

And secondly why are you taking such offense to this comment? i am merely stating that the American people should not take what is being said in this article as gospel, as we English are being portrayed badly. It is trying to create an imaginary friction between Britain and America.

Hope I spelt everything correctly........

Anonymous:

Also might be worth mentioning that the STUDENT bar you are referring to is in fact open to all members of the public, not just STUDENTS.

Anonymous:

And I will be interested to read some good spelling.

Erica :

Amar, I was also present in the bar at the time of this video and I have no recollection of any riot vans or 'old men with gnarled knuckles weeping' as this, you will remember, was in a STUDENT bar. I think that you have misconstrued the people in the bar, showing shots of stereotypical football louts rather than the main crowd there on the day. You have also edited the video in such a way that the girl is unable to explain her opinion fully. This has now offended many American viewers and has given them the wrong perception of English people.

And I also see that the girl has posted a comment saying that she does not drink alcohol (which you now seem to have changed from beer to cider. still alcohol!!) - again giving the reader the wrong portrayal of her. Shows us just what journalists are like. always ready to bend the truth in order to make their story - tut tut!!

I will be interested to here a response.

Jeff:

Nick Garner, thanks for the worldly insight man. I can tell you're a thinking man. I hope you're spoofing.

Emma:

Amar, im am sorry but first of all you have quoted me as drinking beer, which is not true because i do not drink alcohol. Also how do you intend to email me without my address?

Nick Garner :

Hello there, I'm British and have spent a lot of time in America. I feel that from this article is must point out some of the problems with your country as an average Brit perceives you. Your automotive industry is the worst on the planet and very few of you know how to drive round a corner because your cities are so boring. You insist on calling American Football just that, when really, the clue in the name FOOTBALL. Quarters WERE introduced as one of the ideas for the '94 world cup see: http://www.worldcuphistory.com/cap/org/quarter for proof. Anything else? Reply to this post if you want to hear more!
Yours truly,
Nick Garner
P.S No one in Britain likes George Bush

Nick Garner :

Hello there, I'm British and have spent a lot of time in America. I feel that from this article is must point out some of the problems with your country as an average Brit perceives you. Your automotive industry is the worst on the planet and very few of you know how to drive round a corner because your cities are so boring. You insist on calling American Football just that, when really, the clue in the name FOOTBALL. Quarters WERE introduced as one of the ideas for the '94 world cup see: http://www.worldcuphistory.com/cap/org/quarter for proof. Anything else? Reply to this post if you want to hear more!
Yours truly,
Nick Garner
P.S No one in Britain likes George Bush

Tee:

The first three words in this article is already showing inaccurate info. Bec kham is NOT a "global soccer god". If there was ever a "football (soccer) god", it would be Pele. Other considerations would be Ratini, Zico, and Frank Bec khambaoerg. David Bec kham is not even close to the level of those listed above in term of football great in the FIFA tournements. He is famous because he is good looking, outside marriage affairs, and his Spice Girl wife. Not mentioning that he never won a FIFA World Cup, his football skills were just a flash.

I agree that he is just good for the marketing brands he represents. So, I believe it's misleading to refer him to the global soccer god. He is NOT.

Anonymous:

The first three words in this article is already showing inaccurate info. Bec kham is NOT a "global soccer god". If there was ever a "football (soccer) god", it would be Pele. Other considerations would be Ratini, Zico, and Frank Bec khambaoerg. David Bec kham is not even close to the level of those listed above in term of football great in the FIFA tournements. He is famous because he is good looking, outside marriage affairs, and his Spice Girl wife. Not mentioning that he never won a FIFA World Cup, his football skills were just a flash.

I agree that he is just good for the marketing brands he represents. So, I believe it's misleading to refer him to the global soccer god. He is NOT.

Overated...:

The first three words in this article is already showing inaccurate info. Beckham is NOT a "global soccer god". If there was ever a "football (soccer) god", it would be Pele. Other considerations would be Ratini, Zico, and Frank Beckhambaoerg. David Beckham is not even close to the level of those listed above in term of football great in the FIFA tournements. He is famous because he is good looking, outside marriage affairs, and his Spice Girl wife. Not mentioning that he never won a FIFA World Cup, his football skills were just a flash.

I agree that he is just good for the marketing brands he represents. So, I believe it's misleading to refer him to the global soccer god. He is NOT.

John Semlak:

To follow up on Jeff's comments, it's important to remember when comparing the MLS to the 'major European leagues' that the main European leagues (England, Italy, Spain, France, Germany) have a few powerhouse teams at the top with a number of vastly inferior teams lower down. The gulf in money, talent, etc . between Chelsea, Man United, Liverpool, and say Wigan FC is quite large. It's easy to say now that an MLS team is nowhere near the quality of one of the powerhouse teams. But if you looked lower down the standings I think MLS teams would compare better.

JRLR:

Amar, great job.

Now we know why GWB was reelected. Must be because of that "lack of concentration": "[Americans] have (not) got enough concentration to watch" the political game.

Has it been considered holding elections at much shorter intervals?

Doug F.:

As a typical football-obsessed American sports fan, I think the arrival of David Beckham is interesting, so I'll pay attention to some of the occasional radio reports I hear about the 0-0 ties I didn't watch if they involve him or his wife.

boredwell:

well, i certainly am captivated by David...he's chameleon-like, spontaneously likeable,very good-looking. He has an engaging smile, an ingenuous boyish personality. Americans will love his accent,too.

David's been on his extended 15mins of fame for a decade now. He seems a graceful sort of bloke full of bonhomie & free from the stereotypical star image. Back to Ms Beckham...my advice is not to try to reinvent her erstwhile fame. Other than that, I am looking forward to them in America. I think they will shake up the gossip-slavering mongers. Give em a bit of a flip. Criky.

GCB, WASHINGTON:

i know a little about soccer and the world cup and having Beckham in America will certainly have me tune in considering I was enthralled by the movie 'Bend it like Beckham'.

Amar C. Bakshi:

David, why was it the most heavily attended, out of curiosity? American viewers? I'm emailing Emma now to see where exactly she came up with that statement.

David Raether:

Where did this woman get her information that the US tried to break the game into quarters for the '94 World Cup?

Not true.

Not that I doubt that American television executives would do something stupid. Just they didn't try to do this.

What is true is that the 1994 World Cup -- held in the US -- was by far the most heavily attended World Cup ever and the most profitable.

Amar C. Bakshi:

Thanks for the clarification Jeff.

Jeff:

"The mood at the bar I was at suggested U.S. soccer still couldn't compete with European soccer,[...]"

Ha ha! Yep, that's the typical attitude towards American football in most foreign countries (plenty of nay-sayers here share it as well). The people spouting that drivel generally don't have any idea what's going on in the MLS, if they even know it exists.

Realistically, MLS teams are not currently on par with the very best clubs in the English Premier League, or the top flight leagues in Spain, Italy and Germany. However, the better MLS sides could compete in these leagues as many an exhibition match will show. Remember too, the MLS is only in its 11th season with plenty of room and time to grow.

Amar C. Bakshi:

You might well be right. I'm no soccer buff at all. The mood at the bar I was at suggested U.S. soccer still couldn't compete with European soccer, but it sounds like that's changing (has changed?) fast.

Jeff:

"And most importantly, he’ll have to content himself with less able competition, one tedious game after another."

Nice... Ask the Celtic players how much less able they thought DC United was last summer after getting drubbed 4-1. Ask Real Madrid and Chelsea players what they thought of their matches against MLS sides over the last two seasons. Spoken like someone who shouldn't be speaking about the MLS at all.

The pool of foreign talent in MLS has taken a HUGE leap this season with players like Juan Pablo Angel and Blanco joining MLS sides. Andriy Shevchenko had this to say in a recent interview at SI.com. "I'd like to play there, actually. Soccer is growing in the U.S. and I'd like to be a part of that. I played there last summer against the MLS All-Stars and I saw myself that it's definitely improving."

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/jonah_freedman/05/18/sheva.qa/1.html


Jeff:

Andrew, Ecuador - Beckham is 31 and sees lots of playing time for Real Madrid when he's healthy, and would continue to do so if he had accepted the club's offer to renew his contract a few months ago. The "past his prime" opinion is ridiculously ignorant, and I seriously doubt you speak for the majority of the "Andean football community" with that rubbish.

Sara:

To say that Americans can't watch football because they can't concentrate for a period of 45mins is not only unfair but a bit ignorant too.

I think it has become commonplace to suggest that all Americans are stupid and I think this has a lot to do with some of the Bush-isms we read and hear about.

I also think it has a lot to do with some of the American reality TV and chat shows that are shown over here in Britain (fits in neatly with Amars previous interview!) Maybe they become so popular (Jerry Springer was HUGE at one point) because we can watch them and mock people who, lets be honest often demonstrate a lack of intellect or sanity, make us feel better about ourselves and raise our own status.

I would hate for anyone in America to think that us Brits were all exactly like Tony Blair!!

Amar C. Bakshi:

Thanks John for that clarification. Let me look into that and fix my language.

John Semlak:

One point:

The word 'soccer' is not used only in America. Association football (i.e. soccer) is referred to in every English speaking country, except the UK. In Canada, 'football' means the same thing as it does in the US. In Australia, 'football' refers to Australian Rules football, a totally different game. In Ireland, 'football' refers to Gaelic football, which is similar to Australian football. In many places, including parts of Northern England, 'football' can refer to rugby.

Andrew, Ecuador:

The general opinion in the Andean football community seems to be that Beckham is a player well past his prime who, like other aging English footballers before him, has decided to spend the twilight of his career raking in some American dough.

Jacob, LA:

Beckham is a global phenomenon, but most Americans probably haven't heard of him, or think he's an actor or something like that. I'm eying his arrival with great curiousity. What do you think about golf, by the way? Is that global?

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