Digital Headbutt

A sports blog about stuff…stuff that involves things.

US Soccer Federation Determined to Make Fans Ignore The National Team

Posted by Mike on February 4, 2008

UPDATE: It appears that FIFA is behind the scheduling of US national team friendlies, and not the USSF. That makes much more sense. Thanks to commenter Michael H for pointing this out.

adu_bradley.jpg

This Wednesday, The U.S National Soccer Team has a big friendly match against heated rival Mexico. The game will feature many of America’s best young stars, including Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley (pictured above w/ Adu), who now holds the record for most goals in a season (16) by an American-born player in a top-flight European league. In addition, some of our top European players (including Dempsey, Bocanegra, Tim Howard, and Heath Pearce) will be on the roster. Many American soccer fans, myself included, are looking forward to watching this exciting match.

There’s just one problem. The US Soccer Federation FIFA, in its infinite wisdom, has scheduled the match at exactly the same time as one of the most important college basketball games of the year: Duke vs. North Carolina, Wednesday, February 6th at 9 pm. Most casual soccer fans and/or die hard college basketball fans will choose watching Duke-Carolina over this friendly. As a UNC grad, I fall into the latter category. Even diehard US soccer fans will have to decide whether or not to watch a game which, while exciting, is just a friendly.

I understand that the game needs to be in the middle of the week, but must it be the same day and same time slot as on of the most important games of another American sport?

My problem with the USSF FIFA is that this is not this first time they have questionably scheduled exciting U.S. friendlies. The major September friendly against Brazil directly conflicted with the opening week of the NFL season. The last friendly against Mexico was last February, on a Wednesday…at the exact same time slot as UNC-Duke.

If the USSF FIFA wants these games to be more relevant, the organization needs to go out of their way not to conflict with major dates in other major sports. Let’s assume, for example, that the game can only be on a weeknight due to the seasons in Mexico and Europe. If the USSF had scheduled the game at a 7:00 EST time slot for Wednesday, they would only have to compete with Texas vs. Oklahoma. While that is a major Big 12 matchup, it doesn’t command the same national attention drawn to UNC-Duke game. If they has chosen to play the game at 9:00 EST on February 19th, the biggest competing game would be Bradley vs. Drake. A major international friendly would command the attention of many more casual fans at either of these times.

There cannot be any doubt that the U.S. National Team is a rising power in the world stage. However, it is the responsibility of the US Soccer Federation FIFA to help promote national team matches not act in a vacuum. In order to make these competitive friendlies more accessible to casual American fans, the USSF FIFA cannot hurt themselves U.S. soccer by ignoring the rest of the American sport environment.

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8 Responses to “US Soccer Federation Determined to Make Fans Ignore The National Team”

  1. Brendan P. Cullen said

    Dude. Seriously? Here in California — where there are more rabid fans of each of the Mexican and American national teams than there are residents of North Carolina — no one gives a crap when Duke is playing UNC. And don’t they play twice a year anyway?

  2. Mike White said

    Brendan: I have a long answer and a short answer.

    The short answer: The short answer: It also wouldn’t be fair if the match had conflicted with a UCLA-Arizona basketball game or a major Pac-10 football game in prime time. It’s not about UNC-Duke. It’s about the USSF’s questionable scheduling decisions (and while not discussed in the article, their less-than-stellar promotion of this match).

    The long answer: This article is not about the rabid fans. Those fans are going to watch the USA-Mexico match no matter what else is on. I was not referring to them. I was referring to fans who want to keep of the National team, but have other established rooting interests. Let’s face facts: there is much more national publicity surrounding #2 Duke vs. #3 UNC than the US-Mexico friendly (even though the match deserves more coverage that the media currently provides). Not only would more casual fans choose the basketball game over the soccer match, they might not even be aware that USA-Mexico is on.

    It’s not just UNC-Duke (a point which I probably should have conveyed better): each of the U.S. soccer team’s last five friendlies of importance (Mexico twice, Brazil, @Sweden and @Switzerland) were either in direct conflict with another significant sporting event, was only on a premium channel such as FSC, or wasn’t broadcast in America at all. The USSF needs to change they way they approach scheduling if they want the casual American fan to pay more attention.

    As for my own perspective, in this neck of the woods UNC-Duke is the most important sporting event of the year (even if it happens twice). Many fans across the country have an emotional investment in least one of these teams (e.g. the nationwide Duke-hating phenomenon). I have undivided allegiance to one of the teams playing tomorrow night. That certainly adds a bit of bias, but do you really expect fans like me to pass up watching that game in favor of a match which, as much as I would like to watch it, is ultimately a friendly of little tangible consequence?

  3. […] Soccer Invisible An excellent post at Digital Headbutt regarding US Soccer matches being scheduled opposite other major sporting events.  For college […]

  4. Michael H said

    Mike-

    Before you criticize the US Soccer Federation, you should understand that FIFA, not US Soccer, sets the calendar for international friendlies. In the first six months of 2008, there are exactly two days the US Federation can call in its best players to play another national team Feb 6 and March 26. When you suggest Feb. 19 as an alternative and also provide additional criticisms about other scheduling conflicts, you should know that US Soccer has no choice but to play its games on the dates FIFA stipulates.

    Obviously, they have some control over the times the games start for home games, but for away games, start times are obviously dictated by the host federation. I’m speculating that home game start times are negotiated with the network broadcasting the game.

    Trust me, US Soccer has improved quite a bit since 2002 in getting fans access to USMNT games.

  5. Mike White said

    Thanks for the information. It makes so more sense if FIFA is behind the dates rather than the USSF.

  6. Ron P said

    They should be more aware of what other sporting events they’re scheduling in conflict with, scheduling the Brazil game opposite the opening week of the NFL was inane, but this isn’t quite as bad, outside of ACC territory, Duke-UNC in February isn’t that big of a deal.

  7. Amaysing1 said

    I was wondering the same thing tonight. After the game was blacked out on ESPN, I changed the channel and saw the friendly on TV. I totally forgot that it was going to be on tonight because of the basketball game. Add scheduling like this as a reason why MLS will never really be a major sport in the States.

  8. Will P. said

    So, for what I believe is the third year in a row, Duke will play UNC on the same night as the U.S. plays Mexico. This has to be more than a coincidence…

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