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.
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.
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.