January 3, 2013

In Which Sepp Blatter Is *Gasp* Wrong

Readers who follow the global politics of soccer know that when FIFA president Sepp Blatter opens his mouth, stupidity often follows. So it’s perhaps not a surprise that when Blatter turns his attention to Major League Soccer and its place in the American sports universe, he got it wrong.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Blatter said, in response to a question about the development of the game in China and the United States:
The problem in the United States is a little bit different. But don’t forget that soccer — as they call football there — is the most popular game in the youth. It’s not American football or baseball; it is soccer. But there is no very strong professional league. There have just the M.L.S. But they have not these professional leagues that are recognized by the American society.

It is a question of time. I thought, when we had the World Cup in 1994. … But we are now in 2012 — it’s been 18 years — it should have been done now. But they are still struggling.
Look, nobody’s going to mistake MLS from the English Premier League or Spain’s La Liga. Nor even for the NBA, NFL, or Major League Baseball. But it’s snuck up on pro hockey in the United States and, really, given that the league’s not old enough to drink yet, things are going pretty well. As the New York Times Goal blog puts it:
Perhaps Blatter forgets that Roma, like Rome, was not built in a day. Or that it’s been a while since anyone speculated whether M.L.S. would return the following spring. Or that more than half of the league’s 19 teams now play in new soccer-specific stadiums, and that a half-dozen cities are bidding to host the league’s 20th franchise.
In addition, the league’s gone from buying time from ESPN to get games on television to being paid for the honor. Hell, there was even a bit of a bidding war the last time around, with NBC swooping in to take the rights held by Fox Soccer Channel. Certainly, there’s more to do – my team DC United is basically in stadium limbo right now – but things are headed in the right direction.

Keep in mind, the NFL was founded in 1920, the NBA in 1946, and Major League Baseball dates back to at least 1876. MLS isn’t just a newcomer, it’s an infant by comparison.

So, Blatter’s completely wrong in this instance. In other news, water is wet.

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