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Jesse's front-page piece

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Jesse's front-page piece

Unread postby TevScale » Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:04 am

First of all, I realize that the subject is a bit ambiguous, since it seems that Jesse has taken full control of the front page at the moment. But I'm referring to his article on the MLS in northeast Ohio.

Let me start by saying that I was a HUGE Cleveland Force fan back in the day. They are the only team for which I ever held season tickets. Their rivalry with the Baltimore Blast was a big and real to me as Browns/Steelers. So I well remember the packed Coliseum for many of their games.

That said, I think Jesse misses a couple of points when using the Force's run of success as evidence that the MLS can succeed in NE Ohio. First, we have to remember what the Cleveland sports scene looked like in the early 80's, when the Force started to gain a following. It was bleak. Now is a friggin paradise compared to the early 80's. Back then, the Cavaliers were firmly in the grip of Stephien, the Indians had not been a contender in a few decades, and the Browns had been mediocre to bad for about a decade (minus the Kardiac Kids year). In short, the city was desperate for a winning team -- and the Force, though never the best in the league -- was that. So a large fraction of those who ventured out to see a game for the first time were probably drawn by the chance to see a home team that was at least competent at its game. Now that the Cavs are about as successful as the Force was then, that drive won't be there. It's not a coincidence that the Force's decline started right about the time Bernie Kosar started taking snaps for the Browns.

Second, indoor and outdoor soccer are two very different games. For one thing, 6-4 was a pretty typical MISL score, not 2-1 as in the MLS. The indoor game is much faster paced, owing as much to hockey (there are line changes and a penalty box!) and basketball in its tactics as it does to outdoor soccer. While I can certainly appreciate an outdoor game played at a high level, I've never become remotely as interested in it as I was in the MISL.

I'm not saying that the MLS can't succeed here, and Jesse makes good points about the demographics and location of potential fans. I'm just saying that using the rather unique run in the 80's as proof is a bit shaky.
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Re: Jesse's front-page piece

Unread postby budfrog532 » Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:10 pm

Well, Cleveland has a professional soccer team.

They are currently drawing about 1,500 a game, so clearly the marketing and fan support picture would have to improve substantially for MLS to make sense.

I think the points Jesse makes are valid, although it is a bit disappointing that he didn't bother to actually research what has gone on/is going on with the currently existing franchise.

I don't know if MLS would really work in Cleveland like it is in Toronto or Seattle, but it is clear that any investment group is likely going to need in the ballpark of $150 Million just to start (+/- $100 Million for a stadium and $40 Million for expansion fee and $10 Million for first year or two operations).

I would prefer to see a group target something like Charleston has done, with a waterfront, 5,000-6,000 seat soccer specific stadium with a pub and an attractive environment, and stay in USL-1. That can be done at a fraction of the cost, and MLS teams can be brought in for friendlies, etc.

Indoor and outdoor are 2 completely different games, and I don't think the Force success, or lack thereof at any point, is really indicative of much of anything vis a vis outdoor soccer.

The other piece that both Seattle and Toronto have done so well, and other people are slowly catching on to, is they have not marketed to soccer moms as aggressively as the true "football" fan. I actually think that Cleveland's strong "old world" roots are a better starting point for marketing MLS than any pool of soccer moms.
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Re: Jesse's front-page piece

Unread postby Cease » Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:22 pm

I consider myself a pretty big soccer fan. I actually watch MLS on ESPN (nuts, right?), and moderately follow English Premier League, World Cup, Euro and Champions League.

The part of Jesse's article that resonates with me is the "major sports" in markets and how a new sport carves out it's share of the local entertainment dollar. Let's look at the success factors involved with the current MLS cites...

Column A: I consider these cities "Top 10 US markets + Toronto", considering market populations. Where it's a safe bet that if the team is positioned and marketed well, it will naturally cultivate a sustainable following of fans while garning a even a small share of entertainment dollars compared to their major sport competitors in town.

New York Red Bulls
Los Angeles Galaxy Carson, CA
Chivas USA Carson, CA
Chicago Fire
Houston Dynamo
Philadelphia Union
FC Dallas
D.C. United
San Jose Earthquakes (Bay area)
New England Revolution
Toronto FC Toronto

Column B: Other MLS Cities. These are mid-major cities (like Cleveland), but there is a striking difference between us and them. With the exception of Denver (Rapids), none of these cities feature three major US sports teams. In these cities, the opportunity is there to fill in where basketball, baseball or football do not command market share and run a profitable franchise with less competition.

Real Salt Lake Sandy, UT - No MLB, NFL
Seattle Sounders FC Seattle, WA - No NBA
Columbus Crew - No MLB, NFL, or NBA
Kansas City Wizards - No NBA
Colorado Rapids Commerce City, CO - Denver has 3 majors + hockey
Portland Timbers Portland, OR - No MLB, NFL
Vancouver Whitecaps - No MLB, NFL, NBA

Two folded teams: Miami and Tampa Bay.


I just don't see Cleveland fitting into either of these groups. Denver is most like us, but it is much larger (#26 rank vs. #40) and an older franchise that got in early. Otherwise, I don't think MLS should even be interested in an ultra-competitive market of Cleveland's size when cities like Phoenix, Indianaoplis, Jacksonville, San Antonio, Charlotte are out there for the taking with much less risk for the league.


My $.02
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Re: Jesse's front-page piece

Unread postby budfrog532 » Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:13 pm

Cesa wrote:I consider myself a pretty big soccer fan. I actually watch MLS on ESPN (nuts, right?), and moderately follow English Premier League, World Cup, Euro and Champions League.

The part of Jesse's article that resonates with me is the "major sports" in markets and how a new sport carves out it's share of the local entertainment dollar. Let's look at the success factors involved with the current MLS cites...

....

I just don't see Cleveland fitting into either of these groups. Denver is most like us, but it is much larger (#26 rank vs. #40) and an older franchise that got in early. Otherwise, I don't think MLS should even be interested in an ultra-competitive market of Cleveland's size when cities like Phoenix, Indianaoplis, Jacksonville, San Antonio, Charlotte are out there for the taking with much less risk for the league.


My $.02


Agreed...that's why I think a Cleveland franchise can happily exist and provide fairly high level (for the US) soccer in USL-1 or USL-2...and without needing a multiple hundred million dollar subsidy to exist.

I am not sure that MLS is the gold standard of soccer franchises in the US. Again, I think the Charleston approach: (a) small, natural grass stadium, (b) reasonable prices, (c) relatively cheap beer, (d) stay in the league where you can compete year in year out --- works.
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