Sunday, March 28, 2010

3-28-10: New York Red Bulls and the State of Soccer in the U.S.

The first thing I noticed while watching the New York Red Bulls match against the Chicago Fire on ESPN was the field. I can't recall seeing a field in that kind of condition during an MLS game. Despite the poor weather, the grass seemed to hold up well, and there was NO CONFETTI on the field. Then, maybe 20 minutes into the game, they had a nice shot showing the entire Red Bull Arena, and I thought "This looks like a European football stadium." A few seconds later, John Harkes, announcing the game with J.P. Dellacamera for ESPN, made the same comment.

The game itself was OK, but not great. New York won 1-0, which is always a good thing to do when you open up a new $200 million stadium dedicated to one sport. But whether the game was in New York (well, New Jersey) or Los Angeles or Chicago, the fact is, the sport of soccer is doing quite well in the U.S. The fans looked to be into it, maybe not as much as they are in Seattle (great crowd; if I were in town during a game I'd be sure to grab tickets if they're available), but the acoustics didn't lie: it was a great crowd for soccer.

I don't see this sort of thing spreading rapidly across the country, but as the World Cup approaches, I think now is the time for MLS and the lower leagues to milk this and to hope things get even better. I don't see them building a lot more soccer-only stadia, but I may have to pay Red Bull Arena a visit this season.

Good work, MLS.

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