Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I recently watched John Dower's Once in a Lifetime, a film about the New York Cosmos and the North American Soccer League.

At one point in the film, an interviewee comments that unlike traditional American sports, soccer demands 90 minutes of attention. Baseball, football, basketball all have many time outs that allow fans to buy hot dogs, run to the restroom, and watch commercials. The implication was that Americans just don't have the attention span to appreciate soccer.

But the film implied that this comment is not entirely accurate since tens of thousands turned out to watch Cosmos matches during their peak years. Unfortunately for soccer, the failure to get a strong TV following coupled with a too ambitious expansion program in the league led the NASL into a quick decline.

So soccer can certainly entertain Americans and attract a huge following. Keeping America's attention, though, will take a great deal of patience, smart marketing, and a conservative expansion schedule. That plus a recognition that it is harder to sell booze and commercials with no programmed time outs.

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