Josh over at ThroughBall linked in to a fantastic interview that Christian Franek recently did with Eric Wynalda before the USMNT v. Ecuador match. I know I normally quote a bit here and there, but the entire article is quotable. Go read the entire thing if you haven’t already.
I have to say I really enjoyed reading the interview and it’s classic Wynalda. He makes some very direct statements about US Soccer, the MLS, and how soccer can grow in America. His insights related to MLS branding are fantastic. Can’t resist picking my own fun quote:
Now what happens if Sunil Gulati gets off his ***** pedestal, calls Don Garber and says, "That’s it. We now mandate that nobody is allowed to name their team the Butterflies or Grasshoppers or the Little ***** Litterbugs or whatever they want to call them.
Seriously. I encounter a lot of people who don’t know soccer or only know soccer through their kids and are looking to watch more soccer. One of the most common questions is "Why are the team names so pathetic?" Not just in the MLS, but the USL as well. It subconsciously re-enforces the idea that soccer is a sissy sport or a non-contact sport. Every year, as kids in our league move into U10 and U12 where the play gets more physical, I have parents irate that their kid got taken down hard (and usually it was ALL ball the defender trapped) or caught a flying elbow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard "Why are you letting our soccer program degenerate into a contact sport" or "I never thought soccer was a contact sport". Um, yeah, it is, even with 10 year olds. When you have athletic kids chasing the SAME thing at full speed in cleats – contact is going to happen.
Our youth league has 65+ teams in it where the coaches and kids pick the names. Storm, Thunder, Strikers, Eagles, Dragons, Rockets, Fury, Lions, Fusion, Flames, etc. Why are the MLS and USL so worried about naming teams with local historical significance? The Pioneers? Battery?
Eric’s insights about the marketing to kids are spot on. When I see kids in our league, the ones who live and breath soccer, wearing jerseys, they’re almost always EPL or USMNT jerseys. A few have national team jerseys that they think look cool. That’s a marketing aspect the MLS is completely ignoring.
So grab a cup of coffee and read the entire interview. Then print it out and send it to Sunil and Don with some helpful hints written on the margins