With a sellout crowd, over 300 accredited journalists and a game broadcast viewed in 150 countries, league officials hope yesterday’s LA Galaxy/New York City FC match is a blueprint for future MLS matches.
To say the atmosphere was electric at StubHub Center yesterday is an understatement. At a time when soccer fans are blessed with an abundance of viewing choices — fans could choose between plenty of English Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and MLS matches on cable this past weekend — the fact that an MLS match was a highlight events says a lot about where the league is now. The talent level is definitely up across the league with some high-priced imports (Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane give the Galaxy credibility, while Giovani Dos Santos is definitely a potential superstar), and fans are responding: MLS has attracted some 5.3 million fans just for league games this season. That’s not counting tournament play or friendlies.
“Yes, I think anytime you are in this kind of environment and you take success it’s good, and I think this will eventually become a norm in this league; not only here, but in all the venues around the league,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena in his postgame comments. “If anything, today, I think it tells about the growth of this league and the kind of support we are getting in the market is phenomenal.
“I do remember I coached in the opening game of this league in 1996, and we’ve come light years. Today was maybe a bit of recognition of the growth of the league, and certainly we have a long way to go, but we are certainly pleased to have these types of games today and obviously more in the future. We wish it would’ve been 30 degrees cooler, but we don’t control the weather.”
No, you can’t control the weather, but you can control what happens on the field and how the game is promoted. On both counts MLS has shown some definite improvement this season.
Image of Giovani dos Santos courtesy LA Galaxy.