Score One For Soccer [coach]9/2/2013 12:52:26 PM
WHENALEXILALASARRIVEDINItalyin1994,Nike Online Store Coupons thefirstAmericansoccerplayereversignedtotheworld\'spremierleague, fansswarmedtheairporttarmactowelcomehim. Butthatreceptionnowseemsunderstated, atleastcomparedwiththebanner--LALASISGOD--thatgreetedLexiwhenhemadehishomedebutwiththeNewEnglandRevolutioninAmerica\'sfledglingMajorLeagueSoccer(MLS). \"Cool, \"the25-year-olddefendersaidafterward, ofboththesignandtheRevolution\'s2-1shoot-outvictoryoverWashingtonlastmonth. ButLalasbristledwhenaskedhowItalianfanswouldreacttothetiebreakingshoot-out, designedsolelyforAmericanappetites. \"Ireallydon\'tcare, \"hesaid, waterdrippingfromhisunrulyredhairontoacustom-madeItaliansuit. \"I\'mplayinginAmericanow. \"LalashascomehometocheckAmericanprofessionalsoccer, ashaveotherhomegrownstarsoftheUnitedStates\'surprising1994WorldCupteam--JohnHarkesfromEngland, EricWynaldafromGermany, MikeBurnsfromDenmark, CobiJonesfromBrazilandMarceloBalboaandTabRamosfromMexico. Theyhaveenthusiasticallyembracedthislatestefforttoestablishtheworld\'sgameonceandforallonaU. S. stage. GivinguptheEuropeanprestigeandpaywaseasy, saysLalas, whencomparedwiththeopportunity. \"Idon\'twanttolookbackyearsfromnowandthinkthatIdidn\'tdoeverythingpossibletohelpsoccersucceedhere, \"hesays. America\'slastseriousprosoccerleaguediedmorethanadecadeago, buriedinredink. Anddespitetheoverwhelmingsuccessofthe\'94WorldCuphere, manybelievedandevensoccer\'sferventboostersfeared--thatAmericanspectatorswouldembracethegameonlyasspectacle. Butwiththeseasononlyamonthold, thenewleaguehasexceededexpectations:its10teamsdrewanaverageof33, 870fanstohomeopeners(including69, 000attheRoseBowltowatchtheLosAngelesGalaxy), morethaneithertheItalianortheEnglishleaguecouldmusterlastseason. Owners, whohadpredictedcrowdsaveragingmaybe12, 000forthe32-gameseason, arenowwhisperingaboutactuallymakingaprofitthisyear, unheardofinanystart-upproleague. \"Westillthinkitwillbeabitofarollercoaster, butsofar, sogood, \"saysCommissionerDougCorbett. \"Nodoubtweunderestimatedthepent-updemandforsoccer. \"TheMLSknewthatAmerica\'sethniccommunities, particularlynewerimmigrants, werehungryforthegame;itbolsteredthosetieswithsomecarefulcastinganIrishcoachinBoston, anItalianmidfielderinNewYork, aMexicangoalieinLosAngeles. LesscertainwasthatsuburbanAmericans, forwhomyouthsoccerisasmuchasportsstapleasLittleLeaguebaseball, couldbetransformedfromeagerparticipantstopayingfans. SofartheMLShassucceededbyemphasizingfamilyentertainment(theRevolution\'shomestadiumoffersanareawithinteractivegamesandotherkidfare)atfamilyprices(abaseticketat$9meansafamilyoffourcantakeinaRevolutiongameforunder$50). \"Thisisn\'tlikefootball, whereparentstaketheirkids, \"saysRevolutionownerRobertKraft, whoalsoownstheNFLPatriots. \"Thisisasportwherekidstaketheirparents. \"Whatthey\'rewitnessingiscertainlynotyettheequivalentoftheeliteEuropeanleagues. Acertainamountofraggedplayisonlytobeexpectedinaleaguewithallnewcoaches, allrookieplayersandnoestablishedstyle. ButABCsoccercommentatorSeamusMalinhasalreadyseenimprovement. \"Thesecondgameshavebeenastepupfromthefirst, justastheplayinthesecondhalvesisalwaysbetterthanthefirst, \"hesaid. TheownersdofretthatsomeoftheMLS\'sappealisnovelty. Butthoughcrowdshaveinevitablydipped, theleaguehasstillaveraged17, 000foritssecondhomegames, morethanmostprobasketballandhockeyteams. Itwon\'thurttheMLSthatitsprincipalcompetitionovertheApril-Septemberseasonismajor-leaguebaseball, whichexertsafadingholdonAmericanyouth. Thosewhodecry1-0soccercontestsasboringclearlyhaven\'twitnesseda26-7baseballgame. WhilesoccermaynotbeasAmericanasMomandapplepie, theMLShaslimiteditsteamstofourforeignimports. \"Theforeignplayersprovidecredibilityandhelpassurealevelofcompetitiveness, \"saysWashingtoncoachBruceArena. ButtheAmericansprovidethepassion. \"IthinkIfulfilledmyfather\'sdream, \"saysWashington\'sHarkes, 29, aNewJerseyboywhosedadplayedsemiproinScotlandandwhobecamethefirstU. S. playertostarinEngland. \"NowIgettopursuemyowndream--toplaythegameIloveinmyowncountry. \"ThetruestarofMLS\'sfirstseasonisashrewdbusinessplan. TheleaguehasscoredTVdealswithABC, ESPNandUnivision, wonheavycorporatebackerslikeNikeandMasterCardandenlistedsavvyownerslikeKraft, JohnKlugeandtheLamarHuntfamily. Andithascomeupwithauniqueownershipstructure:unlikeothersportsleagues, theMLSownsalltheplayers, distributingtopstarstoeveryteaminanattempttocreateparity. Playersalariesstartat$24, 000andtopoffat$175, 000, whileteampayrollsarecappedat$1. 135million. America\'smostnotableprevioussoccerventure, theNorthAmericanSoccerLeague, triedtheoppositeapproach. ThustheNewYorkCosmos, withcorporatecoffers, triggeredaspendingfrenzyfortalentthatensuredthatleague\'sdemise. \"Thekeyiswe\'renotcompetingwitheachothertogetplayers, \"saysKraft. \"We\'reallinthistogether. \"Soaretheplayers, whichaccountsforwhy, aftertheirvictory, RevolutionplayersleftthelockerroomandventuredoutintoachillyNewEnglandspringnighttosignautographsforwaitingyoungsters. Itmadeforarefreshingsightandacontrastwithotherprosportswheretheathletes\'approachtothepublicistoooftenpetulantorprofane. \"We\'rethepioneerstryingtoliftthisthingofftheground, \"saysHarkes. \"Anythingandeverythingwedoisforthekids. \"TheultimatemeasureoftheMLSwillcomedowntheroad, saysLalas, \"when, hopefully, noAmericansoccerplayerevenhastolooktoEuropebecausewe\'llhaveitallhere. \"And, hopefully, they\'llstillsignautographs. Thoughmodestlypaid, America\'snewsoccerstarsdrewopening-weekcrowdsimpressiveevenbyEuropeanstandards. AverageplayersalariesNationalBasketballAssoc. $1, 867, 000*MajorLeagueBaseball$1, 117, 000NationalHockeyLeague$733, 000NationalFootballLeague$714, 000MajorLeagueSoccer$63, 055AveragepergameattendanceinopeningweekBundesliga, German35, 300MajorLeagueSoccer, U. S. 33, 821SerieA, Italy33, 778FirstDivision, Spain28, 773PremierLeague, England27, 991*1994-95Season. Source:SoccerAmerica, variousleaguesGetNewsweekonyourTablet


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