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How the NFL's Decline Will Impact Soccer in America: The Need for Connection

by BlakeL
Jul 21, 2014 9:09 AM EDT



Note: Before checking out part three, be sure and read part one and part two for more insight on how we got to this point in our discussion. Now, let's continue.

As sports fans, we want to see the best that a particular sport has to offer. In football, basketball, and baseball, we get that opportunity on American soil.

We understand that Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks on the planet. We understand that LeBron James is one of the best basketball players on the planet.

And guess what? We don't have to go far to find them. They are right here within our borders.

When it comes to soccer, though, we don't currently have that luxury. Instead, we have to actively seek out the best players in another country.

Unfortunately, we don't get the same type of satisfaction in claiming Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo as our favorites that we would get if there was a player in America that could stand toe-to-toe with these two giant superstars.

It's hard to fully connect with them because they were developed elsewhere. We didn't get a chance to watch them grow right in front of our own eyes.



Soccer's global appeal can only do so much in a country like America. The sport needs something to compliment that wide-ranging appeal.

It needs superstars. Superstars that we create. Not superstars that someone else is creating.

Sure, it's great to see high-level players come from overseas to join the MLS. But although we know who they are because of our ability to watch other leagues, we have trouble building a connection with him unless he is considered one of the best that the game has to offer.

The problem is that we aren't getting a Messi or Ronaldo, but instead, are getting players in the twilight of their careers.

So, in knowing that we aren't taking top talent away from anyone else, we must understand that we have to create our own.

That means a more dedicated approach in developing kids at a young age. That means finding ways to improve our system so that it can compare with youth academies across the world that continue to churn out world-class talent.

But again, creating stars isn't enough. We have to give them a reason to stay.

Why is an event like the World Cup so successful? Because people from many different countries get to watch their absolute best talent in one place.

How did the United States break television viewing records during this year's World Cup? Because we understood that we were seeing our top talent in one place.



We have to find a way to build our talent and keep them here in order to give fans that feeling. We have to find a way for the MLS to become the premier destination for even the brightest of talents in our youth system.

Right now, the top US talents have better alternatives.

The main reason why soccer continues to lag behind within the states is because we don't have that constant connection that is needed to continue building a product.

The NFL has that constant connection. We are able to watch players development from a young age until they are finally playing in the pros. They are here for the long-term, and that's what we love about the whole thing.

It gives us time to establish that sincere connection that makes us talk about a particular player or team on every single social media outlet we can get out hands on.

If the potential NFL decline that we've discussed does indeed happen at some point down the road, it won't be because fans stopped connecting with the players. It would be because of the rule changes and long-term health studies that continue to take place.

Soccer would no longer lag behind if it provided us with an NFL-type connection.

Instead of building that connection for one month every four years when we see our best on one team at the World Cup, we could have that constant feeling if we are seeing them compete with each other in the MLS.

If we want soccer to become our sport, we have no choice but to develop our own talent from an early age and continue to help it grow through the system until it can shine on the professional level.

After all, that's what we did with the NFL. And up to this point, that experiment has worked just fine.

This is part three of a four-part series on how the futures of football and soccer in America will intertwine. In part four, we look into the future of both sports to see where they stand on the American sports stage.