They said it couldn't be done: Soccer makes it in America. Actuality can't turn on the TV without seeing a soccer game — what gives? We talk with U.S. players Crystal Dunn and Matt Besler to figure out how global football became a media cash cow in America.
United States


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00:00:22I'm sorry been ashore from Marketplace and I'm Tim fernholz from quartz and this is actuality futile effort can't be done obviously but I know absolutely nothing about but even I know as a soccer ignoramus that it is a big deal especially this summer deep one recent issue of Sports Illustrated sported Lionel Messi the Argentinian Soccer Star on the cover it was not reviewed well by everyone the cover is a Lionel Messi where is he going to without question just take over America I know absolutely zero about soccer
00:01:20then what did we just listen to Will that is the guy who says this can never be done that is Mike Francesa he's a New York sports radio personality Dee titular Mike of Mike and the Mad Dog he's 62 years old yeah it's a voice from the past how about how about a modern Millennial born in 1992 voice years Crystal Dunn She's a soccer player on the US Women's National team is the reigning MVP of the national women's soccer league soccer growing every single year and Americans are now becoming more aware of soccer as a sport you know what the evidence is on crystal side Sports Illustrated called this the summer of soccer for a reason that's because we have either happening in the US are on u.s. TV One
00:02:06the Copa America centenario the hundredth anniversary of this South American soccer tournament happening in the US with the US team play 2
00:02:152016 European national championships huge deal in Europe all over TV here in the United States that's on ESPN3 the Olympics US Women's National team is on the warpath there plus you have major league soccer you have the national women's soccer league and a plethora of International Friendly matches from European Club coming over here to get our dollars there's going to be hundreds and hundreds of hours of soccer TV in the US
00:02:44well I'm celebrating just today the day that this podcast comes out there are four major International games on u.s. TV at 9 a.m. noon 3 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Eastern so I'm going to get my fill and I'm going to probably do something else but I sure but you sucker really isn't for us this summer for Americans Beyond just soccer dorks like me and soccer didn't rain I like free let's figure out why that is the case
00:03:20Copa America
00:03:24so today this very day the u.s. entering the quarter finals of the Copa America and a week ago we talked to someone who's playing in it this is not be a member of the u.s. national soccer team he also plays in MLS for Sporting Kansas City Matt thanks for giving us a ring yeah you're welcome I want to talk to you a little bit about the fans of Sporting Kansas City it's what I probably the premier clubs in in the League 3000 person waitlist I saw four season tickets in in people always talk about how you know the US needs to build a fanbase and it seems like that you guys have done that in Kansas City what is your experience been like as a player when you walk around yeah I mean the Transformations incredible I think it's definitely probably the the most successful transformation in and Major League Soccer and maybe you could probably argue that in all of sports to you know my rookie year 2nd year
00:04:17I was I'll be out to pizza or something or be walking around the plaza me nobody would know who you were and now it's completely different now you can't even walk down the street and you know people are wearing Sporting Kansas City scarves and sweatshirts and car decals all over the place and and now and they they come up to you you know it's it's right away it's like hey Matt like how you doing like great game last Saturday great play that you made like in the 60th minute like I was watching I was there I was watching on TV and I don't know it's just everyone is is more interested they're there more involved and they're also I think probably more educated too so it used to be that for an American soccer player to make it they had to leave the US and play in Europe you didn't win not when the opportunity kind of presented itself for me the answer was staying here and Major League Soccer and and representing Sporting Kansas City I believe that that was going to make mimosa
00:05:17as well as a as a player in NFL person and that's why I decided to stay over here did you I wonder see a similar change in as a soccer became bigger and bigger did you say similar change in your paycheck of course the game is obviously growing when did you look at your paycheck and say whoa well something is going on in in soccer World it was it was my second contract that I signed it was a four-year contract you know that was kind of when I felt like alright I can make this work I can be a professional athlete a professional soccer player I can I can make a career out of it and I'm sure that obviously of course had much to do with your performance you're a great player but I also had to do with the growth of soccer why do you think it is as a player that soccer has become the great success that it is it's on TV more so people can watch there's no more
00:06:17sponsorship opportunities there's more fans the the quality on the fields getting better and I think a big thing to is that you know I'm I'm 29 years old and I feel like my generation was the first generation to really grow up with the game when I was 4 or 5 years old every kid around me was playing soccer so everyone knows the rules and they know strategies and they know no techniques and so they're they're not intimidated by the game maybe like you know my parents and you know Who's My Generation you know we're starting to have families now and we're starting to pass it down to our kids and I think that's a big big factor and why you know sort of soccer in this country is is starting to take off
00:07:04well in the meantime we will wish you and the whole us team a lot of luck at the Copa America and a lot of luck to you with the sporting this season thank you very much for talking to guys
00:07:20that mentioned there's this intergenerational transition happening in soccer arenas parents didn't get it but now it's being passed on from generation to generation actually interesting is that he's a little bit wrong in that we we have had previous generations who are totally infatuated with soccer here in the US it's true and it happened less than a hundred years ago actually just about a hundred years ago in the 1920s there was a thriving US soccer league called the American soccer league it was driven by immigration immigrant workers coming to work in factories in the factories would actually have their own teams but it quickly became like an actual professional soccer sports thing even had Europeans complaining that their best players were going to America to work in factories and play on the soccer teams that's like it's crazy it's like the reverse of recently knew us but it all went away why it's a reminder of how things can be but it's a matter of greed and bad timing in 1928 V
00:08:20organizers the business figures behind the American soccer league actually got in a fight and split the league over money issues and who is going to have what money it was bad timing to do this the fans got dissolution the stock market crashed and it just sort of fell apart and by the time the Great Depression and World War II head came and went other sports like baseball and football head really sees the American psyche bummer for soccer fan yeah bummer actually I mean 1 lesson of America's previous flirtation with soccer was that to make the sport work we need the business of it to work so whatever we're talking about a sport where usually talking about professional sport as much as I love the biathlon one of my favorite Winter Olympic sports there's a reason that professional by athletes are not super well-known but professional basketball football and soccer players are and that's because there's a lot of money behind those Sports and so
00:09:20what understand how soccer became big in the US we have to understand how money became a part of it not just like FIFA corruption money but also like honest-to-goodness sports business putting butts in seats get eyeballs on TV revenue and that's why we're going to talk to John guppy John guppy is with Gilt Edge soccer marketing it's a soccer marketing agency hey John very good how are you today doing great John people even fans like to joke that soccer is going to be America's sport of the future for the foreseeable future do you think I'm wrong soccer the sport of now I think it's been the sport of now for a few years I do think we hit that Tipping Point with the Brazil World Cup in 2014 I think it was appreciated as a mainstream spoiled by everybody that matters and fans media the culprit world this summer we going to see more of the same when we going to see
00:10:20another very exciting opportunity for people to get behind to know America get behind the red white and blue and you know be excited by this International Tournament is coming to the u.s.
00:10:30your job is a is a marketer's to find dr. loving us consumers for advertisers when would you say that it became easier to do that I've been pounding the pavement of corporate of corporate America near 25 years I mean I generally can remember in the early nineties where if we could get a company to take a meeting to talk about soccer we would celebrate in the holes I can remember talking to people that this and people just staring at me with with blank stares so that would suck a marketing in the early nineties those days are long gone I don't think there are many companies out there and said Aunt intrigued by what soccer camp attention we bring to the table as a fashion point that doesn't mean that everybody's going to jump on board with the sport of settled a solution but I think there is pretty General recognition now the soccer has something that's value
00:11:30and if it makes sense for a brand maybe we should take a closer look what do you think you suckers roll will be in this kind of world of Mega Sports TV deals that we're now in countering is an insatiable appetite I think from the broadcast industry for the life content I'll give you a couple of fax say I'm in those 2855 soccer matches broadcast and live in the United States national available in 2015 so think about that for a second that's a little less than eight games every day on average there only 15 days in the entire calendar yeah where there was no soccer game broadcast my fiance is aware of every single one of those as is my wife and my entire family so I think in terms of Supply There is almost a limited supply of socket content for broadcasters in all the big TV players both English language and Spanish language
00:12:30you're fighting for your rights when soccer is probably the most competitive Wright's Market there is four for sports here in the US what does soccer need now to keep growing
00:12:44I think soccer needs to continue to do what it's doing does Kevin Payne who is a friend of mine who used to run DC United and Toronto was was last playing media report a number of years ago you know what's the one thing that soccer needs to do to take itself to the next level in the in the US and his answer was the one thing we need to do is to stop looking for the one thing I need to do you wear on a natural trajectory of gross demographic changes in America supporting the sport America's getting younger it's getting more Multicultural and the female agenda is driving a revolution on the Gulf side of a sport globalization is very real soccer is global MLS is well entrenched we have stadiums built we have billionaire owners the national teams are developing pieces of rolling play with finally investing money in play a development so the elements are role that it's not about finding that one Magic Bullet it's about continuing to invest and develop I think each and every one of the
00:13:44any elements the drive to sport forward awesome what is your big hope this summer I left the u.s. win Copa America maybe that's a little ambitious but I definitely would like to see the u.s. have a strong showing get out of the group have a successful run in the in The Knockout rounds and really play some attractive soccer on the woman's side of things we all know have tremendous you lost some of us with the Women's World Cup and hopefully the Olympics is going to be another great moments for the girls to shine as well so it's very much about the national team as I said this summer and then once that's come and gone will switch back into MLS Playoffs in the launch of the European seasons in the fall well thanks John guppy owner of Gilt Edge soccer marketing thanks guys I appreciate it
00:14:43so John mentioned the women's team in the Olympics this summer in August and unlike a lot of other sports soccer is one where the women have had as much if not more success than the men in played a major role in pushing the sport among Americans Crystal Dunn plays for the United States as she reached us while she was in a van on her way to a club game with her team or pro team the Washington Spirit hi Crystal is one of those rare Sports where women are as prominent as the men probably more so no more so yeah why you think that is how we live in a world where women are people playing the things for his man and a name for themselves but I still feel like people feel the men's game is way more awareness isn't equivalent on both sides and I just feel like you know what the women won in the World Cup last year is definitely put women's soccer on a map and I think you know we're heading in the right
00:15:43that there is more to come and I think it just comes from our games being played on TV more and and it was so obvious. Peabody and people were aware of it but couple years after that kind of like fell off the grid again it's the awareness that you know be more prominent in the women's game so that people can see us that refuses to their names and see how we play and they're going to have an opportunity to do that in August of the Olympic Games you just mention that we're coming off the big 2015 win what is the bistro preparation like in the sort of mentality like in the locker room right now as you guys get ready for this next week tournament
00:16:27the Olympics from the office it's going to be really really exciting I would say every game that we play with all that we're all state seeing right now and it's just about getting better everyday and letters with your club team or whether it's with an apple came out in a lawsuit your union is in a lawsuit with the u.s. Federation over the pay going to the women's players versus the men's just curious what is your take on that issue in filing that locked it I think I think it just raises a lot of questions I said you know how come we are treated a certain way then the med and I think you know we worked hard for everything that we've got you know we've been super successful in the last decade of women's soccer and I feel like you know it was just a matter of us kind of being fed up in the fence and and taking his dad and whatever
00:17:26say that it goes I think we were writing and making this decision and will hopefully it goes in our favor where do you see yourself in 10 years from now. Looks looking for future gaze into the crystal ball
00:17:45if I'm still playing this game 10 years from now I just hope that you know I'm leaving it all on the field like I'm doing basically now you know I'm relatively a younger player still and I feel like I have so much more to get to this game and I think it just starts from wake me up every day and just want to get better hopefully I see myself and I won't be in obviously and winning a gold medal and and those kind of things but I Know It Don't Come Easy but it starts babe just working hard and committing yourself to just getting better getting faster there's more awareness of the sport like I said all these games that are being held on TV now I think the squirting thing growing especially for women soccer team in our league is doing so well you know we're adding things basically every single year and more teams are going to be more people just involved in this for it and yeah I think it's very bright future for what we got here
00:18:44well will be supporting you good luck good luck
00:18:57after losing all this we I think are left with two basic questions which is to what extent has soccer actually made it and then why why did it succeed in coming out of nowhere and becoming the Behemoth that it is the summer I think soccer has made it enough to the point where most soccer fans are not defensive about liking soccer when it's something I noticed in the aftermath of that Mike Francesa video it's also made it to the point where people like my princess I feel threatened by it enough to complain so loudly and I think that's a real good barometer so even if you no complaints have been had about this Copa America you know not going as well as we would have expected it's still a big deal and there's just no getting around that it's part of the sports media landscape so why do we think that is yeah we'll recap I mean one you know there's just the shifting u.s. demographic Latino and Hispanic people in this country want to connect with the global sport to we got you know
00:19:54Generation V children raised by soccer moms more interested in the world than being Global Citizens and that means if you want to talk about sports talking about the World sport soccer finally I think that the money in it has been found right so live TV is one of the last strongholds of corporate profit for traditional media and they I think are taking advantage of every every opportunity to broadcast that they can you know the next thing to look for is the backlash to the soccer glut I'll leave that to you I'm just going to wallow in it like a pig in the well
00:20:35well I am going to spend the soccer this summer up so I'm going to spend this summer of soccer drinking by some sort of pool or other body of water but I am very happy for everyone who will be spending it cheering with the touchdowns in the Gulf we're going to get you their hockey
00:20:58what we actually should get going we're very late for the thing that I made up arbitrarily to Mark the end of this podcast so that's all thank you to play tennis get our producer Jake borski who made Music Theatre doepke is Levi Sharp
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