Wednesday, September 7, 2011

USMNT – The Gateway Drug to Soccer for the Casual Sports Fan

by Pedro Gomes- Most of us remember the after school PSA commercial about drugs that ended with one kid asking another, “What are you chicken?” and the other replying with “I'm not a chicken, you're a Turkey.” Then turns away from the peer-pressuring dope dealer and walks off triumphantly.You might be asking what a classic mid-90s PSA has to do with Soccer and I would say more than you may think.

What if the kid in the PSA wasn't offering his friend second-rate dope but instead tickets to a USMNT game near their hometown. Then consider, what if the kid took him up on the offer and went to the game instead of going home. Then, what if someone offered the kid a Free Beer at the game (Let's say he's over 21). And to top it off the friend who took him to the game happened to be a member of a USMNT supporters group and they sit through a rowdy, raucous-filled, and overall memorable game that ends with a Nats victory.

The kid is now hooked. What got him hooked? Well, the gateway drug of USMNT Soccer is what.

This may be a slight over dramatization of how a casual sports fan may become a Soccer fan, but you should realize that the above scenario does contain a number of strong enticements that could persuade any sports fan to peak his interest in soccer.

Younger players, new attitudes

First, he is going with a friend. I can't tell you how many times I have gone to sporting events simply because a friend asked if I wanted to go. Second, He not only got a free ticket to a game but also a nice refreshing free beer once he was there, something any sports fan can appreciate. Third, he was engulfed in a passionate, loud, and engaging fan experience that any sports fan can appreciate. Fourth, even if he was not a fan of soccer he was still witnessing a competition that saw his country's colors take on those of another. Again, something every American can relate to and cheer for, just look at the Olympics, Americans love cheering for America. And finally, he was able to witness a victory, something that Americans also have a strong affinity for. And now he would be left itching for more.

But what exactly is it that this one game could lead to, what is it a Gateway to?

Well for one he may begin to ask who the guys on the field are. And as his knowledgeable soccer friend would fill him in on the story behind the players and he may mention that number 5 actually plays for their hometown in the American professional soccer league called MLS. This may prompt him to come watch said player next weekend in an MLS match. He may then find himself in an eerily similar exciting fan experience to the weekend before and before long finds himself purchasing multiple tickets to multiple games. An MLS fan is born.

What if that one game leads that fan to wonder when the next USMNT game is held and where? What if he realizes that he wants to make sure that he gets the same experience at the next game and asks his buddy how he could become a member of the supporters group. The group has now added another member to its ranks, one more ticket will be sold for the next game, and one more voice will be added to the crowd to give the Nats an even better environment to play in. A USMNT fan is made.

And what if after multiple games, for both the USMNT and his local MLS club the new found Soccer fan finds himself asking a buddy at work what he was doing the Saturday of a USMNT game. And imagine if his friend has no plans, so he offers to get his buddy a beer and a free ticket to the game if he goes with him. His friend takes him up on the offer and meets the supporters group members, the USMNT during warm-ups and gets introduced to the wonderful sport, known simply around the world as “The Beautiful Game”.

And so the cycle begins again. All because one friend offered another friend a small taste of something wonderful. Not dope, but the Beautiful game that is Soccer.

Pedro Gomes- Follow him on Twitter @MLSSuperSub or email him your thoughts at

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