There is an interesting proposal over at The Shin Guardian about having the US National Soccer team pick a particular city as its “home base” for an extended period, market it heavily and build a true home-field advantage. In many ways, it is a compelling argument that I recommend you check out . . . but I think there is one area that may have been missed.
The blog mentions “Having the USMNT come to your town may generate some buzz, but is not a great strategy, especially if it is to the detriment of the support of the team on the field.” But the “buzz” I think is being addressed there is that of having a soccer game somewhere that’s out of the norm (like testing a new potential MLS market), but there’s another kind of buzz that I think is important. It’s the buzz that an international match brings with it for the fan in attendance. For me, it is unlike the atmosphere available in MLS games (with perhaps a few exceptions led by Seattle or Toronto) and is energizing for a first-time or long-time fan alike. There is something altogether different about rooting for the US and feeling that country v. country tension that is created which plants a unique seed of interest in the sport.
So while I think there’s merit in what’s being proposed . . . I think international matches bring a better chance of capturing a new fan and growing the sport in a new market than any professional exhibition. I wonder how many MLS fans started as US fans some years ago?