Lessons from the Wembley excersize

wembley3
The U.S. team will of course probably never develop – nor should it – a single Wembley-like venue for its national team games. We are simply too big a country to play in one single location and it makes sense to rotate games around the country to increase exposure. The US team also already has a designated home base in the Home Depot center in LA. But in thinking in depth about an American Wembley a few other lessons came out it:

1. The US should play more in the Rust Belt. We picked Pittsburgh #1 and had Detroit at #4, but other similar cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee would make just as much sense, as would USL cities like Minneapolis and Buffalo/Rochester. All of these cities should strongly be considered for future friendlies and qualifiers. These cities have low Hispanic populations, big stadiums, and would give us the same sort of home field advantage as Columbus. It would also expand the game in an important sports region and hopefully playing in “blue collar” towns would help shed soccer’s elitist image.

2. Focusing on low-Hispanic population cities is short-sighted over the longer term. The criteria that America’s Wembley be located in a city with a low Hispanic population is necessary in the short term to guarantee a homefield advantage, but is very short sighted over the long run. Despite, what anti-immigrant (really anti-Hispanic) nativists like Lou Dobbs assert, the large and growing Hispanic population of this country is assimilating and growing. Far from running from the audience, in the long run (generation or two), Hispanics are likely to be amongst the most hardcore US fans and will hopefully begin comprising more of the Nats team – ie Torres, Bocanegra. Therefore putting our Wembley – the place we would hypothetically play in for the next century – because it has a low Hispanic population is definitely short-sighted.

3. Play games in non-MLS cities.
The Nats are becoming a real draw, especially as ESPN gets more into them. So it should be quite feasible for the US to play in non-MLS cities and still attract a lot of fans. By bringing the sport to places that can’t regularly go to MLS games, the USSF would be giving the sport more exposure. Again, expanding TV revenues is key for MLS’ growth and to expand revenues you have to draw interest in cities where there are any games.

4. Play Mexico in Seattle.
Seattle is really far away – but against a team like Mexico it would probably give us our best homefield advantage. The Hispanic population in the state is just 7 percent and the Sounders supporters would turn out in droves. Get grass on that field!

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