Wrong, wrong, wrong. In so many ways, WRONG!
In 1984 the North American Soccer League went under – there was clearly no connect between those millions of soccer players and the professional game. The Powers-That-Be in American soccer realized that, so in their bid to host the 1994 World Cup they also promised to create a new professional soccer league.
MLS launched in 1996 and immediately stumbled. They changed too many rules, played in big football stadiums to small crowds and what fans there were realized these guys weren’t anywhere near the same skilled players who had been in the World Cup. So the soccer bureaucrats yielded control to rich businessmen (many of them NFL owners), brought in an NFL exec to run the league, and changed their marketing strategy. The league might not be up to world-class standards, but it was “ours”.
And the fans bought in. The teams promoted the game. Big city teams ensured a national TV contract. Crowds grew, the league began to thrive and expand and is now on a solid financial footing. Still not the best league in the world but it is competitive and entertaining and growing.
Which proves that the organic growth model from the bottom up does NOT work in North America. The pro teams invest in the community, sponsor local soccer, provide a pathway for talented local kids – both boys and girls – to play professionally.
Oh, there are also some 25 million people playing soccer in the US now.