SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/E Sports

To draw Hispanic fans, se habla Español at MLS site

Carlos Giron, a Guatemala native who moved to the United States at age 12, believes he understands the desires of one of Major League Soccer's biggest fan bases.

Hispanic spectators, who make up nearly a third of MLS fans, are often emotionally attached to the Spanish language, Giron said. To capitalize on that, he helped develop mlsnet.com En Español, a section of the league's Web site that launched in April.

"Hispanic fans needed a place to go where they can talk about the league, a place they can call their own," said Giron, the director of Hispanic communications for the MLS. "Our core fans understand it [Spanish] better."

Three-quarters of En Español content is original. A feature story on Tampa Bay coach Alfonso Mondelo, for instance, did not appear on the league's main site. Tournament scores from Mexico and South America are posted.

Three writers cover Hispanic concerns for the site. One, Rigoberto Cervantez, wrote a column that ran for years in La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States.

Though mlsnet.com has not broken down the traffic numbers to assess En Español's effect, anecdotal evidence points to early success.

MLSnet.com Webmaster David Richardson said that since the site launched, "We're receiving much more fan-based e-mail in Spanish. They feel more comfortable dealing with the site in Spanish."

En Español has not yet been promoted by the MLS, but by month's end the league hopes to strike a deal with Yahoo! En Español (espanol.yahoo.com) to produce a page dedicated to the MLS, including content from and a link to En Español. Giron said advertisements for En Español will appear in Free Kick, a free magazine distributed at MLS games.

The MLS is not the first U.S. pro sports league to tout non-English-language areas. NBA.com provides sections in Spanish and Japanese. Those sites are attracting attention.

"The traffic on the Español section alone is equivalent to the traffic on a single team site," said Brenda Spoonemore, an executive at nba.com, who said the league plans to roll out more Spanish-language sections in specific geographic regions.

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E-Sports, MLS, NBA, Yahoo! Inc.

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