After World Cup Performances, MLS Tries To Hold Onto Stars While Marketing Them
Sounders D DeAndre Yedlin last month became the first American from MLS' developmental academies to play in a FIFA World Cup match, and since then, the publicity campaign to "turn him into the face of the league has been like one of his runs: swift, calculated and effective," according to Jorge Arangure Jr. of the N.Y. TIMES. In two and a half "whirlwind days" in N.Y. last week, Yedlin visited ESPN, SI, "GMA," "CBS This Morning," Al Jazeera America, CNN and Fox Sports, among others. Yedlin "is a valuable commodity for a league still trying to gain a foothold with the mainstream American audience." He "is affable, handsome and, unlike the more reserved" Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, "exceedingly media-friendly and image-conscious." Yedlin’s performance in Brazil "has also created a complicated situation for MLS" in that while the league "would like to market Yedlin as one of the league’s more promising players, he is surely going to attract the attention of European teams" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/6). Sounders Minority Owner & GM Adrian Hanauer in a statement yesterday said of reports that Yedlin's play has drawn the interest of Serie A club AS Roma, "This has drawn lots of interest for him from leagues around the world. For now, DeAndre is in Seattle and we need him to help us win our upcoming games against Portland. If something transpires with a foreign team, we will announce it" (MLSSOCCER.com, 7/6).
BESLER EYEING A MOVE, TOO? Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman said there is a "strong possibility" that D Matt Besler could pursue a transfer to an overseas club after his performance at the World Cup. Besler's agent, Libero Sports' Eddie Rock, said that his client "is weighing options that include offers" from EPL and Bundesliga clubs. In K.C., Sam McDowell notes if Besler "finds an acceptable landing spot with an overseas club, that team would be required to negotiate a transfer fee" with Sporting KC and MLS. Sporting KC Manager and Technical Dir Peter Vermes and Heineman "have made it clear they will not block a player’s aspirations to follow other opportunities -- but they first plan to make a pitch of their own to Besler" (K.C. STAR, 7/7). Besler and Yedlin on Friday appeared together live in studio for CBS' "CBS This Morning." Yedlin said the U.S. team "showed the world that this is turning into a soccer country." He added, "Hopefully, we've given people more reason to watch not just U.S. soccer, but also MLS." Besler said of potentially leaving MLS, "I hope I get to stay. We'll see what happens. Right now, I'm extremely happy here in the U.S." ("CBS This Morning," 7/4).
GAUGING GROWTH: U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said of whether it is possible for MLS to become one of the world's best leagues by '22, “Yes. But it’s going to take a lot of effort and additional investments. I think we’ve hit so many of the benchmarks we’ve set along the way -- and some we haven’t hit and some we’ve changed -- that I would think it’s possible. At this point, in terms of the players and compensation levels around the world, there’s one league and then you get some tax situations." He added, "MLS is going to continue to grow. I can’t put a percentage on that, does it take five or 10 percent improvement on the field? We can’t measure it that way. Clearly the economics of MLS are getting better, which means they can afford to retain top players and try to go out and get more top players. That’s the only way you’re going to get to that level" (SI.com, 7/3). Meanwhile, in Orlando, Paul Tenorio writes to look at the World Cup as a "light switch that will forever turn" the U.S. on to soccer "misses the point." No soccer fan "expects a night-and-day changeover." MLS' progression "has been going on for 20 years, and there is still plenty more work left ahead." MLS ratings "fall well short of the NFL, but so does every other sport in the U.S." There "has been progress when it comes to soccer's media impact," and one can "point simply at the investment that media companies are pouring into MLS" as an example of this. ESPN "isn't apt to throw money at something it doesn't believe is going to pay off down the road" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/7).