World Cup fever no automatic game changer for MLS

Mon Jul 14, 2014 9:15pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - The World Cup delivered a seductive sales pitch for soccer to the United States but marketing experts warn it remains to be seen just how many Americans have been sold on the sport enough to invest their time and money on Major League Soccer (MLS).

For nearly a month, Americans happily joined the World Cup party as soccer became the sport du jour, fans discussing Lionel Messi and the merit of penalty kicks with the same eagerness as they might more usually debate Derek Jeter and home runs.

But shortly after the U.S. made their exit from the tournament at the hands of Belgium in the last 16, soccer slowly faded from the headlines.

By the time Germany had hoisted the World Cup on Sunday, most Americans had already moved on to the next big events on the sporting calendar - Major League Baseball's Mid-Summer Classic and the British Open golf.

In an instant, the sporting conversation had shifted from Argentine Messi's ranking among the all-time greats to Tiger Woods's chances of claiming a 15th major title at Hoylake.

That reflects the view of experts, who say that the World Cup did not result in a seismic shift in American sporting tastes.

There was, they say, only another incremental increase in awareness of the "world game" with no inevitable dividend for the local professional league, Major League Soccer (MLS).

"People clearly got World Cup fever, we did well, it was exciting," George Belch, marketing professor at San Diego State University, told Reuters.   Continued...