News piece on the success of the American presentation of the English Premier League. It’s been fun to watch live on Saturday mornings–I don’t get to the Sunday matches until the wrap-up programs in the evening.
Program host Rebecca Lowe:
There’s been a huge response, so many people have come up to me and say they now have a team and are converts. There are a lot more Americans watching than I thought — it’s a generational thing as the kids are playing in school and growing into the sport. There’s a fan base that has been growing steadily over the years and you are now just seeing it.
It’s also good sport. The way the matches are presented is exciting, and the athleticism of the players, plus the spirit in those English stadiums–especially the mid-size venues that seat 30,000 or less. I’ve watched MLS in the cavernous NFL stadium in Kansas City–an awful setting compared to the new soccer stadium on the Kansas side. That experience as a fan is absolutely marvelous.
For a league that doesn’t have playoffs (the last US league without one would have been MLB in 1968–only if you don’t count the World Series) there’s an amazing amount of excitement, and not only because of four teams vying for first place. There is also the battle for 4th and 5th places–determining which teams get seeded into the two European leagues–a whole other layer of competition.
And then you have the reality that the three teams at the bottom of the standings will get moved to the lower league for next season. If you’re a poor team, you get relegated. NBC suit Jon Miller talks about relegation:
And then you have about half a dozen teams fighting not to be relegated.
That is one of the things that makes the Premier League so unique, American fans are just not used to that — if you live in a city with a bad baseball or NFL team, you are stuck for a long time. Here the pressure of those last few weeks is enormous, even more so for the teams with the poorer records.
Rebecca Lowe thinks it would be a good idea for American soccer.
Relegation in the Premier League is what sets it apart. That is a real threat. I think it would be interesting to do that with MLS — but they are very different sports. If MLS had relegation, then they could create a pyramid system. I personally think it could add to it and help MLS and soccer in general in this country.
In the American system, I observe the competition is driven by more aristocratic and less egalitarian principles. Owners buy into a league, and they sell the team to fans. With British teams, there are owners, but their teams are anchored in their cities and communities–not in a particular level of competition.