July 28, 2009
By Charles Cuttone
GULATI: SOCCER HAS MADE IT
But still has a long way to go
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati says that despite some perceptions, soccer has made it in the United States, but there is still a lot of work to do to get it on par with other sports, and with other countries around the world.
|Pointing to huge crowds and the National Team’s success U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati says soccer has made it in this country
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
“It’s really been a really extraordinary 60 days,” said Gulati referring to the United States’ performance in the Confederations Cup, the Gold Cup, and the huge crowds showing up for games across the country.
Gulati speaking of the crowds that have attended exhibition games involving foreign teams, noted that many of the larger crowds have been or will be against Major League Soccer teams. “The 65,000 or so people watched Chelsea play. They watched them play against Seattle Sounders.
My guess is when its all said and done the biggest will be 90,000 that will watch Barcelona play, but they will watch them play against the LA Galaxy,” said Gulati “ My guess is second or the third biggest crowd this summer will be to watch Real Madrid play but to watch them play against DC United.”
“Our teams are getting more respect. Clearly we are not getting those types of attendances at MLS games,” he said, pointing out that the huge attendances have been for some of the top teams in the world.
“A couple of the top Mexican teams, two of the glory teams in the world, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Two or three of the top English (Chelsea) and Italian (A.C. Milan, inter Milan) teams. Really the best teams in the World, the biggest stars,” Gulati noted that a tournament or tour involving lesser teams would not draw those types of crowds.
“The sport has made it in the United States in some way. We’re trying to further that, we’re trying to get additional interest in our domestic league. He said.”
While there have been major positive events both on and off the field, Gulati is quick to point out, soccer in the United States still has a long way to go, and still a lot of issues to deal with, with the national team, Major League Soccer, refereeing, coaching, stadiums and the international calendar, which FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter has urged the United States to follow with a fall to spring season for MLS.
“I don’t think there are many countries around the world frankly that over the last 20 years have had the same progress,” Gulati said. “If can say can we have that over the next 20 then where will we be, then I think we will be where we want to be which is among the world’s elite in terms of interest, spectator sport, professional league
“There’s a lot of positives. Its frustrating when people say oh, I didn’t know soccer was popular here. I am certainly feeling very positive and bullish about it, but we’re not there yet.