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The Capitalist Manifesto

By SoundersNerd July 18, 2009

Dear Bigwigs In Charge,

ESPN, every time I'm stuck somewhere forced to watch TV (I'm traveling right now, in west Texas at the moment), I'm more likely to catch billiards, bowling or curling than a soccer game.

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Photo by S. Tramiel/LVRJ.com

Sports Illustrated, you've all but got a total black out on the World's Game, highlighting instead high school track and field, lacrosse, and field hockey.

I have my theories why all this is, but here's why you guys, of all people, should not only be jumping on the futbol bandwagon, but attaching some sort of turbo jet engine to speed it to the mainstay of American culture: MONEY.

FIFA, the international soccer conglomerate, and all its peons have capitalism down in manners that would shame US sports. Last April, Forbes calculated the top 25 richest soccer teams in the world to have an average wealth of $597 million. Five clubs (Manchester United, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Liverpool) are worth at least $1 billion .

While 19 NFL teams pass that mark, there are (with all do respect to the CFL) only 32 professional American football teams in the world; its appeal is limited to 300 million North Americans. There are 216 members of FIFA, and nearly all of them have professional domestic leagues. Granted, most of them aren't as big as England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France, but those are five countries with football leagues on par with the NFL. And don't forget the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia. Any way you cut it, there's a lot of money changing hands.

I'll let you do the nerdy number crunching, comparing profit and value of NBA and soccer .

So, Bigwigs, Soccer is huge, but you're entrenched in red-blooded Americana (if not in bed with an elite group of professional sports team owners). You continue to thumb your nose at the sport, citing some weird nationalistic/cultural superiority.

An analogy comes to mind as I travel across western Texas: Imagine you're a Texan rancher with 5,000 head of cattle on a 10,000 acre ranch. The prospectors approach you and say, “Y’know, you could be rich beyond your wildest dreams if you let us drill here." You reply, “Rich? I’m already rich! I’ve got all this land and all this cattle, why should I drill for oil”? Because you’re a fucking capitalist and money is your ultimate end in life, idiot.

If you haven't crunched those numbers from the links I provided up above, I'll let you in on it: The figures in foot-football dwarf  those of the NBA. Last month, Real Madrid paid ManU a $116 million transfer fee for Portuguese pretty boy Cristiano Ronaldo. That’s just the rights to the player; his salary is separate. That amount broke the previous record set weeks before, again by Real Mad, this time dishing out $86 million to AC Milan for Brazilian star Kaka.

The global football cash machine rolls into Seattle on Saturday when Chelsea FC take on the Seattle Sounders . Chelsea currently ranks 8th in value with $800 million, ending last season at 3rd place in the English Premier League, Champions of the FA Cup and losing in the Champions League semifinals in a 92nd minute goal to Barcelona (coming to town in August).

Chelsea's roster is literally a who's-who of global football talent, surpassed only by (arguably) Man U and Real Madrid. In addition to the captain of the English National Team, John Terry, there's Czech keeper Petr Čech, considered the best in the world until a few unsightly errors to Turkey ejected the Czech Republic from last year’s Euro Cup; Michael Ballack, captain of the '06 hosts, 3rd place winners, and current FIFA ranked #5 Germany; Ghanan Michael Essien, who lead his team to the US's second-most humiliating defeat in the '06 WC; Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko, "the fourth-highest scorer in the history of European club competition" ; Portugues Deco; Frenchies Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka; Ivory Costan Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou.

All these guys played played every minute of every game their team was in in the 2006 World Cup. (I think, or something like that.)

Chelsea's visit is the latest in a string of European behemoths making regular summer tours to the US, realizing it's an untapped, underserved market where they can make lots of money. ManU played Celtic at Qwest in (2002?); Real Madrid played DC United here in 2005. Both games sold out the entire stadium, 66k +, and didn’t even feature a home team.

There’s a debate on the benefits of such exhibition games. As a friendly, the game serves no competitive purpose. The Sounders have a busy schedule, notably a US Open Cup semi next week against Houston. More games result in more tired players and more injuries, and we should prioritize. The Blues (that's Chelsea's nickname) likewise want to practice and trot about their stars, but don't want to overdo it.

On the other hand, the game will be nationally televised, with plenty of international coverage as well. Its an opportunity to showcase not just our team, but that the MLS can compete on an international level. Since this is Chelsea's only match against a MLS squad in their four game foray in the States (opting to instead face Italian giants AC Milan and Mexican powerhouse Club America), I'm beginning to believe the theory hyped over at Emerald City that the Sounders—32k sellout crowds et al—have become THE showcase team in the MLS.

Now, ESPN, SI , et al, would you  kindly start drilling?

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