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U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is an economist by trade — which is good, because if you see the financial documents linked later on, you’ll remember that he doesn’t get paid for his role with the federation. (Perhaps it’s a little unfair that the person making the big bucks, CEO Dan Flynn, rarely has to face the media while we pester Gulati all the time. But I digress.)
So when we pestered Gulati before Sunday’s USA-China women’s game, he made one telling statement: “I’ve been doing this too long to get too up or down by individual data points.”
Whether you agree with everything Gulati does or not, this statement is one thing that separates his thought processes from most of us who yap about soccer on the Internet. We in the virtual soccer community can “prove” lots of things from single data points:
- Hey, it’s 50 degrees in Chicago today! That proves MLS can play through the winter!
- The Rochester Rhinos won the Open Cup! That proves the A-League is better than MLS!
- We sold a lot of tickets for one exhibition game between Manchester United and Real Madrid! That proves that if MLS teams simply spent themselves silly, we’d have crowds like this every game!
- The WPS games immediately after the World Cup drew huge crowds! That proves WPS has made it!
- The U.S. men won in Italy! Why aren’t we ranked in the top 10?
In the long run, it’s a good thing the powers that be don’t make decisions based on isolated data points. They might see a few hundred people gathered for one of last spring’s WPS games and figure women’s soccer is dead. They might see empty seats in MLS cities — even in places like Toronto where the seats are apparently sold but not occupied — and figure MLS is struggling. They might notice that ratings trumpeted as big numbers for European broadcasts are in the same ballpark as the numbers that have fans of The Ultimate Fighter on edge.
Let’s look at a couple of data points and see how the situation is a little more complicated than it appears:
I don’t see the press release at USSoccer.com yet, but there was a second announcement today in addition to Pia Sundhage’s roster for the Olympics. Here’s the key excerpt: Following the FIFA Women’s World Cups for the Under-17 and Under-20 age levels this coming fall, the head coaching positions for those teams will become full-time for the first time. In addition, U.S. Soccer will hire another full-time coach whose main focus will be on enhancing the player development environment for young players from coast to coast. So before today’s game against China, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati held a press … Continue reading You want U.S. Soccer involvement in elite women’s game? Here you go …
This week, I participated in a roundtable discussion (sort of — we didn’t see anyone else’s answers until today) on WPS’s demise, and Julie Foudy sent us scrambling down Memory Lane with an espnW column about the next steps in pro women’s soccer. Taking the roundtable first: It’s a little humbling to answer a question and then have someone closer to the situation give a diametrically opposite answer. That’s what happened when I was asked about the effect the WPS’s folding will have on youth soccer. I said none. Melissa Henderson, who actually plays, said millions of little girls will … Continue reading Random bits of U.S. women’s pro soccer history
The BBC weighs in on the “Is track & field dying in the US?” question. I’m a little biased because Jill Geer, the USA Track and Field spokeperson quoted herein, is one of my all-time coolest co-workers (Knight Ridder Tribune days). But she’s absolutely right that the empirical data simply don’t point toward death. Perhaps someone will regale me of tales of yore when the entire country stopped what it was doing to watch the Drake Relays. More likely is that we have some overromanticized sense that our Olympic champions of the past were giant figures in the years in … Continue reading Track & field: I’m not dead!