Watching live soccer is usually a better option than television because you can choose what you look at, and can see the bigger picture. If you live near to an MLS team or a big stadium that hosts friendlies in the summer, why not go to a game and see what the level is like? Our local club is the Colorado Rapids, who play at the unfortunately-named Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The stadium is a concrete bowl, with good sightlines and a good quality grass field. It doesn’t have the atmosphere of a more enclosed European-style stadium (like Portland) though. Major League Soccer is still in its infancy when compared to other leagues in the world, but it is growing quickly, with new teams being added every year. Also, teams appear to be moving away from the model of only trying to sign up retiring professionals and focusing more on an academy and youth setup to generate players that match a long term philosophy. Check out our interview with Brian Crookham for more information about that.
The stadium has slightly more atmosphere than when they played in the cavernous and empty Invesco Field. For most games it remains pretty empty though and those who are there are usually mothers and children. When the ball goes out the stadium announcer sometimes reads commercials for McDonalds. Recently they tried to artificially create an ultra group by building a standing section. How you can get “fanatical” about something that is primarily a business venture/land development remains to be seen.
To their credit, the Rapids work hard to put on theme nights and special events, and the stadium amenities are equal to or better than those at the other professional parks in Denver. Even if the game is dull, there are still lessons to be learned for any coach watching. If nothing else it provides an excellent environment to practice your “Analyzing the Game” required on all high level NSCAA courses.
According to USA Today, eight percent of American citizens have passports. If you are one of those lucky few, why not use it to go watch games in a foreign country? We bet once you’ve been to one you will already be planning your next trip. Football is played in almost every country in the world. The vast majority also have professional leagues with regular games. The biggest difference between MLS and Rest of the World games is the audience. Particularly in Europe and South America, the game is much more male dominated, and so are the crowds. Also the stadia tend to be more functional than luxurious. If you go expecting the off-field entertainment and brickwork of an MLB stadium you will be in for a shock!
The history and intensity of the audience can also make it more difficult for visitors to get tickets. Many clubs have member schemes which restrict ticket sales to official supporters who are registered with the club and buy tickets on a regular basis. This stops opposing fans from getting into the wrong areas of the ground. Of course, if you have enough money to throw at it, anything is possible. Resellers on the internet will offer overpriced tickets to you and clubs will have plenty of expensive hospitality included options open. Often cup games are a good way to get in though as clubs tend not to include them in their season ticket packages. Another way is to go for teams with grounds that are way too big for their average attendence. Just watch a few games on tv and look where you can see the most empty seats. This includes most Italian teams, the Spanish ones outside of the top two, and several of the mid to lower end English Premiership teams.