Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Teaching Sports Fans to Embrace Multiple Championships pt. 2

How many sports fans knew there were two U.S. Opens going on last night?  The tennis one is the obvious one, the Soccer championship is the lesser likely of the two to have been acknowledged. Mainstream media only covered the tennis, yet the semi-finals in Soccer took place and will now see the Chicago Fire taking on the Seattle Sounders October 4th in Seattle for this year's U.S. Soccer Open title.

The Chicago Fire are having a horrendous season.  Attendance is down, the team is not winning many games, only 4 out of 26 and there is little chance for them to make up the ground needed to make this year's MLS playoffs.  But, their season can be saved in a big way on October 4th.

It is unlikely the Fire will be able to pull off the upset in Seattle, but at least they have a fighting chance. Seattle is going for their third straight U.S. Open Cup and the team is playing very well this year.

Seattle has put their stamp on this Cup.  The Sounders franchise took initiative and made it a top priority, winning it in each season of their existence in MLS, so far.  Their success in this championship may be a surprise to many around the league, but for them it has been the perfect fit for fans and compliments their reputation, well.

Seattle has caught on quickly to how important this tournament is for their organization.  The win automatically guarantees them an entrance into CONCACAF Champions League play, which means even more home games for fans.

As MLS improves, so has CCL play for MLS teams.  If a team plays well in CCL, each year there is an opportunity to host up to 7 additional matches (acccording to this year's format).  If an MLS club does well in U.S. Open Cup play, there are chances for 2-3 more times to host matches.

Friendlies may pay out big in the owners' pockets, but playing for championships is the point to any season.  Playing in FIFA's Club World Cup should be the supreme goal for every team every year, along with winning it.  Winning the CCL gives teams a chance to play in the FIFA CWC.

Seattle has done an excellent job of teaching their fans the importance of multiple championships by taking the US Open Cup so seriously, when other MLS teams haven't.  It is well known around the league that teams don't send their A-squad list of players to play.  In many instances, teams use these games as practice, playing a B-squad of players.

Chicago's fighting chance in this year's Open Cup final means their fans have one other reason to care.  It means their fans can root for them in their remaining games, hoping for improved play and preparation for Oct. 4th.  A win may give ownership a big boost from a branding perspective, as well.

If the Fire can pull it out in Seattle, then they can come back next year with an improved roster, in hopes of making a run for glory in FIFA'S CWC.  Who knows, they may decide to bring in some big names, like Jozy Altidore and Ronaldhino.  If they are able to gather enough steam, their fan base may augment significantly, thus making big strides in growing the franchise's value.

This is where Soccer in the U.S. is so different from the other big team spectator sports.  None of them, NHL, NFL, NBA or MLB have any other championship to win each year besides their own. MLS has 2 others and each is connected.

The Fire have the greatest MLS history with the U.S. Open Cup, winning it four times.  They must get sports fans in the Chicago area pumped up to win a fifth and be ready to keep emphasizing the integrity of multiple championships.

To see part 1 of Teaching Sports Fans to Embrace Multiple Championships, click here.

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