So if you haven't read Grant Wahl's SI.com piece on Clint Dempsey you should. If you did you may have noticed a juicy tidbit in there about Wasserman Media Group, easily the largest soccer agency in America and home to prominent agent Richard Motzkin. According to Wahl's piece "WMG recently acquired SFX Europe, whose clients include Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Andriy Shevchenko". Let that sit in for a moment. Typically it's nothing worth noticing when an American business buys a foreign one, but this is soccer. In the realm of the world game America has made great strides on & off the field of play, but it is still the outsider-looking-in in many regards.
So what does that say about the state of the business of soccer in the US when a group of agents who have made their name representing MLS players and yanks abroad get their hands on players the caliber of Shevchenko & Gerrard? What does it say that MLS will collect a multi-million dollar rights fee beginning in 2007 for it's broadcasts? What does is say when one of the leagues worst franchises, the Metrostars, lands the highest purchase price in league history? What does it say that it is now possible for teams to sell the ad space on the fronts of their jerseys? What does it say that there are multiple American players who could be worth over $1m US on the international transfer market? What does it say that teams can now potentially sign the likes of a Luis Figo, a Ronaldo or a David Beckham?
It says that business is good. Or at least better than it ever has been. There may have been times in the history of MLS (and the NASL) where there have been more butts in seats but never has there been so much money circulating through the veins of the American soccer world. Additionally there may never have been so much big-money corporate involvement in the game here; Addidas, ESPN, Red Bull, Home Depot, & Toyota to name a few.
My point in all of this is that for the first time in a long time it doesn't feel like soccer is in danger of going away in America anytime soon. With MLS clubs beginning to embrace true youth clubs the future looks bright for the development of home-grown talent. And with the likes of the Home Depot Center, Toyota Park, and Red Bull Park popping up on a seemingly yearly basis the game is putting down brick & mortar roots to go along side the historical one's in places like St. Louis, and Kearny, NJ.
After the US teams all too brief appearance in the World Cup this past summer it seemed that there was a bit of a pall cast over football fanatics nation-wide. Many said that the US was backsliding, and blamed everyone & everything for it. Don't believe the hype, it's only getting better.