A Solution Needs To Be Found To Allow The Stories To Be Told
Major League Soccer will have a brand new, sparkling television deal from this coming season, and a new, 29th franchise in St. Louis City. The league, still growing, will be accessible to a wider audience.
On top of that, the USL Championship - ahead of its 13th season - has a balanced two conference alignment with 12 teams in each, while the NWSL - in a World Cup year - will introduce VAR for all matches and increase the number of TV cameras at each stadium.
In other words, all leading domestic leagues in North America are on the up.
But the news that Vox Media will no longer support SB Nation websites, which includes all blog sites covering clubs in the aforementioned leagues, should concern all of us keen to see the homegrown brand of the beautiful game continue to flourish.
Clubs and leagues have done, and continue to do, a fantastic job in connecting with their core. But with local TV no more, and now local written coverage under threat, key components of the storytelling - crucial to the broad brush strokes needed to spread the word - will be sadly missing for 2023.
Coverage provided by clubs and leagues are consumed by the die-hards, those already smitten by the product. The way for new fans to be intrigued by the US soccer scene has usually come from local, independent media, sparking their initial interest and encouraging them to engage.
Some markets have a far healthier, soccer-centric local media. The loss of SB Nation sites may not impact them as much. For many other markets, the sport is often an afterthought in the offices of mainstream media, meaning fan sites are the lifeblood.
Here in Colorado, you bet that is the case. Broncos rule, and so too does the sport of (American) football. I vividly recall driving into DICK’S Sporting Goods Park the morning after a midweek game involving the Colorado Rapids (against New England Revolution), assuming there would be some mention on the local sports radio station.
Instead, there was talk of a college football head coach appointment far from here. Other days, the chatter is more likely to focus on the countdown to training camp than it is actual live sporting events happening here and now.
So, yes, the loss - or at least reduction - of sites such as Burgundy Wave, The Bent Musket, Big D Soccer, RSL Soapbox, The Blue Testament, Stumptown Footy, Dynamo Theory, Hudson River Blue, and Brotherly Game, as well as individual writers who took responsibility for penning pieces on local players, local teams, the men’s and women’s game, and front office staff, will be felt all the way up the chain.
The growth of the domestic products is not about making gains in one area and taking steps backwards in others. This should be about striding forward as one. We will not always agree, and some pieces published, or words spoken, may ruffle feathers but our collective goal remains the same.
A head coach sat in a postgame press conference conversing with colleagues from the digital department is not a good look, and exactly why this recent announcement by Vox Media will have sent chills through the front office corridors.
Now, I’m being a little flippant, and possibly a touch melodramatic, but while TV has the power to bring soccer directly into our living rooms, it is but for a few hours each weekend. A strong local media is present every day, at every training session, and every club event, carving out relationships with players, building up trust with head coaches, and creating that connection with community.
We all have a role to play in bringing this game to life and delivering it to the masses. To see where MLS, the NWSL, and the USL is in the early throes of 2023 should fill us all with a deep sense of pride, and the growth of any fanbase can often trace its progress back to stories which have gripped and enthralled.
So, let’s hope a solution is found for those stories to continue being told by loyal, driven, talented, and passionate storytellers. Most are not doing it for the ability to retire early. Indeed, some will be doing it at a loss financially. They are the unsung heroes in many ways.
Here’s to their story having a few more chapters yet.