Tomorrow two European top league soccer powers will meet and play…in Bank of America Stadium in good old Charlotte, NC. This exhibition match will be between Liverpool of the English Premier League and the famous AC Milan of Italy Serie A.
According to Steve Lyttle of the Charlotte Observer, this match has drawn a lot of attention. Bank of America Stadium can seat 72,000 and 60,000 tickets to the match have been sold. So somebody, and lots of somebodies, are going to see this match.
The City of Charlotte has made special arrangements denoting that this match will be an Extraordinary Event. That’s not just hyperbolic language, it is instruction on how police will handle security. The stadium and several city blocks around it will be subject to more restrictions than usual. The area is also meant to watch two kid oriented events near the stadium and at BB&T Ballpark.
Does this mean that soccer is about to go mainstream in the US? I would argue not. These are some of the best teams that the European leagues have to offer, but they are only here for one game. Major League Soccer is still seen as a step down from their quality, and I doubt 60,000 would show for an exhibition between Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas.
No, what America needs is a truly great American soccer player. We need a Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or at least an Andre Agassi of soccer. Then kids would want to emulate that person specifically and that would drive them to not just play soccer as kids, but keep playing.
Otherwise, we’ll cheer for greatness when it comes by occasionally, like tomorrow with Mario Balotelli. Then we will go home and pick up our basketballs again. Or play Madden. Or watch the pennant races in baseball.