Major League Soccer Is Country Music And That’s OK
Everyone wants to be a rock star.
We want to be Elvis, Prince, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Rami Malek, Mick Jagger, Ozzy Osbourne, James Hetfield or, fuck it, even Adam Levine's nipples.
No one really wants to be a country music star.
But someone’s gotta do it.
Take Garth Brooks, a country music legend. He’s sold more solo albums in the U.S. than anyone — more than Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and Elvis freakin’ Presley. Only The Beatles have sold more total albums than Brooks as he’s amassed a legion of fans in America for his thundering hits. Whether or not you like the genre, he puts on one hell of a live show.
As soccer fans, it’s easy to look at Major League Soccer and dream of a day when it’s the best league in the world, a rock star that draws fans from all over the globe.
But in reality, MLS is country music — and that’s OK.
The 2019 Major League Soccer season kicks off this weekend with an enticing slate of matches, not the least of which is newcomer FC Cincinnati making its debut in Seattle on Saturday night. Even with expansion pushing the league to 24 teams this season, MLS is as deep and strong as it’s ever been.
It's officially game week. Who's ready?! #MLSisBack— Major League Soccer (@MLS) February 25, 2019
A number of new stars will make MLS debuts this season, including former Manchester United star winger Nani (Orlando), recent Copa Libertadores winner Pity Martinez (Atlanta) and Mexico international Marco Fabián (Philadelphia). They join a number of established stars like Wayne Rooney (D.C.), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Chicago) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), well-known Americans like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore (Toronto) and Tim Howard (Colorado), plus plenty of younger stars you damn well better learn, like Alberth Elis (Houston), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta) and Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia).
Are these the best players in the world, the rock stars who fill giant stadiums wherever they go? No. But they’re the country stars who have a loyal following and put on a great show.
Country music often exists in a world all its own. It has its own music awards, its own radio stations, its own style. It’s not as hip as hip hop, as popular as pop.
It thrives because it has its niche, with a following so loyal, Blake Shelton was named sexiest man alive. Blake Shelton. And not Tommy McNamara.
Even the most die-hard country music fans would be hard-pressed to say its stars are the most talented, skillful musicians of any genre, but they damn well love it. In the same way, Portland Timbers fans know their team wouldn’t be able to compete in the UEFA Champions League, but they love them anyway.
Major League Soccer teams shouldn’t try to be a Manchester United or Real Madrid — they don’t have the resources nor would the league even let them if they did with salary caps and Designated Player rules.
And that’s OK.
MLS is in a better position now than it’s ever been, continuing to grow through expansion, financial stability and quality of play on the field. Maybe one day it’ll be a rock star, but right now it’s country music and should embrace the fact. And it should learn from country music’s biggest star.
Garth Brooks, the country music icon, once wanted to be a rock star. He created an alter ego, Chris Gaines, and tried to switch from country music to rock.
Nobody gave a damn.
He was widely panned and no one bought his music. Before long, Garth Brooks was back, making country music, milking that cash cow.
Major League Soccer, don’t be Chris Gaines. Just be Garth Brooks.