Q&A with the SA Editors: Dec. 6, 1999

Derek J. McCracken Pittsburgh, Pa. I have read, in several articles, that for the past few years, the U.S. has been trying to entice more of the Hispanic-American population to become MLS fans. If that is the case, don't you find it strange that the MLS has only has one Mexican player under contract? Are they doing enough to market to this important soccer-loving population? Mike Woitalla: MLS would love to have more Mexican stars on its teams. Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Jose teams especially could draw fans from their Mexican-American population, whose interest would be piqued by such players. The problem is money. No other league in the Western Hemisphere pays as much as the Mexican league, which compares to European leagues in the salaries it offers. Average players can earn $350,000 per year, about a $100,000 more than the maximum salary MLS reserves for a chosen few. Mexican national team players can earn $1 million a year in Mexico. And it's national team players that would really attract fans. Mexican-American fans probably wouldn't get that excited about the sub-par Mexican player who will play for $200,000, and he wouldn't be worth it to MLS, because he wouldn't be that much better than current talent. Carlos Hermosillo was acquired thanks to an arrangement whereby MLS shared the financial burden with Necaxa, which shares his services. Plus, he's past his prime and isn't that sought-after in Mexico. Jorge Campos was an exception whom sponsors were willing to help pay for. Damian Alvarez, who played for a time at Dallas and New England, looked like a good young prospect, but he didn't pan out. That's a problem, too. If MLS shells out a lot of money to buy a promising but unproven Mexican star, it's still a big gamble. As for your second question: I think certain teams do OK to cater to the Hispanic fans, but I do think the danger exists that some teams and the league home office take the Hispanic fans who have helped prop up MLS in its early years for granted. A number of MLS teams have done a good job of employing Spanish-speaking coaches and office staff. But MLS's New York's offices could probably improve their press relations with the Spanish-language media. Departed commissioner Doug Logan spoke Spanish. New commissioner Don Garber does not. Several coaches -- Lothar Osiander, Octavio Zambrano, Fernando Clavijo, Ivo Wortmann and many assistants -- speak Spanish and can provide the Spanish-langauge media with interviews. That's a great thing, because Spanish-language radio and TV cover MLS extensively. But the league itself could use an articulate Spanish-speaking spokesman. (If you have a question for a Soccer America Magazine editor, click "Q&A with SA Editors" in the left column of the home page under "Interactive.")
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