Commentary

Just how essential is soccer in our lives?

We don't yet know how great will be the death toll from the coronavirus or how long all or parts of the United States will be sheltered in place or just how badly hit will the economy be.

But we will never look at the world the same again.

Or soccer, too.

The focus right now is still on the short term. MLS and the USL have extended the suspension of league play until May. The start of the U.S. Open Cup has been suspended, and it's hard to see how it can be played in 2020. The NWSL has put preseason training on hold. All major youth competitions have been shut down.

The jury trial in the U.S. women's national team's gender discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer is scheduled for May 5, but the U.S. district court in Los Angeles, where the trial will be held, has banned jury trials in civil and criminal cases through April 13 or otherwise ordered by the court.

For practical purposes, a trial won't be happening any time soon. But the reality, it won't ever happen. The history books will write that it took a pandemic for the players and federation to come terms. The world is a different place since last week, folks.

On Thursday night, California extended the shelter-in-place order that went into effect on Tuesday in the Bay Area to the entire state, and I'd imagine other states will follow soon. All but essential businesses, services and activities are closed, and social-distancing rules must be adhered to for those that remain open.

This shutdown is a wake-up call about just what is essential in our lives.

The Seattle Times asked Sounders keeper Stefan Frei for his comment about the news that the MLS moratorium was extended. Like that of so many Americans, Frei's life and those of his teammates have been placed in limbo.

“As much as soccer has been a huge part of my life," he admitted, "there’s bigger things in life than games. This is an entertainment and right now there are way more important things going on in this world. It’s important as a collective and as individuals that we take certain precautions.”

I've heard many in the sports industry say there will so much pent-up demand for sports that fans will flock to stadiums and arenas or their televisions to watch games once the pandemic is over. I can think of pent-up demand for a lot more important things like hanging out with family and friends and rebuilding our lives.

I've seen little reference to soccer as a spectator sport in the national media coverage of American life and the coronavirus, but I often see "youth soccer" used in reference to social institutions being impacted.

In a New York Times column first published on Monday about whether there might an overreaction to the coronavirus, Amy Harmon wrote, "No one wants to be seen as prioritizing profit or, say, youth soccer over saving lives."

We will know in the next year or two just how much a priority is youth soccer in the lives of families, and I think we will find it is indeed a priority but not to the degree it was before. A lot of the excesses of youth soccer will be shed, not least because of the new economic realities. It's hard to imagine something like the Development Academy with its heavy travel continuing in its current form. Or much of youth soccer's pay-to-pay model.

The current pandemic will impact our communities like nothing since World War II. Pro clubs and youth teams will learn soon enough just how essential is soccer in the lives of their fans and families, but they will also have to learn to serve them in ways they might have never thought of before.

6 comments about "Just how essential is soccer in our lives?".
  1. frank schoon, March 20, 2020 at 8:37 a.m.

    Hey, I currently feel sorry for the SA staff for I can tell they are hurting for articles to write....LOL

  2. beautiful game, March 20, 2020 at 9:34 a.m.

    Soccer officianados feel the pain, but it is what it is. Health priorities have taken over our lives. Nothing to be sorry about, follow procedures until the pandemic is resolved. I taped the 2009 and 2014 el Clasicos last year. My first viewing was on 03/01/2020; second viewing is about to happen. It never gets dull.

  3. frank schoon replied, March 20, 2020 at 10:35 a.m.

    There are plenty of games on Youtube....I prefer to watch the oldies but goodies...Especially WC'62,"82, '74.

  4. Gary Levitt, March 20, 2020 at 10:44 a.m.

    Paul, great piece as it brings things into perspective.  All media/journalists are affected by the situation - as well as the workforce that supports many industry sectors.  This will be a tough period for weeks or maybe many months...and the baseline regarding soccer is like many things in life: you don't appreciate what you have until you don't have it.  The virus will take its toll, but it will eventually pass naturally or via a vaccine.  When this happens, businesses will be back, people will be rehired quickly, capital will flow, and the economy and markets will go vertical.  Keep doing what you are doing - chin up.   Gary

  5. Ben Lukas, March 20, 2020 at 11:29 a.m.

    Thanks for the insight. However, data modeling of the pandemic, and the measures taken by authorities, will very likely result in "waves" of infections and tigthening of rules followed by short periods of relaxing rules. We should realistically expect 18 months or more of various isolation mesasures and social distancing policies. If the social goal is to limit deaths and limit infection rates over hospital capacity (over capacity now being seen in northern Italy), likely policy implentation would be a couple months "on" measures followed boy short (a month) "off" measures for the next couple years.


    See https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

  6. R2 Dad, March 20, 2020 at 12:03 p.m.

    Unfortunately, PK, I think the bit about reconsidering travel/pay-to-play is more wishful thinking than anything. If there is one thing USSF voting member value above all else (like all small businesses) is stability and predictability. The last 2 weeks we have seen everything upended and people want nothing more than to go back to what we had before. We will become less tolerant of the families that send their kids to practice sick, much like we are less tolerant of people bringing peacocks onto airplanes or their pets to the food store. But new economic realities will mostly mean more taxes, less growth, higher prices, more international conflict. At the macro level, half your favorite restaurants will be gone by May. If I had an uoper lip, it would need stiffening.

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