“If a player from the United States would come here and score every week,” said Bayer Leverkusen CEO Michael Schade, “it would be a dream come true.”
Yesterday, Terrance Ross led with that quote in his Guardian piece on the Bundesliga’s attempts to gain a foothold in the USA. It’s a pretty direct indication of the club’s, and German soccer’s, goal of attracting more American fans. The German league has certainly tried hard to extricate Americans from the EPL. First, there’s their deal with Fox to broadcast live games (a big step up from Goal TV). Bayern Munich also played in the MLS All-Star game in 2014 a few weeks after Germany won the World Cup. The MLS All-Star game has become a required destination for clubs trying to carve out a niche in the US (see: Everton, Spurs and Manchester United).
In addition, as Ross explains, clubs have launched Twitter feeds and club stores tailored to Americans and the league runs an English-language Twitter feed. Jurgen Klinsmann has done his part by snatching up every German but-also-technically-American player he can for the USMNT.
How has all this translated to support in the New York City -area?
So far, at least, that support is not immediately evident. I only saw two Bayern Munich jerseys last month. Both were on kids playing pick-up soccer at a park in Bushwick. The jerseys actually represented the kids’ club team and featured a local business sponsor on the back. The club happened to select the new cool all-red Bayern kits.
Paragon Sports near Union Square seems to serve as a barometer for American soccer preferences. The store sells a few Bayern Munich jerseys amid the Barcelonas, Manchesters and Chelseas, but the Bayern shirts aren’t on display like some of the other clubs. They’re tucked inside a rack so you can’t even see the club crest.
Ross describes how Mexico has driven Bayer Levekusen’s recent surge in popularity since signing Chicharito, who has scored 17 goals in 14 games. This is the model the club dreams of replicating with a USA-born star. Right now that’s just a fantasy, but I imagine we’ll start seeing Mexican-Americans in the NYC-area representing Chicharito’s new club and the Bundesliga in the general.
*The top photo is me before an Atlético Madrid/Bayer Leverkusen Europa League match at Atlético’s Vicente Calderón in September 2010. That was my first European soccer match so I have a fondness for Bayer Leverkusen apparel. I did see two people wearing Leverkusen shirts at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in November.
There’s a typo on the match scarf so it says EUFA instead of UEFA.