MLS Goes American Idol: Seattle Fans Pick Player

It’s just the latest proof that the world of sports is nearing total apocalypse, but it’s a good one: the MLS’s newest team, the Seattle Sounders, are officially opening the team’s final roster spot to the whimsy of largely uneducated, online fans.

jorge flores chivas
(This guy was a reality TV hit, but can Seattle copy Chivas’ thunder?)

According to the soccer blog THE OFFSIDE, the Sounders will post a list of contenders for the team’s final spot on the web site KING5.COM, the local TV station that will be hosting the tryout. Note that the contest is being hosted by local media, not the team’s official web site. The trialists will have bios, “comments from evaluators” and videos on the web site. And of course they’ll have their photos, which greatly increases the possibility that, for the first time, an athlete could make a professional roster just because pre-teen web savvy girls think he’s cute.

It’s worth noting that the winner of the online vote isn’t guaranteed the roster spot, but rather is given one of four spots in the competition’s final tryout show, which will air after the Super Bowl. Still, with a professional contract on the line, getting even a one-in-four shot is huge, particularly given just how unreliable a one-time exhibition can be. After all, how else can we explain Frederic Weis?

Reality TV begetting MLS stars isn’t exactly a new idea. L.A. club Chivas USA has been adding the winner of a UNIVISION reality show — MLS Sueno — to their roster, with one budding star — 18-year-old Jorge Flores — already in the cache of Sueno alums. FC Dallas got in on the Sueno act last year. But those efforts are boosted by a proven, rigorous tryout in front of career professional scouts, and there is definitely no fan voting involved.

That’s not to say that the Sounders’ roster competition — name TBD — won’t work. Rather, it’s just to highlight that there is a distinct gimmick being used here to try and draw in more fans, something that, according to early ticket sales, the team doesn’t exactly need to use. The Sounders already have more season ticket holders than most teams in the league and seem to have significant corporate backing, thanks largely to a support structure gleaned from the adjacent Seahawks, with whom they’ll share a cavernous stadium.

Yet this gimmick seems to undermine so much of the good that the Sounders had started doing. Why play to the lowest common denominator at the risk of alienating real soccer fans who were lining up behind your team? And why, for all logic’s sake, would you use a local TV station’s web site to host a competition that will decide a player on your team. Isn’t that exactly the kind of thing that could draw eye balls to SOUNDERSFC.COM, where they could buy tickets?