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MLS Ironman Talks Soccer Biz

One of the goals of Major League Soccer in 2013 is to continue to crash through the casual fan barrier and bring some of their greatest personalities to the mainstream. If they succeed one of those faces will be the Colorado Rapids Drew Moor. The “Cal Ripken of MLS,” the native Texan has played in a record 69th consecutive complete MLS games, breaking the MLS record for field players held by Peter Vermes. Moore is a deep thinking soccer veteran, having played on NCAA Championshup squads at Indiana University and has been a key fixture in Team USA’s growth on the global stage over the years.

We caught up with Moor to talk MLS, soccer business and where the game can be going as we head toward Rio2014.

As a native Texan now in Colorado, what does it mean to fans there to have Peyton Manning in the city playing that “other” football?

I think it means a lot to the people of Denver that they have such a fantastic quarterback leading their football team.  The city is a huge sports town, and I feel as though the Broncos are the featured team that most fans gravitate towards.  During the football season this past fall and winter, the entire city was buzzing about Peyton and the Broncos.

You have seen soccer grow in your career from the high school, collegiate, national and professional level. What is the nest step that MLS needs to take to crack a larger casual audience?

MLS has grown leaps and bounds since its inception in ’96, and as an overall fan of the League, I am extremely proud and excited about how far MLS has come.  Attendance is up, there are 19 teams, there are 14 soccer specific stadiums, it really is a great place to be right now.  I don’t think that there really needs to be any major changes or adjustments to make it bigger.  Slowly, but surely, MLS has captivated many people, and I think if we continue to develop the way we are, it will continue to impact the lives of more and more people.

How do the two markets you have played in…Colorado and Dallas, differ from a players perspective?

I think Dallas and Colorado are very similar organizations.  Both teams are in cities with sports teams that tend to dominate the sports market in their respective cities.  They also have owners that are also owners of other major sports teams.  Both organizations work very hard to improve attendance and the overall fan experience.  With the successful campaigns that both organizations had in their lead up to the MLS Cup in 2010, I feel as though they are both continuing to succeed even with these challenges.

Having spent time in Texas you must have seen how important the Hispanic audience is to MLS. How important is it to have a crossover Hispanic star in the game who us American?

I think the Hispanic community’s involvement with the league is a crucial element to its success.  Whether it’s catering to Hispanic fans, players, employees, they are a major part of the sport here in America.  It is always interesting to hear casual Hispanic fans speak about the players they support in this league, no matter how impactful that player is.  Hopefully MLS will continue to grow the Hispanic audience.

One of the barriers MLS has to overcome is keeping Americans in the States for their full careers. As a veteran American when will we see the best US players staying in the States vs, playing abroad for big parts of their careers?

I think it will still be a long time before the U.S. and MLS can keep their ‘superstars’ from going abroad, no matter how big the league is.  The truth of the matter is, as a player, I see how good the talent pool is in America.  There is certainly enough good American players that are not so-called superstars that will allow this league to be successful.  As for the ‘superstars,’ Europe is probably still the place that most of them will go to challenge themselves for a long time to come, in my opinion.

Where are the toughest places to play in MLS for a visiting player?

As a Colorado Rapid, the toughest place to go play is definitely Salt Lake.  With the Rocky Mountain Cup Rivalry that is so important to fans, they certainly make it a difficult road challenge.  Also, and obviously, Seattle is a very tough place to go get a result on the road because of the sheer number of fans that turn up.  But in my opinion, the best atmosphere in the league is in Portland.  I’ve been to many stadiums in the world and seen many great sporting events, and nothing compares to a Timbers game.

How important is it for Team USA to do well in Rio 2014 to grow the game in the States?

First of all, the U.S. has to qualify for the World Cup, which is becoming more and more difficult in this region.  However, if they do, I think that will be enough to allow the game to grow a great deal in this country.  The biggest difference I think would be if they did extremely well.  If they win their group, and could advance to the quarterfinals or semifinals, then I think people would really start to take notice.  But I feel as though people love watching the U.S. in the World Cup already.

You have amassed quite a streak without missing a match…what was the toughest injury you have had to play through?

Back in 2011, I had a fairly severe hamstring strain during a home match against Philadelphia.  I had pulled it in training a couple days before and didn’t train the rest of the week.  Although I never thought I wasn’t going to be able to play, I still had to pass a pre-match fitness test.  The hardest part was having to chase one of the most energetic forwards in the league, Sebastian Le Toux.

What has been your greatest accomplishment this far…college title, international success. MLS?

I feel as though I’ve been extremely blessed over the course of my soccer career, going back to the age of five.  Being able to wake up every day, drive to the training facility, and play the game I love is such a humbling experience, and I want to do it as long as I can.  I’ve won NCAA titles at Indiana, won an MLS Cup with Colorado, and been capped by my national team in a World Cup Qualifier, but nothing brings me more joy then waking up in the morning and getting to go do what I love.

Of the five major team sports in the US, where do you think MLS will rank after the next Olympic/World Cup cycle after 2014?

I don’t think we have to wait until after the next Olympic/World Cup cycle to determine where MLS sits in terms of sports popularity in the United States.  Other than the NFL, MLS legitimately competes with every other sport in this country.  No matter what the numbers say, or what history says, or what tradition says, MLS is an amazing place to be right now, and in my eyes, it is only going to get better and better.