Sports teams shaking their fans down for money is nothing new. U.S. Soccer passed the hat last week by introducing something called the "U.S. Soccer Supporters Club." Basically it allows the USSF to hit up their most loyal fans for $50 a piece in exchange for some trinkets and dibs on tickets to the 2010 World Cup.
Fan clubs such as these are the latest trend among sports organizations searching for ways to coax money from the general public. Earlier this year I was offered membership in The Cubs Club. The two levels of elite membership, costing $129 and $249, offered me the right to buy Chicago Cubs tickets before they went on sale to the general public.
Four years ago when my brother and I applied for U.S. tickets to the 2006 World Cup through the USSF, I was pleasantly surprised at our success. Fans we ran into from England were shocked that we could get tickets through the Federation. This time around, that level of access will cost $50. That's a small price to pay for the thrill of securing World Cup tickets, but the membership fee is still unnecessary.
One motivator for the policy is undoubtedly the demand for World Cup tickets among U.S. residents. Notice I said "residents" and not "fans." The U.S. will receive 69,000 tickets from the initial FIFA sale. The majority of those tickets are headed not to soccer fans, but to ticket brokers. So if that crowd is forced to fork over an extra $50, fine by me.
I will say this about U.S. Soccer: their decision to hold the US-Mexico World Cup qualifier in Columbus every four years is one of the few decisions in sports not motivated by dollar signs. The game could easily attract 90,000-plus in the Rose Bowl, but the stadium would be two-thirds Mexican fans. Instead, U.S. Soccer settles for a smaller crowd (and thus a much smaller take at the gate) in order to give the team a home field advantage. So if the Supporters Club helps the USSF make up that lost revenue, I can live with the policy.