Sam Fantauzzo: “With the sellout crowds and World Cup ratings for Landon and our national team in the recent past, this is like Pele coming to the NASL in a new media era.” (Photo courtesy of the Lancers)
By Michael Lewis
There was consensus in the Major Arena Soccer League that the San Diego Sockers’ signing of U.S. soccer legend Landon Donovan was big.
But how big?
“With the sellout crowds and World Cup ratings for Landon and our national team in the recent past, this is like Pele coming to the NASL in a new media era,” Rochester Lancers owner Sam Fantauzzo said Thursday. “This could be the start of something huge.”
It could be.
Donovan, who set records and standards for club and country, signed with the Sockers Thursday.
Fantauzzo, known as Soccer Sam to Rochester fans of the beautiful game, has his team competing in MASL 2 at the moment.
He followed Donovan’s career, starting to cover the U.S. national teams in 1994.
“Several players from our women’s team have crossed over to mainstream,” he said. “Landon is the only men’s side player to established himself with the non-soccer fan. I remember walking into Toys R Us and seeing a giant soccer ball display with Landon on it. I said to my grand-kids, ‘Soccer has finally made it!’
“I commend my friend Phil Salvagio, owner of the Sockers for making this happen.”
Fantauzzo was hopeful that Donovan would open the door for some other Major League Soccer and/or U.S. national team players to play indoors.
“Could you imagine [Clint] Dempsey, [Tim] Howard and [Michael] Bradley joining our sport soon?” he said. “Landon will soon realize the quality of play and talent throughout the MASL. I know each and every city will sell out welcoming Donovan!”