Uncle Si wrote:I want to assert this is not an anti-MLS rant, more of a concern for its safety. I now have three players Ive worked with in the past in the MLS (two in reserves but still). as a coach, i want this league to succeed as it helps promote the sport at the younger ages.
there are already 4 too many teams in the MLS. adding more will water down an already watered down product. This isnt a reflection of soccer "growing" (there has never been an issue with participation numbers, and it is quite obvious that viewership is on the rise... soccer the sport is more popular than the NBA and NHL) as much as it is believing that these cities can sustain this version of the product.
this is a dangerous precipice the MLS is looking over. They have decided to take on the NBA and NHL (once the scheduling changes take place) in the markets these cities do well in (Miami, San Antonio are basketball cities). They believe they can sustain interest against these other sports without the star power (or even mediocre talent to be fair) the other leagues have. to me, this is where the MLS needs to rethink its approach to the players it brings in.
I had mentioned this earlier, and I believe it needs mentioning again... the MLS needs the backing of the world's bigger clubs if its going to succeed. Call it a "minor league" if you want to disparage it, but until these cities show the sustainability and interest in the sport that other B leagues in the world have shown their is always the danger the league will fail (again). 90% of the USMNT play outside the MLS. The highest tier of young players on the USMNT are "recruits" from other nations (mostly Germany and Mexico). We are not producing enough young talent (like the other major European league host nations do) to sustain a competitive league of 22-24 teams with domestic players. Getting the financial and tactical support of bigger clubs balance the MLS teams and also allow them access to exciting players. Barcelona and Real Madrid already employ B teams in the La Liga's 2nd league... imagine if Liverpool/United/City/Chelsea were loaning their starlets to their associated MLS teams for experience. to me Suso/Sterling/Ibe (Liverpool U21s) taking the field for the Sounders is far more exciting than Dempsey in his twilight.
Promotion/Relegation is a decade away in the MLS. they would not relegate a team without knowing the fan base would stick around long enough to maintain its financial balance. You can point to the Sounders and Timbers survival after the fall of the NASL, but think about the history of that. From 25-30K fans to 5-10K fans to 60K fans (for the Sounders). American (and its expatriates) soccer fans already view the top MLS teams as second to their favorite clubs (I get it Smurf, you dont, but you're part of the 2% and the numbers indicate that). How would they view these clubs if they suddenly fell from the top league of an already B league? I dont see it working.
just my thoughts...
Greath thoughts here Si. I don't disagree, but have some differing opinions.
I agree with you that the MLS is expanding at a rate that is too quick, and potentially unsustainable. I think a large portion of that is due to its unwillingness to acknowledge mistakes. Chivas USA should not be part of the MLS. Period. They have Zero fan support, their front office is a disaster, and this has not changed in 8+ years....That franchise is the worst in MLS and a feel terrible for the 3000 people that show up for their home games. I honestly do.
They should not have put another team in LA after the Galaxy. Period. The point of Chivas was to capitalize on the large hispanic populous in LA...well guess what, those fans are close enough to the boarder that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to follow the Mexican Premiera. They already have clubs they love, they don't need one close to home. I think MLS has failed on a large scale with that franchise and need to cut their losses. Move the team, or dissolve it.
The other thing that has bothered me about MLS expansion is the random focus they had on minor markets in the early 2000's. Colorado, Salt Lake, Columbus....These choices are bizarre to me. They seem to be working out now, but boy did they take a while.
I think the biggest failing the MLS has had was allowing the New York Red Bulls to put their arena outside of New York City. That is preposterous and their attendance has suffered for it. Now you are putting a second team in New York...whose stadium will actually be IN New York...I fear for that Red Bulls franchises sustainability. There is a direct correlation to Attendance numbers and the stadium's proximity to the downtown area. Seattle, Portland, LA, Montreal, Vancouver, Sporting KC, Houston, RSL, Philly....all these teams have their stadiums relatively close to the downtown area...It matters. I think that is something that is VERY, VERY important to consider with expansion.
You're mention of the larger clubs backing MLS teams is already sort of happening. RSL, Colorado and a few other clubs have "Ties" to European clubs like Arsenal, Juve, Man Utd....but New York City FC are taking that to another level. They are being backed by Man City...and its been rumored that City will be sending over Gareth Berry and potentially a few others over to MLS when they start. I hope they bring some young players over....that would be great. I'd love it. I agree. I think if we had gotten the chance to watch Adnan Januzaj for the last 2 seasons it would be fantastic for the league. However I do worry that the larger clubs could use MLS as a way to increase their profits for the parent club. I don't want the MLS clubs to become a way the European teams balance their books.
The NY2 experiment will be interesting to watch unfold....especially with the Cosmos name in the NASL holding the hearts of many New Yorkers....
There is one thing that makes me happy about expansion....the more expansion dollars the league gets...the closer and closer we get to Robert Kraft selling the New England Revolution to someone who actually cares and understands football.
TL;DR: I dont like expansion, but am supporting it due to my support of the league. I agree the talent pool will be weaker without significant changes to the Salary Cap. NY2 will be interesting. Slippery slope if expansion fails.