IS MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY?

The MLS has done the hard yards. In one of the few places on earth where far too few were supposed to give a hoot about soccer, 20 years of labor has brought the sport, which the rest of the world has long been gaga over, to the verge of credibility in the US. After decades of mouthful upon mouthful of humble pie, North American soccer investors are under the impression their bet might just be about to pay off. Those who’ve toiled behind the US soccer bandwagon want to believe the sport’s professional circumstances at last bask beneath a fresh, positive light.

Delve beyond the rhetoric and the swagger and focus on what can be measured, weighed and accounted for and the MLS’s place within the scheme of things remains as precarious as ever. The MLS continues to cherry pick the data and information it uses to publically justify the value of the league and the projected growth of North American soccer. The inconvenient information it is all too happy to omit, consciously or otherwise, will in time undermine the worth and integrity of their brand.

Soccer here and everywhere else on the planet is first and foremost a business and as such is bound to the same economic influences as any other enterprise who exchanges goods and/or services for the coin of the realm. The continued portrayal of popular opinion as fact is a sure fire way to rack and ruin. The rapid fire growth of soccer in the region is a fairytale with a nightmare ending for North American soccer supporters.

This is where US professional soccer lives:
International soccer and the BIG 4 of US sports are two separate markets. Each is a behemoth within the sports entertainment industry and each controls their own destiny separate from the other. In contrast, the MLS has long been a minnow on both the domestic and international sports entertainment scene and continues to struggle in several critical areas when compared to its better supported antagonists.

Domestically, the BIG 4 are each carefully controlled enterprises. For the most part, they’re closed markets. Their consumer base is predominantly domestic. Each stays out of the others’ way as much as possible as far as scheduling is concerned and the threat of external competition within the industry is rather hard to imagine. Even the franchises who don’t turn a profit are valued in the hundreds of millions. The most successful among them are giants of the industry.

These are the US professional sports competitions the MLS competes with domestically:

  • NFL: $7.24 billion in revenue with all 32 teams 2014/15 season. (www.sbnation.com)
  • MLB: Major League Baseball (MLB), with its 30 teams, generated around 7.1 billion U.S. dollars in total revenue in the 2013 season. (www.statista.com)
  • NBA: The teams of the NBA league generated combined NBA revenues of around 4.8 billion U.S. dollars in the 2013/14. (www.statista.com)
  • NHL: Revenues for the 2013-14 season are expected to hit $3.7-billion. (www.theglobeandmail.com)

International club soccer on the other hand is a free for all. The big dogs eat first, and the rest of the pack bicker over the scraps. The MLS is not the runt of the litter but it certainly doesn’t rank among the alphas either. Whether or not men’s professional soccer leagues in the US care to admit it, they are subject to the hierarchy of the pack. What the likes of the EPL, La Liga, the Bundesliga, even the Serie A want they take and there’s little the MLS, the USL or the NASL can do to alter that fact.

Most Valuable Sports Teams 2016, Forbes.com

Team Value
1. Dallas Cowboys $4 bil
2. Real Madrid $3.65 bil
3. Barcelona $3.55 bil
4. New York Yankees $3.4 bil
5. Manchester United $3.32 bil
 …X. Seattle Sounders*  $0.285 bil

* added by blog author.

The MLS doesn’t compete with one or the other of these markets in isolation. It is in a constant scrap for the attention of the media, corporate investment, supporters and participants with both – all the time. It’s impossible to identify any one of these confrontations where the MLS enjoys the upper hand. Major League Soccer’s location within the sports entertainment industry is a choice, not a foregone conclusion. The sensible position for US soccer to adopt under these conditions would be to extricate themselves from such a situation which demands their battle be fought on two fronts. A conclusion that should have occurred to someone, somewhere, within the MLS organization with a business management background at some point in the past 20 years. Their persistent stance to compete under these conditions suggests this has not been the case.

North American soccer club owners see the sorts of figures generated by the big dogs of the industry and salivate at the idea of their club doing something similar. What the majority invested in the sport domestically seems quite content to overlook is the discrepancies in the markets. US soccer has a fraction of the resources and a ton more competition to contend with than any of the other organizations in the markets it straddles. These factors, that this article intends to review, muddy the waters of prediction in terms of US soccer’s future in the region. By its innate nature, US soccer is going to behave differently in all critical areas of expansion than the organizations it seeks to emulate. Those invested in US soccer who expect to someday soon wander into the mythical Lost city of Eldorado are more than likely about to stumble unawares into the receiving end of a mugging.

To insist the success of the most fashionable European soccer leagues or the BIG 4 is ample evidence for US soccer to follow in their operational footsteps is to present merely half a case. It’s the business equivalent of driving in blinders. Certain critical elements in the success equation continue to be overlooked. US soccer’s comparatively precarious position within the industry make this sort of behavior somewhat baffling.

 

www.forbes.com
“The average MLS team is now worth $185 million. That’s up 18% over last year, 80% from 2013 and a staggering 400% from our first MLS valuations in 2008, when the average team was worth $37 million.”

 

These are “you’d better be able to put your money where your mouth is” kinds of numbers. The only businesses capable of that sort of growth are the most extraordinary tech companies – and pyramid schemes. For a league that so far hasn’t produced anything all that tangible of note, this is a vote of confidence akin to being crowned the future heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Some sort of substance had better back up the hype or your professional integrity is in for a hammering and you wind up just another chump with a soft chin who took their shot and publically embarrassed themselves.

The MLS is not an exceptional domestic soccer competition on the verge of altering the international landscape of the men’s game. It’s an OK league, with a decent enough product, enjoying modest financial growth, persistent in its efforts to replicate the examples of far more successful adversaries.

The table below represents an indication of the worth of MLS franchises (FORBES estimates; revenue and operating income is for 2015 season):

   Team Value
($M)
Revenue
($M)
Operating
Income ($M)
1
Seattle Sounders FC 285 52 9
LA Galaxy 265 58 5
New York City FC 255 36 -9
Toronto FC 245 38 -9
Orlando City SC 240 36 4
Houston Dynamo 215 26 1
Portland Timbers 210 39 3
Sporting Kansas City 195 33 2
New England Revolution 185 27 7
San Jose Earthquakes 180 31 3
New York Red Bulls 178 23 -5
Chicago Fire 177 24 -6
D.C. United 155 23 -1
Philadelphia Union 152 24 1
FC Dallas 150 24 -3
Montreal Impact 135 24 -3
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 128 20 -3
Real Salt Lake 125 24 4
Columbus Crew SC 123 24 -2
Colorado Rapids 110 16 -4
1 Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization

 

The “value” of the organizations might have gone through the roof in the past 8 years, however their ability to generate a profit has not responded in kind.

 

Factor in the cost of league prerequisites such as a soccer-specific stadium and player development facilities and expansion organizations in the MLS will require somewhere in the region of $500 million in start up capital before they make their first player signing. www.bloomberg.com
“Major League Soccer is preparing to nearly double expansion fees to about $200 million, MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said in an interview.”

 

Half a billion bucks to buy into a league where a club as well supported as the Seattle Sounders makes $9 million a year is the current best case scenario. From a financial perspective this all reeks of tuna. This is not an accurate reflection of the value of an MLS franchise. It’s an attempt to control the soccer conversation in the US. A financial commitment of this size is designed to deter all but the most enthusiastic suitors and potentially inflate the value of existing members’ franchises.

 

www.mlssoccer.com
“Where we are…is we are at a 20 [team] league today, just finishing our 20th season,” Garber said in his opening remarks. “We will be at 24 teams by 2018. And we will go to 28 teams with a timetable that has not yet been laid out.”

 


Franchise fees in MLS increasing at a rate of 18% since inaugural season

The MLS appears to have aspirations to create a closed market for itself in much the same way as the Big 4 have managed to do in the US. If it weren’t for the explosion of domestic and international competition for the attention of the US soccer audience it might even work. Professional soccer in the US is a comparatively dormant organization whose market share is steadily being encroached upon by domestic and international competition. The amount of choice within the US soccer market is exploding, the size of the audience isn’t. To create a closed market, the MLS first has to control the US soccer market and it doesn’t by a considerable margin. What the MLS is invested in is a version of US soccer. There’s absolutely no reason a rival with the means and the disposition couldn’t develop their own model of US men’s professional soccer and seriously undermine the MLS’s presence in the process.

The sense of unsubstantiated optimism in the future of men’s soccer in the US isn’t confined to the MLS either.

 

www.scratchingthepitch.com
 “The 1900% increase from 2012 to the second-division cap gains perspective when viewed in a chart.”

 

$5 million, for the rights to a minor league club in the 5th most popular men’s team sport in the country. A club with an ever decreasing window of opportunity to access the MLS. Who would then expect those fortunate enough to receive an invitation, to pony up an additional half a billion clams to participate in a league where the average worth of it’s members is currently estimated at approximately 1/3rd of that investment. A 1900% cost increase should send any half cognizant prospective investor fleeing the scene, hollering “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” at the top of their lungs but the opposite appears to be the case. The popular consensus appears to believe its the shortest route to a massive payday.

 

www.marketwatch.com
 “There are over 60 professional men’s soccer teams in the US in 2016.”

 

More are on the way. They’re popping up all over the country at a rapid rate.

An MLS 28-team competition leaves a considerable number of clubs with professional aspirations without a platform to operate within. Not to mention the cities with plans to organize a competitive club in the short-term future. The poor unfortunates denied the opportunity to cut Commissioner Garber a $200 million check are left with two choices. Take it or leave it. Accept their fate as also rans in the North American men’s professional soccer race or politely tell the MLS where they can shove their ‘closed market’ competition and build a challenger. US soccer can barely support the MLS. The emergence of a second option would be devastating for the men’s version of the sport in this part of the world but those left out in the cold won’t have too many other viable alternatives. No one with a multimillion dollar investment in a USL or NASL club is about to eat the losses that permanent exclusion from division 1 status would force upon them without some sort of response.

Before the pursuit of a business venture begins in earnest, any business, serious consideration should be given to answer the question “Will this work?” Once the fundamental aspects needed to operate a professional soccer team in North America are given even cursory assessment, under the current circumstances it’s tough to answer in the affirmative. To keep the doors open and the lights on and succeed in the sports entertainment industry a professional soccer franchise requires 3 critical components and must be able to complete the following equation to stand a realistic chance of success.

Success  =  function(Athlete + Audience + Approach)

Unless all three components are present in the market where a soccer franchise plans to operate, their long term future is uncertain. It’s a high risk proposition.

 

1. The Athlete

Under the current rate of club expansion, US soccer doesn’t appear to have enough of them at the requisite standard. US soccer’s track record of talent development is mediocre at best. Outside of a select group of soccer superpowers, the rest of the world struggles to consistently generate soccer players at a professional standard. It is a highly competitive, extremely specialized and established area of expertise. This is the sort of opposition US soccer talent development are up against.

 

www.qz.com
“In the first half of 2013, Latin American countries shipped off about 5,000 soccer players worth over $1.1 billion dollars. Argentina and Brazil alone exported over 3,000 soccer players, or over $400 million in talent.”

 

There’s nothing to suggest US soccer talent development is on the verge of the level of mass production of a caliber of athlete needed to perform at a world class level. There is no readily available quick fix to remedy that situation and a huge financial commitment to talent development doesn’t guarantee any sort of return on investment. Soccer talent development is a decade-long process and success indicators are ambiguous at best. Globally, examples of sustained talent development success are exceedingly rare. Outside of a select group of soccer superpowers, the rest of the world struggles to consistently generate soccer players at a professional standard because it’s a complicated course of action.

The US Soccer Talent Development Hurdles:

  • No established history of success.
  • Requires a great deal of time.
  • Highly specialized field of expertise.
  • Not a function of financial allocation.

North American soccer is in the process of spending 10s of millions of dollars devoted to talent development on the outcome of “maybe”.

‘Guardiola was asked about the quality of Wilshere and the Barcelona coach said: “Wilshere is a top player. He is an excellent player, not just Arsenal, but also for the national team. [But] he is lucky because we have many players in the second team like him but he plays because there is no pressure at his club to win titles.”‘ (www.theguardian.com)

Even if US Soccer manages to solve the player development puzzle, there’s no guarantees MLS clubs will be able to afford to keep their finest graduates when confronted with foreign markets capable of outbidding them for the rights to the players, as evidenced in the table below (Global Sports Salaries Survey 2016, sportingintelligence.com).

EPL ANALYSIS (ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALL)
Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking Average Salary Per Player Median Salary
$1,696,161,456 No. 4 League $3,218,523 $2,402,400
LA LIGA ANALYSIS (SPANISH TOP DIVISION FOOTBALL)
Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking
$806,483,515 No. 7 League $1,635,869 $686,400
SERIE A ANALYSIS (ITALIAN TOP DIVISION FOOTBALL)
Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking
$791,014,314 No. 8 League $1,459,436 $902,000
BUNDESLIGA ANALYSIS (GERMAN TOP DIVISION FOOTBALL)
Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking
$715,129,562 No. 9 League $1,372,610 $757,680
LIGUE 1 ANALYSIS (FRENCH TOP DIVISION FOOTBALL)
Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking
$525,054,288 No. 10 League $961,638 $480,480
CSL ANALYSIS (CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE)
Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking
$366,744,157 No. 12 League $775,358 $90,000
MLS ANALYSIS
Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking Total Salaries Average Salary Ranking
$179,913,287 No. 13 League $313,438 $116,523

 

The discrepancies in player salaries is so vast and so blatantly in favor of every one of the MLS’s major competitors. The level of control the MLS has over the personnel it employs is dismal. Short of forced incarceration, down which realistic avenue does the MLS plan to tread to raise the performance standard of the game within their league?

Not to mention the influence of the earnings of professional salaries in the BIG 4. The NFL is the No. 6 highest paid league in the world, the NHL is No. 5 and the MLB, is No. 2. The NBA is the No. 1 in the world with a new TV deal due to come into effect from 2016-17 valued at over $2.6 billion over 9 years. The bulk of which will go directly into the pockets of the athletes.

 

www.washingtonpost.com
“I had to be realistic. I love soccer, but MLS isn’t the NFL or NBA,” (Mishu, 25) said Tuesday. “I felt like I could play until I was 30-whatever, but I didn’t want to leave the league needing to get an entry-level job.”

 

If the requisite athletes can’t be produced domestically they have to be recruited. This creates a supply and demand conversation at a global level and further exacerbates the enormous wage discrepancies by which the MLS is already hampered. MLS clubs will be forced to invest heavily in foreign born players not already contracted to more desirable leagues from the open market. With the current demand at the international level, the price for world-class soccer players is through the roof.

 

www.theguardian.com
“After Graziano Pellè’s move from Southampton to Shandong Luneng was completed this week, he will be, depending on whom one believes, anything from the third to the 10th best-paid player in the world. Reports indicate he will earn £34m over the course of two and a half years, breaking down to something like £260,000 a week.”

 

US soccer lacks the grandeur of the established European leagues and competitions or the financial freedom to spend the sorts of funds emerging markets such as China and India are prepared and able to pay to lure the world’s best men’s soccer players. New professional men’s soccer franchises in the US will either be forced to discard financial constraint and partake in an international bidding war for the necessary personnel or make do with the standard of players within their budgetary means. The cost of participation will rise or the standard of play on the field will fall.

 

www.theguardian.com
“The average wage budget percentage in the English Premier League (EPL) exceeds 50%.”

 

www.nytimes.com
“The EPL sent £700m abroad this summer 2016.”

 

www.bostonglobe.com
“China will put into service 70,000 soccer pitches. The initiative especially targets long-neglected youth programs, with more than 30 million primary and secondary schools to play regularly, and the training of 10,000 coaches. It would also more than double the number of specialized academies to 20,000. A recent $300 million splurge to bring big-name foreign talent to the Chinese Premier League has raised the level of play among top-flight domestic clubs.”

 

It would be financially insane for MLS club owners to commit to a similar investment strategy for player procurement as their international competitors have chosen to and the MLS is not about to follow in their footsteps.

 

2. The Audience

The MLS is the 3rd most popular televised soccer competition on its own turf. The margin between 4th place La Liga-who offer a far superior standard of soccer-is narrow. In contrast the ground to be made in the EPL for the second spot would require the MLS to double its TV viewership. Not to mention the Liga MX who pulls, at a minimum, four times the number of punters the MLS can manage on a consistent basis.

Most popular soccer leagues on US television, ranked, (World Soccer Talk):

LIGA MX
“While it’s difficult to quantify an exact average for Liga MX games because many of them are on the free-to-air Univision where TV ratings data is harder to obtain, there’s no doubt that Liga MX is the most-watched soccer league on US television.” Anywhere from 1 million to 2.5 million viewers per match on average, depending on the source.
PREMIER LEAGUE
“Across all NBC networks during the 2015/16 Premier League season, NBC Sports Group averaged 514,000 viewers per match window – up 7% from last season’s then-record average (479,000). Last season’s figure was up 9% from the then-record average in NBC Sports Group’s debut Premier League season (438,000 in 2013-14). This year’s average is up 134% from the season prior to NBC Sports Group’s debut (220,000 viewers on ESPN, ESPN2 and FOX Soccer in 2012-13).” Averaged 514,000 viewers per match window
MLS
“Major League Soccer, the third most popular soccer league in the United States, is making positive gains each year thanks to having many of its nationally-televised matches shown live on ESPN, FOX Sports 1 and UniMas. While the league still has a long way to go based on its average of 228,505 viewers per game in the 2015 season, the 2016 numbers should increase considerably.” Average of 228,505 viewers per game in the 2015 season
LA LIGA
“The 2015/16 season proved that Spain’s top flight league doesn’t draw big TV ratings for just Barcelona and Real Madrid matches. With wall-to-wall coverage on beIN SPORTS in the United States, games from La Liga enjoyed an impressive viewing audience of approximately 212,539 per game.” Approximately 212,539 per game.
BUNDESLIGA
“The German league is averaging 92,205 viewers per game across the FOX networks.” Averaging 92,205 viewers per game

 

US soccer has packaged expansion as growth. The number of sports entertainment choices available to soccer supporters in North America continues to increase. The size of the US soccer audience isn’t necessarily growing in kind. Global soccer is currently bombarding US soccer fans with more choices, not converting sports entertainment consumers into US soccer supporters. The array of alternatives available to sports consumers domestically and internationally is immense. Beyond the respective locations US professional soccer organizations share in common with their potential consumer base, there’s nothing of note to distinguish themselves from the rest of the brands who occupy the same global marketplace. There’s little incentive to opt for the MLS or the USL or the NASL over the far more attractive and dominant offerings. As far as sports entertainment consumers are concerned, US soccer is throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into a version of a product already abundant within the industry.

 

www.ibtimes.com
“The biggest ratings draws for U.S. audiences last year were international competitions like the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Mexican Liga, the English Premier League and the Champions League, which features the best squads in Europe. If MLS wants a bigger TV contract in its 2022 negotiations — which, again, is where the real money lies — it might need a larger audience. But to gain a larger audience (and more money), it might need world-class players — like those in the Champions League or English Premier League — which requires more money.”

 

This is the same old Catch 22 that has given US men’s professional soccer the run around since television rights converted professional sports into billion dollar enterprises. Spend money they don’t have to buy players capable of attracting a sizeable enough crowd to cover the cost of the operation and hopefully entice a TV deal large enough to keep the whole show afloat. Unfortunately, it’s a mission almost impossible enough to need Tom Cruise to orchestrate in order to stand a snowflake’s chance in the Sahara.

www.brotherlygame.com

The numbers don’t justify the risk. The MLS audience is growing but no faster than the most prestigious soccer leagues in the world and certainly not at a rate to convince a major TV network to hitch their wheelbarrow full of cash to the MLS’s brand. From an audience perspective, the MLS doesn’t have all that much of anything TV money needs to buy.

 

www.brotherlygame.com
“While doubling revenues might seem impressive it represents about 10.5% revenue growth per year over that period, which is nice, but not exactly what you’d expect from a relatively small company touting impressive growth. The top ten most valuable soccer clubs in the world according to Forbes grew revenues 8% annually over the same period. Those teams have much higher revenues to start with and growth is more challenging.”

 

3. The Approach

The best leagues in the world are each recognized for their own distinct style of play. There’s a discernable difference to the philosophy at work behind the pattern of a match played in the Bundesliga when compared to the EPL. The same can be said of La Liga and the Serie A. They’re each a unique product within the global soccer market. Each league’s Approach is an intrinsic motivator behind why soccer consumers follow the leagues they do.

In the US, everything that takes place on a soccer field after the national anthem has been borrowed from somewhere else. Popular wisdom in emerging soccer markets has been and remains to emulate as close as possible the examples of the most popular leagues in the world. The EPL, La Liga or the Bundesliga for example. Aspiring soccer organizations tend to follow a particular trajectory and US soccer clubs are no exception. They adopt a reactive stance in an industry that rewards proactive approaches. While the rest of the world works towards the emulation of the most conventionally accepted best practices, the best in the world search for the next as yet undiscovered competitive edge. The history of organized soccer can be charted along a series of quantum leaps in technical and tactical innovations. Soccer waits for no one.

Until such times as US soccer franchises are prepared to reach beyond the technical development curve and devote the appropriate resources to a distinctively home-grown tactical approach, they remain exposed to comparison to the examples they attempt to copy. As long as the originators assume the position of dominance in terms of execution and implementation, consumer opinion of US soccer’s attempts in comparison will remain predominantly unflattering. The persistent adherence to unfounded opinion on a market-appropriate technical and tactical attitude continues to undermine US soccer’s earning potential. Rather than continue to await instructions from an external source on how best to proceed, US soccer would be better served by the development of an independent technical and tactical methodology designed to solve US soccer’s cultural-specific dilemmas.

 

www.brainyquote.com
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Albert Einstein


 

In Major League Soccer’s case, and US soccer in general, the shoe fits. The costs of inclusion into the upper tranches of an organized men’s professional soccer competition in North America is skyrocketing, the returns on investment are modest and the data used to evaluate projected future earnings is speculative at best. The availability of qualified personnel to staff the organizations is limited and costly as a consequence. The continued emulation of the best practices of better supported competing markets, the lack of innovation within the league and the MLS’s position within the sports entertainment industry relative to its far more established market competitors effectively renders the MLS brand almost redundant.

Domestic soccer in the US market is regarded as a foreign game and in the international market it’s an inferior one and there’s nothing to suggest these perceptions are about to change. US soccer’s sustained inability to establish a profitable presence in either market is due to the choices made in regards to how their product is assembled, packaged and promoted to potential consumers. What has changed is the level of interest in the North American soccer consumer market. The most critical component of any successful sports entertainment brand, the presence and commitment of their audience, has never enjoyed the plethora of soccer options currently available. Many of the alternatives are more readily accessible, better promoted and offer superior entertainment value than US domestic soccer offerings.

Should the MLS, the USL and the NASL be found unable to fulfill their projections due to the unfavorable market realities mentioned above, the value of the clubs involved will respond negatively. North American soccer would be marginalized within its own market due entirely to the blind adherence of unsubstantiated operational practices. The potential risks to investment continue to escalate as the avenues of growth dwindle. The MLS is not a gold rush. It’s a bubble.

Investors in US soccer are willing to let it all ride on the assumption their franchises will respond to the market in the same fashion as the most successful in the Big 4 and international soccer have done in the past. Intentionally or not, the ambiguous evidence used to paint US soccer in such a positive light is being misconstrued to coincide with popular opinion. US soccer is riddled with confirmation bias. The MLS continues to cherry pick the successful examples of one of these competitors for market share as proof that emulation on their part will lead to comparable returns. In doing so they continue to overlook additional US soccer-specific factors that effectively demonstrate the data used out of context. Unfounded confidence in the predicted potential growth of the North American soccer market continues to be used to validate grossly overinflated access costs. The business strategy US soccer relies upon is completely unjustified. Soccer is not a high risk investment in the US. It is only the adopted business model that makes it so.

While it’s possible to suggest the elevated cost of inclusion in the MLS is now more aligned with an accurate reflection of the value of men’s professional domestic soccer in the US, the discrepancy between the most recent price increases and the league’s growth rate are difficult to reconcile. US soccer franchises reap none of the luxuries their more popular competitors enjoy and are exposed to a great deal more risk. A collective blind eye has been turned as to how any of this touted growth is supposed to occur. This oversight creates a huge hole in their train of thought. The MLS has yet to find solutions to overcome the obstacles faced by soccer in the US present since well before the league’s inception.

Compromise remains the prominent inhibitor of US soccer’s aspirations. A market reality forced upon the domestic version of the sport due to its status in the industry relative to the presence of a myriad of far more powerful and influential competitors. Every advantage the MLS is obliged to concede tarnishes the allure of the brand and undermines growth aspirations as a consequence.

An alternate outcome to the current US men’s professional soccer story will require an alternative business strategy designed to solve this formula:

Success = function(Athlete + Audience + Approach)

The somewhat pragmatic attitude behind the momentum of the MLS’s journey to date will have to be moderated with a greater onus on entertainment and individuality in the interests of enhanced market notoriety.

A tremendous opportunity exists for US soccer to embark upon a self-determined course of expression and maturation to establish itself as a unique cultural icon. A fresh perspective on North American soccer is the first intrinsic step in a process intended to reorganize and better compliment the sport’s specific situation in the region. Under the current circumstances, the luxury of ambiguity the MLS enjoyed for the past two decades within the sports entrainment industry is on the verge of complete evaporation. The size of the US domestic soccer consumer market opportunity has come to light and MLS’s inability to secure the majority share hold has left the MLS, and US soccer by default, exposed to a turbulent and uncertain future as a result.

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