MLS 2.0: Can it Work?
The indispensable American Soccer News had a good story on Don Garber’s plans for MLS 2.0, which will be discussed later this year with the league’s board. While Commissioner Garber deserves lots of credit for steering MLS away from the troubled waters that threatened its existence a few years back, the arrogance and hubris of the league which we’ve recently editorialized on this site threatens its long term credibility in the football world.
Some points from this story:
Garber says ” In regards to the CONCACAF Champions League, our credibility is being attacked but we want our clubs to focus on MLS…In reality, we are a business developing and to reconfigure our business model is not in our best interest.”
I’m not sure how he can spin this in MLS’ favor. The reality is it was Commissioner Garber whose comments were out of line when MLS teams failed in the forerunner tournament of this, including DC United against Pachuca this past Spring. It was the commissioner and league seemingly anxious to buy international credibility that emphasized these results. Now the Champions League performances are all the more embarrasing not because Mexican or Costa Rican teams are showing up MLS sides: those are clearly better and deeper leagues than MLS, but because the United States’ own second divsion, with which MLS broke off a relationship thus scuttling the American Club football pyramid has been so successful in this event. Sides from the United Soccer Leagues have actually defeated Mexican and Costa Rican sides in this tournament while MLS is winless in the event. I have for many years maintained that the soccer press in this country was ignorant of USL and discounted the quality in that league partly because of the obsession with representing MLS as something it is not. For years I have maintained that while MLS is on the whole stronger than USL the typical gap between a first and second division doesn’t exist in this country, thanks to the limited budgets and poor scouting of MLS teams. The league may not like it but it’s credibility is in the gutter based on its embarrasing performances in the Champions League. The bottom line is this: we live in a Global world where Football from all over is on TV: the best leagues in whatever region rise to the top in their regional club tournament, be it the Argentine teams in Copa Libertadoras or the English teams in the UEFA Champions League. The fact that USL teams are showing more than MLS teams in the champions league for CONCACAF speaks volumes about the overall quality of MLS.
There will be no promotion or relegation unveiled at that time and the league would prefer another Midwest team such as St. Louis to provide more balance geographically. Interest in a Miami franchise has resurfaced and Garber reiterated the demand in the Pacific Northwest is strong as well.
MLS expansion continues to dilute talent and the quality of the product on the pitch. No doubt exists in the my mind that MLS sides would have been more competitive in the CONCACAF Champions League had for example Chivas USA not lost Preston Burpo and Jason Hernandez in the expansion draft, and been forced to replace injured players with guys who are essentially being paid a semi-pro wage.
I can say this from the Miami perspective. MLS can work in South Florida but only if the quality of the product improves rapidly. The same for a second team in New York. If MLS is going to continue to to put out a product where defending is shambolic in almost every match and the pace is like watching paint dry, bigger more sophisticated football markets are going to tune out the product. I’d put Miami, New York and even Boston at the very top of this list.
Garber also expressed that the Superliga is a priority for the league based off of attendance and television ratings.
This line speaks for itself and to the priorities of the league. SUM makes money that sustains the league and thus MLS puts a priority on all SUM related events even if it means promoting a Mexican National Team game will for example cut MLS attendance for the games in the same market around the El Tri matchup on the calendar.
Currently, there are no short term solutions however, in 2009, there may be a possibility that teams will be more carefully selected to avoid fixture congestion so there may be more balance and variety in the Superliga, CONCACAF, and US Open Cup competitions
So no Apertura/Clausura at least for 2009. Even more disturbing I see no mention amending the squad limits or the salary cap in this piece.
What are our readers thoughts about MLS 2.0?