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MLS 2.0: Will it work?

mls razov MLS 2.0: Will 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?

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About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

20 Responses to MLS 2.0: Will it work?

  1. kevquinnc says:

    At first I thought that the Apertura/Clausura was a good idea. Later I rethought it. I can’t afford the pay soccer channels and I live out of market so the only time I see MLS is on ESPN2. If they changed the schedule I’ll see even less because you can damn sure bet that ESPN will choose college football to MLS. Do they,ESPN, get to do basketball games too? If so they will choose that as well. No matter what soccer is seen as the red head stepchild. We have a long way to go. Why discuss promotion/relegation again? Yes it’s a better system. However, tell Beckham and AEG that you are now in the second division. Watch attendence fall. One last thing: Right now as it is with 14 teams the home and away schedule wont really work. Yes, more fair and competive and will help with the congestion but 26 games. Really. Since we compare ourselves with Europe what will they think? Now there will probably be some one out there who will say if we do this and that blah blah blah, but the reality is a bit different.

  2. Phillip says:

    kevquinnc, espn has a contract to broadcast a certain # of MLS matches every year. if they were to break that contract, MLS could sue

    Kartik, we completely agree about Garber. I’d even push that it’s time for him to step down. He’s more concerned wit the well-being of SUM than he is of MLS. I don’t know why he contends that a continuous expansion is good for this league. Then, as you said, earlier this year he lambastes DC United for losing to Pachuca, and now he acts like it’s no big deal, because we should be focusing on MLS not international tournaments.

    I think it’s time for Don Garber to go. We need someone who is ambitious, yet not stupid, in charge of this league. There is a ton of potential here, but the rapid expansion and ridiculous practices of roster/salary caps will hinder this league tremendously.

  3. Stanley Villa says:

    I think MLS will be bankrupt and defunct within 2 years from the end of this season (end of 2010 season). Building stadiums in the middle of nowhere, ditching US players in favor of foreign ones, not building large reserve USA player pools (where are kids finishing college supposed to play), putting teams in non-industrial markets (This league could have 4 teams around NYC
    Queens, Manhattan, Long Island, NJ — Hartford, Detroit, St.Louis, Philly, Providence, Baltimore still don’t have teams, for example), will be the downfall.
    The USL is the future and I’d put the guy running that to head the USSF and replace Gulati immediately.

  4. RZ Moore says:

    MLS is becoming less and less compelling. Honestly USL produces better football even if the players aren’t as well paid or as highly sought after by European clubs.

    What’s worse is that USL despite being an inferior product in terms of player quality and selection is a real football league where teams play tactically and together. In MLS, you never know who is coming or going and the commissioner is so inconsistent and incoherent in his vision he comes across as a money grubbing hypocrite.

    Marcos from Tampa is the commissioner of USL. I’ve dealt with him before: he knows the game unlike Garber and actually wants to see American kids go abroad between 17 and 20 and then come back to USL. He’d do well with the USSF.

    The line about Superliga is about the last straw for me. The event is a fraud, and MLS is basically saying, we want our teams to perform in that event because SUM runs it and we keep the TV revenue while the CONCACAF event makes us no dinero so we’ll pass.

    Great attitude man. Talk about being in a islotate coccoon.

  5. RZ Moore says:

    Stanley Villa, I agree on the foreign players. I mean seriously is this league going to depend entirely on 35 year old plus foreigners to carry it?

    Where is all the youth devolpment? Where are the American stars? Oh, they are all overseas.

    When American players who are 17, 18 or 19 and are highly sought after all go to Europe you know you have a problem. Do you know how many Americans the last two years have signed with European clubs in second rate leagues right out high school or college. Making $12,900 doesn’t appeal to them.

  6. Phillip says:

    If our really good 17-19 year olds aren’t going to Europe then we have problems anyways.


    It’s that next tier of guys that need to stay.

  7. bandeeto says:

    The bean counters have done their job. MLS is here. It’s in the American sports scene. Now they need to back off some and let soccer people run soccer teams… and have more influence on the league.

    Many people are concerned with dilluting the talent in MLS. Many also want more 17, 18, and 19 yr old American players in the league. This is pretty much an oxymoron. Our College players, and the system in general, is a joke. Most college draft players are dropped by MLS teams, or carried for 3+ years untill they get released and they join USL teams.

    The answer is to make the reserve league more of an event… an MLS 2 if you will. Yeah, not many will watch, but there is opportunity for higher competition which will improve 17-19 yr olds and get them into the first team.

    OR put them in ULS teams. the idea is to get higher competition/level of play through placing more demands on young players.

    If MLS allots a seperate, smaller, salarie for an MLS 2 club, then teams can afford to keep players that are not first team ready, but close, and have much promise. Hopefully the MLS2 cap will be sufficient for 16-18 players to get at least $30K. Of corse players can be borrowed from MLS2 team for first team action as needed.

    My point is that there need to be more importance, and money, thrown at the lower/younger end of the MLS talent pool.

    sorry for the long post.

  8. Tim says:

    Look you guys seem to forget that SUM is the only reason from what I can tell that MLS is still in business. Kartik complains about the Mexican National Team games and Superliga but they have sustained the league.

    USL is better run from a pure football perspective. I watch both leagues and honestly think the experience at a USL game is much better. It’s real passionate football. But MLS is a much better marketing entity than USL and has taken the best of American sports marketing and the best of the Premier League into one.

    MLS is clever. American footy fan are just now becoming sophisticated enough to realize the league is essentially a fraud from a pure football standpoint. But to the casual fan who doesn’t know better and does not follow the international game, MLS will appear to be a major league with glitz and glamour while USL appears to be like Rookie League Baseball.

    As Soccer fans we know USL in fact is in many ways better than MLS. But that’s not the point. For sure MLS is a con job of sorts but it’s working. SUM is the mothers milk of the whole deal.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Here is a stadium, empty til next May, right on the waterfront, 8 million people in the vicinity. US soccer needs to go to Fall/Spring schedule with a winter break, all these minor league baseball parks just sitting there (with debts), so they would be willing to listen to offers from soccer clubs who could play 20-25 home games. Minor league is only from May thru August, so a groundshare would be perfect.

  10. Stanley Villa says:


    Here is a stadium, empty til next May, right on the waterfront, 8 million people in the vicinity. US soccer needs to go to Fall/Spring schedule with a winter break, all these minor league baseball parks just sitting there (with debts), so they would be willing to listen to offers from soccer clubs who could play 20-25 home games. Minor league is only from May thru August, so a groundshare would be perfect.

  11. Stanley Villa says:

    Here is what is said about KeySpan Park. Oh wait, let’s put a team in Sandy, Utah! Give me a break. MLS has taken on too much debt and might collapse. Oh, Landon should go to Serie A, Bologna would be the spot, but that’s another topic.
    KeySpan Park provides one of the most spectacular and unique atmospheres in all of sports. The ballpark is located on Coney Island, in the heart of one of Brooklyn’s most historic neighborhoods. The beach, the boardwalk, the amusement parks and the world-famous original Nathan’s are all within walking distance, and visible from virtually any seat in the house.

    The landmarked Parachute Jump looms over the right field corner, and serves as a beacon, drawing millions directly to the ballpark. KeySpan Park’s one-of-a kind neon light towers not only make the park visible throughout New York City, but add to the carnival feel that dominates the surrounding area.

  12. stanleyvilla says:

    Here is another park in NYC. I know USL has a side on Long Island, so maybe they use this park already….

  13. Tommy says:

    Garber is probably just putting on a good public face. Right now you know the league is panicking on how to justify to investors who can buy into USL for a much cheaper rate as to why they should drop $40 in MLS when they are clearly such a failure on the international level.

    I have actually heard USL is close to getting some major investment which may eventually force a merger.

    But if MLS goes under, then USL sits pretty.

  14. Stanley Villa says:

    Oh, Philly doesn’t need a SSS, it’s already up and running, across the river. Chester, Philly is my hometown and I can tell you to forget Chester. I went to this Camden ballpark this summer and it was great.

    It is described thusly:

    Campbell’s Field is a fine example of recent ballpark design, but what will stick with most folks long after a visit here is the setting. Right on the Delaware River, the stadium is dominated by the presence of the enormous Ben Franklin Bridge connecting New Jersey and Philadelphia, which runs beyond the outfield fence. Cars as well as commuter trains speed by during the game, and at dusk the silhouette of the bridge against the sky is breathtaking. The Philadelphia skyline is visible as well from the first base stands.

  15. Stanley Villa says:

    Here is a park for Philly, no need to build another one (Chester, yuck)… and it is grass, no field turf as planned in Chester.

    This Philly park has been described by one visitor:

    Campbell’s Field is a fine example of recent ballpark design, but what will stick with most folks long after a visit here is the setting. Right on the Delaware River, the stadium is dominated by the presence of the enormous Ben Franklin Bridge connecting New Jersey and Philadelphia, which runs beyond the outfield fence. Cars as well as commuter trains speed by during the game, and at dusk the silhouette of the bridge against the sky is breathtaking. The Philadelphia skyline is visible as well from the first base stands.

  16. Jeff says:

    now that the results have gone against mls, it does not matter and the superliga does?

    international and domestic credibility is at stake. i’ve been a proponent of mls but many soccer fans of the european ilk in this country are asking me how i can watch mls if the league performs worse than a second division that plays in 2,000 seat stadiums in the champions league. when i say they are focusing on their own title, the response, is what is an mls title worth if the league is so poor when they step out?

    i have had this conversation with probably about 10 people since the new england-joe public fiasco. one friend who likes the premier league now threw down $50 for usl live.

    so basically if mls is trying to win over core fans of the game it’s losing. if the goal is to win over casual american sports fans by inflating its own image and downplaying international events not controlled by the league then maybe that’s another strategy.

    usl has never been a rival for mls. it is run fundamentally differently. maybe it’s a bad business but it is about soccer. mls is about money and image. the grassroots partnerships set up in a usl market by the clubs seem to always exceed that of mls local partnerships. the owners are mostly local and they can actually control their clubs.

    without a viable second division brining soccer to the masses in smaller markets and working with the youth level we have zilch.

    mls is as it is becoming nothing more than a retirement home for washed up foreign players. and unlike the nasl they are not getting the biggest names in the world.

  17. Phillip says:

    Stanley Villa…

    MLS better not be playing games in baseball stadiums in the future. KC is enough, but their stadium should be getting built starting next year.

  18. Dunch says:

    Looks like even ESPN is covering USL now:

    I find Colin Clarke’s statement interesting about focusing on the league over the Champions League.

    Yet the Islanders continue to win in both competitions. MLS is a fraud.

  19. bandeeto says:

    If MLS folds it will be a tragedy for soccer in this country. MLS is not the first, or even the best, professional soccer league in the USA. However they have all folded, in part, due to sectarianism, greed, idealism, and most of all poor/cynical support from the “American” soccer fan.

    If MLS fails my interest in US soccer will take a hit. Why should i follow a league, any league, which won’t be around for more than a couple of decades. I won’t throw my money at something I don’t care for, just so it can be replaced by something else 10 years down the road.

    I’m not saying MLS -OR- USL. I believe there is room for both. I am saying that if MLS fails, it hurts all soccer in the US. I don’t have a USL home team right now. Just because USL (worst case scenario I know) might one day be the only game in town doesn’t mean I’ll pick a team to support that I don’t care about.

    I just don’t why some on this thread seem to WANT MLS to fail. This helps no one.

  20. Jonathan says:

    Jeff brings up good points about the credibility of the league when teams that people look down in this country beat MLS teams.

    I prefer watching foreign leagues, but why should I devote my limited time to a league that do not take the international tournament that REALLY matters while taking the $uperliga more seriously.

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