MLS Expansion: TV Must Be the Key (UPDATED)


The Sports Business Journal reported on Friday that MLS is looking at five potential markets for the next round of expansion and very notably omitting perhaps the most important market of all.

The paper reported that New York City appears dead for the next round. However, a second NYC area team should be a priority for MLS as well as a return to Florida.

From my vantage point, MLS’ biggest problem isn’t the quality of play (which is decent enough), the poor standard of tactical coaching, or attendance (which is actually quite good if not top shelf by any truly objective standard). It is the mere fact that the league struggles on TV. In fact the term, struggles is a massive understatement.

In the last round of expansion MLS embraced two markets with a rich NASL/USL history as well as an amazing sized fan base. But neither is a particularly attractive national TV market.

MLS’ TV ratings have declined by a steep level since the contraction of the league’s two Florida franchises. In 2000, MLS had more viewers on ESPN than today and more games on network TV than today. Contraction took MLS out of the nation’s 4th most populated state and away from several large TV markets. TV markets ironically enough, that continue to post some of the highest TV ratings for the US National Team’s English language broadcasts (and in the case of the Miami/Fort Lauderdale market a high Spanish ratings as well) while posting average or below average ratings for Major League Soccer.

It is important to note that MLS got higher ratings on ESPN when the league was buying time on the Disney family of networks. Today ESPN pays MLS a rights fee and gets fewer viewers. Even more distresing are reports that Spanish language TV flagship station Univision is reporting a substantial MLS ratings decline on its subsidiary Telefutura this season. Viewership on ESPN Deportes, which is in far fewer homes than Telefutura are up however this season.

We’ll get back to Florida in a minute, but first let’s visit New York, which unlike Florida appears to be out of the expansion mix for the next set of teams. It’s no secret that the New Jersey based Metrostars/Red Bulls have failed to make a dent in the critical New York media market. MLS must find a solution to this problem. While paid attendance for Red Bull is sure to increase with the opening of a new stadium in Harrison, NJ, the TV ratings are probably not likely to see any significant change.

MLS needs to bite the bullet on this one and put a second team in the New York metropolitan area, growing the league’s brand through a rivalry with the Red Bulls. This will lead to more TV exposure in the largest TV market in the country and to more mainstream media interest since much of the elite sports media hails from the Northeast.

If MLS does not commit to a NYC-2 franchise, Red Bull must seek an accommodation with the new USL-1 team heading to Long Island next year. That would involve playing a Big Apple Cup competition between the two teams and selling the TV rights, independently of MLS and USL if necessary.

Rumors persist that USL, as a league may undergo some sort of overhaul structurally before the 2010 season begins. With the collective bargaining agreement pending in MLS, it is possible that when 2010 rolls around the two US professional leagues will be willing to renew their partnership ,which was broken off earlier this decade or even enter into something more comprehensive. However, we must assume that will not happen, thus it would be wise for the two NYC professional clubs to work with one another to raise the profile of the sport locally, until MLS finally expands again in the area.

Florida has always been logical for the sport. The NASL was a big hit in Fort Lauderdale (Miami Area) and Tampa/St Pete and did reasonably well for a time in Jacksonville. Every successive start up league targeted Florida, whether it was the ASL, the APSL or the USISL. When MLS began play in 1996, Tampa Bay was an original market. Miami/Fort Lauderdale was added in 1998.

It’s also very apparent that US Soccer has a lot invested in Florida: from the targeting of youth clubs in the US Development Academy setup, to the USSF Bradenton Academy. Additionally, Florida provides many of the players that are in the US player pool at all level both youth and full national team. Additionally, youth soccer is massive in the state encompassing all demographic groups.

Ethnic populations of both Latins and Caribbean Islanders are well represented in Florida, and that is why despite not having an MLS team for eight years and having four full seasons without any professional football, Florida continued to attract high profile international friendlies. Additionally, Miami is the only city that has hosted at least one match in each of the past seven Gold Cup tournaments. The Gold Cup is marketed by SUM and they keep returning to Miami, time and time again despite the perceived failure of the market in MLS.

Tampa Bay was contracted in 2001 largely due to stadium and ownership issues. That year the Mutiny was among the worst teams in MLS history, and struggled at the gate. However, in the clubs first five MLS seasons, attendance and results were respectable even if playing in a large football stadium was not.

Attendance in USL cannot be used as a predictor as to MLS success. Toronto and Seattle lagged towards the middle or even the bottom in USL-1 attendance. But promotion to MLS has seen both markets hit home runs for MLS. At the same time markets such as Rochester and Charleston consistently outdrew Seattle and Toronto in USL-01. But nobody realistically has suggested them for MLS in the last several years. (Rochester, recall was a prime MLS expansion candidate in the late 90s and did have a decent following for the NASL.)

In fact while attendance is poor for Baseball’s Florida Marlins, its local TV numbers are in the top half for MLB. Chances are a renewed MLS team in Miami may lag in attendance but not in local TV viewership or interest.

As evidenced by the TV ratings for USMNT matches and the turnout for the Gold Cup every two years, Miami/Fort Lauderdale remains a very viable football market despite the perceived failure of the Fusion and struggles of Miami FC in USL-1. In fact the Fusion as with the Tampa Bay Mutiny were contracted more due to ownership and stadium issues than anything else.

Tampa Bay’s attendance if you take out the most brutal summer months of July and August was actually competitive with the entire league except perhaps Los Angeles from 1996 to 2000. But the club was owned by MLS itself and when no stadium plan or suitable buyer stepped forth (Malcolm Glazer was interested but in the politics of NFL/MLS ownership, some of the founding MLS owners did not want to play ball with him) and thus the team was contracted.

In Miami/Ft Lauderdale, Ken Horrowitz the investor-operator of the Fusion did not want to continue to absorb the sort of losses every MLS club was absorbing at the time. Several owners/investors bailed on MLS in the first six years. AEG went from owning one team, the Colorado Rapids, to seven teams as individual investors bailed. (AEG owned the Chicago Fire from its inception in 1998 but bought five teams that were previously owned by other investors)Basically, the situation in Miami though it was turning positive by the end of 2001 under bthe inspired leadership of Doug Hamilton was more to do with an uncommitted owners and the unwillingness of AEG to bail out the Fusion than anything else. Claiming the market “failed” is shortsighted and incorrect unless it is fair to claim every markets whose team was sold by an original investor also “failed.”

It is also possible that an elevated profile for MLS internationally will help bring “soccer snobs” in both New York and Florida through the gate in the future. Supporting MLS which was not seen as respectable, by European and Latin fans in Miami’s past failure and New York’s continued troubles may be less of an issue going forward thanks to SUMs marketing genius. At the same time it can be strongly argued from top to bottom the level of play in MLS circa 2000 was stronger than today, but a softening of “eurosnobs” towards the league appears to be underway.

In summary, attendance is one thing, but MLS has a major TV problem. With average ratings lower than bowling, poker, college volleyball and small conference college basketball and football, the league needs to think TV in the next expansion. This reality leaves MLS with two logical choices: New York and, a return to either Miami or Tampa.

While St Louis’ soccer tradition is admirable and I have previously advocated expansion to that market (ahead of Philadelphia, Portland or Vancouver), the continuing decline in MLS’ TV numbers since pulling out of the Florida market has made me rethink my view. Should NYC-2 continue to not be an option, then St Louis should be the second choice.


86 thoughts on “MLS Expansion: TV Must Be the Key (UPDATED)”

  1. Miami is fine, never should have pulled out of there to begin with and you make a very good point about the TV ratings. I think Univision saw a big decline IIRC after the Fusion were pulled because they had appealed to LAtin fans who while not showing at Lockhart did follow the team.

    But NYC2 is a dumb idea as far as I am concerned. I think MLS should go all in on the TV idea where they have a huge hole. Go Miami and Atlanta, take the attendance lumps but push the TV side hard and bring up the overall national numbers to where you sell more sponsorships and buy better players. TV not crowd building is what is driving the soccer train worldwide right now.

    So, I like your idea but I’d replace New York with Atlanta.

  2. 1) Montreal

    2) St Louis or Miami

    4) Atlanta.

    NYC 2= nowhere. Wilpon is broke thanks to Madoff and they won’t have a stadium. Miami would be #2 for me but the turf in the new stadium is a problem. Is Lockhart torn down yet?

  3. A strong television footprint is one of the most important factors when it come to expansion. With MLS numbers dropping again and again, they must look toward the markets that consistently get strong TV ratings. South Florida is always at the top of the ratings and therefore needs another shot at expansion.

  4. MLS messed up leaving Miami when they did as the Fusion was starting to pick up in attendance. Had MLS not given up on Miami I think The Fusion would still be around today.

    We need an investor who is willing to stick it out. People will come if the right marketing and a competitive team is put together. I have no doubt that any star in the world would pick Miami over any other city in the USA.

    MLS needs to come back to Miami.

  5. MLS must come back to South Florida!! I think abandoning not one, but both Florida teams while saving KC, Dallas and San Jose was a GIGANTIC mistake on the part of the league and it’s investors. Find an investor with strong local ties, who means it when he says he’s committed to soccer and this community(*cough*Claure*cough*), who will build a new SSS and do things right. And doing things right includes building on the successes of the past. If the team is to play in Ft. Lauderdale, either at a new place or a refurbished Lockhart(again), call them the Strikers. I think the Fusion should have been the Strikers once they decided on Lockhart. If it’s Miami, call them the Fusion. No sense in reinventing the wheel as Miami FC has tried, and for the most part, failed, to do.

    St. Louis and Montréal certainly deserve teams, but for the TV footprint South Florida and Atlanta are no-brainers. Montréal for #19, South Florida for #20, and St. Louis, Atlanta, Tampa, and another after that for 24 teams. And just my personal feelings, no way to NYC2. Some worthy places don’t have one team, let alone two, and for NYC to rob one isn’t fair. Local derbies are great and all, but in a country as big as the US(plus Canada in MLS), two teams in one market makes no sense. So with that said, move Chivas to San Diego, Phoenix or Vegas.


  6. Ok, fans in the stands means TV in my view. Needs are as follows.

    1. Canadian Derby, huge USL attendance, therefore Montreal.

    2. South Florida-Big market wanting soccer but needs the right connection to the local population. A Spanish league connection is in order.

    3. St. Louis-Hot bed of soccer in the Midwest, two derby games are natural KC and Chicago, and Columbus not that far away baseball city by far but soccer has always been popular and could easily be the Seattle of the Midwest.

    With the right local management filling seats will not be the problem. Does it increase the leagues TV footprint enough to make it work, just enough but without an influx of high priced talent expansion only creates a limited bump in TV ratings.

  7. Great stuff. Unfortunately, we dont know if Barca or the other investor still want in, and we do know Wilpon doesnt.

    Montreal seems like a shoo in this time around. I dont know how they do TV wise, but I would assume very well.

    After that its st. louis. They have everything in place and are also a top 20 tv market. But should miami find an investor, they would be the front runner, especially if barcelona is not involved.

    I never agreed with killing both florida clubs and they deserve another chance.

  8. Forget about additional franchises, MLS should get all the games available on TV/cable to potential fans at no additional cost.

    I have a MLS team in my hometown and go to just about every home game. I’d guess that’s also the rough profile of the current MLS fan.

    When my team goes on the road, however, I can rarely find the game on TV. I can spend ~$80 to get the games on cable, and maybe I should. That’s a transaction tough to swallow, however.

    I watch Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, etc; Real Madrid, Barcelona, etc; AC Milan, Inter, etc. on FSC or Goal TV or ESPN as part of a package deal. Paying $80 extra to see inferior soccer is ridiculous. The average MLS player is sharing a rat hole apartment with teammates and working a 2nd job, scraping to get by, not living in a mansion as the toast of Madrid. This is the guy I am parting with my hard earned cash to see play?

    If I was a better MLS fan I suppose I’d just pony up the money to watch the away games, but here’s my point:

    How does MLS expect to grow their fan base when they have not made the games easy for would be fans to tune into?

    If there were 8 games a week filmed with high quality camera work, on good & pretty green pitches, broadly televised to the public, this sport just might catch on in the US. The public that isn’t already hooked on soccer would not be comparing the play to Serie A or La Liga, products they do not know and are not inclined to look for, they would get hooked or not on the product presented to them.

    I would think any experienced business person knows you need to build a good, desirable product and then get it out in front of everyone before you try to milk the revenue out of it. Get the customers hooked, get market momentum first.

    People that try to sell Flubber for $1,000 a vial do not last long and just end up bitter, seeing the world as full of fools. But if you get people hooked on easy to get, inexpensive Flubber, you can become bigger than IBM.

  9. Also, a note relating to the Marlins, while attendance has lagged for obvious reasons(persistent heat/rain in the summer, two post-title fire sales), soccer offers a more limited supply and thus greater demand. Depending on how the schedule looks when South Florida gets back in, you’re looking at a max of 20-24 home games including friendlies/USOC/playoffs. The Marlins play 81 home games, the Heat and Panthers play 40 or so. It’s easy to say “we’ll go next time”. Not so with soccer. Bring us top division soccer again MLS!

  10. MLS should stay out of the SEC (or ACC for that matter) conference until we have all our our current teams running in the black. Why take another chance on an unproven market when there are other cities with supporters banging down the door wanting to be let in to MLS. After all it is the supporters who pay the bills, I agree that TV ratings are important but you have to be kidding me with S. Florida. I think everyone wants a team there but we are all sick and tired of waiting for the fans to show up. They didn’t even show for FC Barcelona? Seriously its so frustrating as a fan to know that our league should have a team there but can’t due to the population there, and this is coming from a Dolphins fan!

  11. “At the same time it can be strongly argued from top to bottom the level of play in MLS circa 2000 was stronger than today”

    are there any articles/blogposts/msgboardthreads on this subject anywhere online?

  12. And as for foreign club investment(i.e. Barcelona), I’d only accept it if, and it’s a big if, they’re willing to build a SSS right off the bat, and without any silly name like Chivas USA. I’m put off by FCB due to the way they handled the bid this past winter, so at this point I’d be more open to a partnership with a Latin American club, which is probably better for local support anyway. Boca Juniors, River Plate, Club América, someone like that. But still, no “Boca Juniors Miami” or “América USA”. Advertise and promote the parent club all you like just don’t be stupid with the MLS team name.

  13. TV ratings = Florida, true. There are not any other big TV Markets left, and if MLS is smart, instead of accepting bids with a flat franchise fee from random cities, it should dictate where it should expand next and start creating the conditions for it to happen. Point is, New Mexico (for example) does not the same things to the table that Florida brings. The question MLS needs to answer is which market adds more value to the league, and target that market for potential expansion, and not make it an open competition.

  14. A return to florida is a must. We must get those TV markets back. NYC2 would make sense but Wilpon is out. Miami should be owned by Univision or bring in TV Azteca to lead it.

  15. Great article. As a NYC football fan, I’d say the Red Bulls would be enough for the area in the tv market, when these things happen:

    1. HD Broadcasts on MSG (which is probably the worst run sports network in the area, and the signal looks worse sometimes than even regular standard-def on other channels)
    2. New park opening (coming soon so that helps)
    3. Better product on the field

    I watch the EPL religiously, but I do follow the MLS (mostly on TV, and unfortunately only the Nationally televised stuff such as on FSC or ESPN or Telefutura). I completely agree that the league as a whole needs to step up its TV packages nationally for the next stage of growth.

  16. What about Phoenix?

    I’m on board with Miami but if they do not replace the turf Tampa should get the nod. I don’t want another Canadian team, so forget Montreal although MLS seems to be less and less concerned about the American player. St Louis would be a feel good story but will it push the TV needle? No. What about Detroit? That’s another big market.

    No offense to anyone but by having teams in places like Portland, Salt Lake City and Columbus instead of Miami, Atlanta and Phoenix you may get nicer crowds and more passionate fans but the TV ratings are always going to be terrible and eventually if TV money dries up so does the league. Do you think the Premier League or La Liga fills all its stadiums? MLS probably sells as high a % of seats as these leagues but they have monster TV deals based around big teams and big markets. MLS does not. NYC 2 is also a must and keeping Dallas viable is also critical. If MLS must sacrifice a team it should not be Dallas but it should be Kansas City. I’ve seen talk of moving Dallas to San Antonio. Great go from the nations 7th largest TV market to the 39th largest. That’s simply brilliant.

  17. Isn’t MLS expanding enough in the next few years?

    Overexpansion is one of the things that killed hockey in this country, I hope it doesn’t happen to MLS.

    Fix the league and make sure Philly, Vancouver, etc work first.

  18. NYC2 is out per Garber’s comments. The candidates are Miami, Montreal, Atlanta, Carolina and St Louis.

    Miami? I thought the full stadium for the Gold Cup after watching empty stadiums in Seattle and Columbus was impressive but truthfully haven’t we seen enough turf this last month for a lifetime? Rip the turf out and the Fusion come back. Keep the turf and forget it. It’s that simple. Find a stadium without turf or rip that carpet out. Otherwise, no way.

    Montreal- A clear favorite. Great fan base for USL and good ownership

    Carolinas- A non starter. Wake Med is good for college soccer and so so for USL. They need to build a real stadium and the fan base overall is limited.

    St Louis- I’m not as crazy on this as everyone else. It’s a smallish media market and a dying city. A relic of America’s past in soccer and otherwise. Would you put an expansion team in Detroit right now? Of course not. St Louis is Detroit with half the metro population-an old industrial city and trading center where the rivers meet that’s best days were 75 years ago.

    Atlanta- That’s a funny one. Next!

    So basically, I say bring the Impact up to MLS in 2012 and stop for now holding a place for either a return to Miami or NYC2 for the 20th team. Miami needs to find a place to play with grass and NYC2 needs to find a place to play period. But one of those two should be 20 and stop there for at least 7-10 years.

  19. “MLS’ TV ratings have declined by a steep level since the contraction of the league’s two Florida franchises after the 2001 season” is an outright lie.

    From a 2002 article –

    “There is a sizable enough audience for soccer in the United States, even if TV ratings for MLS (about 200,000 homes per game on ESPN and 165,000 on ESPN2 this season) …

    From a 2009 article –

    “ESPN2’s ratings were flat with last year, averaging a 0.2 coverage-area rating/200,000 homes.”

    Once again, just a simple Google search unveils how much false information you spew.

  20. South Florida Tampa as well Miami/Ft. Lauderdale need a team. No doubt abou tit! More importantly they need people who really believe in soccer and believe that brand names makes no difference. People go out to see top notch players regardless of what logo they are wearing on their shirts. Perhaps the answer is a regional CONCACAF League. The recent showing at FIU shuld be evidence that people come out. Yesterdays Comlombia Festival at FIU shoud also raise eyebrows. Had these people known there was a game right next to then perhaps the event could have been combined. As they have done on numerous occasions at meadowland in New Jersey. Thing fans want: great players, winning teams, lots of fun.

  21. Fan, I don’t know what Kartik was citing but I have this piece from BNET which tells a diufferent story:

    ” MLS games averaged according to BNet a 0.5 rating on ESPN afor the 1999 season. MLS also averaged a 0.9 rating on ABC that season, when the network broadcast 13 regular season games. In 2007 MLS averaged a 0.2 on ESPN2″

    0.2 is the rating this year as we found out today from SBJ. So basically the rating for ESPN has been cut in half in 10 years. Perhaps the decline really took place between 1999 and 2002, or maybe took place in 2002 because of the contracted teams.

    I don’t know which numbers Kartik was looking at, but the ratings are clearly way down from 1999 but stagnant or slightly up from 2002.

    Truthfully, going from 10 teams in 2002 to 15 teams in 2009 should account for more than a 50,000 person increase in viewership so even if Kartik incorrectly used the 1999 numbers for 2001 I am with him on this- the TV numbers clearly have gone down. Telefutura reported today their ratings for MLS are down like 30% FROM LAST SEASON!

  22. Miami is far and away the largest metro area without a team once Philly joins according to the census bureau.

    But Detroit and Tampa are larger TV markets according to Wikipedia. But Miami’s metro area is split between multiple TV markets which dilutes the effectiveness of local TV and local news, local papers, etc.

    Miami/Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach did have high ratings for the Brazil-USA telecast on ESPN. Do they deserve another team? Probably, but Tampa based on TV market size has to be considered as well.

  23. I really think people need to get over St. Louis. That city should have a USL side and that’s it. It has proven time and time again that there is no infrastructure to support an MLS side. If there was, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    NYC does NOT need to happen if RBNY and FC NYC can figure out a rivalry and a broadcast deal. A lot of rivalries in Europe take place across division lines, so I don’t see why it can’t happen in New York. Play twice a year, outside of league play. Plus they would meet in Open Cup play every year, making it 3 times a year. It would be AWESOME. I almost like it better than 2 MLS NY teams.

    And BTW, why can’t MLS just bring NY’s USL side into the fold if it wants NYC2 that bad?

    As for Miami…all this turf talk. You all realize this is a university stadium right? No MLS team will play there permanently, nor should they. Otherwise, they’ll never turn a profit, and you can kiss the team bye bye. Miami needs its own SSS.

    Montreal is already going to happen. So, people need to stop contemplating whether it will happen or not.

    Since MTL makes it 19, MLS should concentrate its efforts on making Florida happen the right way if it wants it badly enough. Then it should throw its weight behind supporting a deal between RBNY and FC NYC, as well as an agreement between them and USL. This would make an even 20 teams with minimal resources.

    If it REALLY wants a bigger TV market, a good idea is to move FC Dallas. Let’s just sink that ship.

    As far San Jose and Kansas City…a lot of people consider them mistakes. But, SJ is doing things right, stadium wise. 15 thousand capacity will serve them well. And Kansas City…ok, they have a stupid name. Get over it. They have won it all in the past, and the stadium is shaping up. PLUS, they don’t seem to have trouble selling out their 10 thousand capacity baseball stadium. I think a new name for their team would do wonders for them, marketing-wise.

    The only other grey area in this whole debate is the elephant in the room (the one not as big as Dallas), and that’s the Chicago-Columbus-Colorado problem. Attendance is a big issue. Colorado has the finest soccer complex in the nation. Chicago’s attendance dropped big time this year. Why? And Columbus…well…who knows. The fact is, people don’t want teams when there is no one in the stands. It needs to be addressed.

    A big way to help boost viewership is to make an internet package free for the public, similar to USL Live. It’s not TV, but it’s a big step in the right direction. MLS should also throw some weight behind finding commentators that don’t sound like bored baseball commentators for each team. DC United has a guy that just rocks the house…he makes it sound so exciting.

  24. I agree with BC. MLS needs to slow the expansion for a couple of years lest its talent pool get too thin. Short of increasing the cap or completely re-writing the roster rules, I’m not sure where they’ll get the skilled players to fill these teams.
    When they do expand, they should look at a combination of great TV markets, great attendance markets, and potential rivalries. You need fairly full stadiums because the casual sports fan will notice the empty seats right away and conclude the league isn’t worth watching. Look at Major League Lacrosse or the 2009 NY Yankees for proof…
    Right now the MLS suffers from having too many meaningless games (something that could be remedied by ditching the playoffs – or at least cutting down the number of qualified teams to 4). NY vs LA, Chivas vs LA, Chi vs Columbus, etc tend to be fairly entertaining as little rivalries have sprung up. When Philly jumps in next year, I’m expecting them to have spirited games against NY & DC. Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland will provide some entertainment as well when the latter two join in 2011. Placing teams in locations to spur along the rivalries is key. St. Louis would pop in with KC & Chi rivlaries ready to go (as mentioned above). Toronto needs a legit rival; Montreal or Ottawa would be ideal. Until Red Bull draws fans, a second team should not be placed in the NYC market; LA had crowds before Chivas and warranted a second team.
    Expansion cities:
    1. Tampa or Miami – maybe both (again). Strong soccer history, strong Carrib. population
    2. St. Louis – I hate the city, but it is a soccer epicenter. How do they not have a team? Plus the rivalries as mentioned above
    3. Montreal or Ottawa; Canada’s capital might be the more interesting choice…
    4. San Diego or Phoenix; Really we should just move Chivas there. With so many markets it really makes no sense to have two teams in the HDC.

    As far as the teams we have, they should stay put. Nothing makes fans more leary than (relatively) young leagues moving their teams. This is a sign of instability second only to folding teams. However, if teams were to move Chivas would be at the top of the list ONLY if they moved to a city in a good TV market with a large Mexican/Latino fanbase like Phoenix or San Diego. Columbus could be another relocation candidate as that market is on the verge of collapsing due to Ohio’s economic conditions and the fact that it is a super minor market (never understood how they got an NHL team either) to begin with. KC is a viable market and St. Louis will only strengthen them; the Wizards will stay put in their new stadium which opens in the next year or two.
    One last thing – to make the game better on TV, ONLY play on fields without football lines. They are freaking annoying and are a HUGE distraction. Grass vs turf is much less of an issue than the stupid lines every 10 yards!

  25. Detroit is a sports crazed town. Were also in the top 5 of the country for registerd AYSO participants. I have no doubt if awarded a franchise with a nice stadium built downtown that we could get 15-20,000 people in per match.

  26. Thanks for the clarification, fan. Actually I was going off of SBJ’s article on the TV ratings in 2000 before contraction. That BNet one for 1999 I’d like to see also. SBJ is subscriber only so it does not good to link it. But the bottom line is this: MLS paid for time on air in 1999, 2000, 2002, whichever date you pick. Clearly the ratings had dropped from 1999 to 2000 to 2002. Each one shows a drop. (I have a .3 for 2000 which is lower than the .5 you cite for 1999 and the .1 fan cites for 2002)

    Now MLS gets a rights fee for gaining a .2 rating on ESPN2 and a .1 rating on FSC. Univision is unhappy with the ratings from what I am told, this season. I hadn’t seen that they were down 30% but that would not surprise me based on the anger from my source over there. So these networks are paying MLS for a product that isn’t selling on TV.

    I could be wrong, but the solution has to be to be more aggressive in big TV markets. This means, do not contract or move FC Dallas- make that market work. I know Pizza Hut Park is a fine HS Football Stadium and Frisco will be just fine without the (don’t call us) Hoops. But that TV market is too big to cede. Miami and Tampa are both big markets whose absence from MLS has hurt either the overall rating or the potential growth for the TV rating. New York is a TV market that isn’t getting the ratings it should for the league.

    Quick- does anyone know which market gets the highest MLS TV rating? I’ll be back with that answer later.

  27. Am I the only one that doesn’t liekt he idea of Canadian teams joining? I get that they add a lot financially, but their comes a point in terms of our development where it’s just weird. Even bigger, one day the CSA (or maybe someone else, I dunno) will wake up and realize they have some good players and need a viable league once money becomes more avialable. what happens then? The canadians will be BEGGING the MLS to let the canadian teams leave so the best canadian teams will be in the canadian league starting out.

  28. How many people really want to sit home on a Saturday night (during the warmer months of the year) to watch soccer? If anything I would rather be at the game. Now add in that football is right around the corner one can expect tv ratings to be poor. Dad will control the remote and turn on the NFL or NCAA.

    Maybe FSC and ESPN can add flex scheduling to show a better matchup later in the season.

    Where is Detroit going to get money? Jobs and money are hard to find in Michigan.

  29. Hahaha. Brad. It’s 95 degrees outside at night (much better in the fall/winter when its only 65/70) and a 7pm game is over by 9pm. Plenty of time to get home, shower and go out if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, I love watching Soccer on a Saturday night and plan on doing so this weekend, sorry you don’t have a team in your town, it’s good times.

  30. Attendance does matter and has to be taken into consideration, If Miami was chosen I think that a stadium capacity of 16 k 17 k max would be ideal to create the best atomsphere possible. When there are empty seats its a real downer weather your at the game or watching on tv.

  31. MLS shouldn’t have pulled out both Florida teams. South Florida has a big soccer community that will support MLS, but will not support USL. The Gold Cup attendance at FIU has to show MLS that soccer fans will come out to see great soccer. The chances of Major League Soccer returning to Miami in the near future has to be better. FIU continue to say that they want MLS to play at FIU. Claure has not come out and said that he is not interested so it not out of the question to see MLS back in Miami in the next round of expansion.

  32. i don’t understand what MLS is trying to do – by 2011, there will be 18 teams, the FIFA recommended amount for any national league. very few countries have 20 team leagues – england, italy, spain, argentina, and brazil. but all of those countries have one thing in common – soccer is #1 by a country mile!

    expanding beyond 16 is probably not a good idea to begin with, because the quality of play is going to be decimated by the expanded talent pool to begin with, but if the MLS must expand (which it must because it’s already in the process of establishing franchises in portland and vancouver) then it should stop at 18 and let the league’s talent pool catch up to its size…

    tv is less important to the overall success of the league than is quality of play on the field… no matter how many teams you have, if the product is crap, the product is crap. 20 teams (or more) would guarantee a poor product for years…

  33. TV will NEVER be an important component of MLS for a few decades at least. Because of that MLS should expand where fans will actually come out to watch soccer. That seemed to be the model for the last expansion and this time around will not be any different. That would leave out Miami and NYC2. The best fits would definitely be Montreal and maybe St. Louis or the Carolinas (Charlotte I’m assuming).

  34. Kartik,

    You are not the only one who doesn’t like the idea of adding Cdn teams (Joey Clams is around somewhere) but you are wrong that Canada will eventually want a Cdn only league. They don’t have a Canadian only league for hockey – their national sport for crying out loud. Also the Whitecaps, Impact and Toronto FC would never leave MLS for a start-up league. Their franchise values will drop by 80% or more.

    Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and maybe a second team just on the outskirts of Toronto would be great for MLS. And yes, they not only develop Cdn talent – the majority of the players on those 4 clubs will be American.

    Montreal would be a fantastic 19th club.

    1. Noway CSL is not ready they can’t even talk PDL team to join them. I agree that the big three should be in the CSL not the MLS but first you need to get USL PDL team build and build up the league to a D2 then let them join. You are years away form that

  35. NO MIAMI OR TAMPA BAY. Those are FAILED markets. There are other more deserving cities than either Miami or Tampa Bay, St.Louis and Montreal being two of them.

    TV revenue? What TV revenue is there if you can’t even fill the stadiums. If you can’t fill the stadiums, then it means nobody cares. Obviously, whatever extra TV revenue benefits Miami and Tampa Bay brought before they folded did not offset the bleeding the MLS suffered.

    There is a reason why Don Garber brought the Quakes back to San Jose after he had to move the team to Houston: San Jose put butts in the seats. Unlike San Jose, Miami and Tampa Bay blew their chance.

    Heck, even Rochester is more deserving than Miami or Tampa Bay.

  36. Not to mention empty stadiums in Miami and Tampa make for bad marketing, bad atmosphere, and a bad image for MLS. The last thing MLS needs is to force soccer on two cities that don’t care nor want soccer.

  37. It’s funny, sounds like the TV market is a very big factor in where an expansion team will go. Yet there isn’t that much MLS on TV. All games should be televised, whether it be from the big networks or even smaller local networks. Even if you have to show it on the internet.
    Personally, I think all the amounts of money being spent on expansion teams and stadiums is ridiculous. The fact that there are two professional leagues in USA is ridiculous. Save the money and put it towards some how combining the USL and MLS, a sort of promotion and relegation.

  38. CKH1 – Having MLS and USL work together is the best idea by far. Coming up with a promotion/relegation concept is great; it adds meaning to more games. Is it feasible in the US? I am not sure. However, the salary cap might be the key to making it work.
    Imagine if USL and MLS started a work relationship like the Premiership and League. Carry over the salary cap and DP rules to USL-1 and USL-2, but decrease the scale – like allow 3-4 DPs for MLS, 2 for USL-1, and 1 for USL-2; have the salary cap increment down as well. So that USL-1 is x amount higher than USL-2 and MLS is y amount higher than USL-1. This would help to minimize cost differences between the top team in MLS and the bottom team in USL-2 thus making a system with reasonable parity to prevent “giant clubs” from dominating year in and year out like Barca & Real Madrid in Spain and Man U, Aresenal, Chelsea, & Liverpool in England. The salary cap system would keep the game American enough to give promotion & relegation a chance to work here.
    Also, I think MLS should stop at 20, maybe 22 teams. Yes more established nations hold at 18, but we are very large country, geographically speaking. Our population is spread over four time zones (6 if you include Hawaii); Russia is the only other country that can claim that. We need more teams to decrease travel issues (Becks has commented on the 6 hour flights to NY) that most European countries could never imagine. Plus Canada, like it or not, is & will remain part of our league. This necessitates more teams as it is. Add in PR and Bermuda should promotion & relegation come into play; neither is large enough to support its own league.
    The trick is ensuring that the best 20-22 teams represent MLS every year. Promotion and relegation is the key to this. Automatic promotion for the regular season winner; playoffs between the second and third for a second spot. Automatic relegation for the bottom (sorry Red Bulls) and a playoff between the second and third worst to stay in the higher league. Of course there are some other issues to work out concerning franchise fees and such nonsense, but it could eventually work (maybe in 10 years or so)…

  39. Ratings need to matter, for sure. It’s the gravy train of international sports.

    And you’re right. The standard of play and coaching as well as attendance is in a solid enough position for teams to really make a push.

    The push, though shouldn’t just be expansion to television friendly markets. It needs to be to passionate areas with the ownership that is savvy enough to push MLS into really plowing money into player pay in order to put MLS on par or above the Mexican League. MLS needs to become a top destination for talent in the Western Hemisphere. And they’ve done plenty to make it attractive as I would argue that it is far easier and more enjoyable for most European teams to come here and scout here. So MLS needs to make sure that it can pay and attract young and veteran talent from South and Central America consistently.

    Some of those players will be the future generations of Etcheverry, J. Moreno, JP Angel, and GB Schellotto. Guys who will bring a flair for scoring and playing the game and that will help attract the viewers to television. The stuff that Univision is airing right now is not attracting eyeballs and that’s because MLS teams have not proven that their product is worth paying attention to compared to the Mexican league.

    It’s go time for MLS to boss the Western Hemisphere. You don’t have to conquer Europe. But you do have to conquere North and South America and unfortunately (due to the absurd travel conditions that would make it near impossible) without participation in the Copa Lib.

  40. As a longtime reader I felt the need to comment here:

    Latin: person of Latin descent (such as Roman Emperor Augustus)

    Latino: proper term for people from Latin America or of Latin-American descent (such as most of the people you were referring to in your article)

    I don’t think Latinos in the US speak or have ever spoken Latin


  41. Well said Latino-O as a Roman History buff (though, I wish you hadn’t mentioned Augustus though, pick a less brutal emperor like Trajan or Hadrian) I’ll take note of the correction. Thanks!

  42. To plan expansion based on the unproven ability to support them with TV ratings is not smart. MLS is too close to the brink to gamble on a new business model.

    I am not crazy about NY2. Miami is a good option, but so are Montreal and STL. The “failure” of the Fusion is irrelevant, their attendance was similar to several other non-contracted teams.

    What does FIFA know about running a profitable US sports league? NOTHING. MLS should be giving FIFA advice not the other way around. All the US/Canadian leagues have 30 teams, that should be the long term target. I think they should take a long pause at about 20 teams, but if there are cities willing to pay $100mil and build a stadium, the league will accept it.

  43. Agreed Jammer. The TV thing is a non starter. Makes sense when the lague is stablized but not now. So basically no NYC2 and no Tampa. I like Miami as an option still. The attendance was no different than Dallas, Colorado, and San Jose their final year. Kartik is right ownership issues cost Miami. As far as Tampa was concerned, I think that was always the wrong market and MLS in dropping to potentially 11 teams gave Horrowitz the out to stop his money losing. Froim what I have heard AEG didn’t want a team in Florida, so that is why the Fusion disappeared. Calling them a “failure” is wrong. What kind of failure wins the Supporters Shield and increases it’s attendance about 50% the last season? But two markets have failed totally in MLS history. Tampa Bay and New York. The Red Bulls or whatever they are called now are the biggest disgrace and blight upon this league. Why don’t we either see the Cosmos name now or give up totally up there?

    I say award expansion teams to St Louis and Montreal (the Impact can remain intact and mkove up) and move FC Dallas to Miami. Then cap the league at 20 for good, developing a TV based strategy after.

  44. I 100% agree with the premise of this piece BUT…….

    the question is whether the Hunts, the Krafts and AEG will let go……

    Is MLS still in permanent “survival” mode. If so, Miami and NYC-2 won’t happen. Instead we’ll see smaller markets similar to Portland and Salt Lake where the attendance will never fall below 12,000 but realistically can never climb above 20,000. These markets have limited competition and allow the original investors to recoop losses.

    Now if MLS is finally going to grow up and be a real league and a real presence, than Miami must be re-entered as soon as possible and NYC-2 should happen as well as a more aggressive posture for the Chicago team whose lack of sustained local media attention after 12 years is still worrying. Atlanta, also needs a team but after Miami.

    Yes, Miami struggled at times to get people to the gate in the Fusion days and struggles now in USL. But the issue there is the fan base largely knows football/soccer and will not accept a watered down product with all of MLS’ odd rules. If MLS does this CBA re-negotiation correctly, Miami as a market has far far greater potential upside than any current MLS market except for LA and NYC.

    New York obviously still has a team but the market is almost identical to Miami. MLS is seen as not only inferior, but strange. Talking to people as I have from both Miami and New York they seem to believe like Kartik has mentioned in the past that MLS even when entertaining has lots of odd rules and restrictions that prevents fandom of certain players from ever taking hold. All these trades and allocations are confusing for traditional fans.

    I think Kartik has mentioned, that because of the Valderrama situation and then Miami losing some young guys in the allocation line fans became bitter quickly and returned to following La Liga, Argentine football and the Premiership. I think NYC is the same except the leagues they follow are different: Serie A for instance is popular in New York City.

    Bottom line……………….

    Is MLS just trying to survive or trying to thrive? I cannot answer this question but you’ll know based on what cities come in next.

    Survival: St Louis, Montreal, or some other similar type market.

    Thrive: Miami, New York, Atlanta

  45. You argue your point well, Kartik. But truthfully Tampa is a joke. MLS being there was a total farce to begin with. New York City 2? Please, the Metros are the least successful team in MLS marketing and success wise including the contracted teams!

    Miami never should have been folded. It was a mistake. That’s too big a market and too much of a soccer loving market to have just pulled the plug so quickly. They were coming around the last year. I don’t know why the Barca thing went belly up, but Miami with its huge Latin population and history of turning out for minor internationals in force means the market just had to be sold on MLS specifically, not the sport. Perhaps the Fusion were poorly run, or the league just didn’t get it. But with the right marketing and some convincing that MLS is quality soccer, that market is a no brainer. The TV argument just fuels the fire.

    Tampa and Miami are two different apples. Too many MLS people say “Florida” or the “Florida teams failed.” Tampa is a typical weak soccer momish market while Miami is aliving, breathing soccer city. Two totally different things.

    I say bring Miami back, forget Tampa and NYC while also elevating Montreal.

    19- Miami
    20- Montreal
    21- St Louis (2015)
    22- Atlanta (2015)

  46. from Les: Portland and Salt Lake where the attendance will never fall below 12,000 but realistically can never climb above 20,000.

    You forgot to mention Seattle is averaging 30 k a game.

  47. I say NYC for a 2nd team should be put aside for quite a while. They are going to be having a new USL team soon. Also its not like the Reb Bulls draw great attendance currently.

  48. Sal……I did not mention Seattle. Yes, that’s a more cosmopolitan international market, smaller than NYC or Miami but still with the potential upside we’re looking for.

    Salt Lake City, Portland, Columbus and even to a certain extent Colorado are “safe” markets for MLS. New York, Miami and Atlanta are not which was my point.

  49. Is the concept of TV revenue really that complicated? That is what this article is about. Why does the dribble above from many fail to acknowledge this? The MLS is in 8 of the 10 largest Metropolitan areas in the the US excluding Miami and Atlanta. Both of these towns traditionally have crappy attendance fan bases that do not sell out venues on a regular basis. But somehow they both have MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises. Are you arguing that the 4 largest, wealthiest leagues are stupid and don’t know what they are doing? The NYC metropolitan area also has 2 MLB, 2 NBA, 3 NHL and 2 NFL franchises.

    Yes the MLS needs more television revenue. Yes they need to move to markets where television revenue can be maximized. If proper ownership can be found large revenue producing markets need to be targeted. Television driven revenue is still the largest revenue producing opportunity for sports league around the world.

  50. Miami has always been a logical market. It’s MLS and USL’s fault they cannot make that market work. Look at the TV ratings for US-Mexico and US-Brazil.


    US-MEX: Miami 3rd (Behind New York, Boston)
    US-BRA Miami 1st


    US-MEX: Miami 4th (Behind LA, Houston, Chicago)
    US-BRA: Miami 5th (Behind LA, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego)

    Factor in West Palm Beach, the neighboring market and their ratings for the same games and you have a sure fire winner.

    Soccer works there, but as someone said the weird rules of MLS and the allocation process, etc hurt the success. When MLS was trying to just hang on, trying to convince snobs like in Miami to support the league may have been a mistake. But now that the league is doing well, the time is ripe to go back in there.

  51. Furthering CSD’s point Atlanta was also near the top for both those games. MLS needs TV partners and revenues. That’s the point. People watch soccer on TV in Miami and Atlanta already. MLS leaving Miami hurt its growth potential on TV. All the haters out there (I am not from Miami, btw but from DC and am a United backer) can say “oh they didn’t go to the games,” but that is not the point. MLS is a joke on TV right now. Withdrawing from the 6th largest metro area where people already understand and watch the game and replacing it with Salt Lake City is never going to sell on TV. I understand why it was done at the time, because MLS was on the brink. But now if MLS is going to be “big league” they proclaim, Miami is a must and Atlanta cannot be far behind. Sorry, that’s they way it is in this TV driven sports economy. Even the Prem sells a lower percentage of seats than they used to but the TV money is ginormous they are the top league in the world. MLS has to think the same way. If 5,000 people show up in Miami but a 100,000 take a renewed interest in the league as a whole that’s good. I guarantee you their aren’t a 100,000 people in Utah or Portland that will watch MLS religiously. Nothing against those markets and I in particular am happy about the Timbers coming in, but thinking long term Miami and Atlanta are musts. Tampa? Not so much.

  52. The decision by MLS to continue expanding in Canada has major ramifications.

    1- American player development
    2- Helping a CONCACAF rival
    3- Increasing the number of foreign players in the league

    I am against ANY further expansion to Canada.

    As far as Tampa, I’ve lived there and it’s not a good fit.

    Miami is a must. MLS leaving that market was a crime in the first place. If you want to talk soccer in this country you go to one of three towns: LA, New York or Miami. Miami Fusion struggled because of Leo Stillitano (the brother of the moron who ran New York) not having any clue about the market.

    Those who say Miami failed probably did not follow MLS ten years ago. Miami’s struggles were no different than New England, New York, Colorado, Dallas, and San Jose. They were less than Kansas City or Tampa Bay. But as luck would have it, Miami had the owner who was small time and did not want to ride out the losses and struggles EVERY MLS TEAM OTHER THAN THE GALAXY were experiencing. Miami was more bad luck than anything- being saddled with the wrong owner in the wrong market.

    Miami returning isn’t just “another shot.” It’s critical to building a brand in Latin America (Why do you think Miami FC, a USL club advertises at CONCACAF games including US games “El Equipo De Las Americas?”) Miami is literally the capitol of the Americas.

    Those who complain about the lack of respect MLS gets in Latin America? Part of the problem is contracting Miami? Some of you complain about Latin fans not embracing MLS? Part of the problem was contracting Miami? Some of you complain about the poor TV numbers in Spanish and the failure of Univison and Telemundo to promote MLS? You guessed it, Miami.

    Atlanta also long term is a must. TV revenue must increase. MLS must be willing to accept the smaller crowds to enhance it TV potential.

  53. i would hate to see mls get to a point where it has 30 teams! 22 max – that way you can still have the traditional home-and-away round robin. yes, most north american sports leagues have 30/32 teams, but MSL is not most american sports leagues, and soccer is not like other sports – no other sport has a governing body as strong as FIFA, and no other sport is so directly linked to international competition…

    30 teams would be so bad. i was really happy when they got rid of the conference-style play, and 30 teams would bring it back…

  54. If people think Miami is such a sure fire, can’t miss market for MLS, why didn’t billionaire Marcelo Claure follow through to front Miami’s MLS bid all by himself, earlier this year, after FC Barcelona pulled out? And why hasn’t anyone else stepped forward to bring an MLS team to Miami? Surely such a soccer mad market would attract all kinds of interest from investors, even in this economic downturn. It can’t be that big a mirage?

  55. This article feels like a soccer basher comment….and does not seem to correspond to reality.
    I have watched MLS since 1996 and to say things were better in 2000 is not realistic. To talk about a steep decline is certainly incorrect.
    In earlier years you could hadly see any soccer games on TV .. and the sport was constantly bashed by the media. It is a different story today. To say there is a decline in the latin media is also incorrect. Copa de Oro had a 17.4 rating last week, which was one of the highest of all latin TV.
    With all these expansionteams the sport is doing very well compared to these first years and MLS is doing better every year.

  56. Willy Willen,

    Copo Oro ratings don’t match MLS ratings on Spanish TV.

    I believe the league was better in 2000. We can disagree on that. But I am not alone in that opinion. Many reasonable people, including a few that actually broadcast the games then agree with me on that point.

    This article is about MLS not Football in general in America. Football has never been more popular in this country. It’s MLS TV ratings not those for Gold Cup, La Liga or the FMF which are being discussed here. MLS now has lower viewership on TV after gaining a rights fee from several media outlets than it did in 1999 and 2000 (but not 2002 as fan stated) when MLS was PAYING the networks to air games.

  57. CSD has made the most reasonable point here. Please understand what he is saying and look at the other “big leagues” worldwide. English football now has more empty seats in the top flight than anytime in the last 50 years. Yet the league is richer than ever. Similar story in Spain. TV money is the mothers milk of professional sports in the 21st century. That’s the premise of my piece, and right now MLS is beyond struggling on TV. The ratings for MLS in the prime time are the worst of any first or second tier American based sport on national television.

  58. Soccer Guru said: The decision by MLS to continue expanding in Canada has major ramifications.

    1- American player development
    2- Helping a CONCACAF rival
    3- Increasing the number of foreign players in the league

    I am against ANY further expansion to Canada.

    You are right. There are major ramifications for MLS – all positive.
    1. American players are counted as domestic players on Canadian teams. Cdn teams will always be in the top 10 supported and in terms of generating revenue. The league shares in the revenue. More American players earning much better salaries.
    2. Increasing the competition in CONCACAF is exactly what we need. We are now and will continue to be the top dogs in the region. We need it to be tougher to qualify so when we get to the World Cup it’s not 3 and out – losing to the likes of Ghana and Iran. Yes that’s right we lost to friggin Iran.
    3. We want better players in the league period. Foreign, domestic, or from Mars I don’t care. The best players play.

    I am not against Miami becoming the next franchise. I am against going into a market without a strong and committed owner, a soccer specific stadium, and with fans & media that don’t care for the sport. That would be like the National Hockey League putting a team in Phoenix instead of Montreal.

  59. Helping Canada is a rather indirect way of helping ourselves, no? MLS wants the quick fix from expansion fees and that’s the end of the story.

  60. I agree that nowadays the level of play has dramatically increased and they are bringing some great players to the league. The problem is getting the population involved, theres just not much of an appeal to the sport….

  61. The MLS needs 24 teams and expand 6 more.

    New York City
    Puerto Rico

    If they expand to 24 teams in that market, raise the salary cap, lower the domestic-players for the league and serve the TV market like they should. The league 20 to 30 years from now could compete for top-tier players and make this league extremely popular.

  62. Why Cleveland? It should be St. Louis, other than that I think your list is perfect. Puerto Rico has a great following with the Islanders in USL-1. 24 teams makes sense, the United States/Canada can handle a league like that. Soccer-Specific Stadiums for every team is essential though for MLS to work.

  63. Montreal… Montreal…Securing Canada’s market with Montreal, Vanc and Toronto ensures a steady stream of revenue. Plus MLS can screw over Canada as it pleases just like the NHL!

  64. Lars, how do you feel about indirectly strengthening US soccer? After all, considering most of the arguments, that appears to be Canada’s assigned role. Honestly, I don’t want to see Canada screwed over. There is, however, only one way for Canada to prevent that.

    This is about money. Sure, MLS justifies it all with high-minded crap about the world coming together – just at a time, by the way, when local cultures have predictably become more assertive – with the idea of appealing to its “internationalist” core, a crowd that seems more sneeringly anti-localist than anything. The rhetoric from MLS has only emboldened those who enjoy deriding cities who they deem insufficiently cool and now MLS has the reputation for bicoastal snobbery. Nice job, guys.

  65. Something the others seem to be forgetting is that Canadian expansion brings much loved rivalry to the League, not only the American-Canadian club games, but also the Canadian-Canadian ones. It’s a good idea, and I’m happy that we’re doing it as one league and not trying to build up separate pro leagues in both countries. We’re both stronger for it.

  66. Joey:

    MLS never should have gone about saying “Toronto was done right” or “Seattle was done right.” That was for the fans to say, and everybody knew it without saying. The league did insult other markets when their role was not to do that.

    I recognize you still see MLS as a league for the development of the american player, or rather wish it still was one. Those days are gone, long gone, and nothing will bring them back.

    You’re right, it’s about the money. As it is with the NHL, where we’ve watched teams moved out of Canada and New England to markets across the US sunbelt, in an attempt to seek US tv deals. The deals still haven’t come, and the teams in these areas are failing due to lack of revenue, whereas revenue from the Canadian TV deal keeps many american teams afloat.


    As for indirectly developing american talent, I have no problems with this, as long as canadian talent is also being developed. I’m against the bullshit rules that are granted to TFC that allow so many internationals. I think if north american players in MLS are competing against the best possible competition that can be provided, this is good for both countries. But meh…

  67. Lars, TFC is now getting it but I would argue it was Mo Johnston who used those rules the first two years to not develop or sign Canadian players. This is precisely why I DO NOT support any further changes (unless they are a reduction) in foreign players for MLS. Everyone gets so offended when I say that we had a better league from a quality of play standpoint in 1999 than 2009- I’ll write an article explaining why soon enough, but one of the issues is the signing of fringe internationals because they have foreign passports- guys who’d never come close to playing for their national teams, in fact some guys who don’t have a prayer of playing in the Argentine, English (in TFC’s case) or Mexican first divisions.

    Yet, Garber sells that as growing the league in an international world and some MLS GMs lazily sign guys as if they have simply seen their names for free on some simulation game.

    Mo finally gets it. But do other MLS GMs get it yet? Based on the current rosters, NO.

  68. If you’re going to make an argument that MLS needs to expand to New York and Florida due to an increase in Television viewership, it would be highly recommended that you actually post Nielsen ratings and sharing for the top 20 markets (plus all MLS Markets outside of the top 20), comparing 2000 to 2008/09 on FSC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and Univision. I’d recommend a look at some of the top soccer events broadcast during that time (World Cups, Confederations Cups, USMNT games, nationally broadcast MLS games, EPL, Champions League, etc.) so we can actually see which markets are watching the most soccer.

    Without that data, your entire argument is speculative, and holds as much water as a pile of cheese cloth. Until I see objective data to back up your claims, I’ll assume you’re one of the three local Floridians that would actually buy tickets to a MLS game in Miami.

    Also, don’t confuse the success of the Gold Cup in Miami with the potential success of the MLS in Miami. Miami’s proximity (and therefore travel convenience) to/from the Latin American nations playing in the Gold Cup is the driving force for SUM putting games in that market. It has NOTHING to do with Florida being fantastic soccer market.

  69. Florida is a terrible sports market. The Fusion and Mutiny failed because of this reason. Also, it didn’t help that MLS was tampering with the rules of the game to fit their marketing concept of what they “thought” Americans would like.

    They need a team in the South East, that’s for sure. But, not right now.

    MLS is getting it right, at the moment. I think they should continue on their present course.

  70. Once the league reaches 18 or 20 teams, I think they should consider instituting a single-table format, with each team playing each of the other teams in MLS twice.

    As for expansion, after Philadelphia (next year) and Portland and Vancouver (both 2011), I think they should give St. Louis and Montreal a try. If not St. Louis, then maybe they should consider returning to Miami.

  71. Chris, Florida is a terrible sports market per attendance. But as someone, maybe Kartik stated here the Mutiny lagged in average attendance because of playing through the summer months- in April and October for instance Mutiny attendance was on par with the rest of the league.

    Why MLS insists on a misplaced calender is a serious question. Blatter is right. For heavens sakes youth soccer is a big part of any fan base as it was here in Tampa, and the kids are all gone during the summer. It’s the same deal with Miami FC right now. I’ve talked to some youth soccer people in Southern Florida, and they are taking their kids to games in September. So the 500 people at Miami FC magically becomes 2,500 or more.

    USL also has a misplaced calender although rumors persists that USL-1 and USL-2 may move their seasons. I would not hold my breathe though.

  72. Florida had two teams and like many things Florida screwed it up. Elections, the environment, money laundering, real estate etc. I think the MLS would do better telling Miami to take a hike.

  73. On SSS (soccer-specific stadia) – While I agree they are pivotal in the majority of markets, Seattle is a great example of why they’re not always the best way to go. With the Sounders, you have nearly 30k a game, something you’d never have gotten if the ownership had built a stadium before the franchise started playing. It also is a huge additional cost to sink into a club that doesn’t even exist yet. Watching the financials of the Union starting next year will be interesting as it will give us our first looking into a club who has dropped all of the money from the very beginning on a stadium and expansion fees. I don’t think that is always the way to go. I am also very concerned that 10 or 15 years down the road, MLS is going to have a MAJOR problem with stadiums — needing expansions. None of the current stadiums are really all that expandable, and if they want to draw 30k in most places, a MASSIVE upgrade would be required. What they should look into doing is more stadiums with 20k base with the expandability to NFL-level capacities. In that regard, Seattle is in perfect shape because if they need more seats, open up the upper level at Qwest.

    On International Scheduling — the MLS vitally needs to go to it. It certainly doesn’t help their ratings revenues to put the league on hiatus (if they choose that route) or drop the quality of play while major players are out on international duty (Gold Cup, Confed Cup, World Cup).

    On future markets — Miami is a key market to explore. I would venture to guess, Kartik, that the Marlins are high on the TV viewership lists in MLB because the area is widely supported by Florida’s retirement coast — seniors who love baseball but can’t make it to the park. I’m not sure MLS would be able to draw largely from this crowd. However, having a presence in one of the Latino ethnic epicenters of our country is key.

    I’ll be very interested to see if the USL/MLS partnership is extended and by what means. Any future developments could be pivotal to paving the way for future schemes of promotion/relegation (something I think is critical in the long run).

  74. While I agree financially that sinking cash into a soccer-specific stadium may seem like an iffy move, on a psychological level I wholeheartedly believe that SSS’ are the way to go. I think Joe Six-Pack turns on Red Bull-Galaxy a few weeks back, sees a huge cavernous stadium one-quarter full, and thinks “This sport is lame, they can’t even get their own fans to watch it.” I watched Wiz-Galaxy on Sunday and it was a joke. For the average person, it’s hard not to think that kind of stuff. Meanwhile, you turn on Chivas USA and see 20,000 people banging drums and going ape-nuts and it’s hard not to get pumped on it.

    Build stadiums that people are pumped to go to, and watching it on TV becomes more immersive, raising the league interest nation-wide.

    Also, I agree that Toronto’s international player situation is odd and needs revision, but I think if Canadian fans are hungry for teams, and will support rivalries, and bring revenue, and there are enough quality players to support expansion at that level, I don’t see why we shouldn’t further expand further there.

    Lastly, we definitely need to switch to the international schedule. And I’m 100% for promotion and relegation, but it will never happen in America; owners will never stand for it, TV revenue would plummet, and the average American fans that we’re trying to draw in won’t watch their team play in “the minors.”

  75. I agree promotion/relegation would be nice, but it is the longest of long shots in the US. A Fall-Spring schedule is doable though and should be adopted for sure. The problem with it is one unique to the US/Canada. MLS(and USL) are the only leagues in the world with teams throughout such a large geographical area. In a Fall-Spring schedule, northern teams would have to deal with serious weather, while LA, Florida, and Texas would be perfect conditions. If you think about it though, that’s better than Europe, where every team is playing in relatively crummy weather. Plus, freeing up the players in the summer may prevent further debacles such as that 5-0 US-Mexico mess.

  76. Also, unfortunately, the international schedule puts MLS directly up against the NFL, NBA and NHL, which is likely the biggest reason why the league hasn’t implemented such a move so far. Maybe when MLS crowds routinely average in the 30,000 range, then make the move to a Fall-Spring schedule.

  77. Add Detroit. We have a diverse ethnic population that loves the sport. We have one of the highest levels of youth soccer participation. We have a major-league indoor team (the Ignition). We have an established USL team (the Michigan Bucks). We have two strong soccer universities (Michigan and Michigan State). And we have successful franchises in the other four major sport leagues, all of which draw solid attendance and TV ratings. I think the Ford oval would look great on the front of a Detroit team’s uni.

  78. plus detroit and columbus would be a shoe in rivalry. BUCKEYES WOLVERINES, RED WINGS BLUE JACKETS. Its perfect. But first Detroit needs to get its people working. With the failure of the USA government on protecting U.S. workers by outsourcing jobs and ignoring the debacle free trade has brought this country has caused alot of us americans to be hurting.

    the CREW need to stay in COLUMBUS. Thats like moving the Browns out of cleveland……………………………………….oh wait they did that and that was a big mistake by the NFL that the gave a new team,

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