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What Can North American Soccer Do To Beat Euro-Centric US TV?

mls logo What Can North American Soccer Do To Beat Euro Centric US TV?

Before ESPN or Fox Soccer Channel begins the live broadcast of a Major League Soccer game on a Saturday evening, many soccer fans are burned out. They’re burned out from watching a smorgasbord of European soccer that has been on television all day.

Take a typical Saturday on US cable and satellite television, for example. Soccer fans in the United States can watch 7 live English Premier League games (more than anytime in US history), 1 live Serie A game, 3 La Liga matches and 2 Bundesliga games. That totals 13 live games (i.e. 26 hours of live coverage) before a Saturday evening MLS game begins on television. And those 26 hours don’t include the handful of European games shown on delay or the EPL-centric shown on Saturday mornings such as the Barclays Premier League Preview Show and Fox Soccer Match Day.

On top of all of that, Fox Sports International launched a new channel on March 1st, Fox Soccer Plus, that is 100 percent European programming featuring games from the Premier League, FA Cup, England national team, Coca-Cola Championship, Champions League, Carling Cup, Serie A and four, yes four, rugby cups and tournaments.

My question again is where does Major League Soccer feature in all of this? Or, for an even broader question, where does U.S. soccer feature in all of this and how can it compete on television? The answer is that it simply can’t. The battle has to be won in the streets.

That battle is a difficult one especially when you’re competing against soccer TV networks who are showing games in HD, launching new channels, improving their broadband offerings and putting most of its dollars into advertising its European soccer coverage. At the same time, it’s hard to convince a family to spend their hard-earned money by going to see a live game for their local team when it’s much cheaper to stay at home and watch it on television.

So how does Major League Soccer (or the USL, NASL or WPS for that matter) convince soccer fans that it should either (a) attend one of their matches on a Saturday night or (b) encourage them to watch one of their games on television especially given the fact that there were 26 hours of live European soccer coverage shown earlier in the day?

It’s a massive question because if Major League Soccer is unable to figure out how it can do that, it could lead to the death of the league. Seriously.

I’ve discussed before that there needs to be more local Major League Soccer teams across the country. I also believe it’s important for Major League Soccer, USL and NASL to work more closely together to promote its teams across the United States so there’s no excuse that soccer fans don’t realize there’s a local team near them. For example, why isn’t there a website or tool that soccer fans in the US can use to find their nearest teams? And, unless I’m blind, why is there no 2010 schedule of NASL and USL matches on either the official NASL website or USL website even though one does exist?

And yes, the product on the field needs to be improved to bring people to live soccer matches and to encourage them to watch it on television. But is there anything else that local clubs can do in addition to that?

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I would like to hear from you – the passionate supporters of soccer in North America – what you think the MLS, USL, NASL and other leagues can do to ensure that large numbers of soccer fans go to local games each week and watch US soccer on television. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I look forward to reading your insight.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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76 Responses to What Can North American Soccer Do To Beat Euro-Centric US TV?

  1. Stevo says:

    I would say that neither NASL or USL has the USSF Division II schedule on their website is because neither NASL or USL are officially involved in teh 2010 season, except for lip service.

    USSF is responsible (or should be) for promoting the schedule, along with the individual teams playing in the USSF league.

    Your point on MLS is a good one, but you have to look at reality. MLS is comprised of a bunch of billionaires who throw play money in this single entity under the guise that it is “good for the game”. MSL loses money each year and his head honcho, Senor Garber, makes a capital call to the billionaire playboy club to make sure the league can cover its expenses.

    The fact that this occurs means only one thing, that MLS survives only because it is on artificial life support. It would fail without the blood (meaning cash) infusions that is required to keep it afloat.

    This is the true essence of teh CBA issues. The players want more money than the billionaire boy’s club wants to give up, because they are giving it up out of pocket. If, God forbid, actual profits were being made, the players would have leveraged, because that would mean that fans are sitting in paid seats watching the players (actors) in the game (show).

    From a television standpoint, watching the European leagues versus watching MLS is much like watching a pro game then watching a high school game. The level and quality does not cut it.

    MSL is ultimately a losing proposition, largely because it cannot successfully operate under normal market driven conditions. What it takes to make soccer work in this country is Division II and Division III soccer teams, located in secondary markets where the teams are the “big cheese” and where the teams can identify with its fans and younger players. If this occurs, over the next several generations, soccer could then take a foothold in the US.

    Barring this, the concept of being in large, multi-sport markets, is a folly, and MLS is proving this to be the case.

    • Charles says:

      You seem to have a good knowledge of MLS.

      How much money is Garber getting for capital infusions every year ?
      Has this amount declined or increased since inception ?
      It must have gone down quite a bit this year with the Sounders in the league ?

      • Stevo says:

        A better question is how much money Garber makes as the High Holy One at MLS. Try $3,000,000 a year. With the exception of a few teams, each team loses money. The way MLS works, the Sounders get to keep a good portion of that cash flow, with a percentage going back to the MLS billionaire boy’s club.

  2. Go USA Bid’s website used to (still does?) have a “Match Finder” on their website, but there were never any games in it. I used it to search knowing their was a game that day and nothing showed up. Hard to attract people to games when the sites promoting the game are even helping.

  3. MikeInTn says:

    Maybe MLS chances of success is hurt by our advanced technological age. There is simply too much coverage of established soccer leagues to compete with. In the old NASL days (aside from the fact that they spent themselves out of existence) they at least had the undivided attention of whatever soccer fans there were in America. No one really knew much about English teams. I remember going to watch Crystal Palace play my hometown team in the late ’70′s. The crowd was not large. But when the Cosmos or Rowdies came…we had great crowds. Soccer fans knew these teams and made it a priority to see them. There is simply too much competition today for our MLS clubs.

  4. arnie says:

    “The product needs to improve” is the complete answer.
    Amazing, right-sized stadiums? Check.
    Honest referees? (unlike south of the border) Check
    Entertaining environment during the game- sideshows, give-aways? Check
    Great passers and amazing ball-deadening traps? Nope.

    People see this. The game is sloppy in the Americas everywhere except for Brazil. Change this, and you have something to build on.

    • Charles says:

      Everywhere except Brazil, didn’t an Argentinian team with the Club World Cup one year ?

    • vic says:

      if big market MLS teams with international airports could get some invites into copa libertadores and beat the brazilians, those Euro-centric soccer fans would definately take notice. What MLS does not need are teams that are losing money, especially going into year 7, 8, 10 or 12 of its existence (a la KC, Crew). While alot of people do watch the European domestic leagues, I think viewership into the millions only really occurs with Uefa CL. I dont see any scenario whereby concacaf cl becomes highly respectable…maybe after our 3rd world cup victory…with mexico also having won 2 or 3.

  5. SanJose says:

    Not everyone gets burned out from euro soccer… many people tivo these games so they can watch them later on during the week… many people have outdoor activities during the day on saturday with friends or kids so they aren’t actually “soccered-out” by the time saturday night MLS rolls around.

  6. Charles says:

    MLS has one thing that the “Euro TV only” does’t haven’t have.

    The Euro leagues will never be HUGE here. There is no way. To watch a live game you get up on the West Coast at 5:00 AM. 5:00 AM for a game like this AM…Fulham, a whipping boy for Man U, getting crushed. IF it weren’t soccer, it wouldn’t even be worth watching in primetime.
    Maybe Champions League gets huge, but that is such a joke until the later rounds anyway. So what are you talking, a handful of games ?
    When Henry comes over, it will show just how rediculous Europe is. Outside of WWF, something like that will never fly in a massive way in the US.

    I agree right now a bunch of soccer geniuses don’t watch MLS and they would have soccer burn out by the time MLS games come on. But a lot of them won’t watch MLS anyway, they are too “educated/smart/etc”. You can almost hear them rooting against MLS, if soccer becomes mainstream some of their genius is gone.

    MLS can get HUGE. Hard to say how, but you already see it mainsteam in Seattle. It can happen and if/when it does and the talent starts to come here, it will flip very quickly.
    Equal pay, does any Brazilian go to Europe over US ?
    How about any really good player that gets stuck playing on the EPL teams that can never win…ever ?

    • SSReporters says:

      Fulham beat Man Utd 3-0 last fixture, and now Man Utd have returned the favor.

      Seriously, the only way the MLS gets big is if people care about soccer. The masses do not and maybe the US winning the World Cup is the only way it can happen.

  7. TA says:

    What I don’t get us how there arevthese huge soccer fans in these MLS markets who do not go to games! They say the reason is the produt but the product is not that bad. It’s live soccer and who wouldn’t want to see that!! I just don’t get how you can support a team oversees that you may never get to see live and not you’re local team. Come on eurosnobs get on board!

    • vic says:

      actually, they have seen soccer in person at a very intense level. I know many eurosnobs who have gone to games when they visited Europe or S. America , and those memories are still retained whether those memories are 5,6, 10 yrs later. In cosmopolitan areas of the US along the coasts, the median Eurosnob is probably college educated, a bit moderate to liberal, and more prone to have traveled overseas. This combination makes it easier to not see the sport through necessarily a national lens. They’re not necessarily from “immigrant communities” either, and while they get excited over US national play they dont get all crazy like MLS-prone fans do.

      • CTBlues says:

        Wow vic you hit it right on the head.
        Live on the east cost 90mins from NYC: Check
        College educated: Check
        Moderate to liberal: Check
        Traveled over seas: not yet (only been to the Bahammas and Canada)

        I almost fit all of your criteria. I haven’t gone to a match in London YET but plan on doing so. I did see Chelsea play AC Milan last summer in Baltimore though and we painted the town blue. I do want to go see the Red Bulls play the Galaxy in the New Arena in August. And if CT had a MLS or a division lower club I would go watch them live, but we don’t because this country thinks I have to root for teams either from NYC or Boston since I live in between the two “markets” even though Hartford/New Haven has a larger TV market then cities that have teams like Salt Lake City, Kansas City MO, Columbus, Cincinnati, San Antonio, and New Orleans. Also CT is 3rd on the list of highest average household income in the US.

  8. Flex Buffchest says:

    I agree TA. I watch EPL, don’t get me wrong, but nothing replaces the feeling of having a hometown team to support that I can go see live. I will probably see one or two EPL games live in my life since I live here in the states. Yes, I watch them on TV, but that won’t stop me from watching MLS. There’s a little thing called TiVo. Plus, MLS will be my priority. Being a huge fan of soccer, I want to see my home league prosper and grow. I want to see better talent and better gameplay in the MLS. But I think bagging on the MLS is the “cool” thing to do. I went to two of the playoff Galaxy games last season and had a blast. Didn’t sit down the whole time. I think people are being a little overdramatic on how “bad” MLS is. Give it a chance with an open mind. Don’t always compare it to EPL.

  9. Logan says:

    I agree. Seriously, MLS is not terrible soccer. It seems to me to be comparable to the SPL (which I enjoy very much) and at least the English League 1 (which is certainly very watchable); and MLS is better than the Dutch league and many other leagues that draw fans, have a strong following, and prosper.

    Also, I don’t completely understand how the MLS drawing 10 to 15 thousand fans a game is so bad. That sounds pretty good to me. I see plenty of European, Mexican and South American matches that draw less. And no one is crying about that.

    The NHL and NBA draw 15 to 30 thousand, so being a still-new league, it seems to me that MLS is doing just fine.

    What MLS does need to do is build on a sense of ownership. I understand MLS is not the BEST soccer I can watch, but I developed a quick sense of loyalty to the league because it is MY league. It’s American soccer– well, fine, it’s Canadian, too. But, still, it’s my league and that’s what really matters.

    So, yes, improve the product. Advertise more– i.e, get the word out and make it easier for fans to know what is happening and where. And build on the American soccer fans’ sense of ownership of our league.

    But really, it’s all for nought. The players are going to strike and the league is going to fold.

    • Bob says:

      Not sure the NHL and the NBA are a good comparisons since they play 80 games a season. MLS doesn’t play half that. Ticket prices for the NHL and NBA are generally much higher than MLS.

    • vic says:

      Logan, I believe it was the Pres of KC or some front office (but rather widely known) who said a couple of years ago that for an MLS team to break even they must bring in about 12-13k fans per game. Why just break even or lose money?

  10. man99utd says:

    Everyone keeps talking about how the eurosnobs won’t support their local MLS team. However, the truth is for many eurosnobs (and others) there is no local MLS team. If there was I would catch some games with the family. If my choice is to support a team via the tele the EPL will come up trumps.

    I know not many are willing to discuss promotion/relegation (maybe they’re Amerosnubs) but the truth is I’m not supporting a division II or III team just because its local. That’s stupid. If I had a local team I would want it to have a chance of making it to MLS. People in England support very small clubs because of heritage and the chance of making it to the EPL.

    Why are our billionaires reluctant to spend more cash on a product losing money whilst billionaires in other countries take the risk? Because of single entity. Why are billionaires falling over themselves to get a piece of an EPL team? Because they have total control of the club. They can invest their money back into the team at will buying and saling who they like.

    Additionally, the whole of the southeastern U.S. is without a MLS team. Not good for growth when the league eliminates an entire region of its target market.

    Question – does MLS have a blackout rule? Maybe that would persaude people to show up.

    • quakes says:

      “Why are our billionaires reluctant to spend more cash on a product losing money whilst billionaires in other countries take the risk? Because of single entity.”

      Uh, there is only one league that billionaires are flocking to and that’s the EPL. Pretty much every league out there other than MLS is not single entity… and yet billionaires are not flocking to them. Switching away from single entity is not some silver bullet solution, it could seriously destabilize MLS finances ala NASL 1.0, and I’m not sure that having billionaire glory-hunters take precedence over strong locally supported clubs is such a good idea anyways.

  11. Pedro says:

    How does MLS compete against the foreign competition? Not well.
    Why? Because it’s not where the best players in the world want to play, and there’s no amount of PR that you can do to cover that up. People aren’t just watching Champions League and EPL because it’s on for free – it’s because the level of play is the best in the freaking world.

    In the end, you get what you pay for:

    MLS: “While player salaries averaged 147,945 dollars a year ago, the midpoint salary among all 323 MLS players was only 88,000 dollars, the average skewing higher by virture of rich deals to a few stars as England’s David Beckham, now on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy to AC Milan.” http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hSISOUWswOUqEdX-2HBUa_-gl27A

    (FYI: MLS player salaries available at: http://www.mlsplayers.org/salary_info.html)

    EPL: In 2006, the average salary was 676,000 pounds – well over $1,000,000. (I can’t find a citation for salaries more recently, but my guess is that they would be equal to or higher).

    How many players in MLS made more than $1 million last year? 4.

    Here’s another one: if the midpoint of salaries is $88,000 that means that more than half of MLS players were making less than one-tenth of the average salary in the EPL. Hard to get enthused about that, I’d say.

    People want to watch the best in the world, and will gravitate toward that with their eyeballs and their money.

    Last point: people also want to follow teams that have owners who control their player moves and finances – their own independent identities. The incentives in MLS for the teams and the players is all screwed up, and that’s got to be fixed before people will bleed for their teams like they do elsewhere in the world. (EG. why develop players if you can’t profit from selling them to the bigger leagues? In MLS, all that has to go through the league, so fostering talent doesn’t get the team much because it doesn’t control the players’ contracts).

    • Flex Buffchest says:

      You’re also comparing a league that has been around DECADES before the other. Of course salaries are going to be higher and it’s going to have better players. Its got a hundred year start on the MLS. I’m not saying I agree with what the MLS pays its players, but comparing the two leagues is really getting old. I didn’t expect MLS to start out with the best players around the world paying them millions. It takes time for a league to grow.

  12. Justin Kirchdoerfer says:

    I seem to recall that MLS is working toward staying around long enough to get all of the kids that are currently playing. Could help if a couple days a year one of the members of the local team whether MLS or D2 or D3 went to one of the local soccer clubs starting at the travel clubs and working down to AYSO to increase familiarity with the local team and give the kids someone to root for.

    • Bob says:

      There’s always this talk about “all the kids that play soccer”…many of those kids don’t only play soccer. They play soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring, or a combination thereof.

      Yes, there are large amounts of youth soccer players. You know why? It’s an easy sport for parents to put their kids in to get them regular exercise. Put Johnny on a team and let him chase a ball around a field for 90 minutes. Job done.

      • elduderino says:

        That’s a fair critique. However, that’s also the reason (exercise/chase ball for 90 minutes) why my parents got me into AYSO back in the 80′s. After all, they never played or watched soccer when they grew up. And yet it led to me becoming a lifelong soccer player and MLS season ticket holder. Sure not every AYSO parent or kid is hardcore about the sport, but AYSO does a good job of opening soccer up to a wider population and gaining new converts.

  13. Tom says:

    The Rapids don’t have a “black out rule”. I’m not proud of it, but I have, sometimes, blown off buying tickets and domestic child/care points with the wife to just watch the Colorado Rapids on tape after the kids go to bed. Especially when the weather is bad. I usually regret it and wish I had gone. Live soccer is great and I don’t want a sport I only watch on TV, however, if I lived an hour from a minor league club in Floriday I doubt I would go very often. In that respect promo/relagation would be great. I follow a minor league team from England (my family is from that town), but I would not think about them at all except they live the dream- one exceptional season and they are in EPL playing the big boys!

    I really hope there is no strike, I’m ready for the MLS season.

  14. Kevin says:

    I follow European football but I am also a DC United supporter since 1996. These American idiots (and yes, I mean to use that strong a word) who bash MLS at every turn and say they won’t watch it on TV or go to games are actively working against the improvement of the American game. MLS needs the ticket and TV revenue to grow (and raise the salary cap).

    For those who say they can’t watch an inferior game I call BS. Millions of NFL and NBA fans in this country still get fired up about American college football and basketball even though it is certainly an “inferior game” (99% of these players won’t ever play at the top level). MLS is competitive and in numerous cities (including DC) the games have great energy and atmosphere.

    • Stevo says:

      To call college football and basketball inferior to the professional game is naive at worst and sophomoric at best. The college amateur game is different than the professional game. A lot of purists don’t watch pro basketball and football because it lacks a “real” competitive and team oriented approach instead of watching pro players that don’t seem interested in the game.

      MSL soccer, no matter how you cut it, is inferior to pro soccer played elsewhere around the globe.

    • Flex Buffchest says:

      I couldn’t agree more Kevin. There aren’t enough people that speak out FOR the MLS. Bashing it is apparently the “cool” thing to do, even though many of them have never even given it a chance. I don’t understand why real soccer fans would rather bash it then help it develop. Especially US soccer fans. If they get their agreement resolved, you better believe I’ll be at the Galaxy games supporting my team.

  15. NASL1 says:

    If you want the smaller markets to get involved, we need a pro/rel pyramid system.

  16. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    To NASL1: And how do we have a Pro/Rel Pyramid System if clubs outside MLS doesn’t have their own Stadiums. Once again un-informed Eurosnobs automatically assume Pro/Rel must happen, yet a club like the Charlotte Eagles play home matches on a high School Field.

    Only Rochester, Charleston, Minnesota and next season Atlanta returns has their own stadiums.

    There is more work to be done outside of MLS then what goes on inside MLS. But once again NASL1 you know more than we do.

    • man99utd says:

      Daniel,

      Check out this link.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staines_Town_F.C.#Stadium

      Staines Town FC’s stadium holds only 3000 people max. They have a devoted local following. One reason, they have a dream of making it to higher leagues in England. Plus, the FA Cup calls their name and they’ve caused problems for bigger clubs. I’m not saming pro/rel would solve every problem, but I dare say people would jump to higher league clubs than Staines Town if there was no hope of promotion.

    • David says:

      You’re criticizing NASL as “uninformed,” yet you seem to be unaware that many, many teams around the world don’t own their stadiums, and play in municipal-owned stadiums. This includes big clubs too. Internazionale doesn’t own their stadium, for example.

  17. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    To NASL1: How do we have a Pro/Rel Pyramid system if most of the clubs that are registered with US Soccer doesn’t have their own stadiums. If Pro/Rel is here now, more than half the clubs are out of business since they play their matches on a High School Field, Athletic Complex or College stadiums.

    That’s what this sport needs more of. Once again another Euro Snob that’s not informed or not aware of the simple things that needs Pro/Rel to work here.

    What MLS needs to do is to make TV & Radio Ads to get Dirk Nowitzki who plays for the Dallas Mavericks to help support FC Dallas. Henrik Lundqvist plays for the NY Rangers to support NY Red Bulls. Zdeno Chara plays for the Boston Bruins to support the New England Revolution.

    • David says:

      Good post Stevo, except I would disagree in that MLS owners are indeed making money through SUM. SUM is owned by MLS and MLS owners and holds all the commercial rights to MLS, but its off the books of the MLS teams; this allows them to pocket profits from TV rights, merchandizing, SuperLiga, friendlies between MLS clubs and the big European clubs, etc. but then turn around and claim they’re “losing money” when it comes time to negotiate with the players.

      • Stevo says:

        At the end of the day when you combine SUM and MLS, the billionaire playboy club still loses money. MLS makes no significant “sums” on TV rights and merchandizing.

        I will grant you that the amount lost in MLS, as presented to the player’s union is probably warped, however, but the bottom line is that MLS is not market driven, it is subsidized.

  18. NASL1 says:

    If I’m not mistaking Charlotte eagles are in USL-2, so IF their were pro/rel Charlotte would have to be the best team in USL-2, then be the best team in NASL, then go to MLS, by that time they would get investors to build the stadium.

    • David says:

      NASL1 you are correct. I don’t think many folks on here actually understand how promotion/relegation works. Someone owning a lower level club has little incentive to invest in club infrastructure since there is currently no hope of promotion.

      Second, many clubs around the world play in municipal stadiums that they don’t themselves own.

  19. BrooklynFC says:

    The key to MLS being a success is for the league to expand to metro markets where there simply is nothing else to do on a saturday night but watch soccer….. cities like oklahoma city albequerque new mexico……… smaller metro areas that have a big hispanic population

  20. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    It’s not just Charlotte Eagles NASL1. It’s also Real Maryland, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Austin Aztex in USL-1st, FC New York coming in 2011 and those former A-League/D3 Pro League clubs that relegated themselves to PDL.

    Charlotte is only one example. Don’t make it sound so simple that this can be done in a heartbeat cause it can’t. Just look how long it took Metro/RBNY to get that stadium done & the most decorated American club in MLS. DC United is still playing at RFK and they are still paying rent to an old NFL/Baseball Stadium that they don’t own.

    Before your idea that the Charlotte Eagles should have investors with deep pockets and build a stadium it’s going to take alot of convincing to certain businessmen that want’s to get involved with a club. By that time you have assumed that Charlotte has won USL-2nd, promoted to USL-1st/NASL next season. Won that league and promoted to MLS, That High School will be demanding higher rent because top players like David Beckham, Brian Ching, Juan Pablo Angel and so on will be visiting on a regular basis & that means moving to the NFL stadium of the Carolina Panthers.

    And if the plans for a stadium are starting, that means the Eagles are already dead. Pro/Rel coming in now would signal the death of many clubs below MLS or those that don’t have stadiums.

    http://www.majorleaguesoccertalk.com/serious-analyzing-for-mls-single-table-promotion-relegation/2180

    Read that article I wrote. Maybe that will put some sense into you. There is more to be done to make Pro/Rel happen than you can imagine.

  21. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    David: Don’t be a fool. We all know how Pro/Rel works. The difference is that the Landlords here will raise the rent by triple & if that club is relegated, the landlord won’t lower the ammount. They are waiting for that club to get promoted again.

    Don’t make it sound so simple that we don’t know what we’re talking about.

    • David says:

      Again, many, many teams around the world lease their grounds, and it’s not a problem. I don’t know why this is so hard to understand.

  22. David says:

    Folks who like football watch Monday Night Football despite the fact that the previous three days have featured saturation TV coverage of high school, college, and NFL games. The NFL is clearly the superior product, but I love the college game as well and follow it closely. Each level has it’s place.

    More soccer on TV is good for soccer in America. Period.

    • Flex Buffchest says:

      I agree, but I think we should be worried about promoting our own league first, then get people interested into EPL and European leagues.

      • Bob says:

        We should worry about promoting the game first, make them soccer fans. You won’t make them fans watching the wrestling match/header/longball fest that is MLS.

  23. Andy says:

    European soccer teams have grown so big mostly because they have such a connection with the towns they belong to. I think MLS needs to concentrate on that as much if not more than their mass media presence. I really like what Seattle, Philadelphia, and, to a lesser degree, Houston have done to get their games shown on the local broadcast channels.

  24. MattBo says:

    Stevo, you are such a downer for American Soccer, Go away if you really don’t like MLS. I think europeans in general, not all, are just proud, thats all. The competition is better over there. Personally I’m a fan of our local team, the Charlotte Eagles. Going to a game in person is much more exiting even if we lose, than watching it on TV, (though I love watching my beloved Chelski.) I don’t have a Glass ball but I think as the game and League grows in America the product will become better and the single entity structure will eventually disappear. Why? Because the fans will demand it!! I think that the prouduct will get better over here once we figure out a way to develop are young players better. Somewhere between the ages 16 -20 american soccer players fall way behind. I think its that the ability isn’t there. The reason American prospects don’ develop as well or as fast is that they can’t play against top competiotion week in and week out. They aren’t blooded, as they say, slowly put on the stage in high pressure situations.

    • MattBo says:

      Opps, I meant the ability of our young players “IS There” it just not tapped into.

    • David says:

      MattBo, our youngsters will develop when individual clubs control player development (instead of our Soviet-like central planning system). In order to invest in developing a player, there has to be a potential return. Currently, MLS clubs have almost no incentive to invest in a youngster because they will not be able to profit finacially from either owning the player, because MLS owns all the players’ registrations,

  25. Stevo says:

    MattBo:

    Reality bites. A lot of people eat hamburger steaks and delude themselves into believing it is a filet mignon. My comments on MLS are based on the current state of affairs at MLS, not some emotional fantasy world where life is great and MLS is as American as apple pie.

    If you truly are a fan of the sport, you need to assess the facts, look at the lay of the land, and come up with a valid and objective set of convictions on how to best allow the sport to grow here in the good ole US of A.

    The fact that you are a Charlotte Eagles fan (USL-2), which is not an MLS team, is a strong statement. The Eagles have long provided a great product for its market area.

  26. Bill Gardner says:

    MLS could beat the pants off the European Leagues ratings if they had,
    the European Players in MLS, and the European Teams Fans living in the US watching MLS games. The simple thing mate is quality, there is a qualitative difference in the play and most of us who grew up in Europe know what we are looking at on the tele is terms of play. Your premise is faulty, it’s as if your asking why the Columbus AAA baseball team doesn’t get the rating the Yankees get on the air or the press coverage, you understand that right? While I conceed the play in MLS has improved since the early days the tactical awareness, first touch and finishing of the MLS players is still third rate at best. No MLS team could win in the English Second Division nevermind the 1st Division or Premiership, yet that’s not the point, European teams have generations of fans behind them and long historys, given another 25 years of continuous play MLS can begin to approach that, if and only if, the American Athlete is drawn to Football or Soccer as you call it and not basketball or American Football. I will still watch MLS matches once the European season ends and continue screaming at the tele as player after player makes the wrong pass, loses control of the ball because of a heavy first touch and strikes shots into the crowd from 10 meters out, because it is football and that beats watching cooking shows anyday.

  27. JJ says:

    By the way, the most popular soccer being watched in the US is Mexican Primera. I’m not Mexican, and I watch it.

    Most MLS games are not widely available unless you buy an extra package or subscribe to mlsnet.tv. I know FSC just recently became available on my cable system. If it wasn’t for Univision/Telefutura, you would rarely see a MLS match, and you would never be able to watch Superliga or CONCACAF matches.

    Many people are watching euro soccer not just because of the quality, but mostly because its easily available. Also MLS doesn’t help itself by allowing west coast matches to start so late to east coast viewers. People don’t watch the Galaxy at 11pm est because of burnout. It’s just too late.

  28. Sam says:

    lets see if I can cover all points; promo/relag can start in say 20-25 years, by then well see what the ladscape is and if we can support it; the get teams in markest without sports like albequreque, OKC, tallahasee, the western new york area where I live(rochester needs to go MLS, wed have immediate border war with toronto, local rivalries with columbus, new england and NJRB; Its too hard for a large untapped area to drive 3 hours for tfc and more for the others and wed also get southern ontario fans too(sabres do it), to get better players we need more money and have usl/nasl groom LOCAL talent with amix of others, any thing I missed??

  29. eplnfl says:

    First of all MLS needs to be itself. Find it’s own stlye and rules and create there own traditions. Don’t be a follower be a leader. For instance the MLS playoff system seemed to work well last year it brought in a lot of interest. Your season has July 4th right in the middle of it, start a Holdiay Classic or make it a big game event. Imnprove from within, stronger development, add some better quality players not necessarliy big names.

    For me when my home town Fire are playing nothing else matters. No matter what is on in the morning from the old world I’m watching my Fire play either in person or on tv. The fair weather fan may get tv burnout but not the dedicated one. The Fire have all the games on tv so in Chicago the numbers for ESPN or FSC games may not tell the whole story. Not to mention other media outlets the MLS has like Direct Kick and online video, which is a great value btw.

    I hate to bring this up but some of us here still do not forgive the MLS for pulling out of Florida and being a non-player in the south. Ok, MLS was wrong in pulling out but it worked. The league is getting stronger and interest builds each year. We all would like to the league compete with La Liga for talent which it can’t but it doesn’t mean that is is not enjoyable.

    • CoconutMonkey says:

      “Don’t be a follower be a leader”

      Absolutely. What MLS needs is something that the fans in England will look at and say, “I can’t believe the Yanks fixed that before us”.

      I’ve always felt that the biggest area where the game needs improvement (and UEFA/FIFA refuses to improve) is the officiating. Here’s my refereeing wet dream:

      1. Only the captain(s) may consult with the officials. Too often play gets held up by whiny players pleading their case to the ref. His word should be final.

      2. Give the refs some freaking help out there. One of the reasons that there are so many blown calls and undeserved PKs awarded is that the refs simply can’t cover all the ground. There’s many ways to address this, but the easiest/middle of the road solution to me would be to simply add two more assistant referees like they’re trying in the UEFA Cup this year. We shouldn’t wait for FIFA to green light it. Like you said, lead. Sure, they’ll still blow a call here and there, but it’s a lot better than this. http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2007/12_02/MachestLinePA_468x319.jpg

      @eplnfl
      What do you think about bringing the fog horn from Blackhawks games to Toyota Park? I honestly think blowing that thing after goals will boost attendance by at least 50 people a game!

      • eplnfl says:

        The foghorn a bit too much for Toyota Pary. It’s great at the Hawks game. Fire fans do a great job on their own. They are truly second to none fan wise. I have taken a number of people to Toyota Park to see their first soccer game and they always love it and want more. It’s the whole package, great park, great fans, great summer weather, great food. It’s the best sporting value in town,

        Are you in the Chicago area? I’m a Fire ticket holder(half-season) maybe we can hook up. Leave a message on my forum site or e-mail at olb9239@yahoo.com. A few local people have contacted me about a EPL watch group also.

  30. jleau says:

    Gaffer – try and make a new point. Didn’t you post this same article last week? It was wrong then and is still wrong now. MLS’ problem is not fans being burned out by European soccer. It’s also not the quality of play. The sport is not mainstream in this country and thus not many people care about the league.

    The biggest thing MLS could are:

    1) Give each franchise more autonomy. The teams that have a following (Toronto, Seattle, LA, DC, Houston) need to be allowed to use that advantage and please their fans.

    2) Care about Champions League so that the fans will. There is a ton of history in the Mexican league and a natural rivalry waiting to happen. If the MLS would try it might really take off. If we start winning the Mexicans will care.

    3)Don’t have a strike.

  31. short passes says:

    Okay everybody, take a deep breath, and that includes the “old Gaffer”!!!
    When my kids started playing soccer in 1984, NASL was dead and the US sports audience could have cared less. Soccer was on life support with only indoor showing much of a pulse. The semi pro leagues continued but had only localized impact (admittedly great in some markets but still geographically limited). Then the World Cup came to the US and suddenly there was talk of a new professional league, MLS. I lived in Orlando but drove to Tampa to watch the Mutiny–especially Valderama.
    That was 14 years ago and if anybody had said that MLS would survive and grow over the next 14 years most people–especially the anti-soccer crowd– would have doubled over with laughter. Well guess what — it did survive and despite the hysteria it is still growing. In fact development of the new NASL (which I don’t support as a rival to MLS but do believe can be a legitimate second level) just shows that there is a lot of excitement about soccer in this country. So lighten up Gaffer!!
    The level of play is still uneven but improving and if we can get the prospective players out of the grasp of the colleges and into MLS team organizations, that improvement will explode.
    Just look at the number of people having nervous breakdowns about the current problems — that vocal concern never existed before MLS

  32. Bolacuadrada says:

    Thanks MLS haters for talking about the Sport. That make us USA fans feel more identified with the MLS. I like European Soccer but I only watch the games I have a rooting interest. Probably three all weekend. The other games I do not care about. Who cares about Wigan, Fulham, Palermo, Borussia, Getafe, etc. etc. By the way, the European Leagues are too small anyways. Only two or three teams compete for the title in each League. GO LA GALAXY. Too bad Beckham will not be playing anytime soon.

  33. Estefan says:

    One note of cheer in this whole issue of a possible 26 hours of Euro-coverage by the time the Saturday night MLS match rolls-around is this:

    MLS primarily plays in summer – still, in my opinion – a wise move. Families – including mine – are looking for things to do in the summer. We have – for the past three years – traveled almost 200 miles from Detroit area – to Columbus, to see “The Crew” play. There is nothing like seeing it in person. TV coverage pales in comparison.

    The problem seems to be the MLS itself. It’s marketing arm is broken – or at least in a sling.

    If they’re not going to have a team in Detroit, then the least they could do is market the nearest teams in our market (i.e. charter bus trips to their stadium/games, offer discount packages, etc.) Additionally, virtually no marketing is done to kids – the present and future of their sport. I ordered some Columbus crew wear for my kids’ birthdays last season, and they were out of stock in the kid’s sizes. Not only did they delay shipment past their birthdays, they never got the items into stock, nor did they ship them! This was the SECOND time they hosed me like this.

    Also, where TV coverage is concerned, why only one MLS match on Fox per week? If Fox won’t “Play Ball,” go to Gol TV. If not them, then maybe Mun2 (Telemundo’s English Channel). MLS does broadcast a Sunday match, but it’s on Telefutura, and it’s in Spanish only. The League is poorly marketed and run.

    Lastly, in the Spring, when MLS starts-up, most kids/parents who are interested in soccer, are out playing the game, coaching, practicing, not sitting home watching EPL, so they’re missing most of those Spring broadcasts. No 26 hours of EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga there, so it’s a good thing that MLS matches are in Primetime. It’s the best place for them. But for crying out loud, spread the schedule a bit, and get the matches on a network that doesn’t hate the domestic game! Fox is stone-cold sold-out to the EPL, and our family for one is tired of it!

    p.s. It appears that “Fox Soccer Plus” is nothing more than “Setanta Sports” under new management, and they’re just carrying-on what “Setanta” did, and that’s carry EPL and Rugby, with some Champion’s League and French League 1 sprinkled-in on occasion. So they haven’t really launched anything new.

    Ciao

  34. MLS Rumors says:

    Man99utd said:

    “Everyone keeps talking about how the eurosnobs won’t support their local MLS team. However, the truth is for many eurosnobs (and others) there is no local MLS team. If there was I would catch some games with the family. If my choice is to support a team via the tele the EPL will come up trumps.”

    Why? Every self respecting educated footie fanatic knows that “Football is Local”.

    Gloryhunting however is not.

  35. Rex says:

    It’s all about geography and team loyalty. Very few people will watch MLS just to watch soccer. People will watch because they have some connection to a team and a league.

    Building these fan bases takes time. For it to be successful on TV you have to have that core 20-35 male fan base. If you are lucky enough to have some big name players or some consistent success this process can be faster but for most time it takes time. You need kids that have been following a team with their dad since they were 5 that are now 25. That’s 20 years. MLS hasnt even been around long enough to build 1 generation of fans moreless multiple.

    For areas without MLS teams, marketing and strategic games are key. MLS should be scheduling friendlies/exhibition games in places like south florida and st louis.

  36. I would watch an American league that played by the open rules, regardless of level of play. Where supporters are shareholders in the club, and don’t have to be guilted into supporting a local club just because it’s there.

    The system is relevant. If we stop trying to dress it up like real soccer, and adopt the system in which it thrives, the system that has accompanied it to global success. It’s not a cosmic coincidence that it works.

    We’ve been having this conversation about soccer for a hundred years. Can we fix it already? All we have to do is stop trying to force it into a local business model in which it has failed dozens of times.

    This isn’t Wal Mart, McDonalds, or even GM. It’s soccer. It works when leagues aren’t trying to crush one another, but clubs are.

  37. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    To Man 99 Utd: Since when is Wikipedia a real source of information. At the same time that’s in England. If you assume that’s going to happen here in the USA, you are un-informed as well. That rehtoric doesn’t work here.

    I’m not un-informed sir and when I say build a stadium, it doesn’t have to be over 10,000 to be legit. As long as they build something that they can control the revenue streams of Tickets, Food, Parking & shirt sales & not paying any form of rent to a High School, College, or Athletic Complex that is success for a club.

    If there is another stadium like Blackbaud in Charleston, or Half the capacity of Pizza Hut Park in Frisco (Just outside of Dallas) That’s good enough for me.

    Once again if you install Pro/Rel now more than half the clubs are dead financially. PDL is dead, the clubs that are in NASL & USL 2nd half or more are gone, then what does that tell you? All the growth that’s been done will be destroyed. The pettiness from some of you that wants to be like Europe now, is wrong. There has been positives for the last couple of years & sadly it’s going to be at a turtle’s pace. If you can’t be patient for it, then I don’t know how much more to tell you folks.

    • There is absolutely no example of an open soccer league failing in a large, developed nation with a long tradition of pro sports culture. There are no American examples of open league failures, since the establishment has succeeded in thwarting them, so accustomed are they to their closed league entitlements.

      If, after empowering supporters with a share of their independent club, failures occur, it will be because they cannot find support, or because owners make a conscious decision to take them down. Others will rise to take their place, as investors prefer unlimited businesses to limited ones.

      Today, the clubs that cannot find support stay in the league and lower the bar for everyone else. Sure, MLS has cloaked this fact by giving us randomized match outcomes, but the price is absurd: Lower div clubs have little future, and top div clubs are sent into international play hamstrung by their own league.

      Soccer is no longer on the razors edge of survival. The fact that our closed leagues and some of their clubs are hanging on for dear life is symptomatic of the failure of the model we keep trying to force it into, not the problems of the sport.

      • david says:

        Great analysis. Well run, well supported teams should be allowed to thrive and prosper, and poorly run, poorly supported clubs should be allowed to move down- thus no dead weight and opportunities are given for new up and coming clubs.

        We basically have a socialist league structure trying to compete against competition-driven, open structured leagues. The results are similar to the performance of solicalist economies compared to free enterprise economies.

  38. chicagoChelseaFan says:

    We do not have a dominant team in MLS. We need a domestic Man United (sort of like the Cosmos, but with more domestic talent, more wins, more real grass, and players who care). Absent that, they are all about the same. Watching one match on Saturday night is about the same as watching any MLS match with the possible exception of Galaxy. I have season tickets to the Fire and routinely watch them on local television, but the announcing is terrible, there are no stats, and the broadcast as a whole is amateurish.

  39. AngelUSAfan says:

    I think one of the problem here that there is no promotion of the soccer in this nation by the USSF. First of all I don’t get why we have a USSF and leagues under different name as MLS, USL, NASL and so for. They Well Maybe we can have this league name but they all should be monitor by the USSF like in in the La Liga, FA in England, Bundsliga, Seria A, even down the border FMF they all be monitor by the soccer(Football)Association. Plus that way they can be more aggressive with the media in the USA and request them to play at least three or four games at the time give choice of which team you want to see play in the MLS, USL, NASL. Plus something that well all want is better quality on the field with good player but the same time if you are watching it on TV we want better camaras angles the way they televised the MSL it look awful and boring. we want better view that is so different when we are watching games from other country or leagues. So the USSF have to step in and get control of the MLS and that way this beautiful game can come to live here in the USA.

  40. Rogers says:

    The US making a deep run in the World Cup, and casual fans noticing how international fans take soccer, is the perfect storm of what it would take for an “ah-ha” moment. Soccer fandom in the US has steadily increased over the past 20yrs. We need a World Cup boost to get to the next level

    http://www.usa2010.org – Wear your support for the USMNT!

  41. NASL1 says:

    MLS needs to look hard into the future….., look at what J-league is doing.

    350 players are right, something has go to give….single entity is crumbling, US fans see CL and they say wow we can have something like that too. but the owners are running the league into the ground by there selfish vision. It’s time for change.

  42. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    To soccerreform.us: That’s why I am hoping it never comes to that. That’s why I keep saying for this whole Pro/Rel arguement to become a positive, most of these clubs in all levels needs to start creating & developing their own grounds. Their own stadiums.

    Do I want to see Pro/Rel come to US Club Soccer? Yes I do. I want to see it happen. But I’m not a fool to lash out and say “Just have Pro/Rel like in Europe and everything will be much better” There is so much more to make that happen and those who scream it are blind & foolish.

    I don’t understand why everyone is assuming that if it works in England, it works here. Right now it’s not working here. If it happens in the future, it won’t be in a couple of years. It could happen after I’m gone from this earth.

    Every time I see an FA Cup match on FSC, these smaller grounds for Football League 1 & 2 Sides along with the pub sides have some form of stands. Either Standing or sitting & a roof. I understand that’s the local stadium in a small English Town. If that was going to be built for a small local side here in the USA that’s fine as well.

    I’m not asking for big wigs with deep pockets. Someone that can help with a decent bank account or an ownership group can come in and build something. In fact that’s what the new FC Tampa Bay side was going to do till the local township meeting didn’t want it.

    It’s either Raymond James Stadium or bust. The FC Tampa Bay ownership group didn’t want to go into the NFL Stadium for the Buccaneers. So right now it’s at the New York Yankees Minor League & Spring Training ballpark across the way from the NFL Stadium.

    I can give you more examples, but those who think I’m un-informed assumes I’m talking out of my rear end.

  43. Tony Lopes says:

    First and foremost, I have been a season ticket holder
    for 13+ years. I just wanted to say I love soccer. Please excuse me
    if this gets too long.
    Soccer as we know it today is a business.
    If the business in not profitable then let this whole
    league close down. If the league is not folding then
    lets remove the instance of injustice and unfairness.
    Pay the players a confortable salary.
    (The life expentanacy of a soccer career is short )
    Let them search around the league for an team who is
    going to pay them their worth in order for them to sustain the league
    and their respective families.
    How do you still control someone else’s rights even when you
    dispose of them or terminate their contract ?
    This league’s lack of vanity is a pure fact that they are
    not investing in quality players.
    The few better domestic talents that surface once in a while
    are quickly sold to the foreign markets: and history has
    shown that those players albeit with exception of a some
    vanish quickly along with their unresolved potententials.
    This league can’t be that bad in developing players as it
    has sent far more players to the European and
    other foreign leagues, in far greater numbers then that of the Mexican League.
    This so called Beckham Experience showed us that MLS
    can and should invest in Big Names, hopefully before they’re
    past their prime. Fans have filled the seats whenever Beckham
    shows up. Its hard for me to conceive that this league could not
    afford and attrack a few more good players that will not lead MLS to
    bankrupcy. The league should take more risks and provide an atractive
    product on the field for the fans to enjoy as. So more name recognition=revenue$=
    butts on the seats and therefore a successful league.

  44. Robert says:

    Soccer in American has by far the greatest competition of any sport in the country. In my opinion after 10 months of watching European soccer people will move on to other things like going on vacation during the summer months. Also, the top foreign players won’t come here in their prime because it will be hard for them to compete for a spot on their national team. Not because the MLS isn’t good enough, but because we only play for about 7 months over the summer.

    Once all 18 teams have their own soccer stadiums I would say change the season from August to May (I know people will say that it is impossible to play in January and February in the North East and Midwest). The leagues could have a 2 to 3 week break at the end of January to beginning of February. In that time their could also be the MLS draft and a national team match. Also the northern teams could have away games in the champions league etc. So, I think that there are ways around the weather.

    Next raise the minimum that players make and add 1 to 2 designated players. However if the season remains during the summer it is going to be hard to sign top European players because they won’t be in form for a spot on their national team. Moving the season to a more traditional fall to spring season will change a lot and for the better. Just my two cents

  45. Dave says:

    In order for MLS to compete with their heavyweight counterparts the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL they have to put a good product on the field. Americans are not stupid. When we pay price of admmission we expect to see the best the sport has to offer. Ticket prices are skyrocketing every year in the NFL and MLB yet it still doesn’t discourage people from attending because simply the leagues have the elite athletes of their sport. The only way soccer in America will grow is if we somehow we can get the elite players from Europe and get them to play here. What if we had the product that we saw in the World Cup and just market the players I bet tickets for these games would be a hot commodity. When the Galaxy signed David Beckham it looked like a start most of the star players from Europe wanted to come here and play. But for some reason it hasn’t materialized and these elite athletes realized they could just stay where they are and make a whole lot more. So I will go out on a limb to say MLS needs to do every effort it can to recruit the best players in soccer, sign them to lucrative contracts, and give them a reason to play here. Continue this trend and you will see a better product on the field and more fans in the stands.

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