SAT, 7AM ET
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SAT, 7:45AM ET
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MUFC
SAT, 9:45AM ET
FUL
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SAT, 10AM ET
MCFC
STO
SAT, 10AM ET
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QPR
SUN

How MLS Is Practically Extinct In Parts of the U.S.

lockhart stadium How MLS Is Practically Extinct In Parts of the U.S.

Sold out crowd at Lockhart Stadium for Miami Fusion v DC United

I had the sudden realization Sunday that if aliens descended on my town and were asked to find any life of Major League Soccer in South Florida, the only thing they would find is MLS trading cards in the bargain bin of the local dollar store. Seriously.

Sadly, Major League Soccer is extinct in South Florida. The nearest MLS team is 1,000 miles away. The last time I saw anyone wearing a MLS jersey was more than two years ago. And the last time there was a trace of a MLS team in all of Florida was nine years ago.

I sound like a broken record, but the reality is that if it wasn’t for television, I would be — as the Brits say — a miserable old git. It’s practically my only outlet to watch the professional game. And even then, the amount of MLS coverage is few and far between especially when compared to the smorgasbord of European soccer on US TV.

Yes, I go watch my kids play AYSO games. Yes, I attend Miami FC matches in the USL, now NASL or whatever temporary league name the USSF gives it, but the reality is that it’s not MLS. It’s nowhere close to a MLS experience. It’s nothing like when I was a Miami Fusion season ticket holder when most of my life revolved around when the home team played at Lockhart Stadium.

Many critics may argue that South Florida had its chance and failed at Major League Soccer. But that’s a far too simplistic explanation. The reality is that it was a combination of drastic mistakes everywhere from the back office staff to poor marketing and a failed attempt to target the Miami-Dade community, most of whom didn’t want to drive the short distance to Fort Lauderdale. But the main culprits were, in my opinion, the ownership of Ken Horowitz who decided to pull the plug too early just as the team was becoming successful both on and off the field, and the failure of Major League Soccer to find an investor willing to take over from Horowitz.

The reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of soccer fans around the United States, or perhaps more, who are in a similar boat to me and have no local MLS team to follow. Arsenal is just as “local” to them as is Chicago Fire. There’s little bond between MLS and these isolated soccer fans, so the next best thing is either the USL or NASL or, more likely, television. And as I’ve discussed previously, when it comes to the TV war, MLS almost always loses.

So in communities such as South Florida and tens of other large metropolitan areas around the United States, we have to be patient. But the longer we wait, the more the new soccer fans will gravitate to what is most accessible — which is European soccer on television. And the longer the wait, the harder it will be for new MLS teams to make the local team its passion instead of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur or whatever team he or she supports.

If you’re fortunate to live near a MLS team, count yourself lucky. Go watch games at the stadium and support the beautiful game. There are huge amounts of soccer fans nationwide who would jump at the chance to go see a MLS team.

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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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106 Responses to How MLS Is Practically Extinct In Parts of the U.S.

  1. BC says:

    “I sound like a broken record”

    This is all you needed to say, Gaffer. Between articles and comments I think I’ve read this about 800 times on the MLS/EPL Talk networks already.

    • The Gaffer says:

      BC, I could keep quiet and not share my thoughts, but by speaking up, I’m hoping that MLS or potential investors or soccer fans who are in a similar position can understand what’s happening in South Florida and other markets around the country.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • BC says:

        But Gaffer, the readers get it, the nearest team to South Florida is 1,000 miles away. But what about using St. Louis as an example? Or Atlanta? Or Charlotte? Or Billings, Montana? These cities are all in the same situation. Yes, I understand that South Florida has a diverse population and a soccer-centric market, but I’ve seen this ad-nauseum.

        I’d be more interested in your thoughts on how best to put teams in these new markets. The quality of play is what needs improved in MLS perhaps more than anything, and the speed of expansion only makes that problem more visible.

        If MLS survives the labor situation, are we ultimately looking at a 30 team MLS like the other major sports leagues? Can a pro/rel scenario ever work where these markets get high-quality soccer teams? What does adding tens of teams to the markets you describe do for MLS and the game in the States? Is it possible in the future? Will we even get to watch MLS soccer this year? I’d like to hear your thoughts on these issues.

        • The Gaffer says:

          BC, I’ve lived in South Florida for 27 years, so I’m writing about this part of the country because it’s what I know best. I’m not going to write about how people feel in Charlotte, Atlanta, Billings or other places when I have never lived there or spent a lot of time there.

          As for the other questions you ask, they’re very good questions but I don’t have the answers. I have opinions about them. Yes, I would like to see a 30 team league in MLS. I can’t see pro/rel working under the current system/ownership structure.

          I appreciate the story ideas, I really do, but I’m not comfortable writing about “what if” situations regarding the growth of the game in this country. I’m not sure anyone has the answers to those questions, no matter how good the questions are. If you do, or if any other readers to, please let me know and I’d be interested in having your article published on this site. Go here for more info – http://www.majorleaguesoccertalk.com/get-published/

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • BC says:

            Thanks Gaffer. At the core, your argument is correct. Why watch an inferior product if Liverpool is as close to you as DC United? On TV, it doesn’t matter. I think it would be very intriguing to toss around ideas as to how to make MLS a more national sport and what would work here in the states (more teams, league models, pro/rel, etc). Granted, the labor issues right now are much more pressing, but I think it would be an interesting discussion.

  2. Stevo says:

    This is old news, and a basic regurgitation of the previous blog. Further, you miss the business point of MLS, which is to only go to large markets for television revenue.

    The model is hailed by MLS as successful due to the current number of years MLS has been around. The fact of the matter is that MLS’s success is only due to the billionaire boys club that funds the operation in under the holy grail of “What is good for soccer inthe US”.

    Until, much like baseball, there is a true penetration of teams at various levels in the American hinterlands, there will be no following that will make Division I soccer financially viable.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Stevo, but South Florida is one of the biggest TV markets in the country and has the highest TV ratings for many soccer games nationwide, but there is still no team here.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Garrett says:

        Gaffer, while South Florida is one of the bigger metro areas in the US, there are other larger ones, even in the south, that do not have MLS franchises, such as Atlanta and Tampa. Not to mention how South Florida sports fans support other sports teams in the area (Marlins, Heat and Panthers), a Miami MLS franchise would only be able to succeed if they were a top 4 side every year considering how fickle the fans are.

        • The Gaffer says:

          Garrett, no worries. I’m not stuck on just South Florida getting a MLS team. I’d love to see new MLS teams in Atlanta and Tampa too, as well as other metro areas.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • OleGunnar20 says:

            as i pointed out below the numbers show that Miami, Tampa Bay and Atlanta (which scored a 188% in my attendance study) are 3 of the WORST MSAs in all of the US/Canada in fan attendance/support for the professional sports teams they already have. to put more professional sports teams in those MSAs, while not impossible as money talks, would be idiotic. no offence if you live there and would like a local team. i can understand that. but MLS is hopefully going to stop at 20 or 24 teams, in the strongest MSA markets in terms of prove track record of fan suppport (as most of MLS revenue comes from ticket sales and attendance and not TV revenue), and leave the “bad pro sports” towns to NASL or to their currently struggling pro teams in other sports.

      • DCUDiplomat96 says:

        Gaffer soccer tv ratings in english or spanish????

  3. Robert says:

    Just because having a team in your local area doesn’t automatically make you a fan. It takes time for the club to garner an audience. I live in San Diego and hate the Padres and everytime the dodgers come to town I’m there with blue. So if San diego got an MLS franchise I probably won’t go support it because of the lousy product.

  4. Tim says:

    I will say this, Florida doesn’t have a strong sports culture outside of the Big 3 football schools (and occasionally USF)

    the Marlins are a joke of a franchise, win World Series and then sell the farm
    The Devil Rays are a flash in the pan
    Watching the Magic, I see so many empty seats (same with the heat)
    The Jags are next on the NFL’s relocation list
    If the glazers weren’t at Tampa, so would be the Bucs
    Dolphins are perhaps the best pro sports franchise, but there are still a lot of fans dressed up as seats at their games.

    Basically, Florida is too nice of a place to just sit in an arena for 2-3 hours, or a stadium for 4. As I mentioned the only teams I see Floridians with true attachment for are the collegiate teams.

  5. Tim says:

    I live in North Carolina. The closest team to where I live is 6 hours away – D.C. United. I’ve never driven to see them play. If there was a team within a reasonable driving distance, I’d be going to games.

    • OleGunnar20 says:

      You can always support the Carolina RailHawks as your local team or the Charlotte Eagles. Hopefully the MLS will eventually have 20-24 teams but tha will still leave many areas not represented. We have to hope that NASL/USL can grow into a strong 2nd level of soccer for fans in the areas that MLS does not reach.

    • Tim,

      Why not sign up with the Triangle Soccer Fanatics and come out and support the RailHawks? Since the team came to Cary, I’ve pretty much forgotten about MLS. It’s much more fun to be in the stands supporting a local team, than watching them on TV from miles away.

      Check us out at http://trisoccerfan.com

    • Bobby says:

      Greensboro has a team too, the Dynamo — this one was around first — if you’re closer to the Triad than Charlotte or the Triangle. They have a cute little stadium in Browns Summit.

  6. Stevil says:

    Stop whining. You’ve got two clubs in Florida to support: Miami FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Come on Stevil. No matter how promising Miami FC and Tampa Bay are, they’re nowhere close to MLS in terms of the experience.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • OleGunnar20 says:

        well if people support Miami FC or Tampa Bay Rowdies FC, to the level that Portland Timbers or Montreal Impact fans do, they might just prove they and their cities are worthy of being MLS cities.

        right now, with only a 20th spot in MLS open for the forseeable future (2012) it is going to be down to the fans of AC St. Louis, NSC Minnesota Stars, Miami FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies FC to prove to the MLS which of their teams and cities deserve to be the 20th team in MLS and the 10th Eastern Conference team.

        it is preposterous to think that given how successful MLS has been with “graduating” super successful D2 teams to MLS that Miami has any shot of getting an MLS team that isn’t Miami FC moving up to MLS.

        • ruskerdu says:

          OleGunnar is exactly right. You think Portland got it’s MLS team by seating around writing articles about how 2nd division soccer isn’t good enough for them? They got it because 10-20 crazies started chanting and banging on buckets in 2001. It has to grow to be better atmosphere than most MLS teams have and convinced Merritt Paulson to invest in them and MLS. So shut up, buy season tickets to the blues and make your damn own atmosphere.

          • 2010... says:

            Who the heck in whining? I don’t see whining – I see people in Florida getting pissed off at all the Haterade that’s passed around in big jugs whenever the subject of MLS in Florida comes up.

            Tampa Bay Rowdies supporters group Ralph’s Mob is already looking pretty good, drawing in a dozen or so supporters for preseason matches (with both crowds so far filling up 1,500 seat Pepin Stadium with zero advertising) and over 70+ members so far joining their Ning group – at this rate they’ll easily be the biggest and loudest supporter’s group in D2 soccer once Portland Timbers move up to MLS next year. Just give them some time to grow.

            I think you people will eat your words in a few years about Florida as the fan base in Tampa Bay and Ft. Lauderdale get themselves organized. You can talk all you want about how “terrible” Florida sports fans are; the fact is Tampa Bay and Miami were not the worst attended MLS clubs. And yet they were cut while worse drawing clubs are still in MLS. MLS contraction had nothing to do with attendance.

            Ralph’s Mob looks impressive for a supporters group that hasn’t even had its first official meeting yet. You wait – there are plenty of fans in Florida who are making things happen. You have to remember that these fans have been kicked in the teeth a few times by MLS and are constantly dissed by born-yesterday MLS fans whose pro soccer memories barely stretch back to before MLS (if that), much less all the way back to the glory days of the NASL when the Rowdies were attracting crowds of 30,000, 40,000, even 50,000+ to Tampa Stadium.

            Florida is burnt-over territory for MLS because MLS completely screwed up in Florida – is that the fault of the fans? It is going to take time to undo the damage that MLS did to Florida. People who blame the fans, instead of MLS, for the Florida situation, are not looking at the big picture.

  7. CTBlues says:

    I wish the Red Bulls had built their new stadium next to the New Meadowlands or actully in NY or CT so I could just take the train to the games but no they had to move further away from the Metro line and deeper into dirty Jersey. Now I would have to take a train to Grand Central then take a cab or subway to Penn Station then take a train to Newark then take a trolley to the stadium or I could sit in traffic for 2hrs trying to get over the GW bridge.

    • OleGunnar20 says:

      isn’t the new stadium like across the street from a PATH station and just a few blocks from a direct metro line from Manhatan (Ironbound District)? from everything i have heard you can get on a train/subway in Manhattan and be at the stadium, including walk time from the Iron Bound district, in 30 minutes.

      but eventually, like with every other pro sports league, NYC will get a 2nd MLS team somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens.

      • CTBlues says:

        The only way for me to get to dirty Jersey by train is to get on a train at Penn Station or take Amtrak from New Haven to Newark but they don’t have train times after the games I would have to wait until the next day. The Giants, Jets, and Yankees made a deal with Metro North to run direct trains to the stations at there respective venues. If I’m supposed to root for teams in a Metro area because my state isn’t allowed to have a team then they should make it easy as possible for me to get to the game. It seems to me that they are acomidating mostly people from jersey and the city specificaly not the whole tristate area.

        • Kevin says:

          ” …they should make it easy as possible for me to get to the game.”

          Just you, eh?

          Right.

          • CTBlues says:

            Kevin take things a little seriously sometimes?

            I didn’t just me but I meant people north of NYC that don’t want to a)sit in traffic on I-95 or b)have figure out what subway I have to take to go from Grand Central to Penn Station or walk for a half hour from GC to PS. I used to sit in traffic going to Yankee games but hell that’s the Yankees I know I’m going to see a good game most likely.

          • 2010... says:

            “I didn’t just me but I meant people north of NYC that don’t want to a)sit in traffic on I-95 or b)have figure out what subway I have to take to go from Grand Central to Penn Station or walk for a half hour from GC to PS. I used to sit in traffic going to Yankee games but hell that’s the Yankees I know I’m going to see a good game most likely. ”

            Yeah, the Red Bulls should worry about a handful of fans living north of NYC, instead of the tens of millions of fans who live near public transit in NYC and NJ.

            Talk about an inflated sense of self-importance! Try putting yourself in the shoes of the Red Bulls front office for a change. They have a better clue what they are doing.

          • CTBlues says:

            2010,
            I live in southwestern CT which is considered the Metro area. With the “sad state” of the MLS wouldn’t they want to draw more people from the whole tristate area not just Jersey and NYC?

        • bigvic says:

          yeah, the Gaffer is right on this one. We’re talking about the 3rd highest TV ratings sometimes when it comes to such international tournaments such as the Euros and Confederations cup. Its not about the size alone, but more importantly its about undisputed TV ratings.
          Another poster above says why not talk about Billings, MT or St. Louis, Mo. You are correct STL to Billings, MT (and thank god Missouri has only one MLS team…we dont need a second one to lose a million bucks per year), however if Santos, Corinthians, or Boca Juniors shows up to play in Miami you’re gonna get around 40k folks to go watch them. The Gaffer is way off on adding MLS teams though. Too many of them are losing money right now. Seattle gets more attendance then LA, but I dont hear them clamoring for a 2nd team. Chivas USA needs to be Miami Rumba or something like that, but with some signings to take their current attendance from 13k to 30k…but everyone already knows this.
          On the issue of the location of stadiums, trust me it cant be as bad SJ. Believe me, absolutely no one from San Fran or Oakland go to Quakes games in mass transit-challenged San Jose.

        • 2010... says:

          You seem to forget that the MetroBulls had no special deals to run direct trains to the Meadowlands. Giants stadium might as well have been on the Moon for most soccer fans, especially for MLS. People might have been willing to drive to the Meadowlands to see the Cosmos back in the 1970′s, but it wasn’t going to ever happen for the MetroBulls in the Meadowlands.

          • CTBlues says:

            You do know they built a brand new train station right next to the New Meadowlands right? But if they can run a direct train out to no where East Rutherford why can’t they run a direct train to at least Newark? I wouldn’t want them to play in the New Meadowlands becuase the new arena is gorgeous.

    • 2010... says:

      The new Red Bull Arena is a MUCH BETTER location than that dump in the Meadowlands. Millions of people can now actually take public transit in NYC and NJ to Red Bull Arena, which simply was not possible at the Meadowlands.

      The MetroBulls drew flies in the Meadowlands because it is out in the middle of nowhere and most people had to drive there.

      Anyone in NYC who isn’t going to go to the new Red Bull Arena simply because it is over the border in New Jersey, is, frankly, an idiot or a snob.

      The New Red Bull Arena is a faster trip via public transit for many people in NYC than a trip out to the Mets new stadium would be. RBA is right across the river, for crying out loud: you can see it from the west side of Manhattan!

  8. David Falk says:

    Well, the KIDS know about MLS in Broward County:
    http://www.examiner.com/x-413-Seattle-Soccer-Examiner~y2010m3d14-Seattle-Sounders-edge-Chelsea-to-win-soccer-championship

    “Seattle Sounders” recently won four cups in youth leagues there.

  9. OleGunnar20 says:

    your argument would make sense if Miami wasn’t one of the worst cities for professional sports attendance. i recently did a detailed accumulation of professional sports attendance in every US/Canadian city that had a professional sports team in one of the big 5 sports (NFL/CFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS).

    If you take the 3 year average attendance per game for the Miami teams and compare them to the median for their league the average across the 4 teams is 88%. If you take the 3 year average of Capacity Filled Percentage for each of the Miami teams and compare it to the median for their league the average is also 88%.

    Combining the numbers you get 176% (where 200% would be exactly median on both metrics). That number is one of the worst of all of the MSAs in the US/Canada that have professional sports teams. If you ignore the MSAs at the bottom of this measure that have only one team (as not having enough teams for a valid sample of the MSAs ability to find fan support for professional sports) the bottom of the heap looks as follows:

    Tampa Bay 180%
    *Oakland 180%
    Kansas City 177%
    Miami 176%
    Columbus 176%
    Indianapolis 174%

    With MLS looking at the overwhelming success in places like Toronto (211%), Seattle (240%), Portland (218%), Philadelphia (218%), Vancouver (210%) they are going to be looking at these sort of markets for future MLS teams and not markets that have proven (not only in previous MLS incarnations) to have verifiable poor fan support across all professional sports. The league does not want more teams in struggling markets like KC and Columbus.

    They are far more likely, and rightfully so, to try to put a 20th or beyond MLS team in an MSA like the Inland Empire (Riverside, Ontario) that has 4M people (#14) and no pro teams or in MSAs with proven fan support for professional sports … like San Francisco (232%), St. Louis (227%) or **NYC-B (212%).

    Numbers don’t lie. Miami teams, in any sport, do not turn out the fans. Ever. Soccer isn’t magic and would suffer no different fate than any of Miami’s other teams. The fact that MLS failed in Miami already was not a fluke it was par for the professional Miami sports scene course. Numbers do not lie.

    *the SF/Oakland MSA, like NYC & LA & CHI, was considered to have two distinct sets of teams … one set for SF and one set for OAK.

    **NYC was considered to have two sets of teams NYC-A being the “senior” or more successful team (Giants, Yankees, Rangers, Knicks, RBNY) and NYC-B being the “junior” or less successful teams (Jets, Mets, Devils, Nets) from a fan attendance point of view.

    • CoconutMonkey says:

      Ooo, I could get on board with a Chicago Derby. It would be especially sweet if the team was on the North Side and wore blue pin stripes. ;)

    • jcr says:

      Very good reply. I would like to see a team in Miami, but when you look at MLS’s recent successful new franchises in Toronto, Seattle, Philadelphia, (the reincarnation of the Red Bulls in Harrison, Portland, Vancouver and soon to be the guaranteed success of Montreal (come on – they had over 50,000 screaming fans at a Concacaf game), you have to pass on Miami at least for a while. At least maybe if and when some other team fails which might be KC, Columbus, or Chivas. How can anyone argue with MLS’s recent formula which I hope will also lead to bigger TV audiences and contracts and subsequently better off teams that can afford better players and the cycle continues. I hope! and just maybe some coverage in the NY Media (newspapers and TV) of MLS or soccer in general.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Ole, I finally had a chance to read your comment this evening in its entirety, and it’s pretty depressing but a very solid argument. It makes me think that I should stop having high expectations of MLS returning to South Florida and realize that a Division II team (such as Miami FC) is the best it’s going to get for several years.

      Would you be interested in sharing your detailed accumulation of professional sports attendance in every US/Canadian city that had a professional sports team in one of the big 5 sports? It would make for an interesting research report for many soccer fans to read.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • OleGunnar20 says:

        i wouldn’t mind at all. it took me a couple of days to put together in a spreadsheet. a few simple explanations as to the methodology and it is pretty easy to understand so if you would like i would be more than happy to email it to you.

    • bigvic says:

      arguing for 2nd teams in areas where the “senior” MLS isnt even close to averaging 25k fans per game is beyond me. People speak of trying to avoid the mistakes of the NASL of the past, but it also seems like people dont want to repeat some of the great attendances of the past either. Chivas USA averaging 13k per game is not a good thing since thats the number that is needed to break even financially. I thought we were trying to grow the league. If they dont improve in the next 2yrs, it should be off to Atl, or S. Fl. I know we are a big country, but to have as many pro teams in the first division as the leagues of Brazil and England is crazy. Keep it small (15 US teams), spend the money, and intensify the homegrown talent

    • 2010... says:

      @OleGunnar20:

      Your figures take no account of actual soccer history in the USA.

      Tampa Bay and Miami were not the worst in attendance in MLS; they were cut for other reasons. Miami Fusion were actually playing in Ft. Lauderdale, a significant fact since pro soccer has repeatedly failed in Miami, and then moved to Ft. Lauderdale and found success. Yes Miami is crap for pro soccer: but we aren’t talking Miami anymore, we’re talking Ft. Lauderdale.

      Tampa Bay Rowdies drew huge crowds in the early 1970s and 80s – you forget that the problem in Florida is that fans there for the most part have loyalties elsewhere – in hockey, in baseball, and in football. But this isn’t true in soccer – outside of recent immigrants from soccer playing countries in Latin America, the native Florida fans don’t have outside loyalties in soccer. For this reason you can’t use numbers from NHL, NFL, MLB, etc to argue that the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers aren’t suitable for MLS expansion. The logic of your argument does not apply if you actually look at pro soccer history in the USA instead of NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL history.

      Likewise, you argue that San Francisco and Oakand are “great” for supporting sports – which is true in NFL and MLB. But it is completely untrue in soccer. Pro soccer has been tried, repeatedly, over and over for the past four decades, in San Francisco and Oakland, and has always failed miserably. And yet, pro soccer was a wild success in neighboring San Jose – in a situation analogous to what happened in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. The big league city failed as a soccer city; the neighboring city succeeded as a soccer city. What’s a valid historical argument for NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL doesn’t necessarily apply to pro soccer in the USA.

      You are using bad arguments, comparing apples to oranges, and coming to erroneous conclusions about Florida as a result. Yes, Miami is a bad market for pro soccer – but Ft. Lauderdale isn’t. Yes, Tampa is a bad market for NHL or MLB – but not for pro soccer, especially if the team in question is the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

      If MLS follows your logic pro soccer in this country is screwed. The behavior of MLB, NHL, NFL, NBA fans etc does not necessarily apply to soccer in Florida or other locations. Any serious investor looks at the big picture and the specific peculiarities of each market, and doesn’t fall for these kinds of blanket misapplications of statistics as you do.

      • OleGunnar20 says:

        my figures do not take into account the “history” of soccer in FL because that is not what they are intended to do. they were only to show how each MSA with one or more pro sports teams does on some objective and comparative measures of attendance. Miami and Tampa Bay do poorly. Now if you think that soccer is somehow a magical sport and would defy all verifiable data in this regards you are absolutely allowed to do so.

        And I never said that this sort of data is the ONLY thing to be considered when deciding on possible MLS locations.
        Quite the contrary. I am well aware of how demographics play an important role in a MSAs suitability for supporting an MLS team. I have pointed out before, maybe in this thread, that Atlanta suffers from this very problem.

        Also I never made any claims about Oakland. SF/Oakland are considered one MSA and in my study it was treated like LA or NYC or CHI as an MSA with more than one team in a sport often. Unlike those other MSAs tho it was easy to separate the teams into SF teams and OAK teams. As it turns out the fan support for SF teams is quite good and the fan support for OAK teams is quite bad.

        You are going to have to show me where SF or OAK has failed to support a professional soccer team in the last 15 years since we are talking about now and the MLS and not ancient history? Also I am going to have to question your definition of “wildly successful” in regards to San Jose and professional/MLS soccer? Would that be the wild success they had in shipping their team to Houson? Or the wild success in being a bit below average in current attendance? Neither of those is what I would call “wild” success.

        You and every other NASL sycophant need to give up the ghost. Nobody cares what your city did 4 decades ago in the 70s when it comes to attending soccer games. The most important demographic for today’s MLS team is the 18-34 crowd and most of them were not even alive to enjoy NASL. While the data from attendance in other professional sports is not 100% analogous to potential MLS attendance it is far more relevant than NASLs attendance from 40 years ago.

        My conclusion was simply that based on current data any professional sport, MLS included, should have reservations about how well professional sports in general are supported and attended in Miami and Tampa Bay. Now this isn’t the only factor to be considered but it is also not a factor to be ignored. I was simply providing some hard data to a discussion of “why doesn’t Tampa/Miami get MLS”. It was not meant to be definitive or absolute one way or the other rather an attempt to put at least some concrete data and perspective into an otherwise nebulous and “fact free” discussion. As I noticed all of your “but tampa loved the rowdies 40 years ago so we would be awesome for MLS” also seemed to be entirely bereft of any actual relevant and recent data.

        And of course Tampa Bay has the perfect opportunity to show that when it comes to soccer the support is different and stronger than for other sports. They have an D2 team, they have (wisely) glommed on to the Rowdies history, and now time will tell how well they can get support and attendance. We have multiple other D2 markets to compare them to in terms of being exceptional MSAs in supporting soccer (even D2 level) like Montreal and Portland and Rochester. If Tampa Bay can put itself in the upper echelon with those teams then MLS will have something to consider. If they do not I think MLS will be able to wisely take a pass on Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future. This all also applies to Miami of course.

  10. Tom says:

    I agree the MLS benifits from the summer season. Those who say it should conform to a winter schedule don’t actually go to games. A soccer starved (European off-season), hot summer night is the best time to go to a game.

    And during the overlap periods I love the contrast- one league is beginning when the other is a bit tired, or one leage is having it’s exciting conclusion when the other is just getting going.

    • OleGunnar20 says:

      not to mention MLS is far better competing against only MLB during the “summer” instead of the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football/basketball during the “winter”. baseball is a dying sport, the support amongst younger fans is on the wane. teams like SSFC and TFC and Portland Timbers show that soccer and MLS can be appealing to younger fans which makes the “summer” and MLB the perfect place to compete in the US sports landscape.

      • Mark says:

        It seems like once a week someone posts that baseball is a “dying” sport. I’m only 40, so I’ve only heard people saying that for 30 years. While attendance was down in 2009, the overall trend in average attendance is a steady climb. More people attended MLB games during the 2009 season than attended the combined games of NBA, NHL, NFL and MLS for the most recent season of each.

        • OleGunnar20 says:

          let’s just ignore a few important “facts” shall we

          A. MLB has 82 home games. that might just be why more people attend games as a raw number.

          B. MLB is struggling to keep its fan demographic young and has been for a decade. many of their current marketing push is to capture younger fans as they realize their hardcore fan base is getting creaky and old

          C. no matter how popular baseball is, MLS is bette off competing against MLB in the summer than against NFL, NBA, NHL and college football/basketball in the winter.

          • 2010... says:

            Sorry, baseball isn’t dying. We’ve been hearing this nonsense for half a century, and MLB is more profitable now than ever.

            And the MLS season already overlaps with football, hockey and basketball anyway. We are ALREADY competing with every major sport in the USA.

            A European winter season won’t happen because of the weather, full stop: that is the only reason.

  11. James says:

    Living in the Tampa Bay area and a old Rowdies/new Rowdies fan and a Mutiny fan, the support was and is here for a MLS team. What we did not have was an owner and the Glazer family was no help, so MLS yanked the team.

    I think that after the labor agreement gets hammered out, MLS will be looking to add teams in the near future. There is already talk of building a SSS seating about 30-45,000 at the state fairgrounds on 1-4 across from the Hard Rock Casino. I know the Rowdies will do wel. Further, I predict the Rowdies will do as the Sounders, TImbers,Whitecaps and the Jeffersons, and move it on up!

    I always thought Lockhart was a good SSS but I think the way to go for both Tampa Bay and South Florida is the Red Bull Arena design but with open upper deck on the end for a good cross breeze. I never understood why no stadiums ,in FLA except for the Rays (we got rid of the Devil) and the Marlins new place, don’t have a roof.

    I really think MLS wants to come back to a state with 18 million residents and two top media markets but we the fans in both West Central and South FLA need to step up and show support for the minor teams so we can get MLS back in the Sunshine.

  12. Sergio Azevedo says:

    To CTBlues. You only take a train from Penn Station. The Harrison Stop leaves you across the street from the Station. Its easier getting to Jersey from Manhattan than between many parts of Manhattan. Quit your anti Jersey rant. Its transparent

    • CTBlues says:

      Hey Sergio Metro North doesn’t go to Penn Station it goes to Grand Central. As I said before I would have to take a train to Grand Central then take a cab or 2 subways to get to Penn Station then take a train to Newark. Thanks for info about Harrison having a stop I’ll remember that if I ever decide to take the train to the game. Also ya I don’t like Jersey well North Jersey I don’t like it just rides on the coat tails of New York, but the rest of Jersey is pretty nice.

      • Cavan says:

        I’m a Washingtonian and even I know that you can take the S (Shuttle) or the 7 to get from Grand Central to Penn Station.

        Seriously… Your trip seems to be about the same as me walking to the Red Line then transferring at Metro Center to the Blue/Orange Line to Stadium-Armory.

        Your team is opening up a BEAUTIFUL new world-class soccer stadium and you’re going to bitch about taking the Shuttle between Grand Central and Penn Station?!? I live in Maryland but if DC United got a brand new stadium way out in Virginia I’d still go see them play!

        • CTBlues says:

          I’m from the Northeast dude we are a very up tight people that don’t like inconveniences unlike you laid back folks from the south. This is probably why the Yankees, Giants, and Jets have express lines to there venues. Hell if people complain enough maybe they will do the same for the Red Bulls, so I wont stop complaining.

          • CoconutMonkey says:

            Kinda makes me think that even a “small market” team could pull in some pretty good gate revenues if their ground was right in the center of town (preferably a bar district).

          • Cavan says:

            south?

          • CTBlues says:

            Ya Caven, Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. are the south. Your not Alabama but you are the south. I have been to those places enough to see the more laid back nature compared to the hustle and bustle of anything north of Philly.

  13. Can’t put MLS in places where it’s too popular. You’ll offend the small markets, and mess up the growth curve of the league.

    I wish I was being sarcastic.

  14. Jack in TX says:

    One point that I’ve seen touched but not considered central in the comments is the dilution of the talent pool that expansion creates. I would love to see MLS in every major city in the US, but we can’t expect that our talent pool will be able to support such numbers for a while.

    Given that, Florida has always been behind the curve on professional sports expansion (with the exception of the NFL’s Dolphins). MLB, NBA, NHL took decades before they’d expand there. Mistakes may have been made with the Fusion and Mutiny (not the least of which were their team names, ugh!). But as an outsider, Floridians have never appeared to be rabid sports fans.

    IMHO, I think the MLS should awr expansion franchises to those cities that have clubs in the USL/NASL. The decision should be based upon a combined assessment of their competitive success and their attendance. I don’t think that the TV-market-driven centicity of US sports will let it happen. But I personally would love to see MLS with clubs in Charleston and Rochester. Certainly, those clubs would outdraw at least Kansas City.

  15. Keep in mind FIFA restricts first divisions to 20 teams, so a 30 team MLS is impossible w/o promotion and relegation.

    People who want MLS in Fort Lauderdale/ Miami and Tampa/St Pete should support their local teams. In fact, I know they will in Tampa, but have grown tired of all the big talk from some of my fellow south Floridians. Come out to Lockhart this year and you may be pleasantly surprised by the level of play and gameday experience.

    Why should MLS return to south Florida, besides TV ratings? Admittedly, the TV ratings are a serious issue for the league and while the Marlins don’t draw well attendance wise, they have among the highest TV ratings on local cable in the MLB. But the Fusion never drew that kind of interest. MLS’ TV ratings are poor, but several markets exist where the needle can be moved and attendance will be good. Houston is a clear example of this.

    South Floridians need to support Miami FC rather than whining about not having MLS.

    • Cavan says:

      While FIFA issues guidelines about the size of first divisions, if MLS went beyond 20 I’m sure that Sepp Blatter would bloviate like he usually does and then forget about it. Remember that he prattled on about how MLS should switch to a September-May schedule? He then did nothing about it because it would require money from FIFA that he’d rather use to buy votes. Ultimately, FIFA has no say in the inner workings of MLS. They have two carrots/sticks: hosting the FIFA World Cup, and banning the USSF from international competition. That’s it. MLS was started partially as part of the terms of hosting WC 1994. That’s done. It won’t get past 20 before the current WC bids are awarded. FIFA wouldn’t ban the USSF from international play over the size of MLS because there just won’t be enough political capital to piss off Jack Warner over that issue. Remember, Jack Warner (and CONCACAF) make a ton of money off of hosting events in the U.S. Think about it… why is the Gold Cup every two years rather than four? Money grab for CONCACAF. All they have to do is have Mexico play in Houston (or Chicago, etc.), El Salvador play here in Washington DC, etc. and they make a mint. If Jack Warner isn’t making money, he doesn’t support Sepp Blatter. Then, Blatter (or whoever his equally corrupt success would be) loses the next election and is off the FIFA gravy train. Therefore, no complaints about the size of MLS.

      I don’t think that FIFA wants to get involved with a country’s young first division so directly. It’s in our best interest to use a model that works for the United States (and Canada) in English-speaking North America with its vast distances between many population centers and land area that’s more than Europe between Lisbon and Moscow. So far, that means a steady (non pro-rel) league with 30 teams, an unbalanced schedule, and playoffs. That’s the long-range model. It’s not coincidental that the NFL, MLB, NHL, and the NBA are all roughly 30 teams with unbalanced schedules and playoffs. It just seems to be something resembling a sweet spot in the United States (and Canada where applicable).

      Well said about the reasons against another Miami area team. I’m hesitant to point fingers on that one since my team is (still) having stadium troubles.

      • David says:

        Um, there’s also the small matter of certification of MLS as a registered league. Do you recognize the consequences of FIFA pulling the plug on recognizing MLS?

        And seriously, do you think the money from some Mexico friendlies is enought to swing the balance of the FIFA presidency? Seriously?

        • Charles says:

          FIFA would be idiots to restrict a country of 300 million people to 20 teams in first division, but then again it is FIFA.

          • David says:

            Yes, FIFA are idiots, they’ve done such a terrible job building popular and prosperous soccer leagues and competitions around the world. Charles the Sounders Fan knows much better.

            Brazil has a 20 team Serie A. How’s that working out for them?

          • Charles says:

            What does me being a Sounder’s fan have to do with my opinions ?
            Is it supposed to be a put down ? Dimish my opinion ? Charles ONLY roots for MLS, he doesn’t know what he is talking about ?

            The 20 team division, works like it always does. It takes a team that could make a lot of money and has them make less for no reason.

            Newcastle United being a perfect example.

            Soccer has built popularity around the world…not FIFA and very badly run leagues.

    • eplnfl says:

      Kartik:

      Good work promoting the NASL. I’m all for people getting out to see their NASL clubs.

      You hit on something more important for the long term development of the MLS. That is will MLS expand beyond 20 teams. FIFA be dammed in my opinion. Ok, I know there are issues with that but “old world” rules can not be used to hold back soccer in this country. You and Chris and others here in some fine comments all come down to the point that it’s about tv markets. For an American sport to be successful more than 20 markets have to make up the tv pool. Now my idea is to get a waiver since we have a North American league and not a US one. Think it will work? Need to get some lawyers on it? Hope so. It can make a good future blog post.

      I think the higher ups at MLS get the picture that many soccer fans from Florida are upset at them. Ok, they know it and Florida soccer fans may feel poorly regarding the MLS for sometime, however let’s get over it. Florida’s day will come and many other southern towns if MLS can go beyond 20 teams. Why not spend time on how that can be done.

    • Noticing your pro/rel reference. Shedding tear.

      Seriously, you’re peering over the precipice here, my future convert. Let’s build on your point:

      Since we’re limited to 20 first div clubs, and there are very good arguments for a lot more than 20 MLS cities, shouldn’t we let promotion, relegation and independent clubs sort it out? Push that envelope, instead of imposing mediocrity?

      Just saying…

    • 2010... says:

      “Keep in mind FIFA restricts first divisions to 20 teams, so a 30 team MLS is impossible w/o promotion and relegation. ”

      Kartik, you know better than to keep repeating this nonsense. FIFA is only concerned about the length of the season, for purposes of making the FIFA calendar. It has nothing to do with the size of the league per se; when FIFA talks about wanting 18 or 20 teams per top division, they are ASSUMING that all top leagues will be playing a balanced schedule, home and away, for a total of 34 games a year (for an 18 team league) or 38 games a year (for a 20 team league). It’s about scheduling, not about the number of teams in the league.

      Since MLS isn’t single table and isn’t a balanced schedule, they can have any number of clubs they want, without violating the 34 or 38 games a year guideline that FIFA wants in order to allow for FIFA international calendar dates. Since MLS has a 30 game season, MLS doesn’t have to worry about what FIFA says in this matter – the MLS season is short enough….though for all that MLS still doesn’t take breaks for FIFA calendar dates (except for experimenting a bit with it during this year’s World Cup) – and FIFA doesn’t do anything about MLS playing during FIFA breaks, either. MLS has nothing to worry about from FIFA.

      MLS can expand to 32 teams and FIFA won’t say “boo!” about it. Please stop spreading this nonsense. You sound like a Big Soccer poster who just discovered international soccer last year – you KNOW BETTER than this. Seriously.

      • Um – FIFA has expressed their preference for pro/rel even more often than any of this. Sepp didn’t voice a preference for world cup hosts who didn’t violate the balanced schedule rule.

        Also, Sepp and the boys have apparently expressed their desire for US and Canada to split after MLS hits twenty.

        Or we can talk about a balanced schedule loophole. Challenging credibility through obfuscation… It’s like a bad deja vu.

        We know MLS thinks they can do whatever they want. They impose mediocrity on their own clubs to randomize match outcomes, for craps sake.

  16. allan says:

    the best soulution is to make 2 leagues. one in the west and one in the east. you can have from 12-18 teams on each coast, 24-36 nationwide(including canadian teams.) the teams would do the round robin style like the rest of the world. and the season would be from 22 to 34 games depending on the number of teams.
    you get 2 champions from 2 different leagues with no playoffs. after the season is done and champions crowned the top 4 in each league compete for the national championship using playoffs. The US is to big to have one league so creating 2 would cut travelling costs and it can also create an east vs west type rivalry. it’s almost like an american league and national league idea except east and west meet only in the national playoff, or in the open cup.

    this would be the basic idea. let me know what you guys think of that.

    • CTBlues says:

      That actually sounds like a really good idea Allan. The only thing though they would have to follow the same rules like the AFC/NFC and not have different rules like AL/NL.

    • CTBlues says:

      The only thing though with the AL/NL now they are no longer separately run leagues but just one the MLB.

    • Roger says:

      Totally agree allan. If each div have 18 and they play home and away,thats 34 games regular seasson. 1st and second of each conference go to play off.
      If playoffs are semis and final.1st of one conference vs second of the other,home and away.Final is also home and away.That would be 38 games total,wich is exactly the same amount of games clubs play on a 20 teams league like Italy or Spain ,etc.
      The PDL has the perfect structure for a third division,8 geografically distributed groups.

      The missin link would be a second div.If the ideal first has 2 conferences and the ideal 3rd has eight. My ideal second div for a north american league should have four conferences NW,NE,SW,SE.
      That would create a perfect pyramid,8/4/2.
      The path to get there would take some planing.Between the franchises actually on MLS,plus the USL1 and the NASL, we almost have the required number for the first div. However,I think the smarter aprouch would be start by gradually increasing the number of clubs on the second division (from PDL through promotion/relegation)and after the “body” of the potential 2nd is built,then proced to add to the first.In other words,build the pyramid from the base first,since we allready have the ideal structure for the third div.

      The gap between MLS,USL1 and NASL is very small,so the first div is not a problem.The toughest part to get to this pyramid to be functional would be to narrow the gap between our
      “second line clubs” and the PDL. I think that promotion and relegation can spark some live to the PDL and their clubs,with the new incentive of playing for something substantial,woulbe become more and more competitive ,they should grow fairly quick . Pressure would start building from the buttom.
      I see the coments about new franchises all the time.We are just not paying attention to what we allready have.There are lots of soccer teams all across america,they key should be to design an structure that give all those small clubs an incentive to grow.Promotion and relegation will do that.

      • Bottom up is the way – I also argue for regionalized lower divisions to mitigate travel costs.

        THE LEAGUES

        F I R S T D I V I S I O N
        • Composed of exactly twenty clubs
        • Each club plays a home and away match against every opponent.
        • Bottom three finishers relegated to second division at close of season
        • Top finishers receive bids to CONCACAF Champions League
        as allocated
        • Playoff structure TBD

        S E C O N D D I V I S I O N
        • Composed of twenty clubs
        • Top three clubs are promoted and bottom four are relegated at the
        close of each season

        T H I R D D I V I S I O N
        • East and West leagues of at least ten, but no more than twenty clubs
        • Top two clubs are promoted and bottom four are relegated from each
        league at the close of every season

        F O U R T H D I V I S I O N
        • Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast leagues of up to
        twenty clubs each
        • One promotion from each league at the close of every season
        • Rules for admittance into fourth division TBD
        THE TRANSFER

        F I R S T Y E A R
        • Third and fourth division pre-season play-in tournament
        • Promotion and relegation begins between third and fourth divisions at the close of the season
        • Third division clubs promoted at the close of the season to fill out second division to twenty clubs as needed
        • MLS abolishes squad size limits and salary caps, allocations, and defines transfer windows

        S E C O N D Y E A R
        • Second division clubs promoted at the close of the season to fill out first division as needed

        T H I R D Y E A R
        • First division begins relegating bottom three clubs at the close of
        the season

        BASIC CONSTITUTION

        • Current NASL, USL-1 and MLS clubs shall be granted initial bids to their
        current division
        • Current USL-2 and PDL clubs shall be granted initial bids to third or fourth division
        • An individual or may invest in/own one club
        • Each league shall have a governing board composed of one representative from each club.
        • These representatives shall change annually with the composition of the leagues
        • Each league shall set minimum stadium and pitch requirements
        • Salary caps and squad size limits prohibited
        • Foreign nationals admitted to leagues based on national team appearance

    • Joey P. says:

      One of the best ideas I’ve seen on here, allan. Seriously, you make a lot of sense.

    • CoconutMonkey says:

      That could work. Depending on the number of maximum total games you want in a season (lets say 40), you could have the top finishers from each league/conference play out a ten team round robin like Super14 rugby.

      I’ve never been a big fan of playoffs by geography only though. Ooo! maybe add a seeded group stage! Ooo! Or maybe just do a random draw! Lot’s of ideas!

  17. Roger says:

    I think north america is a sleeping soccer giant.
    Our “soccer lords” just dont have the vision to see it.

    • Mark says:

      Why would you say NA is a “sleeping soccer giant”? There’s plenty of competition from the four big leagues (plus college fb and bb and NASCAR). There’s definitely room for success, as we’re talking a populous, affluent continent, but for a “giant”?

      • For one, because Americans don’t lead the way in Rugby world cup ticket sales, formula one world cup attendance, or even at the curling world cup ticket booth. They bought more tickets for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa than the citizens of every other nation, though.

        The market is there. MLS is trying to control it first, protect investors from risk second, and cater to American supporters forty third. And that’s why using it as a yardstick for the potential of the American game is absurd.

  18. Charles says:

    Broken record maybe, but it is a good broken record, someone fighting to get MLS teams in more areas. If the US had more people desiring soccer, we could be watching the best players in the world….some day.
    Plus the Landon record was overplayed.

  19. OleGunnar20 says:

    ugh. ok, folks. let’s calm down. the idea of MLS being 2 divisions of 16-18 teams is insane. the league needs more SSFCs and TFCs and not more KC and SJ and CUSAs. there are only so many STRONG and PROVEN professional sports MSA markets still untapped. add to the fact that soccer is very niche which effectively eliminates some of the potential MSA markets on a demographic basis (hello ATL i am looking at you) there simply are NOT 30-36 really strong markets for MLS to be in.

    You also have to take into consideration the dilution of talent thru-out the league. MLS is struggling to field very small rosters of quality talent for 16 teams. 20 (and 24 at the top end) will be a stretch over the next 15 years. US youth development is improving but is a slow generational process. It will be over 10 years before the “talent pool” is truly deep enough for more than 20-24 teams, especially if they eventually make the rosters larger for better depth in CCL and to allow for a reserve league to increase youth development between U-18 and the first team (allowing for the bypass of the NCAA talent vortex).

    What all fans should wish for is MLS to be in 20-24 markets where 14-16 of them are in the TFC moulde and for a D2 (NASL/USL) level to grow up and be strong to fill in the markets where MLS is not sustainable at a high enough level. There are plenty of markets where 8-10K fans could be attracted to a really good D2 team but could not support 20K fans for an MLS team.

    • Charles says:

      In theory that is great, BUT the Sounders were only drawing 8-10k fans as a second tier soccer team.
      I just don’t see America supporting 2nd division soccer to that extent.
      MLS, deemed second tier world-wide has trouble drawing much more than that.

    • Why do you use MLS as a yardstick for the upper limit of professional soccer in the United States? How far behind the curve does it have to flounder before you acknowledge that it’s the league, and not the sport, that is holding us back?

      The game is skyrocketing. MLS stays in self imposed level flight.

      It’s not rocket science. They realized soccer was on the way, and gladly took the goody bag of entitlements that USSF threw out there, and now use it to control the game, protect their business model, and keep it from impacting their other more profitable ventures.

      Then they cynically imply that they “gave” us top division soccer, and try and make people believe that it wouldn’t exist without them.

      MLS is struggling to do a lot of things. Most of these struggles are due to MLS, and have nothing to do with American soccer.

  20. Roger says:

    OleGunnar20
    you view is shared by some people.I disagre,we should not wait until the quality level raises then implement a logical structure.It should be the other way around,implement a structure that incentivates clubs to grow and then the level would raise.

    Also,not all the potencial clubs have to be on the same level in order to be part of a certain division,as long as the gap between top and bottom is not irrational,it will work.For example,imagine a club like the Islander,Charleston or Rochester on MLS ,they will do just fine.They will even become better clubs because better competition push you harder.
    As for Montreal,Vancouver and Portland, it is a joke that they do not play on north americas top division long ago.There is just no way to justify that non-sense. Have you seen the Timbers Army!!! What have the MLS directives been thinking about? The good of soccer in America?!?!?!?!?!?

    Implementing the right structure is esential for the right ,logical development of our game in the US and Canada.Encourage competition is the right think to do.SS stadiums,superstars,big TV deals,everything else will follow.

    Competition is, after all, what sports are all about. Synthetic parity is the absolut wrong aprouch!

    • Synthetic parity. Brilliant! Polyester Parity? Need some more T shirt ideas, if you have any.

      We’re not supposed to notice these absurdities.

      MLS is committed to their growth curve. They are also a hyper insulated body that is designed first and foremost as a defensive bulwark for existing clubs and owners. They have based so much of their strategy on Cosmosphobia – that is, they truly believe that any club that strikes out on their own will destroy their closed league – and they might be right.

      Most of their ramparts are obvious – salary and squad caps, for instance. But it also has a more insidious side, evidenced by the Sounders shutting down season ticket sales three months out, with their stadium half empty. Once you accept the fact that they impose mediocrity on their clubs, it’s not that hard to imagine them capping crowds.

      At the end of the day, MLS is about maintaining the game in the closed league environment that the NFL minders at MLS understand, and feel entitled to. Whether and how that jives with growing the club game is secondary, since they view the closed league model as a cultural imperative.

      Imposing mediocrity to randomize domestic match outcomes is a circumstance of closed league soccer – not feeder league soccer, not small market soccer, and not a hallmark of a developing soccer nation.

      It’s all being done to protect the closed league system. Since their model is beyond reproach, they are quite comfortable blaming the game, and eurosnobs, and who knows what for their problems.

  21. Tom says:

    I hate the idea of two conferences. If a team in the other conference has a star, you never get to see him play. It took baseball way too long to introduce Inter-League play. And teams in the middle, like the Rapids in Colorado, get screwed because one of our closest rilvals (Kansas City) ends up in the other division.

    Also, don’t tell me that divisions are all about the vast distances in the USA, if that were so, why do the Giants and the Jets not play in the same division? Or the Yankees and Mets? Divisions are partly about distances but they are also about culture. When the MLS goes beyond 16 teams, it should do unbalanced schedules with single table. Afterall, the last few years we’ve have unbalanced schedules with two conferences (teams within the west did not all play each other a 3rd time), so what’s the difference? The difference is, with single table, we are more likely to see the best two teams in the final, and the schedule is more flexible. For instance, the Rapids can drop their 2nd game against a west coast and an east coast team, in order to make sure the still play KC, Dallas, Houston, and RSL twice. Yet KC can for get about RSL, and make sure they still play Chicago twice. And at the end, with single table, we don’t have a mediocre team making the play-offs or getting a high seed just because they are in a crappy division.

    Sorry, that was a bit of a rant.

    • CoconutMonkey says:

      Wait a sec. Are you for a balanced schedule or not? I’m confused.

      Either way, using MLB and the NFL as examples against divisions is kind of unfair as the conferences/leagues were separate legal entities that merged. Granted, teams (e.g. Milwaukee Brewers and a few NFL teams) switched conferences to even things out. But for the most part, the leagues continued the tradition.

      As for the NBA and NHL. The schedules are a little more balanced. But every team will play eachother at least once a year in both leagues. I still think too many teams make the playoffs though.

      • Tom says:

        I’m for a balanced schedule while we still have 16 or 18 teams. If we get beyond that, then the schedule can no longer be balanced, as playing every team twice will result in too many games. But still kethe leage can still do a single table. As many people overlook, we didn’t have a balanced schedule within divisions the past few years; for instance, last year, teams in the west played only 2 of the other 6 opponents a 3rd time.

        • OleGunnar20 says:

          you could have a balanced schedule with up to about 24 teams max i would say you could have with a balanced schedule. that would be 46 games a season plus CCL and USOC. the season would need to be longer by a bit and the rosters bigger to accommodate such a schedule but if we are talking 24 teams (the max i see MLS ever expanding too) that is enough year away to allow for those changes. the English Championship has 24 teams and 46 games. it is a tough haul but that makes the whole thing more interesting and competitive.

  22. allan says:

    it seems people are mixed about the idea. from a financial standpoint dividing the coasts make sense. the mlb is rich enough to mix the teams, same with nfl. like some posters put it, you got to build an infastructure first, you cant wait for the people to start liking the sport. you got to have a team for them to discover.

  23. Michael says:

    Gaffer, hopefully now that your buddy Kartik is working for the Div 2 league he can get some kind of regular draw in Florida to match that unusually large crowd in your photo and prove your hypothesis that they’re finally ready to support a club there.

    Until/unless that can happen, though, the “Florida is key to MLS success” idea must be judged by its actual past results: a failed experiment.

  24. Ian says:

    This story sounds a lot like my experience. Except for college, I’ve lived my whole life in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Fury of the old NASL played its last season when I was two.

    My grandmother’s hometown is Stretford, England, where Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium is located, and my mom lived there every summer when she was a kid. As a result, when I grew up, Manchester United was just as much the hometown team in soccer for me as the Phillies were in baseball.

    Even though Major League Soccer has been playing since 1996, I only started actually paying attention to it two years ago, when it was announced that Philadelphia would be getting a team. Until then, the only club competition I had any emotional attachment to and any desire to follow closely was in England.

    Without a truly local top-flight club, most U.S. soccer fans will gravitate to clubs someplace else.

  25. Once you believe that there are more potential markets than first division slots, isn’t this the original premise for open leagues?

    Closed league purists will argue that we can’t adopt pro/rel, because it didn’t develop naturally in this country. If you take this discussion at face value, it proves that we’re currently under some of the same stresses that pushed the FA to implement the system in the late 1800s. At that point in England, there were a lot of clubs that wanted to play top flight, and no fair way to sort them out into divisions.

    Instead of making permanent arbitrary decisions on the status of every club, the FA chose an open model. In this way, no club was permanently shut out of the quest for top division play, and the game grew on the promise of top flight play for any club worthy of it.

    Given the low bar set by smaller markets MLS represents today, and the excellent claims that entire swaths of the nation that aren’t represented, it might actually be a fair comparison? Can this be a point of legitimate pro/rel pressure?

    • CoconutMonkey says:

      As much as I’d love everything you’re proposing. We’re going to need a COMPLETE overhaul of the ownership structure of our top 3 divisions. I do think there’s a happy medium somewhere though.

      By the way, are you at all familiar with the J.League in Japan? They basically did almost everything you’re proposing. Plus, the Emperor’s Cup (Similar to the FA Cup) is wicked.

      • We’d certainly lose a few. Revs owner Bob Kraft (who cuts a paycheck for USSF President Gulati every month) for one, did a press release to the world saying he’d never invest in a club w/o a salary cap.

        Since salary caps and pro/rel don’t mix (who wants to be relegated in a league designed from the top down to be a crap shoot) I think it’s pretty clear we lose him. After that, it gets muddy.

        MLS has the bomb. As majority owner of most clubs, MLS could, of course, take most of their clubs down with them. I think that’s the potential hostage situation in any transition.

        Yes, they’d kick and scream like we were taking away their livelihood. The ones who stuck it out would profit, unless MLS really decided to utilize the nuclear option.

  26. Roger says:

    I agree soccerreform! very good point!

    Promotion and relegation .
    Independent clubs competing for divisional status.
    Merging of all the actual clubs into one multidivisional structure.

    The hart of the problem is the USSF,wich is in bed with MLS.

  27. Miami Ultra says:

    Yes, other Florida pro sports teams have unimpressive attendance figures. But only one, the Jacksonville Jaguars, is even mentioned in relocation talks. The NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB aren’t stupid. They all expanded to Florida for a reason. Huge, growing, metro areas that are big TV markets. Do we have good chunks of bandwagon fans? Sure. But other than the Dolphins(44 years) and the Bucs(34 years), all of our teams are relatively young, 22 years old or less. We have one generation of true Floridian sports fans. To compare Florida with more established sports markets like NY, LA or Chicago is unfair.

    And of course people like to spout off numbers but don’t figure in the circumstances. The Marlins have played in the WORST venue in baseball since their inception(http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/14/best-baseball-stadiums-lifestyle-sports-baseball-stadiums_slide_2.html). It’s hot, it rains every other game, it generally sucks. They have some of the highest TV ratings in baseball. The Panthers and Heat both nearly sold out the 16K seat Miami Arena. The Heat have averaged nearly 18K fans per game since moving to the AAA. The Panthers have drawn poor crowds since moving to their new Arena in 1998, but they haven’t played in, much less won, a playoff game since 2000.

    In time Florida’s teams will have fan support that rivals any of the “great sports towns” around the country. We just have all the rejects and cast-offs from everywhere else taking up space with their Yankees and Patriots bumper stickers. It will take time for a solid core fan base to develop out of such a transient area.

    And domestic pro soccer was well supported in Florida up until MLS. The Strikers and Rowdies were terrific draws in the 70s and 80s. The poor ownership and poor branding of the Fusion and Mutiny sunk them, as well as not having a savior in AEG or the Hunts like some other teams.

    I’m hopeful that the new Rowdies and Miami FC’s move to Lockhart(and rebranding to the Strikers in 2011) rekindles support for local pro soccer in Florida. But it won’t flourish like it once did without properly managed MLS teams.

  28. here's an idea says:

    Here’s a idea: let’s assume MLS single entity and parity is going to continue to be the norm for the next few decades (because this is how it is: deal with it). I know, I know: you all want a pony. But you can’t afford a pony. And no one is going to give you a pony. So instead of fantasizing about single table promotion/relegation and the like, let’s see what we could do within the existing single entity MLS to get something better than what we have now.

    What I don’t like about MLS as it is, is the way the schedule makes no sense (much like the schedule makes little sense in most American sports leagues). The schedule isn’t just unbalanced, it’s unhinged!

    And what is the point of having conferences if they don’t mean anything, if a team from the West can win the East, and vice versa? Or when conference standings are based on games played outside the conference? Does this make any sense?

    Here’s an idea: think of the conferences like single table, balanced schedule leagues in their own right. Award the winner of the conference to the team that has the best record COUNTING ONLY MATCHES BETWEEN TEAMS IN THAT CONFERENCE, with a balanced home-and-away schedule within that conference.

    What about inter-conference play? Well, think of them like college football or other college sports: you have play within your own conference that counts toward your conference championship, and you have play outside your conference that only counts for pride, or for getting a better rating. It doesn’t count towards your conference table.

    What would the “rating” be for, since MLS doesn’t have NCAA style playoffs or bowl games?

    Well, imagine a 24 team MLS divided into three conferences of 8 teams each. They play a balanced schedule, home and away spring season of 14 games (7×2=14, playing only against teams within the conference), in the spring from March through May, and a second 14 game fall season from August through October. Winner of each season gets a conference pennant. Winner of each COMBINED SEASON of 28 games gets the conference championship for that year. The three conference champions play each other for the post-season playoff championship, the MLS CUP, in November.

    If there’s a 4th place wildcard spot for the playoffs, give it to the 2nd place team in the conference that does best in INTER-conference play. What inter-conference play, you ask? Why, the inter-conference play that you have during June and July when the national team players are out playing in the international tournaments (World Cup, Euro Cup, Gold Cup, Confederations Cup, Copa America, etc). MLS doesn’t want to stop play for two months in the middle of the year, for obvious reasons; but it’s not a good idea to have important league standings determined when your best players are away on international duty, as is done now.

    So make the summer international tournament break for inter-conference games that don’t actually count for conference standings. Since your best players are off on international duty, this is no-harm no-foul: the fans get entertained, but you aren’t trying to fool them into thinking that you are putting your best players out there, when you aren’t.

    So, have a mid-season break when intra-conference play stops, and you have instead inter-conference play that doesn’t count towards the conference standings. Basically, club friendlies, but within MLS; they might have some influence on picking a wild card spot in the playoffs, or they might be used to determine which (American) clubs advance to the next round of the US Open Cup, etc. The main point is: inter-conference play should not count towards intra-conference standings.

    So instead of having one league with unbalanced schedule, you have three leagues, each with its own balanced schedule, plus a post-season playoffs between these “leagues” ie between MLS conferences.

    The only problem with my scheme is what to do about expansion beyond 24. I say, keep the 8 team conference format, and only bring on expansion clubs 8 at a time: have the prospective expansion spot owners run their teams as part of USL/NASL until 8 expansion teams are confirmed, then when MLS goes from 24 to 32 teams, you realign the conferences to keep them geographically compact as possible, ie you go from 3 regional conferences of 8 teams each to 4 regional conferences of 8 teams each.

    This is the one point of my scheme I think MLS might have a hard time with, as they (so far) have liked to bring on new teams one or two at a time. But I do think once MLS gets to 24, they need to stop expanding for a long while…this will give MLS time to think about the next 8 new teams and hopefully they will see the wisdom of picking 8 proven D2 teams, while preserving the 8-team-conference-balanced-schedule scheme.

    Yes, under this scheme of “regionalized MLS” you would have little chance to see teams from other conferences play at your home (except during the summer break) but on the positive side, you get a much, much better chance to develop local and regional rivalries.

    Imagine for instance an 8 team west coast conference of MLS consisting of Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Jose, LAG, Chivas, RSL, and Colorado. With home and away in the spring and home and away in the fall, you get two chances a year for your traveling fans to travel to teams within your own state, or your own region, or at least within your own time zone (or close to it – probably would only get just one time zone for an east coast conference).

    Think of it this way: forget the “major league” model of imitating NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL. Think NCAA football instead, with regional leagues/conferences and lots of local and regional rivalries. I really think this model would be best for increasing the fan base and growing the rivalries within MLS. People would stop worrying about MLS not being “the best in the world” and rediscover what “support your local football club” really should mean: local rivalries, traveling supporters groups, etc.

    I know a lot of you want promotion/relegation, but this won’t happen for financial reasons: no one is going to want to pay MLS a $40 million expansion fee only to see their team drop down to USL/NASL and go out of business playing in front of tiny crowds in sub-optimal stadium settings with zero media exposure. You can’t make a 100-year old tradition of promotion/relegation magically appear out of nowhere when the economics and the local/national history are not there to support it.

    When MLS gets big enough you could see promotion/relegation WITHIN MLS, since single entity would provide financial security to owners, but this could only happen if parity were relaxed – as long as there is little difference in quality between MLS clubs, there’s no reason for promotion/relegation. The regional model I have outlined above makes more sense, at least for the near term, for MLS: reduce travel costs, focus on local and regional rivalries, build the fan base, spread to every corner of North America.

    Save the fantasies of promotion/relegation for a time when it might be practical – ie, not any time soon. American pro soccer is still very much in the growth and development phase. Remember even in England it took a long time for a true promotion/relegation pyramid structure to develop; and we ain’t England.

    • “I know a lot of you want promotion/relegation, but this won’t happen for financial reasons: no one is going to want to pay MLS a $40 million expansion fee only to see their team drop down to USL/NASL and go out of business playing in front of tiny crowds in sub-optimal stadium settings with zero media exposure. You can’t make a 100-year old tradition of promotion/relegation magically appear out of nowhere when the economics and the local/national history are not there to support it. ”

      You are replacing the documented “fantasy” of open leagues, with pro/rel and independent clubs, with the complete fantasy of any single entity willingly divesting into any kind of system that could accommodate them. If divestment does happen, it will be because supporters demand it, not because MLS made enough money to grant it to us.

      Exposing single entity clubs on which mediocrity is imposed to relegation is like exposing one of the rings in a three ring circus to relegation. It’s like exposing Hooters restaurants to relegation.

      Even if you could do it – you’d like second div clubs in the revenue sharing risk pool, pulling down our top clubs even more?

      How much mediocrity do you want to impose, exactly?

      If they can’t bear to lose their $40 million franchise fee, they’ll do what the league was designed to do: Go bankrupt, with executives and investors hurriedly deploying golden parachutes.

      The fantasy about kindly NFL/MLS executives giving us the total competition of real club soccer when they admit to eking out a profit is right up there with Harry Potter and the Qwidditch league.

      In the soccer world, people do understand that their support can translate into club improvements. If they bail on their club, after relegation, another will gladly take their place.

      We have more soccer supporters than England – today. If only we stopped coddling owners and actually marketed to them, well – there’s a pretty good track record, outside of Portsmouth and Leeds.

      Of course, I could list fifty top flight American clubs that have gone down to closed league infighting and insolvency – but that’d be a waste.

  29. here's an idea says:

    NB: two month summer “break” for “meaningless” inter-conference play to allow for sending USMNT to BOTH the Copa America (June) and Gold Cup (July) every other odd numbered year, and the other odd numbered year sending the USMNT to BOTH the Confederations Cup (June) and the Gold Cup (July).

    It would be nice to send full-strength USMNT to two tournaments in the same summer, without interfering with meaningful MLS games. Since MLS won’t allow itself to stop for two months in the summer, making the inter-conference play into a kind of meaningless summer tournament will keep the MLS season going while allowing the USMNT to field full strength squads for all major tourneys – and allow other nation’s players in MLS to do national team duty too, without having them absent for MLS games that actually matter.

    Basically, I don’t want to see any more repeats of USMNT in Copa America 2007 or USMNT in Gold Cup 2009. Full strength USMNT squad for all summer tournaments.

    • eplnfl says:

      There is no way that when a summer has 2 major international events you will see a USA “A” team go to both. The European based players will scream!

  30. eplnfl says:

    Anyone give this a thought. When the MLS goes to 20 teams. Four divisions in 2 conferences.

    Eastern Conference

    MLS EAST
    NY, Phi., NE, TOR, DC.
    MLS CENTRAL
    Clb, Chicago, KC, Dallas, Houston

    Western Conference

    MLS West
    LAG, Chivas USA, RSL, Colo., ?

    MLS Pacific NW
    Sounders, SJ, Van., Por.?

    So if you by this set up the next two teams will need to fit into a Western Conference. Any suggestions. By this St. Louis is a lock and will playing the West and you can add another Eastern city in the US or Canada and move KC then to the Western Conference. So it still does not look good for the South unless to go to a 12 team league in which case 2 Florida teams are clearly in the cards.

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