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What MP & Silva’s $4 billion TV deal could mean for lower leagues

On Monday, Sports Business Journal reported that Riccardo Silva on behalf of MP & Silva had approached MLS about a $4 billion broadcast rights deal spanning the years 2023-2032 if the league agreed to institute promotion and relegation. MLS has rejected the proposal according to SBJ. While we speculated yesterday that perhaps they would come back to the table, league sources have indicated to me that MLS and its marketing arm Soccer United Marketing (SUM) have a policy of not selling domestic broadcast rights to third parties.

MP & Silva, serving as a third party that bundles broadcast rights, wouldn’t deter NASL, the league where Silva currently owns the league’s Miami FC club. The latest incarnation of NASL itself was a creation of sports marketing firm Traffic Sports, who like MP & Silva bundle broadcast rights and resell them. In the league’s first few seasons, Traffic attempted to package NASL with various other properties the league had the rights to with minimal success. Traffic was later tied into the FIFA scandal and has since sold all of its interest in NASL. Plus its marketing agreement with the league has been cancelled. MP & Silva filled the void left by Traffic in 2016 when Miami FC launched and was able to help secure deals with beIN SPORTS and the CBS Sports Network for the league. Now several years on and with Silva’s ambition, the game might in fact be changed.

Imagine if Riccardo Silva was willing to put the money he’s offered MLS for broadcast rights into a building infrastructure for an attractive league system with promotion and relegation? According to former Daily Telegraph reporter Bob Williams, the $4 billion TV deal offer from MP & Silva was for MLS, D2, D3 and the Open Cup. He added that $80 million per year would be appropriated to fund and build the lower leagues of US soccer with solidarity and parachute payments being incorporated too.

Such a system of promotion/relegation between D2, D3 and D4 might be already in the works as Peter Wilt, the former GM of the Chicago Fire and President of Indy Eleven, is launching the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) in 2018. NISA will be a third division league but has openly stated a goal of instituting promotion and relegation within five years with NASL and the fourth division NPSL.

In an interview with the Yanks are Coming soccer show last month, Wilt made it clear the league structure of both NISA and NASL would have to built out to about 18 or 20 teams by the time promotion and relegation was instituted. That goal becomes a lot easier if Silva’s billions were somehow attached to it and a TV property were launched for the newly created pyramid.

Perhaps coincidently, Wilt’s timeline would put a full implementation of promotion and relegation around the year 2023, which is when Silva’s proposed deal with MLS would have begun. Given Silva is already an influential NASL owner, the opportunity to build out a TV property using a new league structure is likely attractive.

NASL had previously stated its desire to be a Division 1 league even threatening litigation to force the issue. After a rough 2016 where the league saw two clubs defect to rival USL and two others suspend operations at least for 2017, the league fell from 12 teams to eight. Talk of challenging MLS’ hegemony as a D1 was dropped though recent expansion announcements in San Diego and Orange County have boosted NASL once again.

With MLS unwilling to entertain Silva’s offer, might NASL, NISA and NPSL be able to form a new pyramid using Silva’s money and clout with potential media partners to create an attractive alternative pyramid?

The answer is yes, though it must be noted that without the infrastructure MLS has built as well as the long-term well-thought-out commitment to youth development and local players the US’ top league has shown, NASL and its clubs will need to figure out how to build that quickly. The NASL structure where the league takes a hands-off role with regards to club matters has led to wild discrepancies in what owners spend and how they set priorities. While this is the way most open systems operate across the globe, the clubs in NASL and presumably in NISA also aren’t established enough in their communities and in the soccer landscape to not have a strong centralized structure for now.

Perhaps Riccardo Silva doesn’t see how investing $4 billion in building the infrastructure for NASL and NISA will create an opportunity to recoup the investment, unlike MLS where selling media rights for an established brand might have been easier. But if he is serious about instituting an open system in the United States, he could urge the MP & Silva resources be spent on elevating NASL’s standards, building an effective pyramid that can facilitate promotion and relegation with NISA and NPSL and then effectively market it to media partners.

No guarantee exists this alternative structure could challenge MLS, but with Silva’s financial resources and his media contacts, they certainly could attempt to give it a go.

SEE MORE: Schedule of NASL games on US TV and streaming

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. John Milton

    July 31, 2017 at 1:27 am

    I cringe anytime i hear the same bs pro/rel topic is brought up. By now, most of those in favor are simply people who live in lala land and does not analyze things in a rational/realistic manner. Those same people would mock MLS as a league doomed to fail, then it was a retirement league, and now that the league has stabilized, matured and continues growing , now they want to become part of it in a cheap/cheat way.

    It is simple. How was MLS association football viewed 10-20 years ago? MLS has invested faithfully on football and it continues to develol it for simply a clown businessman like Silva to flaunt his money as if he was a pimp. If he is really serious about growing football i n USA, then invesr that type of money in NASL and go thru the grosing pains of growing a full league with stadiums and put up a fair business football competition. As for the pro/rel daydreaming fans, do as in Rome and in this country, the sports model is different as it is part of the cultural view of their citizens of USA, not from another country. Case closed.

  2. Mike

    July 29, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    I think promotion and relegation as it exists in Europe is vastly overrated. People seem to think it is a magic elixir that makes everything better. It doesn’t. Sure it adds a certain drama but it is too destructive to the relegated teams.

    If at some time there are enough teams in MLS to think a division between tiers is necessary then we will find a better way to do it that has more mobility between the tiers in a single season so that a 2nd division team can make the playoffs for the MLS cup. It’s really just a scheduling problem that can be solved in ways that are much better then traditional Pro/Rel.

    • John Milton

      July 31, 2017 at 1:31 am

      Well said. ?

      It is realiatic and well thought out and explained views that make a good point. Views in favor of pro/rel seem to either live in lala land or simply should stop doind drugs. ???

  3. Wayne

    July 27, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    I think as long as CONCACAF awards MLS (as our 1st division) 4 places in the Champions League, the first division should be open to all and not just a select few or a private club. At the end of day, who is really running professional soccer in the US?

    • John Milton

      July 31, 2017 at 1:33 am

      Do you actually really think ? or is your brain mostly run by a still peanut? ???

  4. Yespage

    July 26, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Good ole Kartik, always trying to imagine ways that NASL could ever become relevant. There are a couple major problems. Pro/Rel only works if teams can afford to promote. The existing MLS model is weak in its own right. And this presumes the offer of $4 billion is something the company can stand behind, which would seem very doubtful. The US isn’t the UK, France, Germany, where borders are relatively close, so travel isn’t as big a deal. The US is big and a small time NASL team couldn’t survive promoting to the MLS. The NASL is more like AA ball (A ball?) trying to play in the Majors.

    Secondly, why in the world would someone pay $175 million for an MLS franchise when they could buy into the USL or NASL and push for promotion. The MLS would never buy into that, because they need expansion money terribly.

    • CTBlues

      July 27, 2017 at 7:59 am

      I think the best thing for soccer leagues in the US is to have east west split for all divisions. The US is too large and it would promote more local/regional rivalries and cut costs on travel and be easier on the players since they aren’t making cross country trips. You can cross over play in the playoffs.

      • John Milton

        July 31, 2017 at 1:38 am

        A point worth of listening to for a moment, but now, where and how would you create a model in which tv revenue is the main resource to keep any sport league afloat and growing? There are plenty of factors to take into consideration when you give a view other than a fan’s wishful football daydreaming perspective.

      • John Milton

        July 31, 2017 at 1:42 am

        ? ×?+✌= ?POV

    • John Milton

      July 31, 2017 at 1:40 am

      ??✌

  5. Can-Tuna

    July 25, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    I am sorry to tell you this but NASL is not going to last for very long. You can’t have a viable league with teams playing in empty baseball stadiums, no significant TV revenue, 5000 viewers per game on Bein Sports and teams deserting the league every year.

    • John Milton

      July 31, 2017 at 1:44 am

      You tell them exactly what they need to hear and not what they dream about as if it was their sweet sixteen ceremony. ?

  6. tim

    July 25, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Lower leagues are growing just fine on their own without pro/rel. Not sure why everyone is up in arms. Sure get mad at MLS but those owners have a lot more to lose than the lower leagues. Id love to invest next to nothing in a soccer team then be in MLS in one year where owners are paying up to $100 million in expansion. What you small minded pro rel bots fail to realize is that this is always about business and not your fandom. Money trumps all and there is still too much risk and not enough info about this deal.

    • francis

      July 26, 2017 at 11:14 am

      People need to understand that US sports franchises are strictly about business, unlike clubs around the world that are community institutions that supporters will fight to save, no matter how many times they are relegated. If say the NE Revolution got relegated Kraft would likely fold the team and the few fans they have will go back to watching the Bruins & Celtics

      • tim

        July 27, 2017 at 8:30 am

        Exactly my point that no one would care anymore. US fans are the biggest band wagon of all. There is a reason there are so many Man u, Chelsea, etc fans because they want to watch the best. MLS fans are no different in that they want to watch the best in this country….I think that is changing and lower leagues are starting to gain a lot more traction with tying into the local communities but they are still far apart. There is a reason teams like the Cleveland Browns in the NFL still fill the stadium after years of fail and its because there is history. Peoples parents, grandparents, great grandparents all were fans and its passed down and are a representative of the community. Until US teams are as such, fans will just stop going, You can take this as against pro/rel but im not, its very realistic of the landscape here.

      • John Milton

        July 31, 2017 at 1:46 am

        Most of those in favor of pro/rel might be habitual offenders of recreational drug use. They like to hallucinate and refuse to accept real life.

      • Joe

        August 4, 2017 at 2:30 pm

        If only we had true community institutions like Qatar-backed PSG or teams funded with Russian oil money. Oh, what we’re missing out on. #Grassroots

  7. nickp91

    July 25, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    $4 billion offer by MP+Silva to MLS would’ve included Open Cup

  8. Jessica

    July 25, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    It’s better for the leagues to work out their own media deals. Third parties makes things complicated for viewers. Leagues know better than a Traffic or Silva. USSF should be the ones working the promotion relegation system.

    • Wayne

      July 27, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      I think you’re right. I think if US Soccer was the proactive force that it was meant to be instead of the weak-kneed-ride-MLS’-coattails tower of jello that it is now, there wouldn’t be this scrambling around for first division participation that exists now.

  9. CTBlues

    July 25, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    This is what I would like to see Silva do instead of doing business with MLS.

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