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Don Garber

MLS will hit point of diminishing return if it doesn’t embrace change

MLS continues to pat itself on the back. And why shouldn’t it, many would ask? The 2018 season has seen MLS reach new heights in visibility and quality of play relative to a past when the league existed in a complete vacuum and the level of soccer on display was average by any truly objective standard. If you’re interested in betting on soccer, you can use this Matchbook bonus code 2019 to bet on MLS or any other soccer league.

But permanent growth is difficult in a closed-league, single-entity (MLS) or franchise-based (USL) structure. The American club game will hit a point of diminishing returns in the next few years unless serious reforms are undertaken.

Capturing the masses of American-based soccer fans who watch European and Latin American leagues should be a priority for MLS. These fans seek an authenticity in experience and a relevance in individual matches. Currently MLS doesn’t provide either in enough of a dose to satisfy critics and win over those watching other leagues.

The league still suffers from a general market indifference. No doubt, MLS has had sustained successes in die-hard fan bases such as Portland, Orlando and Kansas City but has struggled for consistent market penetration in the largest metropolitan areas in the nation such as New York and Los Angeles. On a larger scale, MLS is struggling to establish anything more than a niche position in the general sports landscape nationally and remains to a large extent a niche even among self-professed soccer fans in the United States.

In reality, MLS has probably reached the end of its rope for a closed league. In the coming months, the league will add three expansion fees at a high dollar value – $150 million, with the first FC Cincinnati announced earlier this week. These clubs will likely look to publicly finance gargantuan stadiums as a way of justifying the expense of joining a closed league that guarantees revenues from MLS’ marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing (SUM).

MLS has largely built its business off collecting expansion fees which then fuel an increase in existing club values. But this is a scheme that will not continue to yield results over time. Moreover, MLS will not be able to replace expansion revenue when expansion ends unless they open up the league structure, something that MLS Commissioner Don Garber seems unwilling to even contemplate. While valuations of existing clubs have increased in recent years due to expansion, those club values are likely to stagnate as the league hits its point of diminishing returns.

Investment in soccer at the lower division level has been difficult because of the closed league nature of the American game as well as the pro league standards which the USSF uses to determine sanctioning of professional leagues. While many owners come into buying or creating a lower division club with the requisite enthusiasm and spend with relatively big money initially, the enthusiasm and investment dries up within a few years unless a team moves to MLS by paying an exorbitant fee.

Lower division soccer can be economically viable if part of an open system is in place that organizes leagues regionally much like conference in college sports. This not only reduces travel costs but increases local relevance via regional rivalries. For example, fans in Tampa would be more inclined to support a club and travel to regional destinations like Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and Birmingham than to have to travel Ottawa or San Antonio or points further thanks to the USSF’s timezone requirement for second division leagues. This also will give a relevance and context for competition in lower divisions once an open system is implemented beyond simply fighting for promotion.

Despite expansion, MLS owners remain reliant on sponsorship and ticket sales for revenue as TV ratings continue to remain flat. The growth of interest in soccer generally has benefited the league but only to a certain extent. MLS still has trouble gaining a following among hardcore soccer fans in this country. While some of this can be attributed to snobbishness, much of it is due to MLS’ own competition format and calendar.


Earlier this month, Garber gave an interview to the Kansas City Star where he emphatically made it clear that he didn’t think either the competition format, which does not have promotion and relegation, or the calendar could be changed.

Regarding promotion and relegation, Garber said “Just because there is promotion/relegation in other leagues that were founded on different principles doesn’t mean that it would make sense in Major League Soccer. We have a vibrant No. 2 league in the USL. We have (Sporting KC principal owner) Cliff (Illig) and his partners that have just put $60 million of capital, along with the public, into this building. If all of a sudden they’re playing in a different division that doesn’t have national revenues — because the USL doesn’t have that — how does that make any sense? There’s no economic rationality to promotion/relegation whatsoever in the era that we’re in today.”

Garber’s comments are selectively interpreting what would happen in a truly open system where money would flow down the pyramid through media and sponsorship deals. USL’s lack of national revenues is a direct result of the league being designated as a “second division” by US Soccer in a closed system. If promotion and relegation was instituted, it is assumed MLS and USL or whatever the first and second divisions would be called, would pool some revenue, share some media rights and have joint-sponsorships. Moreover, the institution of parachute payments would inoculate clubs who are relegated. This is how leagues are structured throughout the world and how investments of those who put money into clubs are ultimately protected.

Promotion and relegation isn’t just a “cool” concept. It would drive interest in the entire league structure, creating an incentive to watch other clubs on television. It also would likely prompt the type of bottom-up investment that allows more integration in concepts like street soccer and futsal to develop players. If promotion and relegation were to be implemented long-term and solidarity payments were allowed in the United States, investment in the development structure from the bottom up could help drive down the costs to players and their families in the expensive “pay-to-play” system. Money invested in lower division teams would flow up the pyramid as we’ve seen in so many countries across the world, and this would also further inoculate investors to certain extent from the potential pitfalls of relegation.

Another persistent issue with MLS’ ability to attract fans is playing on an abnormal March to November calendar that also creates problems in attracting players because transfer windows aren’t aligned with the top European leagues. Garber conceded in his Kansas City Star interview that shifting the calendar might be ideal in some respects but claimed it was impossible due to weather considerations.

Garber said regarding potential calender shifts: “If we could align with the calendar, we would. Why wouldn’t we? It makes a lot easier for us to have the summer open so that we can take a break when our players are getting called into international competitions and capture some of the opportunities when international clubs wanna come here. But you guys know what the weather is like around the country. We’ve had snow and horrible weather in the beginning of our season in early March. There is no league in the world that plays across (four) time zones and three climate zones. We have to operate in an environment that is consistent with the norms and factors that exist in North America.”

The comments by Garber completely ignore the fact that a longer winter break and creative scheduling can be undertaken. Nobody is saying you must play through snow in January. What is being said is that lining up transfer windows is beneficial to everyone in the league. Moreover, it can be strongly argued that the quality of play suffers during the summer months and weather delays are as numerous as would be during the winter. In my final season with the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 2016, we had 17 out of our 30 league matches negatively impacted by weather in some manner, with almost ten matches suffering a weather-related delay. Even if matches aren’t delayed, the oppressive heat impacts the quality of play and the ability to train at a high level. Additionally, the excessive heat and thunderstorms which much of the country suffers through impacts player safety as much if not more than the cold weather Garber is referring to in his comments.

Instead of using conventional means established in world soccer to grow an audience or a product, Garber is hitching his wagon to sports betting as a potential way to increase fan interest.

“How do we build a fanbase? To be one of the top leagues in the world, we gotta grow our fan base,” said Garber. “We have to have more fans. We have to have higher television ratings. We have to engage with our fans. Maybe sports betting becomes one of those ways that we can build a fan base. We could work with some of the providers to be able to provide exposure to our players and have them engage more with our games.”

Perhaps another remedy for MLS will be unlimited, strategic franchise relocation. The potential relocation of the Columbus Crew SC, an original MLS club and one which has boasted a longer-term more passionate following than most is a test case. If MLS gets away with moving the Crew to Austin, several other potential relocation efforts could follow that hold taxpayers to ransom in multiple cities. This will allow the league to continue extorting public monies from citizens and create new buzz in existing markets, or new markets that seek a relocated franchise.

Instead of tackling the league’s long-term structural problems head-on, it appears that MLS officials prefer to live in a self-created fantasy world where positive PR spin from new expansion cities and the dreams of gambling being a cure-all will turn MLS into “one of the top leagues in the world.” Now more than ever, it’s time for MLS to get outside of its own bubble.

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  1. Mike

    June 2, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    Ugh… do your research instead of saying things like “likely look to publicly finance gargantuan stadiums”. If you are saying generalizations without facts or research, you start to sound like someone screaming random things on a street corner. Impossible to read opinions that are biased and closed-minded.

  2. A

    June 1, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    For all the WST bashing going on in this thread, I will say I respect Kartik’s and Christopher’s opinions and regular here them out. They are infinitely better than Billy Haisley at Deadspin. If Haisley’s name was on this by line I would’ve closed my browser. WST at least explains their reasoning. Billy’s entire premise is “MLS Sucks because Europe!”

  3. MLS fan boy

    June 1, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Yep, no censorship. Chris just changes names because he’s a twit. So how much do you pay your writers? Still pulling the “exposure” line?

  4. Goldie

    June 1, 2018 at 9:57 am

    hey look, a World Soccer Talk article again bashing MLS! How wonderfully inventive and intelligent!

    Don’t you guys ever get tired of predicting MLS’s failure and being wrong? The bias on this site has to be one of the worst on the entire internet. Whom ever the editor s should be embarrassed to have such lack of balance on a topic.

    I realize you are trying to pander to the snobs who are never going to be MLS fans but this is getting almost troll like now. Is that really how you want to be perceived?

  5. Alex Michalakos

    May 31, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Although not without its interesting story lines, Pro/rel is a remnant of the old days, not independent thought. Would Euro leagues adopt it if they were starting fresh now? Not likely. As proof, look at what the top clubs in Europe are obsessed with: Champions League and forming a new Euro league of top clubs. In other words, let’s get further away from the bottom 3/4 of our league.

    In fact, the EPL itself was formed to get further away from the lower leagues, in 1992 following the decision of clubs in the First Division to break away from the Football League, founded in 1888, and take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. They became commercially independent after threatening over the previous few years to form a 10 -team super league.

    The top English teams have no real worry of being relegated. It’s the same teams going up and down every few years. If you are relying on watching who finishes 17th in order to create drama, that’s pretty sad.

    In addition, they are adopting American ideas, e.g. playoffs for promotion. (also Mexico has playoffs). What’s more, if you think about it, the various FIFA and UEFA tournaments are basically playoffs, as opposed to one table and the top team winning.

    The American way is that all teams can dream of winning the title, if not just because of the playoff system (just get in!) but teams cycle through phases just like in other US sports. Let’s see if these American Euro-snobs would commit to supporting Stoke or Watford forever. “yay, we finished 12th, so exciting.” They know they will NEVER win anything; those fans that complain about the “meaningless” MLS regular season ignore the fact that the EPL season is even more meaningless, with the champion being decided early on (yawn) and the drama being centered around who doesn’t finish last, which means we’re focused on the worst teams in the league. It also ignores the efforts made each year to try to reward a higher regular season finish in MLS playoffs. Also, to spur the bottom teams, you could penalize the bottom 3-5 teams with points deductions the following year; that would provide incentive similar to relegation.

    Quite frankly if I support a perennial bottom-half EPL team, that means that my team loses most of the games and wins rarely, That’s so depressing. I would welcome relegation in order to experience a winning season. Were Newcastle fans happier when their team was at the bottom in the EPL or winning the Championship by a mile. I know which would be more satisfying to watch for me. Perhaps EPL reflects deeper societal norms related to the tradition of a more rigid class system; you have perennial upper class and lower class teams. EPL fans say it’s dramatic to fight to get in to “Europe” but when they get into Europa league, they play in mid-week, the stands are empty and they rest players for the weekend games. What?

    MLS does not have to have the “highest level of play” to be watchable. The games I watch have can have just as much drama, just as many great plays and great goals, and I can identify with the cities involved in a way I just can’t with other leagues. I think that’s much more “authentic” than pretending to be a part of an English or Spanish tradition of which you are not a part. Build your own tradition, don’t pretend to be part of another. Will these EPL fans really watch a game that doesn’t involve one of the top 5?

    Leagues in other countries developed very slowly, organically. MLS is not a Ponzi scheme but it does require a large investment in order to be able to compete on a global market as quickly as possible. No billionaire is unsophisticated enough to buy into that, just to make $150 million divided by 20 or so.

    The truth is that as long as US soccer fans demand the indeterminable “the highest level of play” before they agree to embrace their own country’s league, it can’t flourish as it otherwise could. Most people admit that the EPL is not even the “highest level” just the most exciting. La Liga is the highest level, but other than Real-Barca, the TV ratings are dismal, So don’t tell me that the “level of play” is what’s most important. I’d rather be shot than watch the entire Watford-Bournemouth match or any game involving two teams form the bottom half of the EPL table. And even a top 6 team versus a bottom half team is like David v Goliath; that has it’s limits.

    The real reason MLS will be limited in growth is that the goal most players aspire to is UEFA Champions League, and MLS can’t give them that, no matter how much they’re eventually willing to pay. If they can get into that somehow, then watch out. I think MLS has to convince UEFA that opening it up to US teams will make great business sense. Then you will see the best players in their prime with no reason not to come here.

    • Edwin

      May 31, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      Alex with one of the best though out written post on here. I’m more convinced most of the negative post one here are staff members who can’t debate and argue their point without showing their true colors. I was just thinking the other day about how brainedwashed and thoughtless these MLS haters are the point out things that have no sound reasoning as reasons to justify their flawed logic.

      I’d rather you just say LOOK I don’t know why my logic is contracted than to pretend to be an expert teacher schooling all of us dumbed down MLS fans. Especially for the Brit ex pats that have lived here . Get a better understanding of what is soccer in this country and what it is not. This countrys soccer community is developing in stages and is moving on and growing and maturing from the Euro obsession of everything soccer. You still have the can’t think for themselves group think crowd. Perfect example of this is that Ben Fast guy on twitter he’s like 20 or something and just drools out his every anti-MLS though and none of them make any logic It’s just negative so he repeats it. One site I repsect is Copa 90 they give serious coverage of the game around the globe they don’t act pompous they try to present the game in it’s true form.

      This site exist to sunshine pump the EPL talk about how great La Liga is in the US even though it’s a distant 4th to MLS in TV ratings, and look for any bad news to spin for MLS. Like literally anything bad that can be found will get reported lets find a bad ratings and report that on end so much so that at the end of the year when the ratings are always up it’s barely mentioned. Like how can you literally dedicate so much time trashing something and then at the end of the year have that thing you thrash post a positive gain. The coverage by this site doesn’t correlate to reality.

      I wish Kartik and other site writers wouldn’t hide behind anonymous downvotes and burner comment accounts and come on here and have a honest discussion and most importantly acknowledge debate and constructive criticism of there article viewpoints, instead of posting these hit job drive by articles. Christopher I acknowledge that you do respond to post that is good. You guys are just very rigid in your belief you can definitely tell you guys have harbored and developed these feelings over time . It’s hardened you guys to the point of pure miserableness about MLS. It ooozes out of the article.

      If you are going to be the MLS sucks website just say it and let us know no need to pretend do you guys then. At least those of us who come here even though we no better can stop reluctantly coming here expecting you guys to be different.

      • Alex Michalakos

        May 31, 2018 at 7:49 pm

        You said it. I just don’t know why someone can;t just like MLS in addition to other leagues. I wonder why is it ‘either-or?’ and I think it’s because people want to be snobs. Before MLS people were saying what we need is a league of our own–then we could have a place for Americans to play and develop our national team. And all the players came back from Europe and Mexico. Now people say you need to go to Europe to develop.

        If you came to me in the late 80’s/early 90’s and took me with your time machine to the present and showed me the U.S. soccer stadia full of singing supporters, real grass and American club teams, I wouldn’t believe it. At the risk of sounding like an old man (I’m 48) kids today don’t understand how bad it was before.

        I used to go to pubs Saturday mornings in the 90’s –ok fine. But now you can do more–you can go to a real game live, you can experience a match with your actual hometown team. Go ahead and watch the EPL. But you can do both.

        The irony is that many of these same ‘snobs’ are USMNT fans. Well why don’t they just go support Brazil and Germany and watch the highest level?

      • MLS fan boy

        June 1, 2018 at 2:54 pm

        I feel sorry for BenFast, it’s obvious he has an ASD, and dues right have someone to counsel him to tone it down.

  6. Bappie

    May 31, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Following the imaginary FIFA calendar! It was 3 degrees Fahrenheit when Colorado played Toronto in the CCL in late February and attendances in freezing conditions in March are terrible compared to the rest of the season.

    As for the rest, it’s speculative nonsense.. Would Phoenix build a $200 million stadium on the off-chance they may won promotion? The average Championship club in England is something like $50 million in debt.

    Promotion and relegation driving fan interest? Why then are teams in the lower reaches of the Premier League barely shown on NBC or NBCSN? Why did EFL only get a few thousand viewers before it moved to ESPN? Yes the passion and excitement of your team goes into the last match of the session with a chance of promotion or relegation on the may day of the season but most places are decided before then.

    17 weather delays in one Jacksonville season! Is that weeks. Does that explain why they averaged less than 2,000 fans.

    The suspension of pro/rel in Liga MX doesn’t seem to have decreased interest and I’m sure.Premier League and LA Liga fans would be delighted if it were introduced in the US but they’d still watch European teams that have no chance of ever being relegated.

  7. John G.

    May 30, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    MLS has an ownership and salary structure that not only impedes it from being a true first division but prevents it, Promotion/relegation is a sideshow… as long as top-level players in their prime cannot be paid market salaries, MLS will always be a sideshow for players who cannot make a European first division team.

    • Bappie

      May 31, 2018 at 10:36 am

      We had that. It was called NASL.

  8. Tim

    May 30, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    MLS is a fake as they come. It’s a Ponzi scheme that relies on expansion fees for revenues with the hope that one day in the future they will have the TV viewership to get a real contract that is not coupled with the USMNT because without them they would not get 1/2 of what they did last negotiations.

    I will admit was a fan of the league until Jermanine Jones decided he wanted to come ia few years ago and they literally did a blind draw to see if he went to Chicago (where he wanted to go) or New England. What league does that!?!?! From there i was skeptical and now with what they are doing to Columbus fans I just can’t anymore. Columbus is a good example of the f****** that is MLS. It has nothing to do with attendance and everything to do with not having the corporate and public support they need. Why do you ask? Well all teams need that corporate dollar because the ticket sales are not there. Watch a game that is announced 20k and see how many empty seats there are. Those are tickets distributed and not sold which is just another reason they are as fake as WWE. The athletes are real but the outcomes are fake.

    • Bappie

      May 31, 2018 at 10:33 am

      In a ponzi scheme investors are kept in the dark about where their money goes.

      Do you really think Arthur Blank and Paul Allen would participate in an investment where they were kept in the dark about their investments?

      MLS financial reports are published for anyone to see.

  9. Eddy

    May 30, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Some people get so fixed into what they truly believe is true and happening that even when facts are presented that show the opposite they will contort reality to fit their belief. The league is growing and so are revenues where are the diminishing returns????

    Now arguing til we are blue in the face pro/rel aside, when MLS reaches 32 teams (IT WILL can argue the wiseness in that too) when they get to 32 teams and growth doesn’t mature and stagnates. I and I guess other MLS fans will be willing to adjust our views of whether we should then introduce pro/rel.

    I’m part of the lexicon that people don’t see or think of when people trash MLS as a no growth league that sucks and no one will ever be interested in. I’m a 33 yr old black male single father of two boys that loves College Football/Redskins Fan/Orioles Fan/ NBA annnddd… MLS Fan. I discovered the league in 2006 and have grown in my like of the league and YES I know about other leagues I’m not ignorant to them I choose to watch and support MLS. My oldest son turns 12 in July and he loves the Seattle Sounders and watches MLS along with other leagues he knows EPL exist he watches the games Sar/Sun morning but you know what? He chooses to watch MLS he loves soccer and plays with MLS teams in FIFA. He screams with joy when he gets a last second goal in FIFA upstairs in his room.

    People like me are the people you don’t think exist when you always down talk the league when you constantly trash the MLS. A boy born into in the inner city in Baltimore and raised in MD that likes MLS there are more from my background just like me raising the 2nd generation of MLS fans. That’s how it’s done in America with all the Pro Sports leagues you build multi-generation of fans and that made the Big3 what they are today. I have know doubt by the time I’m 50 that MLS will be where the rest of the BIG 3 are now.

  10. Gabe

    May 30, 2018 at 11:40 am

    I like pro/rel as much as anyone, often the only reason to watch major leagues after March, but lets be honest the system throughout the world is essentially grandfathered in. There is no way in this day and age that a new league would get many investors if they could be demoted. The only self-created fantasy I see is this article suggesting this could ever happen. MLS has grown leaps and bounds in the last 20 years or so. Soccer in this country may always be niche but that’s more related to the popularity of European leagues, NFL, NBA and college sports than any idea presented here.

  11. Dave

    May 30, 2018 at 10:57 am

    I know WST has a job to come up with anti-MLS narratives but these points don’t seem accurate or compelling.

    Why is permanent growth any more difficult in a closed league vs open league? I don’t think anything will have permanent growth but the NFL and NBA have grown just fine without Pro/Reg.

    Why should capturing fans who already hate MLS be a priority for MLS? It seems much easier to convince a person who doesn’t already have anti-MLS bias.

    What is authentic? Who defines it? Who decides what is and isn’t authentic? Why are individual matches not relevant to you? I’ve seen plenty of individual matches that are relevant to me. Again why win over critics? Forget them.

    The league is still niche. Its not that old. The NBA was created in 1946 and was largely a niche sport until the 80’s. Hockey is a niche sport in the US. It’s fine.

    All american sports look for public subsidies. This is terrible.

    You say the league is a scheme. Show your work. 150 million divided by 24 is 6 million dollars. I have serious doubts that someone is buying DC United for reported 400 to 500 million because they want 6 million (be less as teams are added) a few times.

    Why would lower league soccer be any more viable if there wasn’t MLS. Show your work. So it the league is both too niche and should break up into small geographic regions and become even more niche?

    MLS shouldn’t target Hardcore fans that already hate the league. Most of those people if you put Hoffenheim and Nice jerseys on Toronto vs Atlanta would say its horrible soccer and unwatchable. If you put Atlanta and Toronto in Hoffenheim and Nice jerseys many of the same people would say how great the play is because the teams play in some european towns they couldn’t find on a map.

    MLS has already overtaken MLB as more popular league among young americans. And yes MLS tv ratings are largely flat but context…

    • Christopher Harris

      May 30, 2018 at 11:05 am

      Dave, for the record, World Soccer Talk does not have a job to post anti-MLS narratives.

      Unlike, there’s no censorship on our site. Our writers post their honest opinions.

      • Dave

        May 30, 2018 at 11:06 am

        well maybe i worded it wrong. Not a job per say but a choice

        • Eddy

          May 30, 2018 at 11:34 am

          Hey Dave you are making too much sense lol. I think discussion of it is good but Christopher knows how I view their MLS coverage. It’s like they try to counterbalance MLS positive spin with negative spin. I mean its MLS job to put the league and a good light and they should they have a positive story to tell.

          WST shouldn’t make it their duty to always be the secure the happiness police. Christopher I know you honestly think you guys aren’t doing it but to the other half of your audience that aren’t die hard MLS haters you guys come across like it. That’s the problem with soccer in this country their isn’t enough discussion and understanding amongst your type in the industry. It’s always we are right and you are wrong what do you guys know we do this as a job.

          There are many including myself that do follow soccer and the league and have tracked the ascension of MLS that do know the league is growing regardless of what people say. I think Kartik completely misses the PK here in many of his assumption. Dave brilliantly took it to pieces point by point. The object isn’t to say we are right and you guys are always wrong either it’s to discuss our view points and change them to reality. I always post MLS viewing figures for instance because the narrative that cable tv ratings are flat is false they are growing from 200k in 2014 to 281k currently in 2018.

          As Dave said it’s all about perspective soccer TV ratings are niche in the US in general regardless compared to the BIG 3 so what you consider flat is solid growth for a niche product. MLS could very well top 300k average TV viewership for the first time ever this year, not just because of the WC because numbers are up before WC 18 has even started. However we keep seeing you guys post about numbers are relatively flat??? 200k to 300k in what would be a gain in 100k in TV audience from 200k is solid growth. Yet Kartik says flat you guys are jaded what do you want the league to double it’s audience size in a season. Are Premier League ratings also flat they fell off a cliff after peaking in the 2015/16 season and are basically right where they were after NBC acquired rights.

          • Bappie

            May 31, 2018 at 11:31 am

            And viewership doesn’t take into account that 30% of Millennials have cut the cord.

      • Jon

        May 31, 2018 at 1:06 pm

        Oh man, this comment. You say it’s not your job to post anti-MLS narratives and follow that up with an anti-MLS narrative. Of course is “censored”…it’s the LEAGUE’S website! It exists to promote the league. That’s like complaining that Apple’s site doesn’t post honest opinions about its devices compared to Samsung’s.

      • MLS fan boy

        June 1, 2018 at 2:48 pm

        Just censorship in the comments.

    • Alex Michalakos

      May 31, 2018 at 1:52 am

      Oh my gosh, Dave, you’ve stated this perfectly. I’ve been watching ALL kinds of soccer since the early 80’s, way before we had MLS. I know soccer. And I’ve been abroad as well. In the 80’s and 90’s I used to put on my euro team jerseys and go out and see who recognized them. Not many. I’m glad euro leagues are more popular here now. But I’ve also been saying that the “level of play” argument against MLS is a farce. Preconceived judgments. Dave you said that perfectly. Plus, a person isn’t only entertained by or attracted to the “highest level of play” . It’s just a way for a person to feel superior to others.

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