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European Super League

European Super League’s collapse is a wake-up call for U.S. soccer

European Super League and US Soccer

The European Super League and US Soccer share a number of similarities. The Americanization of the sport in Europe face severe backlash from players and fans alike. Although, you would not see such reaction in the U.S.

The European Super League – A failed coup inspired by American Exceptionalism

For a little over 48 hours from Sunday through Tuesday, the world of club football hung in the balance. Twelve large European clubs attempted to breakaway from the UEFA Champions League and the established construct around soccer in Europe. The attempt to create a European Super League, outside the auspices of UEFA, shook the soccer world and exposed the clubs involved to a level of vitriol they have likely never faced in their histories.

On the surface, the story that captured sports fans across the globe and moved at a frenzied pace was simply about rich clubs trying to create their own competition where they could control the flow of sponsorships, revenue and thus control costs with guaranteed pay days.

But it was in fact a whole lot more than that. It was a battle for the soul of the sport.

For years, FIFA has been unwilling to enforce its own rules on the United States, where the world governing body of soccer is more focused on generating commercial revenue than growing the game.

If it wasn’t for the football supporters and media in the United Kingdom rallying against the Super League, FIFA’s negligence almost allowed a cabal of NFL model for soccer to take over the established competitive structure in Europe.

The European Super League and US Soccer

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF/US Soccer) has for years been able to avoid the norms that govern world football. Not only does the United States contain an alphabet soup of closed leagues, but the nation’s first division, Major League Soccer (MLS) has been able to blow by FIFA’s own prescribed limits for clubs and maintain cross-border sides in Canada that are given the opportunity to compete in their own domestic cup competitions. Interestingly in 2019, a cross-border team in the US second division was told they must compete in a domestic Canadian league by FIFA’s regional confederation, CONCACAF, but no such provision has yet been applied to MLS teams in Canada.

For whatever reason, likely due to the commercial importance of the American market, FIFA has never fully enforced its statutes on the United States. It can be argued Major League Soccer initially needed its closed-league, single-entity structure to survive in a turbulent market. This is certainly the case, but in time MLS should have been forced to conform to the established standards.

Litigation in domestic courts is something FIFA frowns intensely upon, but time after time over the course of the last five years, the USSF has been hauled into court without any repercussions from the global governing body. In many other cases, nations have faced questions or even suspension from FIFA for court filings or governmental interference in the sport.

The argument is continuously made that the United States is somehow “different” than the rest of the world, in fact “exceptional.” Because of this exceptionalism, the United States must be given the latitude to construct and operate a soccer system completely different than is done elsewhere.

But the reality is this. FIFA, an organization that has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years, has made a tactical shift away from reliance on European sponsors and support to that of Asian, Middle Eastern and North American sponsorships.

Just last month, FIFA President Gianni Infantino indicated he’d support a merger between the two strongest leagues in the CONCACAF region, potentially setting the stage for European clubs to think FIFA may not frown upon a cross-border Super League. But as we have already learned, the US gets special treatment from FIFA.

The American sports construct

American professional sports are built around closed leagues where teams are bought and sold regularly and sometimes even relocated. Teams operate as franchises in leagues where you generally do not have the sort of incentives to be successful on the field that they do in open systems. Every team in a major American sports league with the lone exception of the Green Bay Packers plays in a metropolitan area with over 750,000 people.

The flip side of this is that revenue sharing and other mechanisms make the closed league structure safer for investors, but less compelling in many ways for supporters. But this setup is again justified under the guise that somehow the United States is “exceptional” and only a certain type of league setup attracts fans and investors.

Sport in Europe is structured differently. Leagues are open and teams from both small towns and big cities rise and fall up and down a pyramid depending on their own success. Supporters live and die with every kick of the ball but if a club is poorly managed it can slip down the divisions into oblivion and business purgatory.

Given the amount of debt carried by some top European clubs as well as the reckless spending the very same clubs continue to engage in, a risk-mitigating structure suddenly had the sort of appeal it may not have a decade ago. While relegation from their respective domestic leagues isn’t likely, these clubs want guaranteed sources of revenues that allow them to take their feet off the pedal in terms of competition.

Blame FIFA, they set the precedent

Once the precedent was clearly set by FIFA that leagues in the United States could do as they please, the door was open for those wishing to game the system to try and do so.

The proposed breakaway league featured twelve clubs, but it appears based on early reporting that four were truly central to the project: Real Madrid, Juventus, Liverpool and Manchester United. The latter two are owned by Americans, who have franchises in sports leagues in the USA.

With American investment banking giant JP Morgan providing the financing, the project had an American look-and-feel to it from the get go, even if the individual interfacing with the public was Real Madrid President, Florentino Pérez, a Spaniard.

On April 18, when the plans for this breakaway competition were revealed to the football world, governing bodies reacted with horror. How could such a thing happen and why would these ostensibly smart business people jump into a territory where the governing bodies were certain to push back?

For some of us, we quickly realized the “American precedents” cited above led Pérez and his allies to believe FIFA would be reluctant to fully enforce its own rules if it involved something as commercially viable as the Super League project.

The potential for anti-Americanism in the UK to grow

Like it or not, many in the British working class associate the US with corporate oligarchy, materialism and an obsession with finance. What transpired with the Super League reinforced many of these stereotypes. And the UK media, particularly Sky Sports, has been focused on the American angle of the story.

American exceptionalism is something that has from my own experience not been accepted among the majority of the British public. A fear among supporters when Americans buy football clubs is often abound, the sort of fear usually absent when sales to any other nationality of the owner, be they British or foreign take place.

The attempts to form a breakaway league will only further suspicion and dislike of American sports and investors in the United Kingdom. While Manchester City, owned by a sheik from Abu Dhabi, and Chelsea — owned by a Russian oligarch — were part of the breakaway, the general consensus in the UK media was that it were the American-owned clubs that orchestrated this move with Manchester City and Chelsea reluctantly agreeing to join to avoid “being left behind” by the other “big six” clubs.

Rightly or wrongly, the Super League is being seen as an attempt by American investors to “Americanize” Britain’s national sport.

The Super League collapse

Despite the sudden collapse of the Super League, my opinion remains that had the fans not been so well-organized in England and so vocal in Italy about clubs from those nations participating (75% of the clubs in this breakaway entity were from England and Italy) and had the two German giants, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund joined the project, it would have become a reality. Despite UEFA’s protestations and FIFA’s rhetoric, they would have caved.

Those planning the Super League were almost certainly well aware of the failure of FIFA to hold leagues and the federation in the United States to the same standard it holds others. They have seen how leagues that operate under the established US sports construct have been exempted from scrutiny at various points by FIFA. (For the record, this includes leagues in Australia, India and Canada as well, with the former two now being forced to conform to FIFA regulations unlike the USA).

Without the success of MLS and US Soccer in evading FIFA guidelines and statutes, it’s unlikely from where I sit the twelve rebel clubs would have ever tried to form their own entity outside the UEFA umbrella. They had seen that some nations and leagues can push the envelope as far as possible if it appears like what they are doing is in the commercial interests of FIFA and the global game as a whole.

What the twelve rebel clubs were not anticipating was the level of fan backlash and anger particularly in England and Italy but also throughout the world. Had the backlash been more muted or perhaps the timing of the announcement been different, they just might have gotten away with it – a scary proposition as we try and pick up the wreckage of the last several days and put football back on course.

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38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. gil

    November 13, 2021 at 7:50 pm

    European open league structure can be established anywhere in the world from the grass roots up…owners in a new league can begin with a few $100,000 working directly with the communities/towns to develop a very close fan base that can be nurtured over time to develop fan loyalty/identification and association and growing a thriving loyal fan base…..stop waiting for rich elites/oligarchs to jumpstart some instant gratification sports experience that has no soul that we the fans can do ourselves for our local communities that will have a lasting loyalty that can last generations to our children…..

  2. Paul

    May 1, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    Australian “A” League and Indian Super League are also closed leagues, like MLS and FIFA doesn’t seem to be pushing those league to conform.

  3. Michael F

    May 1, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    @Barry. Your argument definitely wins over @Sam. It’s not even close. While I am against the super league, to continually compare the European soccer league competition to the American pro sports leagues is just plain asinine. Two completely different concepts and cultures and structures.

    The Americans have had professional leagues in place for more than a century!. The idea of a super league destroys any notion of the tradition and structure of more than a century of European football structure of competition.

    So Why compare?? This idea of super league ‘americanizing’ the European sport is false. This is because the ‘super league’ is a tournament (not at all like American pro sports leagues) made exclusive for rich teams still wanting to play matches in their domestic leagues!

  4. Michael F

    May 1, 2021 at 5:34 pm

    Correction: word ‘relaxation’ should be ‘relegation’

  5. Michael F

    May 1, 2021 at 5:33 pm

    @Sam The flip side to your over-the-top argument is that Crystal Palace and Southhampton never play for anything except to avoid relegation!.

    While I enjoy this concept of promotion and relaxation and how all matches ‘mean something’, the fact is these European domestic leagues are extremely out of balance competitively with big money teams enjoying WAY more success than the majority of other clubs. So comparing that to American pro sports leagues is apples and oranges, with pros and cons to both. At least in American pro sports, a team in any of those leagues have a fighting chance to win something big at some point or another if they manage it smart. Crystal Palace or Southhampton will probably never win the premier league or would be a shock to challenge for top 4… and everyone knows it. No drama there.

  6. Sam

    April 30, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Having a different team win every year doesn’t make a league interesting. What makes a league interesting is having every game be competitive. The threat of relegation keeps every team fighting all season, but in a franchise system, what do the bottom half of the table have to play for? Imagine Crystal Palace vs Southampton in February if there was no relegation. What would be the point of anyone showing up? It would be a practice session in all but name.

  7. Michael

    April 27, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    @Jose Estoy de acuerdo. Good point.

  8. Barry

    April 26, 2021 at 1:48 pm

    “The flip side of this is that revenue sharing and other mechanisms make the closed league structure safer for investors, but less compelling in many ways for supporters.”

    What? Fans vote with their time, attention, and their pocketbooks. The three highest revenue producing leagues in the world are all based primarily in America (NFL, MLB, and NBA, in that order). The highest per game attendance of any league played outdoors in the world is the NFL and the highest per game attendance of any league played indoors is the NBA.

    In the past ten years Juve has won nine Serie A titles. Bayern has won eight Bundesliga titles and Barca has won six in La Liga. So much for compelling. I’d rather watch leagues like MLB where nine different teams have won the past ten World Series. Even as dominant as the Patriots have been in the NFL seven different teams have won the Super Bowl in the past ten years.

    The difference between the United States’ system and that of European soccer is that the smaller cities can and regularly do win championships. As one example, one the of the smallest metropolitan areas in both the NFL and MLB, Kansas City has been both world series and Super Bowl winners within the past six years. I’d rather be rooting for that than hoping they can keep from getting relegated. Which one do you think is “more compelling”?

  9. Rob

    April 25, 2021 at 9:33 pm

    I think two premises upon which your argument rests are incorrect. First, the Super League was not modeled on the NFL. It was not, despite its name, a “league” in the same sense as MLB or the Premier League. Rather, it is a tournament whose structure most closely resembles another European competition, the Euroleague basketball tournament. That tournament also involves fixed membership and invitations to additional participants every year. Second, and related, is that this project had nothing to do with FIFA’s exceptions to the US/Canada border restrictions and the relegation rules in the US/Canada, Australia, and I guess temporarily, Mexico. Obviously, for a tournament such as was proposed here, the same cross-border and no-relegation rules were not as relevant. I don’t hear the same righteous indignation in response to the proposed BeNeLeague, which at least the Belgian federation believes would be helpful in providing better competition and stability to its clubs.

    Personally, I don’t think FIFA needs to step in and tell the US how to run its league. Our system developed largely out of necessity – due to the travel distances, well-heeled ownership groups were needed in order to foot expenses involved in running a baseball league that stretched from Boston to St. Louis. By contrast, for example, England is the size of Alabama. If indeed the model is better, then there is nothing stopping a start-up from beginning a league system with promotion and relegation. NASL had the opportunity to differentiate itself from MLS by adopting that model, but instead simply put out a worse product while espousing the same closed-league system that apparently holds us back from assuming football powerhousedom. I enjoy the differences that both systems present, but on balance, I think it makes for a more compelling competition where the competitive balance keeps teams from winning nine championships in a row. Say what you will about MLS, but only one team in the entire league has 6 points through 2 games.

  10. CD

    April 25, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    So the author writes entire article criticizing the attempted implementation of a foreign sports culture in another land (the ‘Americanization’ of English football), but then he also seems to be arguing that this exactly what FIFA should be doing in regards to the U.S.? Is it isn’t right to ‘Americanize’ European football, but it is right that an alien European football structure should be forced on to the U.S.? Strange argument. As a poster wrote correctly wrote above, in regards to the U.S. system, “FIFA was wise to not make a similar mistake by dogmatically insisting on a structure that has no real equivalent in US sports or culture.”

    As posters have also pointed out above, the U.S. sports system is also hardly ‘exceptional’ (look at Australia/NZ, where there is no promotion/relegation in the A-League of any of the most popular leagues such as AFL, NRL, Super Rugby). Even in England, popular sporting leagues such as rugby league’s Super League and Country Cricket are essentially closed systems. The only thing that seems to be ‘exceptional’ is the author’s desire to push a narrative by criticizing the U.S. sporting system, which makes for far more competitive balance (leading you to believe that there are plenty of “incentives” to win) and stability (ask the the football club in Bordeaux) than many top-flight European football leagues. It’s also laughable to say that leagues in the U.S. closed system are “less compelling in many ways for supporters”; I’m sure the many tens of millions of fans who watch the NFL on Sundays or who make MLB the highest-attended sporting league in the world by a massive margin also think these leagues are “less compelling”.

  11. GRA

    April 24, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    Leo said, “I am amazed how Kartik can make US soccer guilty of a phenomenon on the other side of the planet.”

    It’s an odd thing, really. I think many US soccer fans tend to be followers in the sense that whatever non-American soccer/football fans like or dislike they’ll also like or dislike. Straight out of the gates, once ESL was proposed, one of the first talking points was that it was an Americanization of European football even though there was no talks of removing pro-reg in domestic league competitions – all of this came from the European press. Then American journalists saw this and sorta kinda followed in their footsteps.

    A good percent of the commentary has been way off. A good percent of the commentary doesn’t necessarily reveal what’s wrong with the MLS; what it does reveal is how utterly sheep like soccer/football fan can be. While non-American soccer/football fans hate the ESL because it’s “American” (it’s not, unlike that one opinion piece in The NY Times stating that it was – ironically that writer is wrong), here in the States sports journalists just use it as an excuse to complain why the US doesn’t have a pro-reg system.

  12. GRA

    April 24, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    >>But this setup is again justified under the guise that somehow the United States is “exceptional” and only a certain type of league setup attracts fans and investors.<<

    I never really heard of this "exceptional" line being used to describe the American closed system, either on a wide scale use in comparison to a pro-reg/pyramid system or bandied around American journalism in a patriotic way before the Super League fiasco.

    You also seem to not give credit to the investors who do invest in leagues like the NFL, NHL, MLB etc. These aren't people with horse blinders on who are unaware of how other countries do things. They most likely have more business and financial acumen than any one of us or all of us combined commenting here.

    Ironically enough, there are other ways to build, develop and sustain a professional sports league that isn't a pro-reg pyramid.

  13. José Cerrato

    April 23, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    @Michael El problema con MLS es que rapidamente busca ser una liga élite, prueben con el ascenso y descenso, y verán que eso ayudará mucho al fútbol en EE.UU

  14. Michael

    April 22, 2021 at 9:46 pm

    @CTBlues. I agree with you 100%….but that is not what the MLS is. In fact so far the only way that they are making money is by the Franchise expansion fee. Before COVID, most teams were just breaking even or losing money…if not for the expansion fees. Part of that is that they don’t have a very good TV deal. The teams are still too dependant on ticket sales to make a profit. Queue a pandemic and that is all wiped out I understand what you are saying, but that kind of system is not in jive with the American Professional Sports Culture. I hope I am proved wrong, but I don’t think that will ever happen in the US, especially because in this country we have the College Sports System for the “free labor” minor league system that in itself cost millions to operate. In this country we have thousands of rec leagues and intra murals leagues all over the country, but the Pro’s are big business.

  15. CTBlues

    April 22, 2021 at 9:25 pm

    I don’t agree with it but MLS isn’t the only country that has teams from multiple countries playing in one league. The A-League has a team from New Zealand and right there in England you have two Welsh teams playing in the FA pyramid “because Wales doesn’t have a top flight division”. Then the Brits will say they can do because they are part of GB but then why isn’t there team GB instead of England, Wales, and Scotland national teams.

  16. CTBlues

    April 22, 2021 at 9:07 pm

    @Michael
    If you have an open system there is no franchise scheme where you pay $250m to join the league. When you first start the league you have a group of teams that come together that says they agree to a system and a set of rules to play by and if you want to add new teams they start from the bottom and work their way up by winning games not just plopping down a bag a money.

  17. Rye Brook

    April 22, 2021 at 8:00 pm

    Was it instigated by Peacock? [when they could have been working on tools to join a match in progress from the beginning and being able to jump back and forth in the game as per Fubo].
    Unless the big clubs involved in this SL debacle stop paying an arm and a leg for top players and their salaries etc they’re on a calamity course. For some of them they think this was/will be their last chance saloon to avoid an inevitable catastrophic meltdown.
    The capitalist system is eating itself, accelerated by the pandemic, and the alternatives, like front runner corporate fascism, are even worse. And now a long commercial break. Oh & thanks WST, great resource and top shelf podcasts, buying merch soon.

  18. Jagular

    April 22, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    This isn’t over. There will be other iterations. The premiere league keeps losing money, and it’s not just due to covid.

  19. MAHLUF

    April 22, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    I’m just surprised that Kartik didn’t blame NBC for the Super League.

  20. greg

    April 22, 2021 at 4:08 pm

    @Brian, there’s probably a lot of overlap between the people who’d love to privatize the BBC and NHS and those who love unfettered capitalism in English football. Similarly the opposite – those most defending NHS & BBC and would love to re-nationalize the rail would probably love to rein in the influence & spending of the top 6, lower ticket prices and to wrest some tv matches away from Sky’s expensive paywall. Or thinking about it in a more nuanced way, one can love the EPL and still love NHS & BBC. You’d just wish they could all function more to serve everyone, not just those with the most money.

  21. Michael

    April 22, 2021 at 2:47 pm

    @Jose. It is a futile argument. MLS needs owners with $250 million dollars to start a team. There is not a single person with that kind of money that will put their money down without guarantee of being in the top level. If relegation was forced on them, they would pull out their money and MLS would collapse. If the rumored merger with Liga MX goes through, that will mean that they don’t relegate either.

  22. José Cerrato

    April 22, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    A los futboleros no nos gusta el cobarde sistema estadounidense de no descenso, en el fútbol los equipos mediocres descienden, no se les premia con seguir en primera división.

  23. Turfit

    April 22, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    But we do in the US have a culture of Pro/Reg, it’s called youth soccer!!!

  24. Leo

    April 22, 2021 at 11:38 am

    I am amazed how Kartik can make US soccer guilty of a phenomenon on the other side of the planet.

  25. Brian

    April 22, 2021 at 10:49 am

    I am going to take the view at 10,000 ft here. Three items to consider:
    One, without those of us here in America, would those clubs in the UK exist in there current form?
    Two, from a society that embraces socialist ideas (National Health Service, state owned industry, state owned housing and the BBC), they sure love the pure capitalism of the soccer league system. One would think the MLS or NFL model of fair competition among all teams, league wide parity where anyone can win each match each week, and equal revenues distributed to the clubs would have an appeal. It seems that is not the case.
    Three, the idea of a Super League is not going away anytime soon. It will get to the point where the global clubs will go off on their own and leave the rest behind. The financials and economics are too much to ignore.

  26. Michael

    April 22, 2021 at 10:37 am

    I love Kartik’s article…but I am afraid it is a mute point. In the same way that America broke away from Britain’s Political culture, American doesn’t have Britain’s Sport culture…and never will. It is a waste of time to opine about brining in the European culture into American Soccer. IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. I love UEFA Leagues soccer, but I don’t even watch MLS the same way, because I know what it is…the 5th out of 5th in professional sports in this country and that is by a long shot. It is entertaining, it is a fun date to take your kids (when COVID is done). It is totally apples and oranges the the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, or Bundesliga. In addition there is not one single American (Soccer) Owner that would put up $250 on a MLS team only to have them dropped to USL the next year to lose millions. That simply won’t happen. Not in America. Next, the narrative about the NFL, NBA, and MLB being closed leagues is a false narrative. In order to get to the NFL, it starts with the kids are 6 years old in Pop Warner league going up to JR high Teams, to High School teams, to College, and then NFL. The NFL is then the cream of the crop. less that 1% of all football players get to that level. THAT IS EXACLTLY THE SAME as the Academy\Professional Pyramid structure in European Football . It is even more competitive and more exclusive for the path to the NBA or MLB as after High School, they have AAU and extensive system or minor league systems that you have to get through before you get to the “Premier League” of their perspective sport. Lastly, I believe that (not saying that I agree with this), but the two sides are going to come together and compromise and move closer and closer to the Super League. This has been coming since the formation of the EPL in 1992. Those of use that are old enough to see how things have changed since then are not surprised by any of this. .
    I agree with the anger of the fans, but reject the false surprise that the pundits are venting over the airs. They have seen this coming for years. if you Google “Forbes – The World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams of 2020” you will see and interesting article. When you see the Top 50 Sports Franchises in the World 26 of the 32 NFL teams are in that list, and they are getting bigger and bigger. In addition 9 NBA teams and 6 MLB teams are on that list. The point is as they “American” franchises get bigger and bigger, they will reach out and start buying other franchises. What will they buy? Well look at that 7 Soccer teams on the list…4 of them are already owned by foreign Owners.

    1. Real Madrid (6th)
    2. Barcelona (8th)
    3. Manchester United (10th)
    4. Bayer Munchen (24th)
    5. Manchester City (34th)
    6. Chelsea (37th)
    7. Arsenal (47th)

    All that being said, good article.

  27. jason

    April 22, 2021 at 10:34 am

    Uhhh….riiiighht. I don’t see Norwich and Watford stampeding their way through MLS clubs in theoretical match ups.

  28. IanCransonsKnees

    April 22, 2021 at 10:22 am

    DG that last sentence is spot on. They should know better, they’ve no excuse.

  29. disco george

    April 22, 2021 at 10:03 am

    I agree with Yespage’s assessment that the Super League would have been more like college football and the BCS — that system gets a lot of criticism here, but fans generally don’t feel like they can do anything about it.
    Not trying to excuse the stupidity of these owners, but don’t people see that this is exactly why we don’t have pro/rel in the US? The people who can afford to own and bankroll teams now literally do not see the merit in it and will not countenance it — for many of them, their teams are just a means to acquire expensive real estate.
    MLS started at a time when a lot of things were converging. Huge amounts of money were pouring into the game globally, pro leagues were historically notoriously unstable (there were three different attempts at pro soccer locally when I was growing up), and there was this sense that we HAD to make things work after the ’94 World Cup — there was no time to let things grow organically for decades the way they did in Europe. So MLS leveraged a bunch of rich dudes with stakes in other sports/ventures. The upside was that a professional league survived here (barely), but the downside was that we are now reliant on people who see their teams as business assets to be protected at all costs, not community assets in an integrated system that rewards sporting excellence.
    Agnelli, Perez, etc. are actually more infuriating, IMO. They know exactly what their teams mean to their communities, but either don’t care or were hoping the money would just placate everyone when they eventually signed Haaland and Mbappe or whatever.

  30. Mercator

    April 22, 2021 at 9:25 am

    This seems a bit harsh on FIFA, they work within the system as well. The simple fact is the game is not that popular in the US, left to its own devices there is no way it would have gotten off the ground. This is wholly unlike England, which can support 90+ teams with minimal need for outside investment, and which no one can argue requires a closed system in order to continue to be viable. For decades the US had leagues that come and go, so I think time has shown there is at least some merit to the MLS system, in that it has survived where many others haven’t.

    FIFA is also an inherently political organisation…remember what happened in 2015 when the US decided to take an interest in FIFA? It ended up with racketeering charges against a a dozen FIFA executives. These American owners made a silly mistake trying to impose their way on clubs and countries that wanted no part in it – FIFA was wise to not make a similar mistake by dogmatically insisting on a structure that has no real equivalent in US sports or culture. The last thing FIFA wants is deep pocketed Americans working in the game outside its structure – that could be an existential threat to the organisation.

    I don’t think the MLS structure had anything to do with this decision by the 12 clubs. This is just business – these big clubs have collectively billions of fans across the globe, and yet most owners mostly lose money on the game. They found an asset they didn’t think was being properly monetised, so they acquired it and tried to properly monetise it. It didn’t work, but the reality is still the same, and they will no doubt try again. The thing stopping these clubs isn’t UEFA, FIFA, or even the fans, its getting the 15 biggest clubs together. If Bayern and PSG were on board, I think this would have been able to be pushed though. The power sits with these big clubs, we are just lucky that at this point, they are still not all on the same page.

  31. Anthony

    April 22, 2021 at 8:58 am

    I think this connection is a bit of a stretch. In the US, fans are culturally accustomed to franchises for a number of reasons (history, colleges serve as “minor leagues” or development leagues for a lot of sports, the number of teams tend to expand with the size of the country). In Europe, it is obviously different. I think FIFA accommodating US sports team practices isn’t a terrible thing. Obviously in Europe, where the promotion/relegation system is well established, breaking that up is much harder, largely due to the fact that clubs predate leagues/competitions and fans want their clubs to fairly be able to compete.

  32. Yespage

    April 22, 2021 at 8:08 am

    I think it is incredibly silly to think the MLS and how it has run things impacted anything in Europe. MLS still remains irrelevant in the Football world. This is much more similar to how the US runs college football than the MLS. This was about business and getting a much larger piece of the revenue. A Super League would be the mother of all cash cows. And in forming a cartel directly between the teams, it would be all the money and all the control.

    Had the fans been on board, this might have worked, but they weren’t. They weren’t remotely on board. The roots run way too deep in Europe. And there definitely is a rift between foreign ownership and the fanbase at the moment.

    The irony is that these top clubs had leverage against UEFA and FIFA regarding the Champions League and policy. That leverage is gone.

  33. Roberto

    April 22, 2021 at 7:43 am

    I watch both the EPL and the MLS. Sure with the billions available to the EPL the games should be at a much higher level but this is not always the case. I have seen some truly terrible EPL games and many very exciting MLS games. It is true that the MLS is probably mid-level championship. So if the above is put in context of the money spent by EPL teams and the much more limited funds that MLS teams have maybe this elitist attitude is misplaced.

  34. Dermot McQuarrie

    April 22, 2021 at 5:46 am

    One can imagine the initial calls among the owners of the 12 clubs. “Hey guys, great idea for a huge increase in revenue. All upside and no downside. We will bring together the absolute best teams in Europe and we will play mid-week games. TV revenue will be HUGE, Sponsors will be throwing money at us, fans will love it and we will still play in the domestic leagues and Cup competitions. It’s really just a few extra games each season but the money will be in the $billions”
    Don’t worry about how this gets organized”
    And of course the American owners were presumably happy to leave it up to the President of Real Madrid who’ would get it all sorted out – “hey! after all what do “we” know about sawwkker compared to those guys”
    “Where do we sign?”
    But ponder on this……if the American owners of clubs involved in the Super League were to form an NFL and MLB Super League, I wonder how the Authorities here would react?

  35. IanCransonsKnees

    April 22, 2021 at 1:46 am

    That’s a great summary, exactly the type of writing that I used to frequent this place for.

    I think it’s worth mentioning that the backlash is against the attempt to impose a ‘foriegn’ system or philosophy, usurping something that has been in place and worked relatively well for over a century.

    Bear in mind the UK, for good or bad, has just rejected and left a political system in order to retain, maintain and gain sovereignty of thinking, law and government again. The response to having an Americanised system imposed is far more immediate and visceral than anything I can recall.

    I don’t think there’s any comeback for those owners now in the eyes of their fans now, they’ll always be eyed with suspicion and I suspect that the feeling amongst the rest of the club’s and fans here will grow towards a clean break when they eventually get what they want.

    It might well be that fans outside the country grow bored of match ups between leading and lesser lights but the governing bodies have a responsibility to the other 86 league clubs and myriad of non-league clubs.

    I think the answer will eventually be that when they leave that’s it, no participation in domestic leagues or cups and no coming back. If those ‘big 6’ suddenly get transplanted around the globe for 50% of the season, playing ‘home’ ties in New York, Sydney or wherever else their owners have bought up domestic “franchises’ that won’t be our problem to sort out.

    I suppose a fair question to ask would be what if the boot was on the other foot? What if promotion and relegation was being imposed on MLS, and the ability to transplant franchises was scrapped? What difference would that make and what reaction would that cause?

  36. Ron Schooling

    April 21, 2021 at 10:08 pm

    I too am a transplanted Brit and a lifelong Arsenal fan. The proposed Super League was an insult to all European soccer fans whose clubs were excluded from the “elite” league. The proposal even disgusted the fans of the clubs that were included and would possibly have destroyed the fan base of those clubs. As for the MLS, I tried watching some games which reminded me of the UK’s League One contests. Additionally, the MLS has a reputation among European soccer fans as a retirement league, where aged players migrated to get a final big paycheck and also as a development league for young Latino players polishing their game in the hopes of landing a position with a European club.

  37. Mark Hudson

    April 21, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    Exactly. Sorry US soccer fans, I am an Englishman who has lived here for 30 years and the failure of the European Super league highlights the MLS problem. No promotion. No relegation. No top dogs. No underdogs. No David vs. Goliath. No regional pride and animosity (except maybe Portland/ Seattle). All reasons sadly why watching MLS is like watching paint dry – and I gave it a chance for some years!

  38. JL

    April 21, 2021 at 6:23 pm

    I don’t understand the backlash the UK and other countries gave the SL. I only understood that from 12 it would expand to at least 36 global teams to compete against each other,no relegation which could have “come back kids” every season to try to win back a championship. I like how US sports are structured personally. Our leagues are competitive already which alot of outstanding athletes and play. However, after reading this article I am understanding the backlash a little more.

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