The United Soccer Leagues has been a doormat to the MLS for too long. They have allowed MLS to walk all over them. MLS has taken multiple cities from the USL to put into their league and have not suffered any kind of legal troubles or image issues.
This has been a coup for MLS. They have done the deed without having to put forth the effort normally associated with bringing along brand new franchises.
But, without any formal partnership, who is really at fault?
The USL has a flawed business model, and the future for its First Division franchises are all in jeopardy. Anytime a First Division franchise shows promise, its immediate goal becomes how to make MLS. Even as new franchises come on board with USL, such as the Austin Aztex or others, it is easily apparent that with the right moves, MLS is not too far away.
History shows that the USL should compete directly against MLS. In both the history of football and basketball in the U.S., leagues have merged and absorbed each other.
In football, the American Football League (AFL), consisting of teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, and Oakland Raiders, merged with teams from the NFL, which consisted of teams such as the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. In basketball, teams from the American Basketball Association were absorbed by the NBA after an agreement of merger.
Perhaps the USL’s future will be to be bought up by MLS to be a ‘minor leagues’ of sort. But, the USL should consider that MLS is susceptible and it is possible that the USL could be the dominant league at some point in time in the future.
As the USL sets its course for its future, with foundation at the youth and community levels as its bases, it should be more bold with its professional teams and not take for granted that MLS must be the ‘dominant’ league and the USL only a ‘funnel’ league.
The USL should approach an outsider cable television station like VERSUS to broadcast games on a regularly marketed basis. It needs to bring its league closer to the American audience so that it can promote its Second Division teams sooner and form a more broad First Division. A team in Charleston or Rochester is impressive with its own kind of marketing potential. A league with many teams from cities or areas of 300,000- 500,000 or more people can also provide tons of soccer excitement.
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