In 1996, Major League Soccer became the foundation of top-tier soccer in North America.
MLS currently consists of 15 franchises, with Philadelphia joining the ranks in 2010. The league will once again expand in 2011 with the additions of the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
So why is it that a league, which was so uncertain of its future not long ago, has such a bright future in place.
Some say the resurgence of the U.S. Men's National Soccer program in 2002 brought much needed attention back into the sport.
Others say the designated player rule, which allows each team to field an imported player without the restrictions of the MLS salary cap, brings our game to a higher level.
Aside from a specific root cause I believe it all boils down to impressive marketing by the MLS organization as a whole.
The construction of "soccer-specific" stadiums allows the fans to experience the game in an atmosphere which compliments the beautiful game. The proven results have been a rise in attendance and profits which are visible across the league.
Television coverage is at an all-time high as games are broadcast across the continent on ESPN. In turn the media coverage has triggered an increase in sponsorship. MLS franchises began selling ad space on the front of their jerseys in 2007, following in the footsteps of clubs around the world.
Another viable source of exposure has been the inclusion of four MLS teams in the CONCACAF Champions League. If crowned champions, an MLS club would then compete in the Club World Cup against the world's top squads.
The top four MLS squads who do not qualify for CONCACAF CL are placed in the SuperLiga. A competition organized by the MLS and Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación.
These competitions enhanceexposure for MLS teams, which in turn, enables them to be seen on a broader scale.
In 2004 it was reported by an accredited financial magazine that the MLS had lost more than $350 million since its inception. But these loses are deemed to be a thing of the past.
In 2003, the Los Angeles Galaxy became the first franchise to turn a profit, soon followed by FC Dallas in 2005. By 2008 Toronto FC, perhaps the most passionately followed franchise in the league, joined the aforementioned squads posting positive figures at seasons end.
The MLS brass have been quoted stating that they project all clubs to be profitable by 2010.
If MLS commissioner Don Garber and his brass continue to attract such international stars such as David Beckham, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Juan Pablo Angel, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and most recently Freddie Ljunberg. The leagues level of play and overall profile will most definitely be documented amongst soccer leagues abroad.
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