Landon Donovan: Why MLS Needs Him to Stick Around for Another Season

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Landon Donovan: Why MLS Needs Him to Stick Around for Another Season
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Landon Donovan's indefinite hiatus from soccer has been well documented. For the sake of MLS and its potential growth, it had better not overlap the 2013 regular season.

With four titles and an opportunity to be the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League, the Los Angeles Galaxy are on the verge of becoming a “super club”—a distinguished entity in the world of soccer.

Will Landon Donovan Return in 2013?

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But without the most decorated player in recent memory, the Galaxy lack the talent and notoriety to become the team MLS so desperately needs.

MLB has the New York Yankees. The NBA has the Los Angeles Lakers. The NFL has the Dallas Cowboys.

MLS needs the LA Galaxy.

Fans maintain dynasties are to the detriment of sports. The television ratings state otherwise. 

The 2012 NCAA Championship—which pitted basketball powerhouses Kentucky and Kansas against one another—earned a five-percent increase from the 2011 championship that saw Duke defeat an underdog Butler team.

The last time the Yankees were in the World Series, the fall classic averaged 19.4 million viewers. 

Compare that to the 12.7 million that watched the San Francisco Giants sweep the Detroit Tigers this year.

An average of 18.1 million viewers watched the Lakers win its 16th NBA title in 2010. That’s 2.3 million more than this year’s final between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It is a hackneyed cliché in the world of sports: Everybody roots for the underdog. 

That may or may not be true.

Everybody may root for the underdog. But everyone watches greatness.

That is what the Galaxy are on the verge of becoming.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Even without Donovan’s hiatus, the 2013 version of the Galaxy remain a huge question mark. 

David Beckham’s rumored replacements are yet to sign.

Kaká, Frank Lampard and a slew of others have been linked to replace the free-kick specialist, but none have come to fruition.

Last week, LA traded forward Edson Buddle to the Colorado Rapids in exchange for a draft pick and allocation money.

2012 MLS Cup MVP Omar Gonzalez is in the final year of his contract with the Galaxy, and his future with the team is not yet known. 

Per MLS transfers, multiple teams have reportedly shown interest in trading for midfielder Mike Magee.

The Galaxy are a team in flux—one that needs the talent, stability and leadership Donovan has provided since he arrived in 2005.

True, the Galaxy tout one of the more prolific goal scorers in MLS, but it will take more than just Robbie Keane’s 16 goals and nine assists for LA to repeat as champions.

No Donovan means no titles for the Galaxy in 2013. No title run for LA means no television ratings for MLS in 2013.

Much to the chagrin of small-market MLS fans, the league is more relevant when the Galaxy are in contention for a title. 

Viewership may have been down for the 2012 MLS Cup. But since the first MLS Cup in 1996, the Galaxy have been a part of six of the eight highest-rated MLS Cups in league history.

That is no coincidence. 

Was This Donovan's Final Goal With the Galaxy?
MLS is trending upward in attendance records. Even so, without a lucrative television contract, MLS will be unable to leave a dent in a crowded American sports market.

The NFL generates more revenue than any other sport in America. That $3.1 billion television contract it signed in 2011 may have something to do with it.

As the other leagues have already shown us, without the Galaxy in contention, MLS will be unable to draw in the audience necessary to obtain a deal of that caliber.

For the sake of the Galaxy, for the sake of MLS, Donovan’s services are essential once more.

Follow Eduardo on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics.

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