I've often thought of ways that people and teams could increase their popularity. Now I've thought of a few ways the MLS can increase popularity in not only the US, but also the world. Soccer has the potential to become a huge sport in America. America has the most children playing soccer already.
Every Saturday and Sunday, kids invade every possible park and field to practice and play soccer. However, when it comes to leagues, particular the MLS, the USA is far behind other countries. Here are five ways the MLS can improve.
1. Allow matches to be seen on public TV.
The MLS currently has deals with ESPN/ABC and Fox. All games are seen on ESPN2 or the FOX SoccerNet channel. Unfortunately, most Americans don't watch ESPN2 or Fox SoccerNet (I watch them though).
ESPN2 is usually known for showing abnormal sports such as table tennis or bowling, not mainstream sports like football, baseball, or basketball. Matches need to start being shown on channels that are watched more often by the public.
One way in doing that is to allow matches to be seen on ABC public TV or some other channel watched more often. Okay, enough ranting about this, next topic...
2. Change owners.
When the MLS debuted in 1996, over half of the teams were owned by the MLS. Now the most of the clubs are owned by a "single" owner, but are still under ownership of the agency.
As much as I hate to say this, the MLS need to release ownership of the clubs and allow foreign owners to take over the clubs. If this were the Premier League or La Liga, I’d never suggest more foreign ownership; but this is the struggling MLS. The clubs need foreign ownership to bring in more money so that they could improve and ultimately improve the league. Next…
3. Introduce relegations and promotions.
Every other league in the world has a second tier. The US has one too, only most people don’t know about it. For those you who don’t know, this minor league is called the USL, United Soccer League. The USL even has its own second division. Nine clubs make up the USL first division and another 10 make up the second division.
I realize the MLS probably doesn’t have funds to bring some of these clubs into the MLS, but why waste money making brand new teams when there are cities that already have teams? Just take the bottom three from the table each season and send them down to the USL; then bring the top three from the USL and bring them to the MLS. It’s very easy to do, so let’s move on…
4. Allow sponsors to compete.
I love Adidas. I would buy their gear over Nike any day of the week. However, with one company having a monopoly over an entire league, it sorta kills competition. It’s simple economics, competition brings in more money.
The MLS needs money, but because of a deal with Adidas, it’s not allowing other companies to come in, companies with more money. The MLS needs to allow Nike, Umbro, Puma, and other sports providers to come in and compete for sponsorship.
5. Bring in younger players.
It seems that every good player in the MLS is either in his late twenties or past his prime (COUGHbeckhamCOUGH). The MLS has no young players, with the exception of Kenny Cooper from Dallas whose 23, that have potential to be the next McBride or Donovan.
It needs to bring in younger players and that means developing a youth program. I’ll give props where it’s due, the MLS is trying in this area. However, they need to do more.
The MLS is constantly improving itself. I enjoy watching the MLS each week. The league is in need of help though. It’s not getting the credit and respects it so desperately need. That is why the MLS will always be a second-rate league, for now.