5 Major Problems with MLS
I have been a soccer fan my entire life. I have never been an MLS fan.
Yea I'll climb out of bed at 5 am to watch Newcastle play, but I won't even click over on a Galaxy game at 6 pm when the only thing on is Wheel of Fortune.
The MLS has so many inherent problems that it's hard to make an article narrowing it down to just five. It never has, and never will compete with the major leagues of Europe.
There are some pretty simple reasons why, yet the brain-trust in charge of the MLS has made the beautiful game look more like a glorified game of kick-and-chase in the United States.
It's sad, because the well of soccer fans is here, but for quality, we look elsewhere.
Bad Transfer System
You don't think a guy like Cristiano Ronaldo would want to come here and play in say...New York? Los Angeles? Or Washington D.C?
And let's not even think about the big quality players—you don't think there are thousands of quality mid level players in Europe who wouldn't want to come and play in the States?
The problem is MLS works under, of course—an Americanized sports version of a cap, so that everything is fair. Therefore, even if say Ronaldo wanted to come and play in the United States, he couldn't.
Instead of promoting fairness, it promotes league-wide mediocrity.
Furthermore, how about the window structure? FIFA, numerous times has urged the MLS to change their transfer window times to coincide with those of Europe—but they don't. As a result, when the normal transfer window opens ub Europe, the MLS is not allowed to make moves, and vice-versa.
Another Americanized theory falling in line with that of football, hockey, basketball and baseball, the MLS feels it needs a bracketed playoff structure—and it's a pretty lame system.
You play two games, against the same team, and if it ends in a tie, that's fine. If each team wins one..well it comes down to *DRUM ROLL* goal differential!!
How exciting right?
How about this idea: the MLS playoffs include a total of 10 teams—the league has 18.
More then half the league makes the playoffs? That doesn't seem right.
Again, it does not promote quality—it promotes mediocrity.
No Youth Systems at All
Do you ever wonder where all these young players come from in Germany, England and Spain?
They mold them, grow up with a team, they are fed soccer, and they have close ties to the leagues that they aspire to be in.
The U.S. has nothing, except various broken and small leagues. There is no minor system, or junior squads, or loan spells to another less fortunate team.
Instead they opt for a draft, and it's straight out of college into the MLS.
It's no wonder the U.S. doesn't develop a whole lot of young players for the international stage; we don't have a system that supports growth at a level players can compete at.
MLS Governing and Ownership
This one definitely ties into the transfer system and its flaws, but the MLS runs a system, again, very much like the NBA or NFL.
The players and teams are owned by the league; ergo, everything is overseen by the league: trades, contracts, events—it's a single entity system and it's driving the league down.
There are enough soccer-crazy people and adventurous businessmen here, that if you opened the league up to a European-style ownership system, you would get a lot of heavyweights trying to build up teams as powerhouses in a new market.
The single entity system only works in a league like the NFL, which inherently has a massive following. The MLS doesn't have that, and it's trying to lure people into watching and getting interested in it when it allows nothing interesting to go on, per its governing technique.
Promotion/Relegation and League Size
Again, a point that ties everything in nicely: The MLS currently has not enough teams to make use of a system of relegation and promotion.
This could also never happen under the current structure, due to a playoff mentality and ownership style.
England has A LOT of teams—and I mean A LOT. Four leagues worth; and not all of them play in St. James Park. Many in the lower leagues play in stadiums no larger than a high school football stadium.
Personal investment would allow for more teams to pop up in strange and small places in the US, with little to no risk being run for the MLS commissioner.
It would also open up league size, allow for more players, and eventually put in place a relegation and promotion system that would help in both player development and expansion.
Not every team has to have a home base in a metropolis, and not every metropolis needs just one or two teams. Build it and they will come.