Soccer is a rapidly emerging sport in the United States. Gone are the days where the only thought people had of soccer was minivans and post-game snacks. It’s serious business now.
Viewership, attendance and participation in soccer is on the rise. MLS teams have some of the craziest and most loyal fan sections.
This explosion of interest can be seen all across the country. The Atlanta United frequently sells out Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a stadium’s tenets who are primarily NFL team. One of the most attended sporting events in U.S. history was a soccer game at Michigan Stadium with 109,218 people to witness the match. Just this year the MLS Cup final had a higher in-person attendance than the Super Bowl.
With all that said, it should come as a no-brainer the MLS wants to continue expanding. They have expanded to or plan to expand to markets with little competition. Cincinnati started a franchise this year with Nashville and Austin joining in the next two years.
While this makes sense from the business side of things, continuous expansion is awful for the development of American soccer.
The top European leagues have anywhere from 16 to 20 teams. On top of that, they have some kind of promotion and relegation system. The system provides more motivation for teams to stay out of the bottom of the standings.
Now, I am a very big proponent of implementing promotion and relegation for the MLS, but that is a whole other column in itself. My issue with the expansion is that its forcing the American soccer product to be spread thin.
Commissioner Don Garber goes on and on about how he sees the MLS becoming a top tier league. However, expansion allows mediocre teams to continue mediocrity. Instead of looking to expand the product, the MLS needs to focus on growing a better product.
This expansion is the the tip of the iceberg of problems the MLS has. In addition, there is currently no real incentive for young Americans to want to play here in the states. Some of the best young Americans are playing in Europe, developing into World Class players. It has been proven that the key to international success is a quality domestic league, and the MLS does not provide that.
The MLS has many problems that lead it to be a mediocre league. Currently, I feel the only reasons I am a fan of the MLS is because of duty and proximity. As an American soccer fan I feel like it’s my duty to promote the domestic league. Along with that, it’s easy being an MLS fan since I live in the U.S. As a fan of soccer I want to be a fan of the MLS.
In the future, I may be open to a 30-plus team league. However, in order for that to happen the MLS needs to switch course. It all comes down to quality over quantity.