The Promising State of the MLS
Collin Brown ’16
With the continuation of America’s rise in soccer and the 20th season of the MLS, it is a good time to delve into the current state of the United States’ top flight soccer league. Major League Soccer began in 1996 with 10 teams. Now, it has doubled that and continues to expand with an expansion team recently announced to be in Minnesota and more slated in places like San Antonio and Miami. The average attendance of MLS matches is now even higher than the NBA and NHL. Things have come a long way since its humble beginnings that first season.
Financially, MLS has found solid footing. The MLS struggled greatly in the past to make ends meet with the failure of teams such as Chivas USA and Tampa Bay Mutiny, but the financial failures of those times seem to be behind the organization. MLS has bigger sponsors than ever such as Heineken and Chipotle. MLS even broke its way into the crowded American TV sports market with the biggest TV deals ever for an American soccer league. MLS is now more easily available to the average American being on Fox Sports, ESPN, and UniMas. Today, expansion teams are worth far more than ever before and have grown at a rapid pace. In 2008, Philadelphia Union had a franchise fee of $30 million. Recently, Orlando had a fee of $70 million and the NYCFC fee cost $100 million.
The level of play has also gotten higher. What was once a developmental league at best, is now a league ranked as high as tenth in the world by Bleacher Report. Players such as Kaká and David Villa see the MLS has a legit option as well as a mass of USMNT players. Ronaldo even recently announced he would like to end his career with play in the MLS. However, the goalkeeping leaves something to be desired and the defending is often non existent. Shooting is still a struggle for many teams as easy shots fly far over the posts constantly, Colorado has yet to score a goal this season. This is not the case for all teams though, as teams like Seattle and LA Galaxy have been able to produce pretty good soccer, but the bottom teams are sometimes just laughable to watch.
MLS has been working hard to bring up younger players. They have a new revamped academy program, Generation Adidas, and the second tier is working out well. Although not spectacular by any means, MLS is continuing to improve its level of play while putting out a watchable product with what it has now. The MLS has made great strides since its beginning. With high attendance, bigger sponsorships and TV deals, better players, and a good academy program the MLS has a promising future.