Monday, September 29, 2008

MLS 2.0: Not Much Hope.

American Soccer Spot had these comments about the word out of the owners meeting in Chicago amoung the MLS honchos.

That Don Garber isn't getting the problem is a sign that someone new needs to come into the game's leadership.

There are three problems with MLS, all of which can only be fixed by taking a good, long hard look at the league's structure.

1. Fixture Congestion for the top clubs. Right now, the only MLS club that is handling the fixture congestion is the two time defending Houston Dynamo. I think Dom Kinnear has done a wonderful job with his club, but he hasn't had the injury problems that New England, DC and to a certain extent Chivas has suffered this year. Injuries suck and that is part of the game. However, DC United probably won't make the MLS playoffs and won't advance in the CONCACAF Champions league because for the next four weeks, they will play 2 or 3 matches every 8 days. Simply put, the League has done nothing to help these clubs who are "rewarded" with international play, by doing a little more front loading of their schedule or otherwise working with the teams to give them a fighting shot at these international competitions.

2. Roster size limits are killing the clubs. At this point, the MLS roster freeze essentially says to teams on the verge of the playoffs, "this is all you get" and no ability to replace an injured player who won't be able to play the rest of the season. That means developmental players and that means poor game quality.

3. Expansion is overly ambitious. Game quality is suffering because the talent pool is not deep enough to justify an 18 team league. Seattle starts up next year and Philly the year after. Then MLS needs to stop expanding. Yes, I would love to see a club in St. Louis and I would love to see a club in Miami, or Vancouver or whereever. But what I really want to see is quality soccer. I harbor no illusions about MLS coming close to a Eurpoean or even the Mexican League any time in the future. But for cripe's sake, the shambolic nature of play does not attract the casual fan to become a club supporter because the quality of play is not there. Solidify the league, get each club with its own stadium or at least sharing a bigger portion of the stadium generate revenue (see Seattle and Qwest Field) so that these clubs can have an operation in the black and the ability to pay a larger squad a living salary.

A number of these problems come down to money and I get that Garber has helped the league avoid a financial meltdown. But at this stage, the most knowlegeable fans in the United States are not going to turn out for games unless the MLS starts acting like a top tier domestic league.

1 comment:

Starting11 said...

You make an important point right at the end. The novelty of MLS has long worn off and right now, its core audience are football fans, not the casual fan. Hardcore fans know a lousy product when they see it, and putting second-tier football on the field isn't a robust business model. Need to look no further than New England, one of the best teams in one of the country's most immigrant-rich areas, and attendance has steadily declined. These folks know football, and they're not falling for this.