The Case for the MLS

By | February 25, 2018

Soccer in America has long struggled to build a dedicated fanbase. For decades, American sports has been dominated by the “Big Four” professional sports leagues: the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball association and Major League Baseball. Unlike in most other countries, America’s athletically gifted youth often grow up playing with a basketball or football instead of a soccer ball, and as such our best talent is funneled into non-soccer sports. But times are changing. Major League Soccer is about to enter its 22nd season with 23 teams, five more than existed in the league in 2015. Soccer in America is making a resurgence.

Major League Soccer, to put it lightly, has struggled to appear competitive on the international stage. Star players are rare to come by, and it is even rarer to find them playing in their prime. However, the MLS has recently begun pouring large sums of money into youth development leagues and facilities, investing over $30 million a year in the hopes of developing home grown talent. With ambitious youth activism policies and a growing fanbase, signings of star players may soon be commonplace.

Although talent is sometimes an issue, attendance problems are starting to fade in the MLS. Five new teams have recently been added to the league, with several new soccer-specific stadiums being constructed for their use. In addition, average per-game attendance recently surpassed 20,000 people, a higher number than either the NHL or NBA can tout. Although television ratings continue to struggle, new contracts between the MLS and ESPN hope to amend the viewership issue and grow the sport.

Every passing year, the case for following the MLS and treating it as a serious soccer league grows stronger. With their 22nd season opening in less than a week, MLS fans should be excited for better players, new stadiums, and a larger fanbase in years to come.

2 thoughts on “The Case for the MLS

  1. Noor Tasnim

    I would hesitate to say soccer is making a resurgence in a nation that failed to qualify for the World Cup. I think there is a lot to be said about the USSF’s management of funding in recent years with such a failure. I agree that more money should be put into youth development leagues, but how would we use that money? By expanding youth leagues, I think they would still be accessible to more affluent families that can afford having their kids play the sport. One of the major reasons for the success of the NBA and NFL is the accessibility of basketball and football in regions of low and high socioeconomic statuses. You don’t see kids trying to use soccer as a way to leave their neighborhoods because of the high costs associated with playing the sport and traveling. If more funding is allocated towards subsidizing the costs of playing soccer, more youth of various backgrounds could engage in the sport and could be funneled into the MLS. With the MLS developing more talented youth, impressive international players would be more likely to join the league as well, making it more competitive.

  2. Michael Olson

    It seems like there are two ways to grow soccer in the US, and I just worry if there’s enough money going to either of them. One option could be to buy out a bunch of European stars, but that’s no cheap task to the point where this isn’t that good of an option. The other option, as you point out, is to invest in homegrown programs. $30 million a year is a lot of money, don’t get me wrong, but is this going to be enough for a change? I mean how much money was Neymar bought for? $200 million or something? Progress is definitely being made, but there’s still a lot more progress to make.


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