20 Things The MLS Can Improve On

20 Things The MLS Can Improve On

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On December 3, 2007
  • 4 Comments

I guess you could say I am starting the week off in a very hypothetical mood. Most of what you are about to read is purely wants and desires that I would like to see happen. I know some things will never change in the MLS and I am alright to a degree about that. Some things here will change, mainly because down the road the league will have to do things to accommodate certain parts of their game.

I urge you all to post your thoughts with this as well. Again, these are just things I would like the league to improve on. Some are realistic and some are just purely thoughts coming out of my head this morning.

Its kind of a long post but let me know what you all think.

1. The logo. – Okay let’s be honest, do any of us really like the MLS logo? I think the perception of the league abroad is somewhat low because of the cheesy looking logo that the league has. Maybe a good idea would be to get a league sponsor like what most major leagues have around the world. A new logo and maybe a sponsor would be a step in the right direction.

Along with a logo change I’d like to see the MLS finally buy ‘MLS.COM’ and get away from MLSnet.com. One problem I always hear from radio colleagues of mine is that when they want to do background info on the MLS that they go to the web and type in ‘mls.com’ and they get some real estate site and not the soccer site. The website itself is fine to a degree but they need to get the domain from that real estate company.

2. Broadcast Changes – One of my biggest problems with the MLS is who they have broadcasting their games. I don’t have a problem with the way they have ESPN and other media outlets paying for rights to have the games but I am more annoyed with who the MLS lets broadcast the game itself.

The Rob Stones and the morons at FSC constantly annoy the crap about of me when I watch/listen to a game. No wonder most Americans can’t take the game seriously; it is because they can’t stand to listen to whiny guys call a game. The color commentators aren’t anything great either but at least some like Wynalda aren’t too terrible unless he puts his foot into his mouth.

Lastly, if I were the Colorado Rapids I would get a new broadcast group, those two are the worst the league has. Sorry to single you out Rapids fans but those guys are terrible.

3. New Playoff Format – Most of you know I hate the current playoff format. Even having 8 teams in a 16 or 20 team league is too much in my book to make a playoff.
The league continues to try and make minor changes at the system. Next year it’s the top three from each conference and then two wild cards.

Still, I think the league is better served putting six in and giving the conference champions a real advantage for their hard work in the season, unlike what they do now.

This whole put in two-thirds of the league stuff just makes the league look pathetic sometimes to other people. The playoff games typically look lack-luster and aren’t offering good enough match-ups to make the league look legitimate to others.

4. Promoting SuperLiga – I said it last winter and I will say it again now. I like SuperLiga. And after going to a game this summer it made me like the tournament even more. The league did a pretty good job promoting it but I think we could use more. This is suppose to be a Champions League type of tournament (smaller scale of course) in the minds of SUM, USSF, and the MLS; so why not promote it like that.

5. Increase In Minimum Salary – This is something that has to happen and will happen before long. The days of $12,000 salary for development guys should be over before long. Even if these some of these kids fail to pan out, none of them should be paid what they are getting now days. The league minimum should at least be $35,000 if not a little more than that. I think the MLS is losing valuable guys out of college to the USL and other minor leagues around the globe because of this.

6. Better Player Development – This sort of goes with a salary increase for the development players but I really hope to see each club get to the point where they have youth academies, and they are all raising and fostering young talent of their own.

7. Slowly Phasing Out Drafts – I think once a good youth system is in place the MLS will have to phase out parts of their drafting process. The only time they will need a draft is for the college kids. I don’t think getting rid of the draft all together is a smart idea but slowly getting rid of Supplemental drafts should be a good start once each club has a solid youth system in place where they can sign their own kids.

8. Conference Format Improvement – For a while I was a guy that wanted single table in the MLS. I still do to a degree but more and more I believe the two-conference alignment is what the MLS needs to continue to do.

The US is too large to do a legitimate single table format just yet. Maybe once the league expands enough to have clubs in all major parts of the country (and Canada), and then this will be something that can be addressed in better detail. For now we just need to back off of it and embrace the current two-conference alignment. I just hope as the league expands that they don’t even go back to a stupid three-conference or division format.

9. Retro Days – With the originals at least and even down the road for some of the newer clubs. I would love nothing more than to have a retro day at the park between clubs like Dallas and LA or San Jose. Wouldn’t it be kind of fun to see those old ugly uniforms once and a while on the guys? Its always fun to look back on those days and I think the league is getting to be old enough to do a throw-back uniform day at the parks.

10. Expansion – Okay, here is the deal, I think the MLS will get to 18 clubs and stop expanding for at least six to eight years. I say that because they will want to see how the league grows in that time and if they can expand further in the US and Canada and not miss a beat. I really believe that before long the MLS will have at least 24 to 28 clubs in it (with no promotion/relegation format either).
I say that because I know this country is too large to have multiple divisions like England, Germany, Italy, Spain and the rest of them. Those countries have more divisions because of the size of their country, in other words they can get away with more in less space than the US can with more space.

Some of you will say that FIFA wants restrictions on how many teams are in a first division, but I doubt they will enforce that once the MLS grows in popularity. Let’s be realistic here, there will never be a promotion/regulation system in US soccer. That’s just now how professional sports are set up in the US to work. Most of us want it but it will never happen because of money.

You can’t tell me that promoting a club from USL-1 like a Richmond in-place of a last place club like New York (say they come in last place next year and Richmond wins the USL-1); you can’t tell me that people in New York would be happy that their club is playing in a league that has no media coverage (beside FSC and small market stations), while a small market club like Richmond gets promoted in their place. The money just wouldn’t make sense unless USL-1 clubs were on-par in the bank department as the MLS clubs were.

11. Give teams in the CONCACAF Champions Cup a break – Every year the MLS gets a team or two in the CCC and every year they have the same problem, they are only in their second or third week of training camp when they have to go play teams in the middle of their season. If the idea is to use this tournament to show how much the league has improved, then why tie their arms behind their backs? These two teams should be allowed by the league to start their training camps early to get in game shape. It should be an additional reward for doing so well in the previous season. This may also help the dead period those clubs have to go through at the start of the MLS season (ie see Houston and DC’s start in 2007).

12. Increased Salary Cap – We know the cap next season is going up by 4 percent or something around that number but think of the league was able to have each club spend $40 or $50 million as a cap. What made me think of this was seeing an article the other day about how the NHL was increasing their salary cap to nearly $50 million next year. Wouldn’t that be amazing to see the MLS at that level? I think there are owners with deep enough pockets to do that but it will be a while before we are at that level of spending.

13. Writing Rules in Ink not Pencil – Seriously, the MLS needs to stop dancing around certain rules and allowing some clubs like LA to get away with things from year to year. The constant change in rules needs to stop for people to take the league serious. Also, the MLS needs to stop bending over backwards for top players; you don’t see other leagues do that so why should the MLS make exceptions for players like Landon Donovan.

14. Marketing – The league has gotten better with this but some clubs still haven’t grasped the aspect of promoting their own club. More marketing and promotion only means more viewers on Thursday/Saturday and more butts in the seats.

15. Better Refs – One thing that drove me up a wall this past season was the quality of officiating in the MLS. Too many stupid yellow cards for dumb things.

I saw a few red cards for what was “abusive language” when nothing came about it in the play. Meaning, usually when there is “abusive language” there is probably a fight of some sort on the field; both times I saw this in the past season there was no fight. Just a random break in place and a red card to a player that seemingly did nothing. Sure he may have yelled out a bad word or two but was it enough to break up the play and card him? No.

The league needs to address their refs this off-season and improve them as much as possible. Lots of games too many cards as well that hurts a team more than anything else. Plus the playoffs were terribly officiated.

Maybe firing a guy like Brian Hall would be a start too.

16. Raise Awareness for the US Open Cup – Most teams packed it in for this tournament this year and that was sad. The US Open Cup should be something clubs want to do well in. New England and Dallas were the only was that showed up to play in it this past year and they were rewarded for it. Other clubs got embarrassed by USL clubs; something that shouldn’t happen at all in my book.

17. Let Clubs Travel Alone – I mean this in terms of chartering flights. If a club can afford it then let them do it. I think it is sort of dumb for a club to have to go through an airport when common Joe’s and all. Not that I don’t mind running into a guy from FC Dallas in DFW but I think it would raise the level of awareness that this is a professional league to players in the league. I think some right now feel they aren’t even in a top-flight league since they are treated like they are in college.

Hell, a lot of colleges charter flights to games. I know my school did because I flew with them to broadcast their games.

18. All-Star Game Format – I get annoyed from year to year that the MLS all-stars play some European club in pre-season form at the All-Star game. Sure it’s nice to beat a Chelsea but it doesn’t do anything for the MLS in my opinion. Either go back to an East-versus-West format or phase it out completely. I know it’s a very American thing to do but it’s not a soccer thing in my mind.

19. Odd Scheduling Days- I really think the league needs to address this soon, and it will happen more when clubs play in their own stadiums but I have never liked Monday, Tuesday, or Friday games. I can stand Wednesday games if there aren’t too many of them too. Also, in the playoffs I thought it was dumb how they scheduled things having games on a Friday night (even though Houston sold-out that game) and putting the eastern games on Thursday night. It looked stupid and came across like the MLS didn’t really care when the games were on.

20. Future Clubs – This goes with expansion but I figure I better throw out my list of future MLS cities, especially since I am calling for a league of 24 to 28 clubs in the future. Let’s see….along with Seattle in 2009 will be St. Louis. That brings the league to 16 by 2010 that they wanted. By 2012, Philadelphia and another New York will join the MLS and that is the 18 they wanted by then. By 2020, Portland, Vancouver, rebirth in Miami, Atlanta, Phoenix, and for fun Las Vegas. There is at least 24 there.

The MLS will then have two conferences with two divisions in each, still east and west. I thought about keeping it two conferences but after thinking about it, splitting them up seeings logical at that point and more than likely we will have to see it happen.

The east will have: DC, Philly, New York Red Bulls, New York (2), New England, and Toronto in one division; in the other would be with Columbus, St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, Miami and Atlanta.

The west would have in one division: Colorado, Salt Lake, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, and Las Vegas; the other LA Galaxy, Chivas USA, Seattle, Portland, San Jose, and Vancouver.

Sure this is all hypothetical and for fun but you can bet on St. Louis, Philly, another New York and maybe even Portland or Vancouver joining the leaguer sooner rather than later. I honestly don’t know about the MLS in Miami again or even in Atlanta at all but for this purpose I will include them in the future. They are large markets that will want teams down the road anyways I bet.

Again, somethings on here are realistic and some are not. Feel free to post anything that you can think of for the MLS to improve on.

  • Kevin

    I agree with most of your future clubs, but instead of Atlanta, Montreal. Given the success of Toronto, the size of the city, and the amount of French people there, I think it would make a great soccer city. Also, Vegas? Ehh. I see a Detroit or Minnesota team, or maybe Buffalo, before Vegas (Buffalo's only two hours from Toronto, so we'd have a great rivalry).

  • Kevin

    I agree with most of your future clubs, but instead of Atlanta, Montreal. Given the success of Toronto, the size of the city, and the amount of French people there, I think it would make a great soccer city. Also, Vegas? Ehh. I see a Detroit or Minnesota team, or maybe Buffalo, before Vegas (Buffalo’s only two hours from Toronto, so we’d have a great rivalry).

  • Rr

    Go list of 20.<br />
    I would also add: Play the Copa Libertadores of Americas and the South America Cup<br />
    <br />
    Mexican teams are already playing the South American competitions. It could help MLS teams to take their game to a next level and a increase visibility to the core views.

  • Rr

    Go list of 20.
    I would also add: Play the Copa Libertadores of Americas and the South America Cup

    Mexican teams are already playing the South American competitions. It could help MLS teams to take their game to a next level and a increase visibility to the core views.