- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On May 2, 2008
- 6 Comments
I’ve been emailed this article by Charu Robinson by a few people today who wanted my reaction to it. Its based on the four factors that Robinson believe Major League Soccer needs to handle in order to become a success here in the States.
If you haven’t yet read the article, do so. The four items he lists are decent but I mostly think he is talking straight out of his ass about MLS. From what it sounds like, he believe the league can be a player in American sports and on par with the other main European leagues if they take care of these four things. Three of the four items are pipe dreams for the most part and probably will never happen anytime soon, if ever. The last as you will see is something Robinson is probably about 13 years too late on writing about.
I really feel as I read this article that Robinson is just another ill-informed or mislead writer about MLS. Its like he didn’t do his homework or he is just beating a dead horse here. MLS is not going to be La Liga or the EPL anytime soon. Those leagues have been around for decades, where as MLS is barely in its teens. To harp on a young league that is doing much better than most people would have predicted a decade ago seems a bit of a waste of his time and our own.
As you may have seen with some other sites today, I will break up each item and give you my thoughts on each. Feel free as always to pipe in your thoughts on this article. I’m sure most of you will disagree with Robinson’s thoughts on this subject.
1. American leagues must be on the same timetable as world soccer:
“…World soccer is from later summer to spring, while the MLS runs from spring until summer. American soccer cannot not elevate its status being separate from the world like this. Player transfers and team transactions cannot work with MLS being on a different schedule.”
“…If the league is an entire separate entity from major leagues…MLS is doomed to being an inferior, insignificant minor league.”
Okay, I know the age-old timetable question that most bring up about MLS. Sure things could be better but let’s face it the schedule in place is probably more efficient now than if it were lined up with the leagues in Europe. He makes it sound like transfers can’t be done for MLS but all he had to do was look at this past winter to know that transfers DO work for MLS and will continue to do so.
Also, let’s not forget that there are plenty of other leagues around the world that are on the same timetable as MLS. You don’t see FIFA getting all crazy over the Scandinavian leagues playing when they do. The clubs in those leagues may not be dominate in Europe but they do compete fairly well.
The biggest factor for MLS has to be when they are playing. Most of the clubs own their stadiums these days so scheduling conflicts aren’t as big of a problem as before. They could move to a different timetable for their games but they would more than likely lose revenue in the process if they had to go head-to-head with the NFL in the fall, and the NBA and NHL.
Its easier for MLS to have the timetable that they do now because of what they have to go against in terms of other sports here in America. In the summer they only have to face-off with MLB. I’d much rather see MLS take on MLB in the summer months and do well than have to face the NFL in the fall and early parts of the winter.
I won’t even take the time to go into the weather related issues of switching timetables here for MLS.
2. Same format as the world’s major leagues:
“The current format of MLS is based on the same model as other American sports. That is, there are divisions, a play-off system, and a championship game. This is not the format that FIFA’s major leagues use, and the MLS needs to change if it is to develop into a top league. A dream situation would be to have something such as the US Premier League, with a 20-team table, and sub divisions that use the relegation and promotion rules.”
“This is true soccer, the American sports format is not compatible with FIFA. America needs to use the modules that have made soccer the most popular sport in the world for years. If this doesn’t change then MLS will continue to be a minor American league with no chance for major growth. The relegation and promotion rules would inject more excitement into the sport because such a theme has never been used in American sports. Also, fighting for supremacy in one major large division would also generate new interest.”
I posted this whole number for a few reasons because if you aren’t going to read the article yourself you can get the highlights here.
I’ve had a lot of discussions with other soccer writers and fans over the years about a promotion/relegation system here in the US. I’ve pretty much been on the side that it will never happen in the US for many reasons. The most important reason being money.
Let’s face it, no owner is going to pump between $50 – $100 million for a team and maybe more for a new stadium to only get relegated to a lower division. No way, no how, no come. Seriously, that’s not how sports work here in America. It’s just not. Think about a new owner in New York who gets his expansion club in MLS and then learns that if they suck they will be relegated to USL1. There’s no way that would work.
Also, let’s point out something here. There are plenty of other leagues in the world, good leagues too, that use a playoff system. The Mexican leagues do. The Coca-Cola Champions League in England isn’t too shabby and they use a playoff system.
Another point, MLS won’t stop at 20 teams. Sure FIFA won’t like it but I can honestly not see MLS stop expanding at 20 teams. Its a pipe dream to some but let’s be honest, for this thing to work we will have to have more teams than 20. That also means no lower divisions with promotion and relegations.
Sure the theme of promotion and relegation would be interesting to sports fans here in America but in the end it wouldn’t do enough for them. Its a theme that most wouldn’t understand and more importantly get behind.
3.More importation of big international stars:
“Can you imagine the impact of Cristiano Ronaldo on the Red Bulls? Ronaldhino on the New England Revolution? Didier Drogba on FC Dallas? Wayne Rooney on DC United, Kaka playing for the Houston Dynamo? This may seem like a pipe dream, but it would be integral in the process of American soccer reaching its full potential. When the NASL had its glory days in the late 70s, it was largely due to the influx of international stars. For the US Premier League to reach similar heights this will be necessary. International stars plus the development of strong American-born players.”
Again, someone didn’t do their homework. Anyone remember why the NASL folded? Anyone? Yeah that’s right because of overpaid international stars. It was fun while it lasted but obviously as we can see it didn’t work. If it had worked then we would be talking about the Cosmos instead of the Galaxy today.
Look, its a pipe dream to see any number of those guys in MLS right now. It just won’t happen and really not too many of them would have the same effect on the sport here in the States as Beckham. As good as they are its true.
There is a reason why MLS isn’t going after these high profiled stars too. Its money. Sure they’d help the league out in a big way but would it help the owners pockets who had to pay for them in a big way? I doubt it in the end unfortunately.
4. Soccer-only stadiums:
“All US Premier League teams would have to host in soccer-only stadiums. This would legitimize the league, and not make soccer look like a secondary sport. The teams cannot be playing on fields with football yard line markers on it. It’s pretty self-explanatory to how playing in stadiums designed for soccer matches benefits a soccer league. There used to be stadiums in American that hosted baseball and football games, but this is no more. Every sport has a right to its own playing venue.”
Wow. Again, talk about not doing your homework before you write something. Last time I counted nearly all of the teams in MLS have or will have their own stadium within the next three years. That includes the two expansion clubs coming into the league in the next two years. Only New England wouldn’t have their own but I wouldn’t be too shocked if within the next six years they get their own.
The league has gotten better with stadiums that are soccer stadiums first and foremost. That we already knew. I guess Robinson was digging for four things and this was all he could muster up here. If he really wanted something to harp on why not tackle the pay of developmental players or the league’s salary cap overall. Or how about complaining about the fact that MLS changes its rules for certain clubs year after year.
I think this article had some interesting points but in the end it was mostly a waste by this writer. It came across as a Euro-snob to me and the league is already doing what they can to become a top league in the world. I really think this guy missed the boat on these issues and really question whether or not he follows the league for real or if he just was asked to write a report on the league for the fun of it.
Believe me MLS is much better than what this idiot made it out to be. Plus the whole US Premier League thing is bad. Sure the name ‘Major League Soccer’ isn’t great but I think it beats the hell out of US Premier League.