On the Pitch with an American Novice: Focus on MLS

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. In last week’s “On the Pitch,” I gave the MLS a chance. I watched my very first regular season game and kept a diary of my impressions. I admit that I came into it with a fair amount of pessimism. I decided to dig a little deeper and find out what others are saying, whether avid soccer fans or those with a mild interest.

Upon some online literature, I found that MLS has been moving in the right direction. They’ve rid themselves of the Americanized rules which has enticed the traditional soccer fans. Now they face a more critical period to win over guys like me: American sports fans that respect soccer but have not committed (as of yet). So I asked myself, “How can the MLS win me over?”

I’ve thought about relegation, small market teams (I love that Philadelphia, ready to start play in 2010, is going to be playing in nearby Chester, PA and not the actual city of brotherly love. Brilliant move by the league), and even doing away with the whole conference scenario. They’ve already taken a few pages out of European soccer by having their own versions of the FA Cup and Champions League. The U.S. Open Cup involves all levels of American professional soccer teams. The only time I pay attention to my hometown Rochester Rhinos of the USL first division is when they play in this tournament, so apparently it works. Then there’s the CONCACAF Champions League, which pits North American, Central American, and Caribbean clubs against one another.

Rather than kid myself and analyze what the MLS is doing right and wrong, I’ll let others explain because in the words of Danny Vinyard, if “someone else has already said it best…. steal from them and go out strong.”

Lalas on Relegation
Alexi Lalas’ viewpoint of relegation and why it would not work in the MLS.

Why MLS WILL eventually adopt promotion and relegation
Conversely, one man’s opinion on why a relegation system with the USL would be possible. Be sure to browse the comments.

Why the MLS is on the right track
This article chronicles what the MLS is doing right and why it will continue to be successful. Be sure to browse the comments.

Why I can’t be arsed to care about MLS
The joy of relegation
Covers all football, foreign and domestic. Some great blogs on how the MLS can be more appealing (and competitive) and how relegation may help.

MLS needs to do more to benefit US soccer
What MLS is doing well right now
MLS – Going to the next level
Number of articles on the current state of the MLS and its progression.

Let me know what you think, whether an MLS fan or not. Can the MLS continue to make strides forward? What can it do to get those sitting on the fence to come over? Is relegation and promotion with the USL realistic?

(Funny the ramifications of just a little interest. Maybe my inquiry last week can manifest into a broadened appreciation of all things soccer.)

6 Responses to "On the Pitch with an American Novice: Focus on MLS"

  1. Casey   July 30, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Interesting how US soccer wants to control MLS – they don’t stand much of a chance being successful with that tact.

  2. Casey   July 30, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Reynell

    Top notch search efforts finding these articles. Sounds like the financial plan for many of these clubs is to build small and hope to grow. The idea of using smaller soccer-specific stadiums will help build a base and create a much better atmosphere at these games.

    While it is hard to accept the MLS all-stars beating Chelsea, Celtic, and West Ham as valid, it still makes for a nice headline. Speaking of that did you see the PK goal in the West Ham game?

  3. Reynell   July 30, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    That’s something I forgot to include. I love the all-star game format and the fans enjoy it. I think everyone is smart enough to know that the MLS all-stars’ record is not valid. I know lasrt year Celtic showed up without any of its top notch players. Hopefully they can keep making arrangements with UEFA and Champions League participants. I don’t remember the PK from that game; I watched most of it and saw that there is some top talent in MLS.

    The small market approach is the way to go to me. They have their big markets set with LA, NY, Chicago, NE, and DC United. They’ve had two franchises in Florida fold. I think Atlanta will be a terrible choice and perhaps anything south of DC. Keep inflitrating Canada, too. Toronto seems to be flourishing.

    Speaking of small(er) markets, the reason I love the Philly situation in 2010 is that they take the Philly name and play in a nearby affluent neighborhood that is probably thriving with youth soccer programs. There is no room for another professional team in Philadelphia (two hockey teams, arena football, lacrosse still? and of course your big four Flyers, Sixers, Eagles, Phillies). A stadium in that city is not going to draw a crowd because soccer is not popular there and the suburbians aren’t looking to travel to South Philadelphia to sit in traffic on I-676, pay $50 for parking, and temporarily fear for their lives. I mean, to me this is similar to the Rhinos when they were thinking about building in Greece. I’ve watched games at the new stadium on FSC and the sectional finals get more attendance than the Rhinos. Wouldn’t a move to Greece bring in the masses from the heartland of youth soccer? I think the biggest issue with a stadium there was parking, was it not?

    Then moving into a topic that both you and I love – relegation. The danger of the small market in MLS is growth: these owners are not going to invest in an MLS team who is in danger of being relegated to the USL and lose out on a lot of $$$. So it’s interesting to see these new markets like Philly (Chester, PA) and Seattle sell a ton of season tickets already. Plus the USL has some dedicated fan bases that could lend itself to a possiblilty of more small market teams (one of the articles mentioned Charleston, SC as having a hardcore fan base that could compete with major markets).

  4. yeri   August 2, 2008 at 1:59 am

    i love joanie

  5. Reynell   August 3, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    but Joanie loves Chachi

  6. Casey   August 3, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    wait – I thought Joanie dumped Cha-chi.

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