Major League Soccer: Why the MLS is suffering
The MLS, also known as the “Major League Soccer” is a soccer league based in the U.S. and parts of Canada. It consists of 24 teams, spread all over North America, in cities such as Los Angeles, Columbus, Atlanta, Portland, Montreal and many more. The league was formed back in Dec. 1993, and at the time, consisting of only 10 teams.
Ever since the league was formed, the popularity of soccer has increased in the U.S. However, many people chose to watch European Soccer, or football, because the MLS was a lot different, and the fans weren’t huge on that. On the bright side, the MLS has made several changes to their league to make it much better.
Over the years, the MLS made changes in order to make the gameplay and style of American soccer more like the ones in Europe. For example, The MLS changed the size of the playing field from 50x100 yards to 70x110 yards. The MLS also changed the way time is taken during a game. Instead of counting down from 45 minutes to zero, it was changed to count up, like in Europe. Another major change was the transition from a 35-yard shootout at the end of the game if it was tied to letting teams tie against each other in regular games.
Even though the MLS is changing their style in ways that almost everyone likes, it is still suffering compared to European Soccer. Some may be wondering why that is. From a fan and former soccer players standpoint, there are quite a few reasons.
One of the big reasons why the MLS isn't as popular as European soccer is because of other sports in the U.S. Since the MLS didn’t appear until around the 90’s, it wasn't able to get the same spotlight as other sports in America, such as football, baseball, hockey and basketball. The MLS is currently ranked fifth in the most popular sports in America.
Another reason the MLS is struggling is due to financial issues. First of all, the MLS is not going bankrupt, nor is it poor. The MLS simply doesn’t bring in the same amount of revenue as the European teams, causing the amount to spend to be lower.
In soccer, spending is a key necessity. Money is needed to buy players, managers and many other aspects in the game. With less money clubs have, the less high-quality players and managers they can afford, causing players to not want to play there due to lower wages and causing fans to not watch the MLS because of the lower quality games.
Another reason on why the MLS isn’t as big as other European leagues is because the league is also set up differently than other leagues. The big European leagues run their seasons from August to May, whereas the MLS runs its seasons from March to October, causing many people to not even realize the MLS season is going on, outside from Americans.
The final reason also goes along with how the league is set up. Unlike many other European leagues, the MLS does not have a relegation or promotion system, which allows teams from other leagues to rise up in the leagues, or be relegated to a lower league. Adding this concept would give smaller teams from leagues like the USL (United Soccer League) in the U.S. the chance to enter the MLS, upping the competitive attitude in American soccer and making the aspect of the MLS competitiveness more interesting.
Overall, the MLS isn’t much compared to major European leagues, but nonetheless, it's a good starting league for the U.S. and it still brings in decent revenue and viewership for a soccer league in a country where soccer isn't as popular as other countries.