The Future Looks Bright For The MLS
Major League Soccer also know for short as the “MLS” was founded in 1993, as part of a bid for the US to host the 1994 world cup. The league began in 1996 with a total of 10 teams, and many critics did not give the league a chance of survival from the start. Twelve years have passed, and Major League Soccer is still alive and kicking.
The league has expanded to 14 teams, 13 in the US and 1 in Canada since ’96. Major League Soccer will continue to expand to 15 teams next year (Seattle), then to 16 teams in 2010 (Philadelphia). The league also plans to bring another team to Ottawa, Montreal or Vancouver in the near future, and with more expansion expected, the league plans to search for more foreign players to fill out its rosters.
In 2007 the league made international soccer news, as the LA Galaxy signed England international star and former captain David Beckham. The league has showed its dedication to grow and attract the world’s top international talent with the introduction of the “Beckham Rule”. The rule allows any team to sign any player to any amount of money it so chooses and that player’s salary will only count as $400,000 against the league salary cap. So soccer fans across North America can be excited for the potential of proven world class players playing for their home cities.
MLS attendance in 2008 on average was 16,219. LA and Toronto had the highest average season attendance with 25,904 and 20,237 fans attending games respectively. When comparing these figures to the NHL, whose average attendance in the 2007/08 season was 17,265 and the NBA, whose average attendance in the 2007/08 season was 17,141, it is evident that soccer is not far behind in popularity. Even more impressive is when you compare the MLS attendance to those of leagues across the world.
Soccer Leagues Attendance
• Germany Bundesliga…………37,771
• England Premiership…………33,893
• Italy – Serie A…………………..25,805
• France – Ligue 1……………….21,392
• Netherlands – Eredivisise…..16,257
• Scotland – SPL………………….15,659
• US – MLS…………………………15,108 (16,128 in 2006)
• Brazil – Campeonato………….13,630
• Potugal – Super Liga…………..10,624
Of course we must keep in mind the amount of teams, games and ticket prices when comparing these figures, but considering how long many of these leagues have been in existence, the MLS is not doing so bad.
I am a Toronto native, and I have seen firsthand the potential soccer in North America when introduced in the right marketplace. The Toronto stadium simply does not have the capacity to meet the demand of the fans that want to catch a weekly game of “footy”. This may be due to the fact that Toronto has a large population of people with European, South American and Eastern Europe backgrounds, where soccer is the most popular sport. Therefore the MLS should focus on bringing their product to areas with the same ethnic backgrounds, where fans already understand that passion and beauty of the game.
Although it would be unrealistic to expect the MLS to be as successful or popular as the NFL or MLB, the future looks bright for Soccer in North America, and it looks like investors are seeing the potential for future growth and revenues.