Soccer in the United States Needs More to Become an NFL Tier League
As the FIFA World Cup rapidly approaches in 2018 and the Major League Playoffs are only a short distant away, soccer in the United States is gaining more attention from the natural progression of the schedule. MLS is a rapidly growing league and there are projected to be an additional two teams added in the near future. Soccer is growing but that doesn’t mean it will be a top tier league in this country.
First and probably the most obvious is the competition globally. There is the English Premier League, which is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States. Soccer in Europe is an essential part of their lifestyle and it is almost native. The MLS continues to grow, but the excellent players that begin in the United States often go abroad.
The league needs to retain talent but in the current setting that is nearly impossible to do. That would be like saying you can play football in the Canadian Football League, make a solid living, or go play in the NFL and really elevate your game. There is no comparison and it is sucking talent away form a league that needs high level talent.
Next there is the issue of salary and how players are paid. In most other leagues it is a free market and players can be paid as much as they can warrant. Here in the United States, there is a salary cap. In most sports in the U.S., this works well, but in soccer it will only limit the growth of the league.
A free market will allow players who deserve high pay grades to obtain those. However, the downside risk is that a club will have more spending money than another. In a growing league, this could be detrimental and slow growth.
Lastly, there is the face the soccer in this country is not as popular as it needs to be. Some teams have no issues at all selling out a stadium. Others are having a more difficult time selling tickets and bringing crowds.
Soccer has made it to the national television level, which is fantastic. However, they much continue to progress and grow while they are on this stage. With the construction of soccer specific stadiums, it appears the league is in it for the long haul. Popularity is growing but there needs to be a larger following than there is now.
Major League Soccer in the United States has established itself as the real deal. Now the league has to grow and gain in popularity. Soccer is a global sport and it is no different here. In this case, I think slow and steady wins the race and Major League Soccer is living proof.