Friday, October 2, 2009

What is MLS? The USMNT's Life Partner


Robert R Luker writes:

The MLS and Football in general is going in the right direction in North America. Because of this, MLS needs two things. First, they need to figure out what their goals are. I'm sure Don Garber has them written down, I would just like them to be more transparent to the public. Secondly, they need time. With time, I think the clubs will garner more fans, tradition, and money. Along with time I think the quality of play in MLS will slowly rise and eventually jump from the benefits of more youth playing high-level football. I never want to see MLS die because the USMNT needs the MLS, whether all 11 or none of their starting XI are playing in MLS. Unfortunately, that is another problem because unlike me there are a group of USMNT fans that are not MLS fans. The answer to how you make them MLS fans is beyond me, though.
This is the latter part of a longer comment from a Red Bulls supporter who feels that overall, MLS has a done an admirable job in slowly building the league since 1996. He pointed out that European leagues have had a one hundred year start on North America in the stable league department so there's no need to hoist the grand aspirations of restless fans eager for a competitive, internationally respected club competition onto MLS' tiny shoulders.

But this last bit struck me, and maybe more educated MLS writers will know, but has Don Garber actually laid out a clear, detailed vision for where he sees the league five, ten, twenty years down the stretch (outside of dropping a few hints willy-nilly about which North American city might be next in line to get a franchise)? And I mean outside the whole "we want to build the best, most economically viable soccer league North America can offer" bland reassurance stuff? Perhaps some sense of whether Garber thinks a soft cap might eventually be needed to help remove the training wheels (thanks for that, Ben)?

I was also struck by Luker's assessment of the USMNT's fan culture. It's been my experience that in Canada, you'd be challenged to find a Canadian national team fan who didn't also pull for one of Canada's three premier professional clubs. And bonne chance finding a Canadian CMNT supporter who exclusively watches European football; I could ring off in order the countries that would have to be eliminated from a World Cup before they'd pull on the CSA red.

But USMNT supporters who don't follow MLS? As the league slowly changes gears, introducing for the first time players out the academy system and moving away from collegiate football (as Match Fit USA wrote about recently) as a source of American talent, Major League Soccer's health and well being will be even more integral to US national soccer than before. Maybe a large portion of USMNT fans are Fulham supporters, I don't know, but they might start thinking about going local to get a sense of where the national team might be headed in future.

Over the next couple of weeks, AMSL will be examining Major League Soccer through a series of anecdotes, stories, and opinions, to help get a better sense of where the league could or should be headed in future. Please see this post for an idea of what I'm after, and please do send in something either to amoresplendidlife[at]gmail.com or in the comments section below.

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