I think Kenn paints a fairly accurate view of the sport's potential in North America. Dreams of soccer becoming the most popular sport with the best league are likely just that for now: dreams. I'm not convinced this will always likely be the case; it's folly to assume sporting culture will remain static, even in a place like America. But soccer is at the bottom of a very large mountain, wearing shorts and a fanny pack.
While there is a lot to discuss among Kenn's answers, I want to focus for now on his answer to my penultimate question:
>>>And is single-entity a good platform to build wider support for soccer in North America?I want to emphatically echo Kenn's answer here. Let me come clean: I think that the single-entity league structure is probably the best option for MLS in an unstable and soccer-unfriendly market. I very much agree with Kenn when he writes that "cost containment has absolutely been key." But I think that critics of some of the "unintended consequences" of the league's emphasis on absolute, centralized spending parity have been unfairly blamed for wanting to overturn single-entity altogether and introduce a European-style ownership system where club investors run the whole show.
That's a big one. I'm not sure it matters. Among some rabid fans/conspiracy theorists, single entity is blamed for everything but H1N1 - partially because it's trendy or easy to do so (B follows A, therefore, A caused B).
I have no doubt it's been a great platform to keep a professional Division I league alive this long. As I mentioned above, "single entity" doesn't mean as much as some would like to think it does. Cost containment has absolutely been key. The (perhaps) unintended consequence has been (arguably) too much parity. Some argue that you need a Superclub to spice things up, and MLS rules and regulations stifle that. Others say we don't want an EPL-type situation where the top four are obvious to everyone from Day 1. The answer, as with most things, lies somewhere in the middle. There's probably a way to loosen some things up so that you can create some teams that are more memorable than what some would call the "mediocrity" of what we currently have - but you're almost inevitably going to have some shockingly bad teams, and that's not good, either.
The notion that any team can potentially win is seen as a good thing by many. Others disagree. I'm not sure there's a good answer.
As much as Kenn is correct about the "rabid fans/conspiracy theorists" blaming single-entity for everything, there also exists the mirror image of MLS' defenders being completely deaf to any discussion about improving on the present model. I think there are ways of rewarding clubs whose operator/investors have managed to turn a decent profit pay into the MLS pot without upending the whole thing and having the league crumble like the NASL.
Even though some NASL backers were spending ridiculous amounts of money, like $4 million for Pele's signature (which arguably led to a sold out Giants stadium), the league died in large part because it expanded too quickly (in part because team owners wanted a piece of the centrally-distributed expansion fee). I don't see how introducing something as simple a turnover-based team salary cap, or enacting some sort of revenue-based allocation, will end up swallowing MLS whole. I agree with Kenn that there is a happy middle ground, and I don't think MLS is there yet.
So why the Duane hatred from MLS single-entity proponents? I could be wrong but as far as I know, he's not a free-spending, debt-enamoured radical; I just think he wants some openness to the idea of opening up the league to rewarding investor/owners for operating at a profit for spending a bit more on players. Ditto many other MLS bloggers. Single-entity, as a notion, is probably good for professional soccer in America right now, but I'm not sure there are simple final answers to every question about improving the present model.