American Soccer Has an MLS Problem

It is time to STOP blaming USA soccer struggles and failure on USA soccer fans or the sport of soccer itself.

The typical, tired lines are spouted and recycled over and over:

  • “USA doesn’t have enough soccer fans”
  • “USA doesn’t have a strong soccer culture”
  • “Soccer is new in America”

Understand that soccer is already HUGE in the USA. Why?

  • 24 million total soccer players (2006 FIFA census)
  • #1 wealth and infrastructure among world nations
  • Packed stadiums for foreign club and national team matches
  • High U.S. TV ratings for foreign club and international matches
  • Soccer (amateur and pro) has existed for over a century

USA has all of the ingredients of a world-class soccer nation, but it is simply not utilizing them correctly. USA’s domestic club competition is very unpopular, and its club and national team player pool is mediocre at best.

Chief blame for USA soccer mediocrity must rest on the occupant and key holder of USA’s club soccer ecosystem: Major League Soccer (MLS). 

We must understand that MLS is structured as one single club (or company), and the U.S. Soccer governing federation has given it exclusive and unassailable control of the USA soccer division 1 sanction. This is the equivalent to the English Football Association handing exclusive control of its division 1 sanction to one single club like Manchester United. Sounds ludicrous, right? This is the reality in the current U.S. Soccer ecosystem.

One single club sits in USA soccer division 1 while millions of people and thousands of clubs outside of division 1 are starved of opportunity. MLS might absorb a few groups if they fit its business model and pay a $200+ million franchise fee.

The best measuring stick for MLS success or failure are its TV ratings. How does MLS stack up?

That’s right: MLS is grabbing a tiny slice of the total USA soccer market, and that slice is shrinking!

MLS did capture a larger USA soccer market share in its early (Mid-1990s) years, but ever since America has been exposed to authentic, global soccer on a wide scale thanks to the proliferation of mobile and TV technology, MLS market-share has consistently decreased.

Closed-system soccer is NOT authentic soccer and the smart American soccer public knows this (see TV ratings above). Real club soccer is about inclusion and opportunity. All communities and clubs deserve a fair chance to earn a place in the pinnacle of USA soccer based on sporting merit. The current MLS-centric model attempts to shove global soccer into a U.S. franchise sport box.

Why does America continue to give the failing MLS model a monopoly over American soccer?

Have your say in the comments below!

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  1. In January 2018 Hope Solo submitted a complaint about USSF’s conflicts of interest regarding MLS and SUM to the USOC. It makes for good background reading on the topics discussed in this post. It also makes me wonder if Solo was blackballed for being involved in media-hyped “scandals” about her attitude and volatile nature, or because she was agitating to reform USSF and MLS in a way that would upset the financial status quo and cut the flow of money to American soccer’s current leaders and owners.


    Full document:


  2. I agree 100%. Really, I do.

    The problem we don’t have Pro/Reg is simple. In the American mind it’s all about the $$$’s. So if your playing in a football stadium and only getting 15K crowds….get the city to buy you a new stadium. Not is a top TV market? To Bad!!!

    This is why Miami is still getting a team although Becks and company can’t produce shit for years.

    The Billionair’s don’t want to lose their prestige or franchise fees. Besides it works in other markets! Look at Football! Look at Baseball!

    Plus honestly the MLS really isn’t putting on that great of a product on the field. I would love to see a team play all American kids and let them develop. Instead I’m seeing good English Championship level play week after week. I can go see my two favorite USL teams (Go Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Tampa Bay Rowdies) play at or near that same level live for 1/2 the cost.

    Sadly neither team will really be allowed to develop past that level.


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