The MLS monopoly that sits atop USA soccer is not necessarily founded and preserved by a lack of oversight from governing authorities – namely, the U.S. Soccer governing federation (USSF). The thinking here is that the federation either did not have the capacity, or was unwilling to prevent MLS capture of the USA soccer marketplace. This line of reasoning is a bit off base. It is important to understand this key truth when examining MLS’s position in the USA soccer ecosystem: the MLS monopoly over USA soccer is knowingly enabled and authorized by the U.S. Soccer Federation. USA soccer fans must realize that blame for USA soccer closed-system ineptitude rests 100% on the U.S. soccer federation. The 100% authority that USSF holds over USA soccer must also include the corresponding 100% responsibility.
The battle to free American soccer from harmful MLS control starts and ends with appeals toward USA soccer’s governing federation. The two possible scenarios are to reform the existing U.S. Soccer Federation from within through fan or FIFA pressure, or set up a replacement USA soccer federation and acquire official recognition from FIFA. The latter scenario seems to be the best bet for success at this point. The foresight of MLS in a wild-west USA soccer era was shrewd, and USSF did fall asleep at metaphorical wheel of governance, but the important fact is that the U.S. soccer federation has been captured through either payoff or infiltration, and U.S. soccer leadership is fully aware of this. The MLS tail is waging the USSF dog, so to speak, and USA soccer fans must now intervene to restore authority back to all USA soccer constituents instead of a select few.
This USA soccer market-capture dilemma follows the same pattern we see with truly harmful monopolies in other industries. The practice of regulatory capture, where one firm uses government as a puppet to protect itself from competition, rings familiar. Liberty and the free market are not bad at their essence. Problems arise in the free market when a government oversteps its bounds thanks to corruption or ineptitude. Do you blame private healthcare firms for simply taking advantage of the lobbying and bribery opportunities the U.S. government affords them? Of course not – the enabling governing officials are at fault. The solution for problems in the free market is not slapping on more regulation and restriction, but rather granting more freedom and autonomy. A government’s job is to be a watchdog and enforcer of fair market opportunity for its constituents, not to determine the winners and losers within the market.
We must understand USA soccer governance duties as well as MLS’s relationship to the U.S. Soccer Federation. Blame in this case must fall on USSF since it has ultimate authority to decide on the matter. Blaming a free USA soccer market for MLS’s capture of the USA soccer ecosystem is the same as blaming USA healthcare woes on a free market. Both are sourced from crony capitalism brought about by expanded government, not true capitalism. The U.S. Soccer Federation has decided that the MLS company is the winner and everyone else is the loser in the American soccer market competition. This is clearly a case of a soccer governing body fundamentally failing in its FIFA-mandated duty.
USA soccer players, fans, and clubs must understand that priority number one in the quest for USA soccer progress is appealing for change at the policy level of the ecosystem. It is not very productive to expend time and resources building in the USA grassroots when the MLS monopoly has power to hold a glass ceiling above and topple the build work of any club it sees as a threat. It is still commendable to build in the grassroots, but if you can only pick one task between building in the grassroots and speaking up for policy change, speaking up is the best choice. Power lies in the hands of USA soccer constituents. Silent hope is just the same as complying with failing and toxic USA soccer closed-system policy. The key to reform is building enough public pressure so that either USSF, FIFA, or the U.S. government is forced to act.
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