Thursday, January 10, 2013

Will Beckham's Departure Mean Decline in MLS Relevance?

How important was David Beckham to Major League Soccer?  Was he so big that the sport will suffer without him?

During the offseason, MLS has made almost no noise to get the attention of sports fans.  It's just crickets for MLS.  (Exception:  One huge credit goes to MLS for hosting Soccer night for Newtown, Ct. children.)

It seems every offseason, MLB, NFL and the NBA are making all kinds of moves and are somewhere in the media spotlight.  Whether it's baseball's winter meetings, football's rules committee or basketball free agency, something seems to always be going on for fans to relate to.

American Soccer fans have to be disappointed to have reached the end of the line with Beckham.  He was producing and he made a significant difference in attracting fans to MLS.

Mission Accomplished: Beckham is Pele's Equal.

So, what is there to look forward to in MLS, from a national standpoint?

Fans in Seattle are going to be excited every time there's a home game.  This is a given.  There are some fun American players to watch around the league, including Zusi of KC and Wondolowski of San Jose.  Donovan may come back and prove yet again he is still relevant and exciting.  Also, Thierry Henry can be downright brilliant at times with quick and unexpected plays.

How far will MLS sink without Beckham?  The 2013 season will be a season of adjustments.  Life after Beckham will probably mean a dip in attendance and in Tv ratings.  It would be hard to believe MLS Tv ratings could go further into the abyss, but it is likely to happen.

The league wants the public to think it is stable and can take a punch/kick to the gut, like Beckham leaving.  But, reality and past history are hard to ignore.

No New MLS Teams till 2016; New Jersey Red Bulls as An Alternative?

The reality is that MLS still is on the cusp of becoming mainstream.  It hasn't made it yet.  And, the NASL from the late '70's and early '80's went defunct shortly after Pelé and other stars had retired from the league. 

Sports in America are built on star power.  It's just how it is.

MLS needs more stars.  It did well with Beckham.  Now, it must make bids for others.  This is a recurring theme.

Lessons will be learned in 2013 and if the product can't be improved, 2014 will provide one more chance to figure things out.

1 comment:

  1. I think Beckham was even more successful that Pele in US Soccer. I honestly think that Galaxy, Sporting KC, Red Bull, Portland and Sounders are world-class, or near world-class clubs, capable of acquitting themselves in international play. That being said, MLS still has a long way to go and star-power can only get you so far. The MAIN problem is one of youth development. So long as serious players continue to waste their early careers in the NCAA, we will never get to the next level. "Pay-to-Play" youth clubs have GOT TO GO! Sporting has the right idea, Club Academies. Get them under contract as young as possible and let them train and develop full-time without pressure to win meaningless tournaments right away. The Second Division needs serious attention as well. An economically viable second division, where players can earn a living training and playing full time, at least for part of the year is ESSENTIAL to maintaining a top flight First Division. Just ask ML Baseball. The NCAA is great for Basketball and Football, but utterly, contemptibly, disastrously unfit for development of Soccer talent. We'd be better off sending them to Europe or South America to train than at any University Soccer program in the U.S. In due time, the US will be a true power in World Football, but not until we address things from the bottom-up as well as the top-down.