Sunday, January 25, 2015

What About Promotion 'Without' Relegation for MLS?


After reading 'The Lingering Problem that MLS Must Address' from Yahoo! Sports, I came away thinking, "great read, well said and pretty much encompasses entire problem for pro soccer becoming more mainstream in the U.S."  (I've also written extensively on the topic in the past on a few different occasions-Click here for one of them.)

The Yahoo! article touches on every facet and every challenge that MLS must overcome to create a sensational league that will demand the attention of U.S. sports fans.  The author concludes that the singular option to bring MLS to the forefront of American sports theater is to bring in the most talented players in the world and pay them handsomely. Generally, this opinion is agreed on by American soccer fans.

So, if the MLS infrastructure is not ready to pay the best players in the world, is there any other method that would improve Tv ratings, according to the logic set forth from the Yahoo! article?

My thoughts are that the only other possibility would be some kind of form for promotion/relegation.

Tv ratings are the critical element for pro soccer to succeed at the highest level in the U.S.  Finding a solution to improving these ratings won't just magically appear.  It will either take the best players in the world coming here in numbers or some kind of marketing blueprint-such as promotion without relegation.

I've written before in 2012 that a Minor Leagues Cup could be an interesting formula for allowing one team from the minor leagues to play in MLS.  This idea had its genesis when MLS was trying to figure out its 20th team to join the league.

Sticking along those lines, what if there was a Minor Leagues Cup towards the end of every soccer year dedicated to filling one spot to play the following season in MLS.  Of course, MLS has the complete understanding for this objective and is welcoming the team in for the season with all of the same amenities given to the other MLS clubs. The Minor Leagues Cup winner plays out the entire MLS calendar with a chance to win MLS Cup and/or the Supporters' Shield.

This strategy for a Minor Leagues Cup is not an overly difficult one to carry out.  It's much more simpler than the complete ideal of promotion/relegation and could be wholly more agreeable for MLS owners to deal with.

If fully embraced by MLS, these minor league teams would have so much to play for that the Minor Leagues Promotions (USML) Cup itself could provide an additional spark to the soccer calendar and even end up getting its own Tv deal.

At this point, this is all just a thought, and many more details would need to be ironed out.  The main issue would be which teams would be participating in the Cup because the teams would need to be able to handle the sacrifice if they were able to win.  (Also, the team would need to rely on the fact of going back to its regular place in its minor league after the one year in MLS is over.)

Why could this be a marketing coup and why might Tv ratings go up?  In sports, we all love the underdog and this gives MLS an added story line to watch all season long.  From a marketing perspective, it could be the jolt MLS needs until those 'best players in the world' finally start arriving.

This article was originally posted January/2015

Readers may also enjoy:

What Year Will MLS Be the #1 Watched Sport in the U.S.

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