Another MLS season is among us, and yet again, the mainstream sports media world couldn't care less. There's more coverage of MMA-UFC 196 and the captivating, surprising losses of Conor McGregor and Holly Holm than any story lines for MLS opening day.
While I believe and most U.S. soccer pundits and writers believe that MLS is a respectable league with some interesting rivalries, mostly revolving around the Galaxy and Sounders, the needle doesn't seem to move year to year in terms of excitement from the mainstream media. I judge this from watching plenty of ESPN shows and listening to national radio sports talk. Let's not forget, ESPN has a vested interest, so one would think it's plenty fine to incorporate MLS into their shows (like Pardon The Interruption or Around The Horn), but rarely is MLS featured.
MLS is moving vigorously to add more teams and advertisers are already on board with the league. But, the U.S. pro soccer league doesn't seem to be able to move past the 'niche' label. The sport has its challenges in reaching the masses level. And, while it's not the only sport with challenges to meet the masses, those masses of fans don't appear to be anywhere on the horizons. MLB is doing well in its local markets, but not that well, nationally. It's safe to say, the NHL is also a niche market, similar in many ways to MLS.
At every turn, on the national sports calendar, MLS has its competitors. College basketball's March Madness finds success every year. And, the Masters golf tournament has just become a juggernaut again with its new blend of young champions.
Then, there is the issue of other leagues besides the most well-known ones that are helping to diminish the role of MLS in the world. The Chinese professional soccer league is making waves by signing players that could have played in MLS. And, it certainly doesn't help that all the MLS teams lost to Mexican teams in CONCACAF Champions League, thus giving Liga MX the edge over MLS in terms of superiority (Yes, the scheduling is not perfect, MLS hadn't played any games yet, but the games weren't even all that close and an MLS team has never won the title since its inception.)
Really, it's the hundreds, maybe thousands of dedicated, independent soccer bloggers and podcasters that are most responsible for keeping the spirit of MLS alive and rallying the fans. Without them, the situation for MLS would be a lot worse off.
But, even with all its fans and bloggers, MLS can't and won't shake those Warriors and its phenomenal leader, Steph Curry. The unprecedented run by the Dubs will continue to dominate sports headlines for another three months. This is MLS' reality.