Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tackle Football Tempers Momentum of MLS

September swoons in sports have been historically associated with Major League Baseball teams. Depending on where you're from, you may have heard the words 'September swoon' as a representation of your baseball team's undesirable play in clutch time that can happen year after year. But, the term can now be applied to Major League Soccer, as its Tv ratings get set for the annual tumble.

MLS must improve on its Tv ratings in order to reach its goals. It wants to be considered as a 'Major League' sport in the U.S., but, arguably, it is 'Major League' in name only because not enough casual sports fans are tuning in.

So far this year, though, MLS has seen positive results when it comes to ratings. The 2016 season has brought MLS its best bunch of consecutive weeks of Tv ratings in its history even without primetime games. With new television contracts in hand and consistent scheduling, MLS has done an adequate job in pursuing and retaining viewership. What is not clear is whether new fans to MLS are soccer fans who have not paid attention to MLS in the past or if they are casual sports fans.

So, what is the cause for being sent off the sports map/the 'September swoon?' It's an easy answer: College tackle football and Professional tackle football. College football's opening weekend saw the most ranked teams lose in the sport's history. The NFL had six games decided by two points or less. The crowds for games were amazing, plus the images of fans tailgating, the fantasy football and the coverage by ESPN and talk radio just put tackle football over the top while baseball and soccer were sent to pick up the scraps.

It also looks like fans have already lost enthusiasm for coming to see games live. Announced attendance figures for MLS are very good, but the reality of attendance and perception on television is another thing. The New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution, Chicago Fire and FC Dallas all had paltry looking attendance for their home games this past weekend. These are four eyesores for MLS and the New England Revolution are still playing with football lines on the field.

I've advocated for a March to September season in which the playoffs would be winding down now towards MLS Cup or have already happened. Allowing for more substitutions would remedy any tight aspects to the schedule. This could be a solution for MLS, an attempt to not cross over the scheduling boundaries of tackle football or basketball.

Even the Legend's (Landon Donovan) return was sent to the back pages of sports sections. I suppose with MLS almost out of the picture for the last couple of weeks, we shouldn't expect too much media coverage for Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup final.

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