Monday, October 24, 2016

Can Five New Stadiums Push MLS to Mainstream?

Overshadowed by the NFL, college football, MLB playoffs and now the NBA, it's easy to understand how difficult it is for MLS to break through and reach mass amounts of casual sports fans. There was practically no mention Monday on sports talk shows of the regular season ending and the playoff match-ups set.

Accomplishing mainstream status is not a straightforward task for MLS and could take decades more of marketing the public for it to happen.

A great opportunity to send its message of how worthy MLS is as sports entertainment comes in the next two years, as five brand spanking new stadiums open. Orlando, Atlanta, Minnesota, D.C. and Los Angeles are all on target to rally soccer fans and create more demand than supply. But, even with converted sports fans coming over and supporter groups leading the way, there's still plenty of doubt whether mainstream will come soon after these stadiums are filled and games are under way.

The league will be at 23 teams, still seven teams short of matching the NBA, NHL and MLB, so there will still be a lack of national ubiquity in comparison to the mainstream leagues, including the NFL with 32 teams. However, this issue of mainstream seems to be more about respect than it does about plurality. Mainstream media don't seem to consider MLS topics to be any kind of sports talk topic of conversation.

One could say that there's too much other 'soccer' to talk about, like the European leagues, Champions league play, National team cups/qualifiers or 'Friendlies.' MLS gets lost in the soccer shuffle. I don't think this is the reason, though, because these soccer topics aren't sports talk fodder on Tv or radio anyways, unless it's a specific soccer show.

MLS hasn't sunk in far enough on the casual sports fan, still. That's the bottom line when it comes to the mainstream issue. The five stadiums will be a big positive for MLS, as people get charged up for the newness of the stadiums and word gets out for sports fans in these areas to go and see live MLS games.

It's all a process for MLS. These five stadiums are part of the process, a long, drawn out, generational process.

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