I’m not one to say, “I told you so”…well, maybe I am. But in this instance, I’m just glad I was right…well, sorta.
Back in ’96 when MLS started, the big sales pitch from those in charge was that there are so many immigrants from other countries here that a professional league was needed. I guess they believed fans would just flock to stadiums with any version of the sport put on the pitch in front of them.
The money men must have been thrilled with the almost 70,000 that showed up at the Rose Bowl on opening day. However, those types of numbers have been the exception as the league has struggled to gain a foothold in this country while events like the Champions League Tour has often sold out the largest stadiums.
My theory has been that while they attempted to appeal to the masses here by “Americanizing” the sport with the counting down clock, shootout tiebreaker and other tweaks to the game, they managed to lose the majority of those fans who follow leagues in other countries. In short, MLS just made things more complicated than they had to be.
So, I was surprised to read some resent comments from Don Garber.
“At some point, with more stadiums and more control of our playing environment, it’s conceivable we’d align with the international soccer calendar. I don’t see any reason why soccer fans won’t go to games in the winter any more or less than [American] football fans go to games in the winter. So it’s not a matter of if, but when.”
Ok, so maybe he’s attempting to do more than is really needed here. Personally, I like having MLS in the summer and Euro leagues in the winter…but that’s me. In order to be in line with the international calendar, all that’s really needed to is take weekends off when there are international matches and take a break during the World Cup every four years. But who am I to argue?
Thing is, Garber is also talking about a single table and win bonus’ for players. That’s further steps in the right direction. With the addition of reserve teams this year, things are looking up. Over the years, I’ve come to hate the fact that the Galaxy will trade players who’ve had little to no playing time in LA only to become stars at a team that did allow them on the pitch. Now that these players will get a few games (beyond friendlies and early round Open Cup games) perhaps we’ll see even more talent get the chance to shine.
So, the league is heading in the right direction…slowly, but I’ll take it. It’s good to be right…eventually. Perhaps some of those fans that were turned off will start to recognize the league as something more in line with the rest of the world.
Speaking of attendance, will Real Salt Lake have a better attended home opener than Chivas?