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11- The MLS does not link into popular matches enough with Clubs from other countries. A match between two popular clubs sold out the Meadowlands in the summer 02. The Metro Stars were nowhere to be seen. This crowd is connected to the huge NASL crowds of the late 1970s. They DO exist for soccer. Manchester United will tour the USA in summer `03 and I do not believe the MLS is involved. They should be! It can be done.
12- The NCAA is run by football and basketball coaches and they hate soccer.
Soccer needs the NCAA. Its the American way to build early player viability. Project 40 may get us some good young players, but it will keep them, and their college recognition, out of the newspapers. Thats not good for commercial viability. Football became the #1 sport through college player visibility / exposure. Americans value the NCAA sports world! It needs to become closer to the MLS and not opposed to it.
13- The MLS is in danger of creating the worst possible mistake of promoting itself as a Hispanic League.
Clearly the American suburbs is where all the grass fields are located. Kids play in their back yard (where they used to play basketball), and kids play for NCAA scholarships. (Project 40 would not be acceptable in my circle of friends from suburbia). Immigrant groups, from those other 200 countries, are the icing on the cake. I believe this is an undeniable fact of American sports life.
Fulfillment of this classic USA marketing approach will create major diversity in the stands. It would prevent games where the USA national team plays in a U.S. stadium where they believe they are the visiting team in a Latin American country. The MLS wont be commercial winners if this avoidance of core American soccer fans continues. Worse, the MLS will continue to struggle. I have sat in the Meadowlands when 78,000+ fans watched the Cosmos and 78,000 fans watched the USA womens national team. Those were very large events with all different/diverse people in attendance surrounding the core suburban audience which, as we all know, play soccer. Soccer the game and League marketing were not the reasons for the NASL failure.
14- American coaches have been under utilized by the important national and pro teams.
15- Soccer still lacks sufficient number of wealthy owners.
A league dominated by only 1 or 2 teams is a sure formula for failure. Competition is one of the two basic tenets for a successful professional sports league. When competition does not exist, fan interest will not materialize. Soccer needs more wealthy owners who can see future profitable growth through creating competitive teams with more USA National team stars.
16- Soccer needs owners who realize soccer is a 12-month a year sport.
17- Soccer has structural leadership problems. Clearly the NFL, MLB, and NBA/NHL are the role models, leaders, and rule makers for their respective sports in the USA. They are the top management in the organized pyramid of leadership. There is no such leadership in the USA for soccer! There is no single person or commissioner to whom all commercial aspects of the game look to for leadership. Soccer has always had the youth associations (there are 3 big ones), the USSF, the world organization FIFA, the NCAA (weak), the indoor pros, the outdoor pros and the evolving minor leagues who are trying to do it like Europe (Div. II, Div. III, etc.). Not one is in charge. They are rarely in the same place mentally. Its difficult to be unified because their self-interests often conflict and their goals are different. Add the phenomena of touring European Clubs who sell out the Meadowlands and the confusion deepens.
Needless to say, this confusion is rampant in the print press, the TV media, and the normal American sports fan. Soccer needs, in the near future, a Builder of Soccer. This is a person to whom all of soccer can look to for leadership, because that person only cares about soccers growth in the USA culture!
18- The MLS has ignored its soccer history in the USA.
In addition, the NASL League office had delivery of a national marketing plan for team cooperation. Marketing leadership was taken by the League and offered to the teams. The MLS does not seem to be doing this. Each team seems to be fending for itself. The League needs a marketing campaign that is today and edgy for all the youth and college age kids who play which can use this history. All the other Leagues have a sense of history, e.g. Old timer games, celebrity posters, Hall of Fame events, and promotions like greatest moments of baseball history. The MLS does not use its history.
Great care must be given to upgrading the MLS image, players, and structure to the media. The League needs to reach the normal American core sports fan and soccer participant who exists today. Waiting for the new world order will put teams out of business. Clearly, all the youth participants still do not go to MLS games!!
I believe soccer can attain solutions in the next 8 years. I believe the MLS can be the #3 Sport League by 2010 through engaging in positive directions/solutions to overcome the problems discussed in this document.