Many soccer fans may be aware that top level professional soccer in the United States is on the brink of a strike. A strike now could be very detrimental to the progress of soccer at all levels in the U.S. Back during the heyday of the NASL, the American born players tried to strike without the support of the International players; that attempt coupled with the free-spending New York Cosmos brought an abrupt end to the NASL.
One of the best things the NASL did was start a youth soccer boom in this country that continues today. Soccer has one of the highest levels of participation in both youth and adult sports in the United States. Striking now will damage what minimal gains have been made turning these participants into paying fans.
If the players strike, this will be the end of MLS. The investors have recently come out in the newspapers and have hinted that they will take their money elsewhere if a player strike happens. Soccer has grown steadily in the last fifteen years, with a few minor bumps along the way (contracting Tampa Bay and Miami). The success of expansion in the last few years, starting with Toronto in 2007, Seattle last year and Philadelphia this year has investors foaming at the mouth to a get a franchise in their city. The future did indeed look bright for this young league.
While I do not know all of the details, it seems that for the growth of the league and sport in the U.S., the players need to give in a little to the owners. The league is young and still growing. Everyone has to remember that the MLS cannot be the English Premier League over night. Top level soccer in England has almost a 100 year head start on MLS. Single entity may not be the best thing, but it has worked thus far for a sport that gets no respect in the United States from the casual sports fan. This type of set-up is what the sport needs for the foreseeable future to continue the slow growth model that has the sport turning the corner of respectability. Without single entity, I doubt MLS would have sixteen teams, there would only be seven or eight teams. Very few teams have made a profit since the league was founded.
Yes, the players at the bottom end of the salary scale made little, but they chose to pursue soccer as a career. Most players in MLS have a college degree and decided to go a different route. Without Phil Anschutz there would be no league. He has spent hundreds of millions on the league and it is probably safe to say he has yet to see a good return on his investment. If he didn’t love the game he could see a better return spending his money elsewhere.
In summary, for this Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) the players need to give a little for the good of the game. The players may have more leverage in four or five years. The leagues future could be very bright with expansion, television coverage and more sponsors. Not to mention that little tournament this summer that could bring more exposure to MLS, especially if the United States does well.
What do you think?