It seems like we’re getting used to the fact that sports leagues do what they want, and what they want is usually not in the interest of the fans. It’s almost always about control and profit, which directly contradicts the wishes of fans to see competition, accessibility, and the game we all remember that brought us here.
The MLS made a major announcement this past Friday that they would be leaving the US Open Cup, the country’s oldest soccer competition. This move is seen as a step towards becoming more integrated into the global soccer community rather than acting as an isolated entity, which they’ve been guilty of doing in the past. The decision has brought the MLS back to reality, reminding them that they cannot make decisions unilaterally when it comes to U.S. Soccer hosting the Open Cup.
As U.S. Soccer hosts the Open Cup, the MLS had to negotiate their intentions with them, and the results are clear. There is still a long way to go, and it remains unclear how U.S. Soccer would prevent teams from not fielding youth teams if they choose to when the competition begins next year.
The key word here is „choose.“ Whether LAFC or Columbus want to conserve their energy for the CONCACAF Champions Cup is up to them. We see this played out by teams worldwide as they prioritize which competitions to field their best players and pick where to rest their starting 11. However, if some teams want to take the competition seriously and try to win, because fans enjoy seeing their teams lift silverware, then they should also be allowed to do so. Perhaps it depends on the number of teams able to register for the cup and how the MLS can tailor it to their liking. There are certainly negotiations to be had.
Nevertheless, it was reassuring to see the MLS being called out for disregarding fan wishes, as well as the stubbornness of other leagues such as the MLB and NHL. Watching a league be put back in its place is a welcome sight.
MLS has not really cared much about what the fans want, to be honest, I’ve lost track over the years. There’s always a sense that MLS believes fans will put up with anything or that MLS fans don’t follow the sport from elsewhere in the world. The attempt to withdraw from the Open Cup was simply about keeping everything concerning MLS teams on Apple TV, where they can leverage profits. Don Garber can boast a lot about the league. It’s bigger than ever (it has to be if you have a Ponzi scheme! I’m just kidding, I’m making jokes. Maybe). It’s about to set an example for other, bigger leagues in terms of TV/streaming deals. It has prompted multiple cities to build soccer-specific stadiums/real estate deals that look cool on television and likely are nice for fans there, but certainly better for the owners who didn’t foot the entire bill and stand to take all the profits.
Perhaps Garber and his owner friends feel they don’t need to do much to market the game in the near future. Lionel Messi is already here. The Copa America and the World Cup are coming up in the next two and a half years. MLS can just sit back and ride the wave. That’s where they excel.
This might be the only time someone like Garber and MLS owners are asked to implement one of their greedy plans. Let’s hope it gets shot down.
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