Since its inception, Major League Soccer was considered to be some sort of footballing taboo. After all, the growth has been minimal at best due to a number of different factors. This is in spite of the fact that MLS did attract some well-known players back in the NASL. Known as the North American Soccer League, its heyday came in the 1970s when the likes of Pele as well as George Best were gracing its pitches.
Fast forward to today and there is no denying the fact that Major League Soccer remains a slow burner. It has been slightly increasing ever since the introduction of David Beckham back in 2007. Having joined the L.A. Galaxy from Real Madrid, Becks was definitely responsible for more soccer moms treading up and down the turf on a weekend. In addition to this, his influence has ensured many more youngsters have taken up soccer as they call it across the pond.
On the other hand, there is no escaping the fact that traditional “football” will always play an integral role in American society. Its national sport is quite literally off the chart as was reflected in the recent Super Bowl viewing figures. People turned on in their droves in order to watch what was arguably the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet. In fact, more than 111 million individuals viewed the New England Patriots triumph over the Seattle Seahawks. Furthermore, this beat the previous record set just 12 months previously. This is where the Seahawks actually triumphed over the Denver Broncos and was watched by in excess of 110 million. Nevertheless it is also the razzmatazz of the half time show that attracts so many viewers and has been an important institution of the game for many years. But what can MLS do to improve footfall and raise awareness?
10 Middle East Investment
There has never been harm in obtaining some foreign investment. Just look at the example overseas where high profile clubs have been injected with a wealth of money. Take for example Chelsea who were once sold for less than $2 and are now worth millions. This was all down to Roman Abrahamovich who saw an opportunity and took it with both hands.
Another well-known side which has had plenty of investment in recent years is Paris Saint German. Only formed in 1970, they are owned by extremely wealthy Qataris who are looking to make the French outfit a European powerhouse. They have spent more than $300 million on composing an imposing team which features former Napoli forward Edison Cavani as well as Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Yet, if there were some investment by an oil baron or Middle East party into MLS, there will certainly be a knock on effect. An owner can come into a club and overnight take the team to the next level which in turn would create some great publicity for the league.
9 Playing In A Different Territory
This can certainly have a significant effect when it comes to the growth of the game. After all, one only has to look at the amazing reach that NFL has had in bringing their game outside of the States. This is largely in part thanks to the NFL staging a couple of games in the home of original football. They have already launched into a bigger and more diverse audience as the NFL have recently done. This is through the hosting of several games at Wembley Stadium in London, England. In this way by doing the same with an MLS fixture, it will no doubt make sure others can have the ability to engage and interact with the brand. By enabling others to watch MLS, it will enable other fans to lap up the different types of sides and have the chance to grow the game outside of the United States.
8 Ice Hockey Sudden Death
In order to liven things up a tad in Major League Soccer, they can always adopt the tried and trusted sudden death overtime/penalty shoot-out method in hockey. Although it is a simple notion, if the scores are tied players from each team start at the halfway line with the puck. Their objective is run with it and attempt to score past the goalkeeper. Now if this exact same idea was transferred to Major League Soccer, it would without question liven up what might be at times a dull game. Ties just aren't appealing to the North American audience. Everybody wants to see a winner. By utilizing the American idea in ice hockey, it may just attract more crowds who simply want to be entertained for their money. Just think of the television proceedings when this little but effective idea plays out.
7 Club Affiliation
Things have literally kicked off in this footballing sphere already with the tie ups of Manchester City alongside New York City. However, more needs to be done to raise awareness of Major League Soccer to the masses. Therefore, as more clubs become involved with club affiliation, it will certainly go a long way to raising their profile. It is actually paramount to the future of the league as it attempts to spread its soccer wings. By incorporating two major objectives into clubs policies such as advertising and club tie ins, it will enable a larger reach of Major League Soccer. This is because it somehow needs to break into the vast mould that NFL, MLB and NBA already has on the nation. English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur has an agreement in place with Real Madrid but there needs to be more done in this particular area State side.
6 All Star Friendlies
What could be better than seeing some of the greatest players in the world face off against each other in a MLS all-star game? There is one which currently exists but if this was extended to global friendlies against MLS teams, it would help everyone concerned. Not only is this is a great idea from a merchandising perspective but it will aid raise profile for both clubs. Who knows one day, Major League Soccer could see incredible spectacles between Italian giants Juventus and New York Red Bulls. This could involve ex-players from both clubs who would turn out for each side respectively. It could pit Thierry Henry against Zinedine Zidane or David Beckham and Landon Donovan against the might of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen for Liverpool.
5 Blast From The Past
A slightly more unique idea that would liven up MLS fixtures would be to introduce a past player on to the hallowed turf. The time period could be decided accordingly but this super sup concept could prove to be an interesting idea. For example, a side could be drawing deep into overtime and they have the ability to activate their blast from the past. It could see Pele coming on for five minutes for New York Cosmos or even a former favourite player from a particular team. It is an extremely flexible concept but would be another factor to go alongside the roster selections which are already in place.
4 MLS World Championship
Another potential idea which could be batted around between Major League Soccer executives is for a MLS World Championship. In essence, this tournament would work in exactly the same way as the current World Club Championship. It would take some of the best teams from North America and pit them against the UEFA Champions League winners. Again this would certainly be a brand building exercise but would definitely get the right people into the stadiums. Spread across a couple of weeks, a MLS World Championship might be just the boost that Major League Soccer needs at this present time.
3 Half Time Show
As the old saying goes, if it isn’t broke do not attempt to fix it. This is precisely the same concept which should be attached to the typical half time show. It has been fundamental to the NFL experience for decades and adds to the glitz and glamour of the event. In fact, Katy Perry’s performance at this year’s Super Bowl was one of the highest audience figures of all time in the United States. With a myriad of weird and wonderful dancers in costumes, it was a sight to behold but many were dazzled and impressed by her show stopping display. Consequently, if the half time show was introduced into Major League Soccer it would not only enhance the experience but give value for money.
2 David Beckham
With David Beckham attempting to get his MLS franchise off the ground in Miami, he is certainly essential to improving Major League Soccer. This is down to a wide variety factors that could all contribute to the improvement of the MLS. In the first instance, after Beckham’s transfer to the L.A. Galaxy, his impact played a role in creating much more awareness of soccer in the United States. Television viewing figures were up and on the plus side more and more people were talking about Major League Soccer. Besides, who would not want a major international figure promoting the sport? If everything goes ahead as planned, Beckham will be the proud owner of a team that he can call his own, whilst attracting potentially some of the biggest names in the world.
1 Foreign Players
As the MLS has proved over the last decade, the influx of foreign or international players in other leagues has ensured a steady growth. The league will be enhanced further in the summer when Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard joins the Major League Soccer ranks with LA Galaxy. This is arguably one of the most illustrious players to have joined the league and will only continue to sell the league around the globe. This trend for bringing in players from other leagues is yet another central area as to how MLS soccer can grow over the long term.