MLS is growing substantially, with stars like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and others joining the American league’s ranks in the coming seasons. Fanbases and popularity are increasing, and the number of teams, with Atlanta and Miami just two of the cities lined up to gain franchises in the near future. Below is a map of current fanbases, courtesy of www.thebashonline.com.
However, the MLS is struggling to create a positive reputation. Bringing back World Cup talent such as Mix Diskerud and Jozy Altidore creates a short-term buzz (Jurgen Klinsmann is probably very angry right now), but the future of the league is cloudy. The support for soccer in America is present, but the reputation as a “Retirement League” has to go.
Stronger Youth Academies
In the United States, the diverse culture produces a mix of talent. A melting-pot of sort, mixed players such as Julian Green, Tim Howard, and DeAndre Yedlin, have a positive impact on the US Men’s National Team. The talent in the United States is present, discovering the talent is often the hardest part. “Maybe we can find someone kicking a ball around the streets,” United States Technical Director, Jurgen Klinsmann told FIFA.com. “Maybe there’s a Messi hiding somewhere here in the States. Who knows?” Being able to divert talented athletes from other sports such as American Football and Basketball will be crucial. DeAndre Yedlin made headlines in July for his rapid pace and ability to cover Belgium’s Eden Hazard and Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. Yedlin grew up playing basketball, football, and soccer. His increased focus on soccer as a teenager and development through the Seattle Sounders Youth Academy could prove to be a common path for future athletes. If this trend continues, Yedlin’s of the United States will one day shine for the red, white, and blue.
With multiple leagues present in the United States, a promotion/relegation system could benefit smaller market teams. If promoted, it would provide extra funds to struggling clubs through television contracts. This money would be put to luring talent, creating better facilities, and the development of a stronger youth academy. A merger of sorts would have to be agreed upon by the MLS, USL Pro, and NASL. Over the past year, the USL Pro Division has rapidly grown. Clubs are present in smaller cities such as Charleston, Harrisburg, and Richmond. A reformatted system would be a huge plus for the development of smaller markets.
Field Turf vs. Grass
With problems looming over the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup pertaining to artificial field turf versus the use of natural grass, I’d have to believe that the use of field turf in a number of MLS stadiums is unattractive to potential players. While artificial turf doesn’t create more injuries, athletes believe that their performance on grass is far better than performance on turf. Turf has caused health problems far worse than an ACL or ankle sprain. The rubber embedded in field turf has been known to be very harmful to the lungs. The rubber comes from old tires, chemically separated and cleaned. In the summer, the chemicals in the rubber creates toxic-gas which has lead to diseases. Financially speaking, grass is much harder to maintain then turf. For the sake of the league’s future, making grass surfaces a requirement would help with club health, performance and marketability.
All these ways are just the start of what could be a new leaf for a growing league.
Born in NYC x Raised in VA