In most countries, the name of the game sound alike. Words like football kits, fussball, futbol, futebol… don’t just sound the same, they are the same game. In the U.S., however, they call it soccer. Major League Soccer (MLS) as an American professional soccer league has been around for some time now.
Unlike other American major league sports, MLS does not dominate the sport’s public attention on global scale, nor its champion is crowned as the ‘World Champion’. MLS has been going through constant development. Did it gain significant public and media attention in the world football? No!
Soccer as the 2nd, 7th or 10th most popular sport in the U.S. doesn’t make a great difference, the American public will still follow the NFL, MLB, NHL or NBA. The world public would follow those leagues with same attention as they are world’s most prominent sports leagues.
In recent years with the globalization of media, the world sports scene has started to change; in that process, English football Premier League, promotes itself as ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ and is in fact the world’s most popular and most watched sporting league, with a current worldwide viewership of half a billion people and media income for seasons 2007 to 2010 worth over $5 billion. If the world will watch football leagues like English Premiership or Spanish La Liga, who will watch the American major league sports other than domestic spectators? Will a part of the American public turn to watch overseas football leagues as well? Such questions made soccer be an issue in the U.S sports.
Every now and then, the MLS officials would wake up from the drowsiness of being in shadows of Top 4 American major leagues around the time when World Cup takes places and it becomes evident how immense the game of football is in the terms of world public interest, media attention, sponsors.
As the noise around World Cup passes, the MLS would fall back in drowsiness. It was not to be like that after the World Cup 2006 in Germany when the world public had clear picture of European football’s modern stadiums, multi-million player contracts… the world sports spotlight got a hold on football.
This time it’s not the MLS who is to take the initiative of promoting MLS, it’s the whole of American professional sports entertainment industry. It is an economic opportunity where the money revolving around the world football was too great to be missed or discarded.
In the summer of 2007, U.S. soccer attempted to take over the world football by storm by offering David Beckham a $250million contract, the most expensive football player contract in history of the sport, some described it as the deal to bring Beckham to America is thought to be the biggest in sporting history. MLS sent out a message to the world.
In the midst of summer when European leagues were between the seasons and the waters were still, MLS got the wanted exposure with news stories being dominated with the Beckham family moving to LA. Did the stories overtake the world football media and public attention in favor of MLS yet? No!
Is $250 million worth of exposure in the long run? Time will tell. Autumn came, European and international leagues are in full swing, the world sports news publish less articles about Beckham, LA Galaxy and the MLS. To make things worst, LA will hardly make the play-offs, giving the media less to write about.
In the league that has had an overall lost of more than $350 million in the first 8 years after its foundation (a BusinessWeek report from 2004), where at the present time only two teams, LA Galaxy and FC Dallas, are profitable with 3 additional teams expected to be profitable within a year, a $250 million one-player investment seems like a gamble. If so, what are the odds?
In recent years, several notable players chose to make the step away from the bigger leagues of Europe and South America for a financially good contract with teams from the Gulf countries. The headlines reported rich transfer deals, though there was no to little follow-up in media coverage of those leagues.