Major League Soccer set itself a high target when Don Garber says that it wants to be a top league by 2022. The Sports Business Journal talked to five MLS executives about the current state of the league and how close it is to taking the next steps. For the most part Seattle Sounders FC GM/owner Adrian Hanauer used the least words in his answers, but some things can be learned from the story.
- Adrian is a fan of bringing top talents to the league, even by other teams
"You can't have enough great players in the league. You can sometimes get player acquisitions wrong, so it's risky to spend enormous amounts of money on players from other parts of the world who haven't experienced MLS. But it's the risk you have to take to improve the quality of your product and drive eyeballs to the television and people to the stadium."
- Foreign Scouts are poaching talent from Academies
Philly is struggling to find ways to turn their youth system into producing talent for their club.
Sounder at Heart is going to take a look at ranking Academies later this week.
- Parity is seen as a strength
Leiweke sees all clubs trying harder and that the era of the MLS SuperClubs is fading, rather than strengthening.
- Hanauer and Paulson lean heavily on fan culture
For all the disagreements that they may have on many things, they both activated and reacted to vibrant soccer cultures in their community in ways that other clubs are trying to emulate. They also don't take that for granted.
- A vast majority of sports executives see MLS at least maintaining dramatic franchise valuation growth
73% of 2000 surveyed expect the league to at least maintain it's current growth. That includes 20% that expect it to even accelerate.
- As usual, a poll of local fanbases again shows that Sounders FC have greater market penetration 40 other top markets.
If there is one thing that MLS is doing right according to execs on the inside and on the outside, it is the back of house stuff. While TV ratings are not where they are at (Paulson speaks about how to fix that, a bit) the league is growing at a rate that indicates that it should have revenue to reach its goals on the pitch.
In the end that's where fans need to see it. How to do that is still unanswered publicly.