The Sounders have expressed their ambition to be an important club globally and not just in MLS. Our early forays in the CONCACAF Champions League reflected that ambition as have recent high-profile player acquisitions. One of the keys, in my opinion, is elevating the reputation of MLS. This benefits any team looking to make themselves known internationally.
For me this means creating support for MLS as a league, in addition to support for our own club. So many domestic fans follow EPL, the UEFA Champions League and ignore MLS. I know MLS is not of the same quality as a number of these leagues, certainly we all will painfully notice the difference in quality after watching the World Cup next month. But MLS is our league and until we support it like other countries and regions support their leagues progress, if any, will be very incremental.
If MLS aspires to greatness, it should offer a great fan experience -- in the stadium, on local and national broadcasts and certainly with its paid subscription offering MLSLive. I attend most Sounder home matches and find the fan experience outstanding. I’ve attended a match in Foxboro, MA and a couple in Harrison, NJ and found these experiences to be "mixed". Clearly though many clubs are learning how to create much better fan experiences.
This leads me to a concern. Because so few MLS matches are available on cable, I began subscribing to MLSLive last season and renewed for this season. I have very much enjoyed the chance to see matches from other regions (Sounders are blacked out) presented by the local broadcast team.
My complaint is the quality of the viewing experience. If you own a Panasonic smart TV you can get the stream on your large HD screen but because I own a Samsung smart TV that option is not available to me (making me feel like a second-class customer). I can only watch on my computer or iPhone screen.
While the picture quality has certainly improved over time, there is a limit with the artificial relegation to these inferior devices. This is a simple opportunity for MLS to step up its game, if there are fans who want to learn the league outside of their own local club, encourage it. Make it easy to choose MLS over the many other soccer offerings out there. Build a base of support that translates into a league worthy of support at the highest level. Or not.