MLS, Other Leagues Could Feel Negative Effects Of U.S. Not Qualifying For World Cup
MLS likely could feel the effects of the USMNT not qualifying for the '18 FIFA World Cup, as the league is "currently riding a wave of explosive growth," according to Alicia Jessop in a special to the WASHINGTON POST. MLS could "see growth of sponsorship revenue slow now." Over the past year, the league has "experienced a sponsorship boom, with brands like Target and Kellogg’s Snack Brands partnering with it for the first time." While a number of factors "played into these brands signing with MLS, some think American interest in future World Cups and the possibility" of the U.S. hosting the '26 World Cup "pushed corporations to engage more with MLS." If the league’s audience and American interest in soccer "decline leading up to and after" the World Cup, MLS "may see a shift in sponsors" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/12). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Alderson noted in '13, a year before the '14 World Cup in Brazil, "overall attendance in the USL was 445,709" and by '15, that number had "boomed to 1,132,218." This season, the league "estimates 2 million spectators." Those numbers are "boosted by expansion, but even that indicates what one four-year period can do." Will the "next four years see a tapering off in that buzz?" MLS "saw year-over-year attendance growth" of 12.6% in '15, and it is "foolish to think none of that came because of U.S. soccer participating in the World Cup" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/11).
SEPARATING CHURCH & STATE: In San Diego, Mark Zeigler notes the U.S. hosted the '94 World Cup and "spun the profits into birthing" MLS. Ever since, the league and the USSF have been "inextricably linked." Zeigler suggests breaking "overt ties between U.S. Soccer and MLS, which means electing a new federation president" in '18, "removing MLS Commissioner Don Garber from the federation’s board of directors and negotiating separate TV contacts." What is "best for MLS is not always what’s best for national teams." Let them "exist independently" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/12).