This year marks the 20th season for the MLS, and it's poised to be the biggest in the leagues' history from a popularity standpoint. The MLS has continued to grow over the last few years, but some minor changes set forth by the league are expected to propel them even further and join the conversation for the top sports leagues in America.
We all know soccer is a global game, but it wasn't until recently that Americans caught the fever and starting supporting local MLS squads. Club teams in Seattle and Portland see sellouts for most of their games, but with these new changes, the MLS believes this year will be the defining year for their league, and truly put them in the major sporting discussion. Check out the changes coming to the league, and if think you'll be more inclined to check out some MLS action this season.
Reason #5: World Cup Fever
America's run in the 2014 World Cup was truly inspiring, and cemented the fact that we can play with the top teams in the world. Viewership of the Cup boomed as ESPN gave it a ridiculous amount of coverage that spanned across all their major networks. The hype built up around the World Cup still has Americans fiending for more soccer, and new media partnerships with ESPN, FOX, and Univision will give the MLS the national coverage that it lacked in the past.
Reason #4: Expansion Teams Come to Major Markets
New York is considered the mecca of basketball, and that will never change. However, the diversity throughout New York, and other major cities leaves a void for some of it's citizens who immigrated and grew up watching soccer. For 2015, the MLS is introducing two expansion teams in New York and Orlando, and is working on creating teams in Atlanta and Miami as well. People love to cheer on the hometown squad, and having a team in each major city with such diversity will grow the popularity of sport as a whole.
Reason #3: If You Build it, They Will Come
Out of the 19 teams in the MLS, 15 of them currently play in stadiums built or renovated for soccer. New stadiums always draw in a crowd, and the growth of the sport is providing teams with the economic flexibility to build new, state of the art facilities. While FC New York will be playing at hallowed ground at Yankee Stadium, teams like San Jose and Orlando are set to open up new stadiums, specifically designed to give fans the proper viewing experience that the league lacked for quite some time.
Reason #2: The Stars Shine Bright
The MLS is no different then any other league when it comes to marketing. Simply put, the sport is driven by star players. A few years back, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who could name a player beyond Freddy Adu, but the 2014 World Cup changed that. Player recognition leads to an increase in jersey and ticket sales, and the MLS owners realize that. With top clubs bringing in recognizable names such as Clint Dempsey, Kaka, Michael Bradley, David Villa, and Frank Lampard, fans now have a face to put to a team.
Reason #1: Local Crest Builds Pride
One thing the MLS was missing was club pride. Club teams that have been around for over 100 years have sacred crests that mean something to players and fans, and gives them a sense of pride in the team they root for. The MLS is taking this business model and implementing it across the league this year. Each team now has a special version of the crest which reflects their identity and local fan market.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 18, 2014