Did MLS drop the ball from the start?

Discussion in 'MLS: General' started by Arisrules, Aug 31, 2002.

  1. Arisrules

    Arisrules Member

    Feb 19, 2000
    Washington, DC
    I'm talking about the obvious lack of quality in general in the league. Most of the teams were a joke. The unis, don't get me started on those. The whole modernezation scheme. I think all this was the fault of the leadership of the league. We would be in much better shape if the league had been more headstrong, and had better people running it.
  2. anderson

    anderson Member+

    Feb 28, 2002
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Probably. And for all the reasons you mention. But the league's gotten its act together in most ways in the last few years. One would hope that the WC convinced a lot of people who saw the league in 96 and decided they just couldn't deal with what they saw to give it another chance now.
  3. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Chicago Fire
    Of course, there are thousands of Major League Baseball fans who would say the exact same thing about their league, too.
  4. AndyMead

    AndyMead Homo Sapien

    Nov 2, 1999
    Seat 12A
    Sporting Kansas City
    How do you start a league of 10 expansion teams without the play sucking at the start? It's impossible. Most of the improvement from 96-98 was due to players learning to play as teams. WUSA is currently undergoing the same transformation.
  5. SoccerMavn

    SoccerMavn Member

    Oct 7, 1999
    On the pitch
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    An argument can be made that MLS dropped the ball from the start.

    For example:

    --deviating from its original plan of requiring I/Os to build soccer-specific stadiums. Imagine the kind of shape the league might be in today if it had adhered to that initial plan. I realize that, on the other hand, sticking to that plan might have resulted in no league at all. But I throw it out there for consideration.

    --not starting play in 1995. The loss of World Cup momentum cannot be understated.

    --awful nicknames. "Wiz"?

    --the failure to get MLS merchandise in stores prior to the start of the 1996 season. Remember that debacle?

    Still, all told, the league has rebounded pretty well, and has improved with each season.
  6. Viking64

    Viking64 Member

    Feb 11, 1999
    Tarheel State
    That's all hindsight.

    While a certain faction of USSF wanted soccer stadiums from day 1, renting venues had good sides and bad. Today does it look like having built 10 stadiums of 10K each would have been a good idea? Yea, it does. But getting investors to pony up 35 million for a stadium today, is actually easier than getting investors to pony up 20 million for a stadium and 5 million for a team, in 1994 and 1995.

    You cannot go back and say "if only" because that's just hindsight. The League will be successful, we know that. Stadiums in Dallas, LA, NY and new deals in Colorado and Chicago will make the league solvent by 2006.

    Unlike baseball, MLS is growing. That says one hell of a lot considering the current economic climate.
  7. Arisrules

    Arisrules Member

    Feb 19, 2000
    Washington, DC
    Obviously we can say a lot of things in hindsight.

    My question though is why didn't they look at the uniforms, and realize those are hideous?

    As for teams playing better, yes it's difficult to set up a team in the first year, but maybe they should have set up the teams earlier so they could get used to each other. I don't know. Just my opinion.
  8. anderson

    anderson Member+

    Feb 28, 2002
    Houston Dynamo
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    IIRC, Bobby Houghton complained pretty loudly before the league kicked-off that there weren’t enough good players to make a 10-team league. (Presumably, he meant not enough American players, but it should be noted that the foreign player limit was four in 96.). He was right to a certain extent, but it wasn’t a completely hopeless situation. You couldn‘t start a 10-team league and expect the level of play to be near most second-tier Euro leagues or any first-tier Latin American league. But I don’t think it had to be as bad as it was.

    Recall that two teams played decent soccer in 96 - LA and TB. Not excellent or admirable soccer - but definitely watchable soccer, which is more than can be said for Houghton‘s Rapids or Stapleton‘s Revs. LA and TB also happened to have Cien and Valderrama, both of whom were playing even better than they are today. LA and TB played through those players and whaddya know - they actually looked like they knew what they were trying to do with the ball. To be fair, there were only so many players like Cien and Valderrama (and Etch, for that matter) - guys who could control the pace of the game, maintain possession, and set up solid scoring chances - available to the league in 96. But I‘m not sure that Houghton or Stapleton would‘ve known what to do with players like that anyway.

    It should also be noted that Chicago didn’t have a hard time putting together a competent team in 98, but they had the benefit of an expansion draft and two years’ worth of examples of what does and doesn’t work in MLS. There’s no doubt that starting a 10-team league with decent team play is very difficult, but it didn’t have to be as bad as Houghton and Stapleton made it.

    As far as those uniforms, ay caramba. It was an unintended signal to a large part of the potential fan base that the league was a little confused. :rolleyes:

    But as we're all saying, that was then, this is now. The league's come a long way on a lot of fronts.
  9. BenReilly

    BenReilly New Member

    Apr 8, 2002
    I do not believe this is the primary reason for improvement. I am convinced that the players themselves got much better from the experience.
  10. DavidP

    DavidP Member

    Mar 21, 1999
    Powder Springs, GA
    As for the unis and nicknames, MLS was trying to reach out to a particular demographic, and have soccer be seen as the "cool" sport. They went after the grunger/skater crowd, rather than the soccer fan, and it backfired on them. That group didn't like soccer to start with, and they didn't like it any better afterward. Plus, the garish kits and stupid nicknames drew the ire of some of the "real" fans.

    But they seemed to have seen the error in their ways, and are getting better. The unis have improved, and the SJ Clash made a mid-course correction by renameing themselves the Earthquakes; whether that has done them any good remains to be seen. The play is getting better, and I think things will pick up. But we'll never know what it could have been like if they hadn't had the first few stutter-steps.
  11. puttputtfc

    puttputtfc Member+

    Sep 7, 1999
    I think the main problem is what they want for a fan. In Columbus they want families and go out of their way to keep them. I have seen people harrassed by security for peculier reasons but for some reason kids throwing paper airplanes or food in the stands is tolerated. Has a sports league ever succeeded by catering to suburban families?
  12. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I don't know if a league has ever succeeded catering to suburban families before, but increasingly that is who IS targeted, and not just in MLS. The NFL increasingly tries to appeal to the whole family, not just Dad and maybe his older sons. There are a lot of shots of kids and women in the stands, and trust me, that's not unplanned.

    And anyway, with soccer, who else are you going to target? The kids are the future of this league, since they (unlike most adults) haven't already made up their minds about which sports and which leagues their allegiance belongs to. And in order to get them to come, you have to get their parents to bring them.
  13. puttputtfc

    puttputtfc Member+

    Sep 7, 1999
    The reason why NFL caters to this crowd is because most people cannot afford to attend games. They also have the luxury of large TV ratings to boost their income.

    I understand that kids are the future of the league but I think the league bent over backwards too far (team names, unis, etc.) and for many fans of the game this was a turn off.

    As far as who else to target, the World Cup has shown that there are fans in the US. When I went to see games in bars the bars were packed with people in thier early twenties. I think this demographic is completely ignored by the league.

    I have no idea how far the league influences the individual teams on gameday operations. I do know in Columbus that families are given a priority while true fans of the game are treated second rate.

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