MLS 2015-18: Future shock

A couple of related topics on Jason Davis’ new-ish American Soccer Morning podcast over the past two weeks:

– NBC has paid eleventy billion dollars to show 45,000 hours of Premier League coverage every week, starting this fall.

– MLS, while doing well on the box office and sponsorship fronts, is struggling to stand out amid the four zillion games on TV every week.

The Shin Guardian this week had a terrific analysis of MLS moneys, pointing out the tiny sliver of league revenue from broadcasting.

Now here’s the kicker:

– The league’s deal with ESPN runs out in 2014.

– The league’s deal with NBC runs out in 2014.

– The league’s deal with Univision runs out in … you guessed it … 2014.

The good news — the league’s deal with major sponsor adidas, which was due to run out the same year, has been extended to 2018.

So MLS, for all its upward momentum over the past eight years, has a couple of major dates upcoming. And surely a stronger TV deal or two would lead to stronger sponsorship down the road.

The big question: How does MLS improve the TV situation?

It’s a question that has nagged MLS throughout its history, and with the proliferation of European soccer on the airwaves, the question is more difficult to answer.

A few simple tweaks may help. Jason talked about the importance of a consistent time for national broadcasts such as the NFL’s four major windows (Sunday: 1, 4 and 8-ish ET, then Monday night). And Jason raised the point of gameday atmosphere (i.e., actual soccer supporters in full voice) contributing to the quality of a broadcast — a typical game in Portland is more fun to watch than a typical Chivas USA game.

Another would be the restoration of an MLS highlights and discussion show. ESPN and Fox each tried one. Now that the league has nine games on a typical weekend, far too many for most people to follow, it’s time to get back in gear.’s “goal timeline” is nice, but some people still prefer their highlight shows to be on actual television, with fewer clicks required.

But does MLS need to take more drastic steps to improve what viewers see on an MLS broadcast? Is it time to break the bank and spend more on players?

Spending has perked up over the last few years. The accusation that MLS limits its clubs holds a lot less water than it used to — a club can spend whatever it wants on a couple of DPs and a youth academy. The salary cap has more loopholes than the corporate tax code.

The trend toward looser wallets may have to continue. The time to address that may be when the MLS collective bargaining agreement expires …

… in 2014.

Anyone else starting to think the expansion talk about a second New York team and Orlando may not be the biggest MLS news in the next 18 months?


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Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

One thought on “MLS 2015-18: Future shock”

  1. I’m really glad you mentioned the CBA alongside the TV deals. The NBC deal and CBA were, at least, timed deliberately by the league to end in that year. It’s also fascinating that 2014 is a World Cup year, one that’s probably (given better timeslots) going to be the most watched World Cup in the USA, and that the following season, the one that would be the first of the new contracts, 2015, will be the league’s 20th season.

    I smell a plan here. . .

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