Major League Soccer

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Updated: Apr 24, 2019
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The United States has realized several impacts following the creation of the Major League Soccer (MLS) which was initially formed from an ownership model which was specifically a single-entity one. The ownership model acted as an antidote to the failing investments which were made in the history of professional soccer in North America. The creation of the MLS and its sustainability in the American sports culture is outstanding considering the competition it has been subjected to by other domestic sports leagues and franchises. Typically, it is considered as the youngest professional sports leagues for men in the United States. Due to this aspect, the league would take advantage of other leagues in the country for the purpose of development. It has been almost a decade and a half since the formation of the MLS and to this point, it is essential to expound on the path it chose while it strived to be integrated into the sports culture.

For a long time, the Americans have in most cases been absent regarding their participation in the MLS games both as fans and players. Most players from the U.S participate in the European leagues on the professional level, but not in the local leagues. The same case has been realized in the fan base which is attracted to the European leagues more than it is to the MLS. Specifically, this raises alarms leading to the emergence of numerous challenges affecting their sustainability in the American sports culture. The MLS faces competition from “with the National Football League (“NFL”), National Basketball League (“NBA”), Major League Baseball (“MLB”), and National Hockey League (“NHL”)” (Taylor, 2011).

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Soccer is the most dominant sport among international sports as it is celebrated worldwide attracting a large number of fans. MLS is recognized as the most long-lasting and successful sport in the U.S. dating back to the mid-1800s. Following its integration in the culture, it has led to numerous impacts which are essential to understanding.

Historical Background

Professional soccer league in the United States was first introduced in the mid-1800s. It was further recognized in 1894. As such, this took place when six baseball clubs from the National League merged to form the American League of Professional Football Clubs. Fundamentally, this league incorporated teams which were formed in different cities of the country including Boston, Washington, and Baltimore as well as New York and Brooklyn. From the table generated by the league, the teams were intended to play 20 games scheduled to take place during the baseball off-season (Kilpatrick, 2015). Specifically, it would take place between October and January, but by the sixth round, the league was suspended.

The league was suspended on October 18th after New York incur a 3-4 loss to Boston at the Polo Grounds. According to Kilpatrick (2015), on the same day at the Eastern Part, Philadelphia faced a 1-3 loss to Brooklyn which followed the comments, “It does not look as though the sporting public in this vicinity were going to die of heart disease caused by over-enthusiasm for the game of professional football,” (2015). In conjunction with this decision, the owners of the Baseball National League agreed to end the soccer league.

After the termination of the American League of Professional Football Clubs, it took a long time for professional soccer to re-emerge in the United States again. In 1968, the North American Soccer League was formed and it got the public’s interest as by 1975. The popularity of the sport was attributed to Pele of Brazil, one of the world’s greatest soccer players, when he signed with New York Cosmos in a three-year deal. With Pele in the team, in 1977, the club culminated the Soccer Bowl Championship which resulted in more Americans being more interested in the sport (Taylor, 2011).

The popularity of soccer started to be more popular in the country as Cosmos raised the profile of the game in the country. The formation of the MLS encountered setbacks in 1985 when the trend took a disappointing turn. The big spending of the clubs contributed to the demise of the league which further led to the collapse of the NASL (Dure, 2010, p. 12; Hopkins, 2010, pp. 77). The next phase of the emergence of the sport was noted from around the late 1990s with the country’s participation in the FIFA World Cup. Since then, the Major League Soccer has been popular but not as compared to other leagues in the country.

The Formation of Major League Soccer

The creation of the Major League Soccer begun when it was first introduced in the United States in the mid-1800s. For the most part, in 1996, the MLS was at a state in which it could fulfill the required conditions to hold the FIFA World Cup. Essentially, this resulted in the emergence of the first-division league in the U.S. The history of MLS is subject to mismanagement and missed opportunities which acted as obstacles to it being popular in the national level. In the path of its creation and integration, it encountered multiple failures, three in particular. Following the three failures, the country took different measures which followed the creation of a business plan (Kilpatrick, 2015). Typically, the business plan was called to contribute to the prosperity, survival, and sustainability of the league in the country. The business plan took into account the strengths of the major established leagues from other sports in the country, and this provided a solid assurance to the success of the league.

Subsequently, Alan Rothenberg was faced with a mandate by FIFA for a professional soccer league in the country. Then, Rothenberg was the President of the United States Soccer Foundation. Also, he “had prior ownership experience with the NASL’s Los Angeles Aztecs and had successfully organized the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games,” (Kiplatrick, 2015; Taylor, 2011). Primarily, he had the support of Abbott Mark and Gazidis Ivan who were professionals in sports law and management who structured their ideologies and methods based on the principle of “cost containment,” (Dure, 2010; p. 12).

Fundamentally, the three professionals determined that the league should be structured from the point of a single entity ownership which formed a central point of their operations in conjunction with considerable revenues and costs (Hopkins, 2010). The trio proposed the structure to the Federation which “received the endorsement of the United States Soccer Federation and Major League Soccer began to play in 1996 with ten franchises in place run by seven owner-investor groups,” (Dure, 2010, p. 16). From this, the structure of the business plan created a channel for the success of the league.

The aspect of single entity ownership in the formation of MLS incorporated ten initial franchises. Three of the ten franchises could not survive in the market. The remaining franchises helped in the establishment of the Major League Soccer and they have increased in number to 19 in the modern world. The Designated Player rule in the same sport has changed or rather loosened in its restrictions on the signing of players and the limit to which the single-entity is mandated to spend on the franchises. For the most part, these measures have further influenced the landscape of domestic sport (Taylor, 2011).

Challenges in Creation of Major League Soccer

Arguably, the creation of the Major League Soccer has encountered numerous challenges especially from the media, the fans and the very players in the league. The aspect of single-entity in the MLS has also faced criticism and it has been challenged by many people even in the courts. Specifically, in 1998, players emerged to challenge the single-entity ownership by an anti-trust suit in Boston court. According to the Hopkins (2010), these players argued that the “single-entity violates anti-trust laws by restricting competition, and accusing MLS of forming an illegal monopoly to keep their salaries down, restricting their ability to earn a living in their profession,” (pp. 116-117).

However, the verdict was in favor of the league. The federal jury cited leagues from foreign countries which acted as a threat to the success of the MLS since they were strong competitors. The hearing ignored the domination of the MLS considering what it enjoys with the first-division status it possessed. In essence, this was granted via the USSF sanction expounding on the deceptive violation of the rules laid down by FIFA. Particularly, the rules stipulate that “A club’s entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit” (FIFA, 2015, p. 66). In the same token, in the case of all the soccer leagues in the United States, contrasting other soccer competitors in the domestic level, clubs who fail to adhere to the structure of single-entity ownership are denied a chance to participate in premier or first-division.

According to Kilpatrick (2015), in reference to a second case filed between Major League and Fraser presented to the United States Courts of Appeals, First District, the court gave a ruling summarizing the following, in return for the services of the operator/investors, MLS pays each of them a “management fee” that corresponds (in large part) to the performance of their respective team. The management fee equals the sum of one-half of local ticket receipts and concessions; the first $1,125,000 of local broadcast revenues, increasing annually by a percentage rate, plus a 30% share … of any amount above the base amount; all revenues from overseas tours; share of one-half the net revenues from the MLS Championship Game and a share of revenues from other exhibition games (pp. 51).

Subsequently, a challenge in the MLS lies in the aspect of the distribution and the sharing of the revenues collected in the league. For the revenues collected, part of it that is distributed to the investors raises questions. The investors are required to share the profits gained and the losses incurred in the league in equal percentages. Also, this aspect is questioned and challenged by many actors in MLS.

In respect to the claims of many players in the league, the MLS has many times conspired to monopolize the port in the country. Notably, in many occasions, the league withholds the players’ salaries intentionally thwarting them from speaking up about such activities. According to Kilpatrick (2015), the League produced a chart that stipulated that they, “listed 67 professional soccer leagues of different divisions from 46 countries,” (52) who compete for players with the MLS. Another actor was involved in the case, one of the representatives of the second division team from Seattle. He claimed that he once competed with the MLS for players, and his claims undermined the initial claims addressed by the players. In the same case, the federal jury argued that the players had the liberty to pursue their careers in foreign franchises and they were not restricted to moving to different leagues. For this reason, the single-entity ownership was defended and preserved by the MLS (2015).


Lamentably for the MLS, it is has been looked with a progression of decisions including apparently opposing alternatives: turned out to be American or turned out to be European; household ability or universal ability; secure resources or spend money; single-element or appropriate influence. Similarly, as with each of the two-sided issues, balance is the response to the MLS’ achievement. Equalization can be difficult to accomplish.

Regarding its advertising procedure, MLS concentrated on four essential premiums: the development of soccer-particular stadiums, taking into account the Hispanic populace, empowering the young of America to wind up observers of the game and members, and the enrolment of new speculators to the group (Kilpatrick, 2015). Optional contemplations identified with expanding sponsorship, the foundation of group competitions, class extension, the consideration of a sound blend of household and outside players, changing as well as creating group personalities to resound with fans, support in national and worldwide competitions, and the facilitating of global shows.

Similarly, the MLS investigated receiving or altering a few of the systems that supported the notorieties of expert associations abroad and featured the worldwide appeal of a portion of their clubs. In particular, these associations and their driving clubs proficiently and effectively took advantage of remote markets (counting Asia and the sizable U.S. advertise), set up key collisions with worldwide media outlets, (for example, media magnate Rupert Murdoch) to produce income and enter the worldwide field, and sold clubs as prominent universal brands with engaging characters.

Likewise, the creation and advancement of the Champions League competition allowed further worldwide advancement through which the best four expert soccer alliances and their part clubs could keep up or enhance their status. Following 10 years in presence, MLS seemed to have appropriated a portion of these techniques. Clubs were contending in CONCACAF’s “Champions League”, attempting to create unmistakable brands and personalities, anchoring media contracts with significant broadcasting companies, and advancing its image abroad.

In the first ten years of the re-emergence of the Major League Soccer, it employed branding techniques as well as marketing techniques which contributed to its sustainability in the sporting culture. For one to understand this scope, one has to realize the history and formation of Major League Soccer. Also, one should understand the deviation of the country’s soccer system from the prominent European leagues.

Notably, the NASL, a precursor of MLS, helped the current league to define their plans strategically with the intention to sustain their popularity. As such, the MLS would in more than one occasion compare their strategies with those of the outset and select the most suitable (Taylor, 2011). As opposed to most other expert alliances, MLS contracts straightforwardly with the players trying to keep up command overspending, the expense of work, encourage a fair income sharing relationship among clubs and consistently advance focused parity (Dure, 2010; Wahl, 2009). Despite the fact that this technique has been questionable and brought about a claim by the player’s association, it achieved its target. As for possession, MLS proprietor financial specialists play to a greater degree a participatory job in tasks than the commonplace pro game establishment proprietor, and every profit by the accomplishment of contenders.

Impacts of MLS on the American Sports Culture

With the formation of the MLS, the United States has realized an influence in the American sports culture, especially the soccer culture. Typically, the prevalence of the soccer league in the sports culture can be attributed to the emergence of the MLS. The connections between the extraordinary participation in the sport today can be associated with fandom leading to increases rate in streams of the sport in the televisions (Elliott & Harris, 2011). The breakthrough of the Major League Soccer in local television is evidence of the impact of the league to the American sporting culture in the aspect of the media.

In the past, soccer was considering short-lived and fans were only interested in the FIFA World Cup which takes place every four years. The idea of soccer becoming one of the major cultural phenomena in the social setting of the community exhibits the effectiveness of the strategies employed by the MLS in its attempts to sustain the league in the competitive environment. What is more, soccer as an inferior sport as compared to other sports in the early 1970s only attracted a small population of people especially people from ethnic groups, urban high schools as well as prep schools which did not participate with the expected zeal. The prevalence of the sport due to MLS help break the social classes that people created in the society as the people would come together to cheer the popular sport (Kilpatrick, 2015).

Given the fact that the country encompasses people from different races, it is essential to expound on the approach the MLS has utilized in enriching the American sports culture as the “American style.” The sports culture is now filled with diversified talent following the formation of the MLS which help make soccer a professional sport which is now respected in the country. The fan base help understands the impact of the MLS on the sports culture of the country (Taylor, 2011). The economic aspect is not to underlook since the league has successfully attracted many investors and foreign investors who contribute to the growth of the specific sport as well as the country in general.

Hardly any zones of popular culture have the ability to influence individuals as strongly as a game. Through the span of their lives, an expected 5% of individuals will switch religions. What number of British football fans will change starting with one group then onto the next? Closer to 2%. It’s the incredible enthusiastic association fans have with groups and players that clarifies why, as a market, sports merit an expected $600-$700 billion, and becoming quicker than worldwide GDP (Samost, 2013). The game is a huge business, however, it would be nothing without the fans supporting it. We know this since we’ve put over the most recent four months attempting to comprehend sports fans, mapping out their future to guarantee their changing needs are being served.


Overall, the Major League Soccer continues to affect the American sports culture since the mid-1800s. It is my conviction that the group can develop out of being a specialty sport and can really contend in the North American games scene. The procedure will simply require some investment and persistence from those in control. Regardless of whether it is 20, 30, or 50 years down the line, Major League Soccer can develop into a backbone in North America. The association and the national group should become together their organization will be significant to the development procedure. The adoration for soccer exists in America, yet until the point that the quality on-the-field achieves the dimension of European groups, it will not totally earn the enthusiasm of a large number of the American soccer fans. In any case, a significant number of the present methodologies are currently set up by the groups of the association to develop fan-bases and make those ‘diehard’ fans that all games require.

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Major league soccer. (2019, Apr 24). Retrieved from