A discussion in my household about the MLS rarely strays far away from my wife’s beloved Portland Timbers and her constant desire to see the “fish gutted” in their current campaign. However, after the beginning of the season has shown serious doubt on whether the Timbers can return to last season’s heights, even my “RCTID” wife realizes that there are some serious pieces of the MLS that are broken…and need fixing.
The MLS claims parity…and yet, sadly, this is not how a league grows. A league needs dominant forces…it needs constant underdogs…and it needs to breed hatred toward the teams that can spend freely and a love for the teams that are successful on a tight budget. Although Beckham’s idea is probably motivated by a fair amount of selfish greed, the Miami man makes some serious sense here.
The MLS will never grow as fans are unable to flock to a “bandwagon” team. Look at the EPL and La Liga as newborn fans are able to herd themselves towards Chelsea, Manchester United, City, Real Madrid, and Barcelona because of the success that new fans are able to immediately experience when they discover European soccer. Although LA Galaxy can be a fairly safe bet, the simple view of the early season fixtures show that the MLS is devoid of the type of constants that help build a league.
The NBA grows as new fans can flock to LeBron or a team with a wealth of history, the NFL never fails to see success from one of the old firms and failure from the constant punching bags, MLB will always be dominated by the Yankees and other juggernauts that see fans roll in by the thousands, and even college sports are full of constant story-lines that draw fans in. The MLS has very little in common with these ever-growing sports. No major powers able to outspend opponents (and draw the ire of “purists”), the playoffs have a different feel every season, and the MLS almost forces you to relearn everything about the league at the beginning of every season.
Toronto FC spent a ton of money this season, and, while money never really guarantees success, there is no telling what it could ever mean for Toronto this season. Seattle failed miserably at the tail-end of last season, but the tides of Cascadia have turned without any real change in terms of personnel or administration. The MLS preaches parity…but the best leagues in the world are successful because of the LACK of parity…
While Beckham’s ideals might be simply to bring big names to Miami, the league needs the stories that a lack of salary cap would bring. There needs to be a team that new fans or curious eyes can be drawn to…there needs to be teams (outside of a particular rival) that new fans can immediately hate or love because of how they do business…and the league needs the ability to overspend and bring in big-names without having to worry about the Designated Player rules.
Please – for the good of the league and the future growth of domestic football, get rid of the salary cap. While Beckham has never been one of my favorite legends, he might have a serious point on getting rid of the cap. As someone that really wants to see the MLS succeed, it feels like this might be the right time.
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