Sunday, January 13, 2013

Will Beckham's Departure Mean Decline in MLS Relevance?

How important was David Beckham to Major League Soccer?  Was he so big that the sport will suffer without him?

During the offseason, MLS has made almost no noise to get the attention of sports fans.  It's just crickets for MLS.  (Exception:  One huge credit goes to MLS for hosting Soccer night for Newtown, Ct. children.)

It seems every offseason, MLB, NFL and the NBA are making all kinds of moves and are somewhere in the media spotlight.  Whether it's baseball's winter meetings, football's rules committee or basketball free agency, something seems to always be going on for fans to relate to.

American Soccer fans have to be disappointed to have reached the end of the line with Beckham.  He was producing and he made a significant difference in attracting fans to MLS.

Mission Accomplished: Beckham is Pele's Equal.

So, what is there to look forward to in MLS, from a national standpoint?

Fans in Seattle are going to be excited every time there's a home game.  This is a given.  There are some fun American players to watch around the league, including Zusi of KC and Wondolowski of San Jose.  Donovan may come back and prove yet again he is still relevant and exciting.  Also, Thierry Henry can be downright brilliant at times with quick and unexpected plays.

How far will MLS sink without Beckham?  The 2013 season will be a season of adjustments.  Life after Beckham will probably mean a dip in attendance and in Tv ratings.  It would be hard to believe MLS Tv ratings could go further into the abyss, but it is likely to happen.

The league wants the public to think it is stable and can take a punch/kick to the gut, like Beckham leaving.  But, reality and past history are hard to ignore.

No New MLS Teams till 2016; New Jersey Red Bulls as An Alternative?

The reality is that MLS still is on the cusp of becoming mainstream.  It hasn't made it yet.  And, the NASL from the late '70's and early '80's went defunct shortly after Pelé and other stars had retired from the league. 

Sports in America are built on star power.  It's just how it is.

MLS needs more stars.  It did well with Beckham.  Now, it must make bids for others.  This is a recurring theme.

Lessons will be learned in 2013 and if the product can't be improved, 2014 will provide one more chance to figure things out.

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