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Eleven Issues Facing MLS

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quote:Originally posted by Bill Ault

A voice of reason rises above the din... thanks Free Kick.

1. There is no corporate interest in a Canadian League - period. The people that are involved at the corporate level would not look at soccer until MLS came around and the FOUR (MLSE, Kerfoot, Saputo and Melnyk) groups involved at this level have NO interest in being part of an all Canadian set-up.

2. I believe support is more likely to be there now than in the late 80s but not for the CSL take two, three, six or whatever a national league cannot exist on the level required to be accpeted in this country on 2-3000 fans a game.

3. The infrastructure to be fair has improved slightly but not enough to make a difference since the failure of the CSL - in fact in some cities it has gone backwards and where it has moved ahead it is because ownership is thinking MLS not CSL III...

I've said it elsewhere - at the youth levels we need a true national championship and more representation at the USL level (either as a separate entity or as a part of the existing USL infrastructure) for the game to move forward.

I'm all for a Tier I - MLS Level Canadian National League - but it will not happen before we have 2,3 or maybe even 4 MLS teams and by then it will be a moot point. We do not have a National Tier I hockey league expecting one to happen for soccer is a bit naive IMO.

I have been saying the same thing for the past 4-5 years. The Deloitte Touche summed it up best in much much fewer words and less detail than I have ever written on this topic.

Never mind just soccer, professional leagues are pretty much impossible to start and operate in this country for any sport. There Too much population concentration in merely 3-4 regions and people too often have a naive perecption of the meaning of " NATIONAL " as in national league. I dont think that you can profitably run a professional sports club/franchise in many of the places that people consider as necssessary to meet that "National" ( in national league) criteria.

Therefore, if you were to try it, you would in variably end up with something that resembles the the current CSL. BUT we already have the CSL.

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quote:Originally posted by tmcmurph

Not since TFC joined and MoJo got changes because there wasn't enough quality Canadian players available. As far as I know, and I could be wrong (I'm married so I'm used to being wrong :) ), it now is that US players are counted as domestic on either US or Canadian teams but Canadian players only count as domestic in Canada.

Us players in Canada are still "domestic" which gives no incentive to Canadian clubs to develop Canadian talent. That and the "steal them at the draft" problem will need to be fixed by the MLS or our teams will simply become US development sites.


American players on TFC are considered internationals. TFC was just given a few extra international spots to ease the woes of expansion suckage, and those extra spots could only be used on American players.

MoJo then went on a binge and accumulated many more international spots through trades. All but the original, international spots (ie. the spots they would have had had they been located in the US rather than Canada) have time limitations on them, though.

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quote:Originally posted by BHTC Mike

Personally I think the travel costs argument is generally overstated.

It could be overstated but it is true that the distance between any two teams in Denmark and almost any two cities in Canada are probably at least ten fold (could literally be hundreds of times the distance).

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quote:Originally posted by Juby

who in their right mind thinks a Canadian soccer team not in MLS would be 30-40 million? if a Canadian league were to be built, it would get done by literally having a sale (all club rights must GO!). Nike wouldn't give a **** until they found out they could own and operate a team for probably less then 1 million yearly, then all of sudden, if people know the league is coming, and some are getting excited, the sponsors will want to be there, if people will see your brand on TV and at games in good numbers, technically it could be far cheaper then advertising. On top of that theirs the fact that unlike advertising, you may even have made your money back with your vehicle of advertising (the team) before you even think about how much the ads increased sales.

edit: rather early for breakfest but I do notice the egg on my face, I misread what you were saying, I still made a fine point I think but I directed it at you wrongly

But you have not proposed anything different than whats been done before. Nor have you addressed or resolved issues that cause failure before. And dont forget, when we talk failures we are not just talking about failures from 10-15 years ago ( CSL ) or failures from 25-30 years ago ( NASL ) but we are also talking about failures from just three to four years ago. For a very brief while there were 5 Canadian teams teams in the the USL ( called A - league at the time). One of them lasted about a season and the other only half a season before the league took over the club until end of the season and folded it afterwards.

We know what the problems were each time :

1) Undercapitalization / lack of investors with deep pockets

2) No facilities or lack of proper facilities

3) Poor fan support and interest. And I mean really poor in some instances. Little corporate interest.

4) A Serious lack of profession quality talent available that holds a Canadian citizenship.

5) Brand identity and loyalty

Those problems are still there, not matter how much you want to wish otherwise. You mentioned about getting on TV, well you have to be realistic. Sport programming is bought by the networks and if you have nothing to offer ( eg.: a league drawing 1000-3000 fans in crappy facilities), they aint buying. If you think othewise, give me examples. The old CSL actually caught a big break with this, because they came into existance at the time that specailty channels for sports came into existance ( eg>; TSN) and were starved for programming. They did give quite a bit of exposure to the game. But it still failed.

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well, 3 and 5 I could make the arguement that they go hand in hand with marketing and I just don't like number 4. As for 1 and 2, your right about the difficulty with this getting off the ground. The only even hypothetical rebuttle I can come up with is that maybe (highly unlikely) some government money could be involved and then go out and look for 40 companies (not just Canadian ones) and whatnot that to get into creating a team and partially investing with some gov't help.

while were in lala land, I think at that point TV would be possible, you'd probably have to start off basically giving it away but I think it could be done through a couple marketing ploys.

1, going back to source of my thoughts on this, basketball, if all of a sudden you heard there was gonna be a SUPERDRAFT for like 20 FCBA(fictional canadian basketball association) and you got a few names, like NCAA canadians, retired canadians and retired raptors that could create interest.

2, some special touches can be added to each team, for example, lets say this FCBA set up in St John's (which I think would be genius cause whats the biggest team they have there outside of hockey?) and then get Carl English on a signed contract before this Superdraft, St Johns would come out in droves. This kinda thing is case by case though and some teams may not have a natural gimmick or a gimmick to figure **** out.

3, like I said earlier about basketball, make what the TV shows look like TV quality, ie you'd make London look as big time as like a North York even if the stadium was a small fraction of the said.

4, tell the players they need to be entertaining, it's a douche bag thing to do, they did it in hockey cause they had to, but if you gain a strong lead, you'll be doing everyone involved except maybe yourself a favour if you take your toe off the gas but start stepping up the skill and creativity. It kinda seems almost like asking your players to fake the way the play.

I really think a simple media blitz that's got substantial depth (like a tonne to learn, a fresh idea on a routine psyche can go a long way imo, especially with stat nerds) could catch the public interest for both Basketball and Soccer (probably baseball too but baseball sucks, overglorified pool players, honestly if a fat person can be a star, it's not very athletic, therefore not much of a sport (so keep your mouth shut to baseball folks cause they probably actually have the facilities to get er done and thats all we need, competition)).

Your all somewhat right about the money/facilities problem but I really think good marketing can bring Canadians butts into the seats. Alot of people think leagues in Canada = doomed to failure, I think were just not selling it right, I kinda think your average Canadian is secretly dying to get into sports if they felt like they had something to really cheer for.

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Before people make assumptions that this long road to success by MLS was planned, they should read this Wall Street Journal article from 2006. The key point is that success and crowds are really a recent thing and can turn around just as quickly if they do not fund improvement in the quality of the on-field product.

Found at: http://www.pierretristam.com/Bobst/wc06/wc18.htm

Profit Goals

A Longtime Loser, Pro Soccer Begins To Score in U.S.

New Investors and Stadiums Boost Decade-Old League, But Ambitions Are Modest

Red Bull Bets on New York

By STEFAN FATSIS/Wall Street Journal

June 17, 2006; Page A1

The U.S. men's soccer team plays Italy in the World Cup Saturday, and a loss would all but end U.S. hopes of advancing to the second round of the tournament -- arming critics who say soccer in America is forever stuck in neutral.

But a funny thing is happening back home. Five years after nearly going out of business, Major League Soccer, the top U.S. league, is showing signs of growth, stability and even profitability. MLS is attracting well-heeled investors from the major U.S. sports leagues and from traditional soccer countries. The Austrian maker of the energy drink Red Bull is spending more than $100 million on the league's New York team, and the owner of one of Mexico's most popular soccer clubs has started a team in Los Angeles.

MLS teams are enjoying a $700 million stadium-building spree that will result in seven of the league's 13 teams playing in venues designed for soccer by next year. And the league's exposure on television is increasing. For the first time, networks are paying MLS for the right to show its games. Pending deals with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and ABC and with the Spanish-language network Univision are set to take effect in 2007. The high-definition network HDNet started showing games this year.

"We're at the tipping point," says MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

That's been said before. The old North American Soccer League drew huge crowds to watch highly paid international stars in the 1970s before folding in 1984. The sport's boosters have been waiting two decades for the hordes of soccer-playing kids to turn into passionate fans. As recently as 2001, with MLS plagued by mounting losses and poor attendance, several businessmen bankrolling the league considered shutting it down.

Even today, MLS has a long way to go. Its games average about 16,000 fans, but plenty of matches draw fewer than 10,000. TV audiences are tiny. The quality of competition, while improving, remains well below that of the top leagues in Europe. So do paychecks. Some players earn as little as $11,700 a season.

Backers of the league say they don't expect soccer to become a dominant sport in the U.S. like football, baseball or basketball anytime soon. Their goals are modest -- 20,000-seat stadiums and TV contracts measured in the millions of dollars, not billions. Their game plan is long-term.

"If you can own [soccer] in this country, you own something that 10 years, 20 years, 30 years from now is going to be worth a lot more," says Jonathan Kraft, who runs MLS's New England Revolution and whose father, Robert, is one of the league's founding investors.

MLS started play in 1996. The U.S. Soccer Federation had promised FIFA, soccer's international governing body, that it would form a bona fide pro league as a condition of hosting the 1994 World Cup.

Unlike other sports leagues, which sell individual franchises, MLS was created as a "single entity," with investors owning all teams collectively. Players sign contracts with the league, not with a team, a system designed to control labor costs. League investors hold operating rights to one or more teams. Each team decides who plays for it, with input from the league office.

MLS averaged more than 17,000 fans per game in its first season, exceeding projections, but the honeymoon didn't last. Attendance tumbled and losses mounted to about $250 million in the league's first five years. "We had no leverage in dealing with stadium people, in dealing with sponsors, in dealing with television," says Doug Logan, MLS's first commissioner.

High-Level Meeting

Mr. Logan was fired and replaced by Mr. Garber, who had run the National Football League's international arm. In December 2001, MLS officials gathered at the Colorado ranch of sports and entertainment mogul Philip Anschutz. The three businessmen bankrolling the league -- Mr. Anschutz, the elder Mr. Kraft, who owns the NFL's New England Patriots, and Lamar Hunt, who owns the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs -- retreated for a private meeting. According to people familiar with the discussion, Mr. Anschutz presented a choice: fold the league or commit even more resources.

The owners took a few weeks deciding what to do. Preparing for the worst, MLS officials drafted a news release announcing that the league was shutting down. Messrs. Anschutz, Hunt and Kraft, believing in soccer's potential, decided to persevere -- with a new focus of strengthening the bonds between American and world soccer.

MLS shuttered its financially weakest teams, in Miami and Tampa, Fla. Mr. Anschutz took over two other flagging clubs, giving him control of six of MLS's 10 teams. At Mr. Anschutz's insistence, the investors created a television and promotions arm to capitalize on growing interest among Americans in international soccer.

The first acquisition by the new company, Soccer United Marketing, was the U.S. television rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. The company produces the game telecasts, which are shown on ABC and ESPN. Soccer United Marketing also has booked exhibitions by top European teams that have packed football stadiums. This summer's lead act: FC Barcelona of Spain, the reigning European champions.

The steps helped slow the financial bleeding and attract investors. In 2003, Mr. Anschutz sold the operating rights to the Denver team to Stan Kroenke, who also owns that city's pro basketball and hockey teams. Other investors with impressive sports résumés bought into the league in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and, just last month, Toronto.

MLS is replacing American-style marketing with soccer authenticity. Gone are deviations from international rules such as a shootout to settle ties. The Dallas team, formerly the Burn, changed its name last year to FC Dallas, as in "football club."

The new Los Angeles team, Club Deportivo Chivas USA, is the league's boldest gambit. It is co-owned by Mexican businessman Jorge Vergara Madrigal and named after his Mexican team, Chivas Guadalajara. Mr. Vergara, the founder of nutritional supplements company Grupo Omnilife SA, paid $25 million to join MLS -- a $10 million fee to create a new team and $15 million to Mr. Anschutz's company, AEG, to share the market with AEG's Los Angeles Galaxy.

The goal is to tap into the growing U.S. Hispanic population. Chivas USA President Javier Leon says both the team and the league want Hispanic fans to "buy into MLS and watch games in the stadiums" rather than only following their favorite clubs south of the border. The league hopes to strengthen the cross-border connection with an in-season tournament pitting MLS teams against Mexican league teams.

Reaching those fans isn't easy. At the Libertad Soccer Club in Santa Monica, Calif., pictures of Chivas Guadalajara and the U.S. national team adorn the walls -- but nothing from MLS. "The quality of play is inferior," Jorge Santos said yesterday while watching Mexico play Angola in the World Cup. Mr. Santos, 25 years old, was born in Los Angeles but his favorite team is Club America of the Mexican league, which he watches on television.

The biggest new MLS investor is Dietrich Mateschitz, chief executive of Red Bull GmbH. Mr. Mateschitz has built a sports mini-empire -- including a soccer team in Salzburg, Austria -- to promote his caffeine-laced drink. In March, Red Bull agreed to pay AEG $25 million to take over the New York-area team, the MetroStars. The company plans to spend about $65 million in a joint venture with AEG to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium in Harrison, N.J., and $30 million to put its name on the building for 10 years.

For its opening game in April at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, the team, renamed the New York Red Bulls, brought in three legends from the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League: Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer. Skydivers delivered the game ball. Despite rain, more than 35,000 fans showed up. Attendance has fallen below 10,000 for several games since then. The Red Bulls have won just one of 10 matches.

A big challenge is to get attention in the crowded New York sports market, with multiple pro teams in each of the major sports. To generate some local buzz, the team is in talks with New York City about erecting temporary stands in Central Park and playing a regular-season game there this summer, people familiar with the matter say.

MLS has made soccer-specific stadiums a priority. Crowded, intimate venues are a staple of international soccer -- and livelier than the mostly empty football stadiums in which most MLS teams still play. MLS officials say the Galaxy and FC Dallas, both of which play in recently built stadiums, are profitable.

Drawing in Young Players

Stadiums also are seen as a tool to convert youth-soccer players into MLS fans, one of the league's biggest struggles. The Colorado Rapids' new stadium outside Denver, due to open next April, is surrounded by 24 fields for use by youth soccer leagues. "They can play all day and stick around for the game that night," says Kieran Cain, the team's marketing director.

While stadiums are improving, salaries remain a fraction of what top international players earn. MLS sets each team's payroll at $2 million and the maximum salary is $350,000. Investors pay a share of the league's total salary expenses based on how many teams they operate -- not the particular salaries of the players on their own teams.

The league does make some exceptions. Mexican forward Paco Palencia of Chivas USA makes $1.3 million, U.S. star Landon Donovan of the Galaxy earns $900,000 and Freddy Adu of D.C. United, who signed with MLS at age 14, makes $500,000.

To boost its appeal and improve play, MLS is debating a rule that would allow club operators to pay one or more players with their own money. Some call it the "Beckham rule" after English star David Beckham, who with AEG owns a soccer academy in Los Angeles and has said he might like to end his playing career in the U.S.

"There are 40 or 50 gifted players on the world stage in football. We need a few of those to help us take our league to the next level," says AEG's chief executive, Tim Leiweke. MLS has given Red Bull permission to go after Brazil's Ronaldo, whose contract with Real Madrid expires in 2008.

Dave Checketts, operator of the Salt Lake City team, is cautious about the Beckham rule. "Not until this league starts to generate some operating cash flow and break-evens across the board can we even consider something like that," he says. The league's losses, while slowing in recent years, are estimated to have climbed to $300 million to $350 million.

Restraining Competition

The underlying tension is that while MLS's structure controls costs, it restrains competitive urges. MLS players would welcome more competition for their services. They weren't represented by a union until 2003, and still have no free-agency rights. Player salaries average around $75,000.

MLS player salaries and benefits this year total about $33 million, according to the players' union. That's roughly 20% to 30% of league revenue, which industry executives estimate at less than $150 million. Players in big-league football, basketball and hockey take well over half of league revenue.

MLS's restraint is due partly to a lack of income from television. The league has produced its own national telecasts for ESPN and ABC, losing money in the process. That's changing. The league has signed a three-year contract with HDNet and is expected to announce agreements soon with ESPN and ABC, and with Univision. The three deals will generate a total of about $12 million a year in rights payments, people familiar with the negotiations say. MLS declined to comment.

On average, only about 230,000 viewers watched MLS games on ESPN last year. But millions have tuned into the World Cup. The U.S.-Czech game attracted 2.8 million viewers on ESPN2, the network's biggest audience this year, and another 1.9 million on Univision. A match between Mexico and Iran drew 5.4 million viewers on Univision alone.

Reaching such ardent fans, many of whom grew up following European leagues on television, is crucial for MLS. "It's going to take better players, because you're used to watching a really high level of play," says Sean Wilsey, co-editor of "The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup."

-- Jon Weinbach contributed to this article.

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TFC was not a marketing success but an outright media success.These Toronto media guys realized the writing was on the wall,you don't mess with these moguls.Some tried very hard and used some sinister reasons.MLSE had done their home work and they knew how much people and primarily the young guys wanted soccer. These young kids knew and felt that power and MLSE made that contact through a variety of media conferences which in fact started with the building of the stadium.I knew all along that a Toronto team would a huge success in the stands and if you read my past posts you will find it all.Once I saw that media reaction I knew we won.This applies to any area.

Marketing guys would never touch soccer unless the media would jump on that bandwagon,which is what happened.


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get timmies for the press confrences?

I kinda think having a good repertoire with the media and (all this after you have a set up, sponsored, near finalized project together) getting in touch with the media once you've created credential (ie. 'shudder' pretty much being a sponsored agent) is good marketing. Being able to buy ad space never hurt either but i'm just making myself look more crazy

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The same yo yo's who brought the US on their knees are those that control that media.I really don't know why this country became so brainwashed,although the Hollywood moguls gave them a false sense of security.Hey maybe these same guys realized that soccer maybe a danger since it allows all that freedom and creativity.Football and baseball are easy to control,just watch a game.It is all programmed. Very much a left brined world.Thanks that we have hockey as our game.Yes it is all about the media,who by the way also fell totally flat on their faces in this

monetary debacle.It is that buddy buddy system and also that racist thing that is still so evident in the US.Cowboys or Indians,Black or White,Soccer or Football.How do we get the media interested in a Canadian league. Well we have to sell them on the positive sides of soccer who are so obvious and yet disregarded.We have to show that soccer is also a sport that our kids love to play and makes them much better athletes.The world side of soccer. You name it it is so tremendous and hey ask Steve Nash.

These media guys have been brainwashed over the years but if we can show them how important that game is for our society they will have to change.

As I said the same guys that brought the US to their knees are the same that run the NFL,MLB and NBA.Sleaze and btw none of these leagues have any youth development programs. Screw the kids!

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quote:Originally posted by Eric

^ So, how do we get the media interested in a Canadian league?

do you think there's any hope in hell?

Put people in the seats and the media will pay some attention! That's how the Rock did it. Nobody cared when they were in Hamilton and drawing flies but they come to Toronto, fill MLG and presto, the media pays attention.

Make it impossible for the media to not cover it!

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David you are so wrong. again.

The media jumped on the MLSE bandwagon and gave our team enormous exposure. The fan clubs were formed and all that because of that effen media.The place was sold out and records were set in season ticket sales.People were dying for soccer and that effen media had no choice but to report on these sales and obvious success. They fought it and lost. Our fans became heroes across the US and all that because of the power of the MLSE guys and the building of our stadium.The awarding of the franchise was the icing,but MLS knew seeing the media reaction and season ticket sales they were winners.

Did they expect this the answer is no,did I expect this the answer is a resounding yes.All that Mr.Ball, prior to kicking any ball.

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