Talking Soccer: MLS can’t compete with the four major sports

Seattle Sounders' goalkeeper Stefan Frei makes a save against the Vancouver Whitecaps during the second half of an MLS playoff soccer match in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

October is a sweet month for sports fans, who have a menu of options when it comes to turning on the TV and watching a game. The NFL is in full swing, the NHL started about a month ago, the NBA is back with more than just injuries and the World Series is at its best with one of the best matchups possible.

After all that goes in one breath, the MLS playoff is next. Many people didn’t even know the playoffs were going on, not even when one of our former Huskies, Jakob Nerwinski, is playing to be the Western Conference champion with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

After the United States failed to qualify for Russia 2018, many have started pointing fingers at the different reasons why it could have possibly happened. Anything from US soccer presidency, to lack of the leadership in the team, to the youth system that feeds the national team.

One cannot ignore the ties between the MLS and the U.S. national team and how the slow progress of the MLS is a direct cause of the national team’s debacle.

For me one of the biggest drawbacks of the league is the calendar. The competitive leagues in Europe start at the end of August and end in May. In South America, the leagues are divided into two tournaments that cover the calendar year.

In America, the MLS regular season starts in March and ends in December with the MLS Cup Final.

At every stage of their season, the MLS is fighting with another sport that has them beat. March madness takes over the country and the NBA is in the final weeks of the regular season when the MLS season starts. Then comes the summer full of baseball, and in the fall, comes the NFL, NHL, etc.

There’s never a time where MLS can be the only option for sports fans.  Of course, I don’t expect any calendar would help them. If they were to start their season in the fall like other leagues, they would get crushed by the NFL.

However, having the most exciting part of the season up against all the sports is doing some serious damage to their chances of getting the attention of sport fans in America.

Let’s say the MLS followed the same calendar as European teams and ended their season in May – their playoff season is in a place where they would have a higher chance of grabbing casual fans’ attention.

The NFL also only occupies three days a week, so realistically the MLS could have games the other days. Besides, I very much doubt the people that are going to/watching NFL games are the same ones watching the MLS.

Soccer is rapidly growing in America but it’s still nothing compared to the big four sports. One day it could be.

In 2016 the independent polling firm Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of male sports in America. MLS was the least popular with only 14 percent of the 1,222 respondent saying they watched the MLS.

The numbers are gloomy on the surface but other interesting numbers give the MLS hope are the following: 57 percent of the fans are women, 48 percent recognized themselves as Hispanic or other ethnicity and 59 percent of their fans are under the age of 45.

With a growing Hispanic demographic and a young following overall, the MLS could grow into a more attractive sports league down the road.


Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.marulanda@uconn.edu.