Friday, April 14, 2006

How to Strengthen US Professional Soccer.

These are several ideas or suggestions that could provide positive steps for strengthening the state of professional soccer in the United States. I will post different ideas over the next couple of days.

1. Create a season kick off event.
Several countries have events that kick off their professional seasons, which would be a good idea for the US. England has the Community Shield, in which the previous Premier League Champion plays the winner of the FA Cup at the Millennium Stadium or Wembley Stadium. Germany holds a four team tournament, consisting of the top four teams from the Bundesliga, one versus four, two versus three. This is an event that has no bearing in the regular season, as the Community Shield match, but both create a certain buzz for the impending season. Both types of events are sponsored by the Football Associations of their countries.

In the US, we could try and have something along the same lines of either event. If we tried to go along the English path, we could have the US Soccer Federation create a kick off match that starts the professional season for MLS and maybe even the USL. The participants could either be the previous season MLS Champion taking on the previous season’s US Cup Champion. A different idea would be to have the MLS Champion versus the USL Champion, which would give some very main stream exposure to that league. They could call it the Federation Cup or get a commercial sponsorship for the match, someone like Kraft or Budweiser.

A different idea would be to have either four teams from MLS compete in a pre-season tournament. One way they could do it is to have the top four teams from the previous season play each other, along the same lines of the German pre-season tournament. They can either decide to use the MLS Cup results or they could take the regular season results, or take the top two regular season teams and group them with the two teams that compete in the MLS Cup match, if they are four different teams. Another idea would be to have the two MLS Cup teams play against the top two teams from the USL, which again, would provide some mainstream exposure for the USL. It could be called the American Cup or such.

If either of these ideas were to be considered, I feel that they would be able to add the type of experience that MLS is trying to get with the beginning of its season, and has tried to do with its All Star game. The one match idea I think would fit better for the US market, get it played at either the Home Depot Center or Crew Stadium or Dallas Stadium. It could be rotated along the lines of the MLS Cup, maybe the location of the previous seasons MLS Cup hosts the Federation Cup. The match could be televised on ABC or ESPN2 which would provide the national coverage that would help with the marketing of the league as well as provide the springboard for the start of the season.


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