The world’s favorite pastime, football, is beloved far and wide. With the FIFA World Cup set to launch in 2018, fans from all over are eagerly awaiting to support their home countries. In 2014, a record 3.2 billion people watched nations go head to head throughout Brazil in their attempts to claim the coveted World Cup trophy. In the U.S., football refers to an entirely different sport, American football. Soccer to the U.S. and Canada is what the majority of the world calls football.
However, with the U.S. not qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup (the first time in over 30 years), what does it mean for the sport in general in the U.S.? For starters, soccer has become a much more popular sport in North America in recent years. The North American professional soccer league, Major League Soccer (MLS), is continuing to see rapid expansion; and new teams are set to be added in the coming years. This is great news for avid and casual fans of the sport, as well as for sports betting in general. Unlike some headlines of the past. The newly sparked interest is sure to bring in revenue for cities hosting the games. Want to know more? Planet 7 Online Casino wants to take a brief look at the history of Major League Soccer and the sport of soccer in general in North America. Join us to learn more about the history of Major League Soccer!
Major League Soccer history
As far as professional leagues go, Major League Soccer is fairly new. It was originally founded in 1993, thanks to the United States’ successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. With only ten teams, the first season of MLS took place in 1996. Though it experienced financial and operational problems in its infancy (with two Florida teams even folding in 2002), MLS has since managed to bounce back successfully and expanded to 22 teams throughout North America.
In its early years, MLS games performed poorly and saw very low attendance. This was largely due to the fact that teams were forced to share stadiums with other professional leagues like the National Football League (NFL). After the addition of new owners and re-branding, soccer-specific stadiums were constructed, and average MLS attendance began exceeding expectations (even managing to surpass the attendance of NHL and NBA events). Fantastic bonuses and offers were sent to emerging teams in the hopes of getting more talent to join.
MLS – differences and the rest of the world
One of the many things that makes MLS unique is that it defies the standard professional league ownership model in the U.S. So, instead of operating as a group of independently owned teams, MLS functions as a single enterprise with teams being controlled by league investors. And unlike most leagues worldwide, MLS runs on a fixed membership. This takes after a model a kin to sports leagues in the United States and Canada, whereas most soccer leagues worldwide rely on relegation and promotion for financial support.
To obtain new players, MLS has a draft, and often recruits from college and even high schools. Foreign players are made available to clubs in the form of free agents called designated players. This creates loopholes in the allotted budget of the league, where teams can bid for high value players. The difference with the draft is that the worst teams from the year before get first pick, the second-worst teams go next, and so on, until everyone has managed to choose from the pool of talent. Flexibility within the salary structure known as allocation funds, also impact the way players are selected. Speaking of funds, have you considered looking into winning some real money at Planet 7 Online Casino? Here’s your chance.
The basics of MLS
19 U.S. and 3 Canadian teams comprise the total of 22 teams in MLS. Unlike other major European leagues, the MLS regular season runs spring through fall (in order to take advantage of the weather). Each team plays a total of 34 games during the regular season, and are divided into either the Eastern or Western Conference. Despite the logic of playing through the summer, fans are happy to know that the MLS schedule does not conflict with most other international soccer tournaments. The Supporters’ Shield is awarded to the team with the best record, and the postseason includes twelve teams competing in playoffs, culminating in the coveted MLS Cup championship game in MLS championship history.
MLS also competes in CONCACAF (one of the of six major soccer confederations worldwide). CONCACAF stands for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football and includes teams from these parts of the world (including Guyana and Suriname in South America). This governing body’s primary function is to organize competitions between national teams and clubs, and to conduct World Cup and WWC qualifying tournaments.
The MLS hype
Alright, now that we’ve bored you enough with details, let’s talk about the soar to stardom for MLS. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century superstars like Landon Donovan, Jermaine Jones and David Beckham, (playing for the L.A. Galaxy) helped pump new life – and money – into the league. With top-tier performances by U.S. players by the likes of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, the U.S. was even recognized as a formidable opponent up through the 2010s in the World and Confederations Cups respectively (managing to reach the quarterfinal against Germany, and beating out crowd favorite, Spain).
The MLS league managed to expand into Canada with a new Toronto territory, and with this a new generation of fans emerged. In comparison to the league’s rocky start the rising fan base of MLS was turning meteoric.
Beckham, who was already a superstar athlete and celebrity on the worldwide stage, and with the help of the likes Donovan and Jones, was able to establish MLS as a dominant force throughout the various sports leagues in North America. Attendances rose, as did revenues, and though Donovan and Beckham have since retired, talks of expansion continued on lips of league investors. And though failed teams in Florida, like the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Miami Fusion, have become a thing of the past, former players like Beckham are in discussions of ownership and expansion. Join Planet 7 Online Casino for the expansion of your bank account! Choose from any of Planet 7 Online Casino’s exciting slots or table games for a chance to practice for free and sign up to win real money today!
The future of Major League Soccer
The North American league is growing by leaps and bounds with ambitious plans for growth, new TV contract with television programming, and incoming waves of young talent from around the world along with brand new soccer-specific stadiums. The quality of the performance of MLS players is also significantly on the rise as well. Though they might not be quite on the level of any of Europe’s top leagues (Premier League, La Liga, etc.), MLS can deliver high performance soccer for serious and casual fans alike. All thanks to investors spending more on foreign talent, and stronger scouting.
Even the famed soccer chants where in-house fans who stand for 90 minutes throughout a single game chanting and singing is making appearances in MLS thanks to Toronto’s entry in 2007. The league is looking to mimic a European style of support of the sport on and off the field. Despite the NFL style influence on American soccer due to many league owners having ties to other leagues, MLS continues to operates under the philosophy that no one team should dominate the league; unlike Bundesliga or Premier League. MLS is worth keeping an eye for the years to come, with eager and newly established fans just around the corner, the league has high hopes to make serious waves in the future.
MLS and what you need to know
- A North American soccer league was first conceived in 1984, but failed. Not until the successful bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 1994, did the MLS actually come to fruition (having qualified in 1993).
- Despite financial complications in its early years, the MLS started seeing a stark contrast in interest thanks to the development and addition of new talent through the 2000s
- Superstars like David Beckham helped bring in more revenue and interest to MLS, and positive performances from the U.S. national team only helped escalate the perception of MLS for a new generation of soccer fans within the U.S.
- With expansion of the league on the horizon, and with adoption of a more European style, MLS looks to continue to be a formidable force in the competitive world of sports within the U.S. and North America along with the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA
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