The Evolution of the MLS
Soccer may be the most popular sport in the world, but it's had a hard time catching on in the United States. Overshadowed by sports such as baseball, basketball, football and even hockey, soccer has failed to win over American fans. Can the arrival of David Beckham change that?
Major League Soccer - History of US Soccer
Professional soccer was first introduced in the [KWLINK ]United States[/KWLINK] in 1968 with two leagues - The United Soccer Association and The National Professional Soccer League. One season later, the two leagues merged to form the North American Soccer League (NASL). For the next 16 years, NASL struggled to stay afloat, finally folding in 1984 due to poor turnout. Ten years went by before another professional league was formed in North America. Just like its predecessors, the MLS has faced many hard times including several bankruptcy scares.
Major League Soccer - Can Beckham Save the MLS?
It's debatable whether the much-anticipated arrival of David Beckham will take the MLS to the next level. This isn't the first time North America has tried to drum up support for the sport. Pele, arguably the single greatest soccer player in history, joined the New York Cosmos of the National Professional Soccer League in 1975. At the time, Pele was way past his prime, but he created a huge buzz in the US. The Cosmos averaged 40,000 fans per game and in the 1978 Championships, there were more than 70,000 in attendance at the Cosmos' home field. Despite the excitement in NYC, the rest of the league continued to average 15,000 fans a game. When Pele retired from the Cosmos in 1978, the team reverted back to its old fan base and was forced to fold six years later.
Major League Soccer - Our Take
David Beckham will definitely bring some excitement to soccer in the US. But is it enough to take the MLS to the same level as the NBA or NFL? Probably not. Just like Pele, Beckham is past his prime and one superstar will not turn around an entire league. What the league needs is more American stars, like Freddy Adu, to dominate the league. If American kids have role models and players in their own country to look up to, it will encourage their interest to watch and play soccer.
Major League Soccer - Did U Know?
- There are 13 MLS teams; seven in the east and six in the west.
- The 2007 MLS season runs from April to November.
- David Beckham signed a five year deal with the MLS for $250 million.
- The MLS has lost more than $350 million since its inception in 1994.