Hockey Soccer

The MLS Kicking The NHL

Some believe that soccer will become a major American sport and kick the NHL out of U.S. homes.

One thing that I try to do here at – I Want to be a Sports Agent is talk about rising sports and items that may be classified as sports (video gaming) as possible arenas for future Sports Agents to make a successful living. As just mentioned, video gaming has been a huge topic. In addition, I have covered ultimate fighting, figure skating, and MLS soccer.

As anticipated, the import of David Beckham to America has at least generated at least 500% more buzz about the MLS (Major League Soccer) than at this time last year. The Sports Economist has written a couple of articles concerning this topic, which may encourage some people who are reading this blog to become agents in the MLS market.

I do not believe that soccer will ever be as big in America as baseball or football, but here is an article which gives a list of reasons why it has a chance. And 2 days ago, Victor Matheson wrote a piece suggesting that soccer has overtaken hockey as America’s final major professional sport [Step Aside, NHL]. As one commenter noted, soccer may be supplanting hockey because of the NHL’s decline rather than the rise of the MLS. Either way, soccer will continue to grow in America, especially if the superstar influx continues after Beckham’s arrival.

-Darren Heitner

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

5 replies on “The MLS Kicking The NHL”

Never is a long time. The way the NHL has [mis]managed their league, via expansion, television, etc., has all but invited someone like MLS to step in. And it’s not like you even seriously mention the NHL with MLB, the NBA or the NFL, in the same breath anymore.

That said, these next few “Beckham years” are crucial for MLS. SportsBusiness Journal’s survey of sports execs named them as THE league with the most growth potential. But it will take a lot of things to happen, including more exposure and attention paid to the collegiate and developing ranks.

I think this year is either going to be the year the MLS starts to grow, or its going to stay the way it always has been, second rate sports entertainment and a chance to see has been european stars, which in reality are the only players that will be making big money. Chris Coleman from English soccer team Fulham Fc has commented on the growth and talent in the US and can’t believe people aren’t scowering the market for the talent that he already has. Which is wrong, the players he has brought in have done nothing and are not very highly rated.

Any players worth picking up are going to be in their mid 30’s with maybe 5 years left in them. The american youth soccer program will always be a mediocre market, sure the NHL is still a sour topic with some people and the MLS looks poised to be the ” other sport ” to watch, but its hardly going to be a gold mine. There is simply little or no money in the MLS.

I hope I am wrong, but I can’t help but to feel like I am right.

I am never surprised at the NHL slams, but this one is just downright weird. MLS does not compete with the NHL. It competes with the NFL. As long as football refers to a pointy brown ball with laces, soccer will be a fourth class citizen in this country. The NFL controls the airwaves. They are the dominant content on the dominant network, ESPN, which, by the way, is the dominant soccer network outside of the US.

Hockey is the second largest professional sport by live attendance in North America. Between the NHL, the AHL, the CHL, the ECHL, the UHL, the SPHL, and the Junior leagues (OHL, QJMHL, etc.) hockey is watched live by more people from coast to coast in Canada and the United States over its long season.

What some of you see mistakenly as weakness you should see instead as strength. Hockey had the spine to systematically weaken itself for five years to weaken the marquee value of the players in the players association, which they then summarily crushed. The players returned under the owners’ terms, including being able to be sent down to the minors when they can’t perform. This has opened up a more fluid opportunity gateway, destroying the green cap in hockey that locked in mediocre players with high salaries who were choking the game to death. Ironically, no one sent down to the minors thus far has used the appear/arbitration system to contest it, to my knowledge. Further, Hockey continues to tweak the rules to cater to the telvision market, always a weak spot as the game has always been too complex, with side-board checking, for the camera to easily narrate.

Hockey’s greatest enemy is NASCAR, which courts the same fans, and was sucking down some of its television share during the strike.

MLS has one enemy: Itself. It caters to the immigrant fans who miss football from their countries. It has built no minor league infrastructure to raise up the generation of domestic-grown US players that it needs to feed a system that can really take on the NFL. It lacks both capital and will.

Arena Football (AFL) is really the only independent sport to go major league (See our articles on this), but it is largely owned by NFL interests these days, and it serves the purpose of extending football mania into the spring/summer for ESPN, who just made the mother of all deals for it. They prove that you can fit an alternative sport into the landscape. It just takes 13 years and some brilliant marketing, along with the development of your own feeder system (arenafootball2).

Brian Ross
Sr. Editor
Minor League News (MLN)

Brian Ross
Sr. Editor
Minor League News

I agree with a lot of that. I feel however that the League expanded into markets it had no business entering in the first place. Hopefully the growing parity caused in-part by the new CBA will help matters.

But the OLN move was a joke and there’s no way around that. Game 1 of last summer’s Stanley Cup was outdone on TV in the U.S. by the NCAA women’s softball championship!! Moreover, the entire playoff [ratings] numbers were routinely eclipsed by both poker and bowling. Not a good sign, though you can argue the league is now less dependent on tv-revenue.

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