The streets of Atlanta are pulsating with tens of thousands of irate soccer fans, and the cause of their frustration is glaringly evident. Lionel Messi’s absence from Inter Miami FC’s MLS game against Atlanta United serves as an alarming reflection of a situation that should never have materialized.
MLS is no stranger to being dubbed the “Messi Soccer League” within the industry, primarily because of its reliance on superstar players to stay relevant. Some have even gone so far as to call it the “Money Soccer League” due to its over-commercialization, which has led to a glaring lack of inclusivity within the sport.
It’s no wonder that Messi decided to skip his appearance on artificial turf, citing concerns sparked by Aaron Rodgers’ NFL injury. This incident has shed light on the ill-advised choice of using artificial surfaces in professional sports. European soccer legends who have graced MLS in the past have not hesitated to express their disdain for playing on artificial turf.
The recent shift from turf to natural grass at NFL stadiums for summer soccer friendlies serves as a stark contrast, underscoring the problem. In 2023, it’s simply unacceptable to have professional games played on artificial football pitches.
Now, let’s delve into another disconcerting aspect of the financial dynamics in American soccer. Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank’s substantial $50 million contribution to the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) has cast a harsh light on the murky relationship between the USSF and MLS. The sheer power wielded by a mere 30 billionaires over the destiny of soccer in the United States is nothing short of alarming.
For 20 years, MLS has relentlessly monopolized the lion’s share of revenue from USMNT events through its own entity called SUM (Soccer United Marketing), effectively stifling the growth of soccer at all levels.
The stranglehold that Blank and his fellow MLS overlords have on U.S. soccer is undeniably detrimental to its progress.
It’s abundantly clear that there is an urgent need for a new, independent organization, one emancipated from the suffocating status quo. Soccer in the United States should not remain in the iron grip of an exclusive elite who prioritize over-commercialization over the growth and inclusivity of the sport. The time for radical transparency, genuine inclusivity, and a comprehensive overhaul of American soccer is long overdue.