I am an unwavering soccer enthusiast with a profound commitment to the sport. My journey over the past 15 years in the United States, chasing the elusive American dream, has allowed me to witness firsthand the fusion of my passion for soccer with my deep admiration for America’s core values of equality, fairness, and freedom of expression.
In my eyes, soccer embodies principles of integrity, fairness, and a level playing field, ensuring that the thrill of the game is accessible to all. Unfortunately, the American soccer landscape has fallen victim to a select few driven by self-interest.
The issues are glaring. U.S. soccer has become a stark example of anti-competitiveness, dominated by a wealthy elite and overly commercialized, all at the expense of devoted fans. The cost of MLS tickets has soared to exorbitant levels, and the pay-to-play model has turned soccer into an exclusive pursuit, leaving ordinary families on the sidelines. The price tag on an MLS Messi jersey has skyrocketed to an astonishing $200, creating a divide among fans.
U.S. Soccer is embroiled in two antitrust lawsuits with NASL and Relevent Sports, accusing it of stifling competition. It’s a troubling scenario for the soccer community.
MLS has struggled to attract consistent TV viewership, falling even behind niche sports like cornhole. A desperate partnership with Apple, offering free subscriptions to T-Mobile customers, has yielded disappointing results. The move to sign Lionel Messi with the hope of salvaging the deal with Apple and tapping into Messi’s nearly 500 million Instagram followers seems desperate and has sparked criticism. While neither Apple nor MLS has disclosed concrete viewership figures behind the paywall, it’s confirmed that a few hundred thousand subscribers have joined since Messi’s arrival. However, MLS might face further antitrust lawsuits for forcing Messi fans to subscribe to watch all MLS games when they simply want to watch Messi.
The exploitative pay-to-play structure in U.S. youth soccer not only crushes the dreams of aspiring talents but also hampers their development. Many talented players either abandon the sport or seek opportunities in Europe due to the lack of competitive prospects in the U.S.
Equally troubling is the closed system adopted by U.S. soccer, which lacks promotion and relegation. This framework sidelines genuine fan ownership and grants excessive power to MLS, raising questions about its connections to SUM and funding of the U.S. soccer headquarters in Atlanta, which could imply conflicts of interest.
Now, potential investors are required to shell out a hefty $500 million to secure an MLS franchise, essentially guaranteeing market exclusivity. Even the minor league USL charges $20 million for a franchise.
Lastly, the regrettable politicization of the soccer industry is disheartening. While I passionately advocate for fairness, equality, and freedom of speech, soccer should serve as a unifying force, transcending political divisions and nurturing team spirit. At its core, sports are entertainment and should remain free from political manipulation.