The Euro Shift
|I mentioned recently that the sale of the Wizards to Cerner and friends would mean that Lamar Hunt's MLS interests are down to two teams. That has a big effect on the whole "Americanization/Europeanization" debate in MLS, because Hunt is one of the bigger Americanizers in MLS. He fought to keep eight teams in the playoffs after contraction, and his teams are known to have annoying sound affects/music during games.|
Why is that important? Back in 2002, as one of only three investors, Hunt owned 30% of the league's teams. In total there are 9 owners for 13 teams, which means that a lot of new people have come into the league. The new investors seem much more friendly towards the European approach. Who knows what the new Wizards owners believe, but overall there is a movement towards traditional soccer thinking in America. I've been seeing it all year long in various articles about MLS. The fact that single table is even a possibility shows you how real that change in approach is.
Like for example, with Chivas USA and New York this year. It's not a shock that people who were already involved in soccer outside the USA are going to prefer to do things in a more traditional way. Plus, the new Toronto FC franchise seems to be thinking that way if the name is any indication. We've all heard various chatter among players and Bruce Arena about making the regular season more meaningful. It was also very interesting to see Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo talking about why MLS should align with the international calendar.
MLS now has a technical committee this season in addition to the competition committee. The latter has a representative from each owner, while the former has reps from all teams plus four other men. It appears that they've created the technical committee to get some advice from those ex-players and coaches, as opposed to the suits in the competition committee. They should know better than anyone what could help. Members of the technical committee include the previously mentioned Arena and Clavijo.
Clavijo also mentioned something about having "more soccer people" in the team organizations. Imagine that, soccer people running the American soccer league. Real soccer fans never wanted a shootout or flashy uniforms, and the Americanization of soccer was a failure. Futhermore, there are more than enough soccer fans in this country already to make MLS a huge success. The league needs to try and capture the attention of those fans first. It's only after that should they go after the casual sports fans.
So get used to names like FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake, and Toronto FC. That's just the beginning.