Friday, April 06, 2007

MLS 2007 Survey Results

After a week and a thread on Bigsoccer as well as here, it's time to take a look at the results. My goal here is to get a look at the state of the MLS fan base. I didn't care about predictions for the season, but rather the more important issues.

I'm encouraged that this survey got about a hundred more responses than my first one. Without shelling out thousands for a real telephone poll to be conducted, this is about as scientific as I'm going to get. So the more responses the better.

MLS 2007

(282 responses. Numbers listed below are percentages.)

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Don Garber is doing as MLS Commissioner?


Thoughts: Wow. MLS fans overwhelmingly support "The Don," and I can't say I'm surprised. But to have a net approval rating of 83%, that's crazy. Now is a great time to be a fan of the league, but I wish we could see how the opinion of Garber was in previous years. Hired in late 1999, he started off by making fan friendly moves like eliminating the shootout, so I bet he would have positive approval ratings over the entire last eight years. Maybe a dip during contraction. Soccer America used to do similar polls, but I can't find much about Garber. Just this one from 2000 which states people liked him better than Doug Logan (really?).

I don't think he can get much more popular than this, but what could cause a decrease? I guess the league not growing as fast as everyone would like, but it seems there's little he can do wrong so far.

Do you approve or disapprove of the job ESPN2/ABC is doing with their MLS broadcasts?


Thoughts: A small majority approve, which is actually higher than I expected. Given all the complaints about announcers, preempted telecasts, and past failures (sky cam crashing, "side by side" ads), I thought more would disapprove. Personally, that's where I would put myself right now based on past years. Having said that, this season will be very interesting with all the new innovations. I'm optimistic. The offside line looks good, although there's the danger that it could show that MLS referees suck. But even that would be good in the long run, because it would spur change. The radar gun is my favorite, because that's the type of "Americanizing" that is perfect. It doesn't affect the game, but it adds something (even if it's ultimately meaningless). Let's hope the commentary takes a step forward as well.

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the signing of David Beckham?


Thoughts: 87% net approval. Everybody wants to see the league grow, and maybe he's the catalyst.

4. How excited are you for the 2007 MLS season?

81-Very Excited
16-Somewhat excited
2-Not too excited
0-Not at all excited

My answer: 81% is pretty good, considering that this is poll consists of almost all MLS fans (I'm assuming). Is that enough for such a group, though? It's been the most exciting offseason ever.

5. How many teams should make the MLS playoffs?


Thoughts: I regret including zero among the choices, because the wording of this question assumes that there are playoffs. So it's slightly flawed. Perhaps the most important thing we can take from it is that 75% favor a reduction in the number of playoff teams. This is something that I've been going on about for a while now. Any league where a majority of teams make the playoffs is wrong.

That goes for the NBA and NHL too. The 2006 Colorado Rapids and this year's Orlando Magic don't deserve to compete for a championship. No team with a losing record should ever make the playoffs, and in MLS that happens all the time. Only one MLS team has missed the playoffs with a winning record (2005 Wizards). It reduces the importance of the regular season when making the playoffs is not hard. Let's knock the number down by two, at the very least.

6. Are you in favor of a single table league format in MLS?

63-Yes, even with playoffs
12-Yes, but only with promotion and relegation

Thoughts: What are the advantages of having conferences? I guess the biggest one is creating bigger rivalries with your closest teams by playing them more often. But if you're going to have playoffs, then why can't you have a single table and still do the same thing?

It was obvious that last year's playoff format wasn't going to work with unbalanced conferences. They didn't go with single table, and instead we might see teams from different conferences getting mixed up in the playoff matchups. So my question is, if which conference you're in doesn't really matter, then why keep them? Why is that a better situation than single table? I guess because we'll see 14 and then 16 teams in the league, and it'll be balanced again.

Soon though, MLS will have enough teams to play a home and away 30 game schedule. I think single table will happen in the next ten years. 63% want it right now.

7. Assuming that it was feasible, would you prefer a multi-division MLS with promotion and relegation, or an NFL style large league with playoffs?

56-Multi-division with promotion and relegation
44-Large league with playoffs

Thoughts: As someone who dreams about the future of soccer, this is probably my favorite question. I've always thought that MLS should aspire to be like the top European leagues. To me multiple divisions with pro/rel is the ultimate goal that we should aspire to. Maybe it's a pipe dream to expect relegation with all the money involved. I don't think it's impossible, however. More soccer people (read = foreigners) as owners certainly couldn't hurt.

How would a second division be created? You could start out expansion teams in the second division. If MLS is at 22 teams, then you relegate two, take two USL teams with good support and stadiums (Rochester, Montreal), and create four expansion teams in one year; there's your eight-team second division created in one year.

This is the type of question I would love to see crosstabs on. What that means is how people voted based on age, ethnicity, and other categories.

8. For MLS teams, do you prefer "American style" nicknames (Galaxy, Rapids, Wizards) or traditional "soccer names" (United, FC, Real)?

36-"American style" nicknames
64-Traditional "soccer names"

Thoughts: Someone mentioned on the comments that they wish there was another option like "a mix of the two." That's probably why about 10 people fewer voted on this question compared to all the rest. I thought about it, but for this topic, I wanted to push people onto one side or the other. If an expansion team comes to your city, you can't have both (unless you're Houston, apparently). MLS seems to be heading down the traditional path, and the results say most people would rather have those types of names. I bet it would've been way different before RSL or right as that name was announced.

9. What format should the MLS All Star game take?

51-MLS All Stars vs foreign club (current)
15-Eastern stars vs Western stars (previous)
32-There shouldn't be an all star game

Thoughts: Similar to the playoffs question, this one might have been improved by not including the final option. It really should've been two different questions, but I was limited to ten. 33% don't want an all star game (including me), and I thought it would've been higher based on the last few questions. I suppose it's meaningless either way though.

I will say that I really don't see the merit of East vs West. I already talked about conferences above, and MLS stands out by having a unique format. The only time conference vs conference was a good option was in MLB before interleague play. Then it was exciting.

10. Do you feel that MLS as a whole is too "traditional," too "Americanized," or just right?

2-Too traditional
24-Too Americanized
55-Just Right

Thoughts: Very interesting. A majority is happy with the balance. Despite that, 75% want single table and 56% think pro/rel is the better choice for the future. It appears all the "traditions" of European/foreign soccer aren't equal. I guess "just right" in some people means that you think things could be improved, but you're happy currently anyway. Is that right? Or maybe it means 'I don't care either way.'

I wonder if MLS could be exactly like a Euro league, how many people would want that option? The 56% figure from earlier? There's a solid group who thinks it's too Americanized, and virtually no one on the opposite side. So it's not surprising to see the distribution of posts on Bigsoccer that we see.


MLS fans are excited and optimistic, and not just because it's the day before the new season starts. I think most fans would like to see changes on certain things, but are generally happy with the league.

In terms of questions, I think most were interesting. I probably should've asked one or two on the quality of soccer the league offers. Is it good enough for you? How long could you live with the current standard? I'd like to see future approval/favorability questions so in the future, people will be able to see year by year how the opinions have changed (for the commish especially). I think those type of questions could've had their own poll, and the same goes for media coverage.

This survey was mostly "traditional vs American." As I said in the thoughts for the last question, most MLS fans don't fit exclusively into either category. I guess it's like the Kinsey scale.

Previous Surveys

1/30/2007 - 2010 MLS/USMNT

Comments on "MLS 2007 Survey Results"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:00 AM, April 06, 2007) : 

I'm not surprised one bit by the ESPN/ABC number. The hue and cry comes from a small segment of people with an incredible level of self-entitlement. Most people watch enough sports and are mature enough to know that sometimes announcers suck and sometimes games start late because of a prior live event. Not everyone's self-esteem rides on how the network broadcasts a soccer game.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:45 AM, April 06, 2007) : 

You actually could have a mix of the American and Traditional names by calling an expansion team SC Phoenix for soccer club. We don't need to be apologetic for calling the sport by a different name. Also, MLS is in a position to be excellent guinea pigs for different approaches. How about this, use head-to-head results during the season as a tie-breaker for the playoffs. It would make clubs take regular season matchups more seriously (which we've hoping would happen for a while now), and it would eliminate the need for the crapshoots that are penalty shootouts. Yes, we could use away goals rule, but I think this would aid the regular season, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:43 PM, April 06, 2007) : 

ESPN's production of the Champions League is great.

ESPN's production of MLS/USMNT is poor.

Why do they have to reinvent the wheel for MLS?


Blogger The Manly Ferry said ... (4:52 PM, April 06, 2007) : 

Not to take a jab at people who voted a certain way, but I see absolutely no sense in having a single-table AND the playoffs; with one team coming out on top and everyone playing an identical schedule, hasn't the question of who has the best team in the league already been answered? Seems like it should be one or the other, really. But, whore that I am, I'll watch either way.

With regard to the rationale for conferences, there's also travel distance/expense. Can't say how strongly this applies in a discount airline/hub-and-spoke world, but keeping the teams geographically close works on a number of levels.

Anyway, those are just quibbles. Great, great survey.


Blogger Ian said ... (9:00 PM, April 06, 2007) : 

I think there should always be playoffs, to me it's the most exciting part of the whole championship, unlike a traditional league format, where sometimes a team is already crowned the champion many rounds before the end.

And as for the All-Star Game, I don't see anything wrong with it.

I do agree, however, that the two conferences are pointless.

And having two(or more) divisions would be a dream come true! Not sure if Montreal has a stadium big enough for the MLS, though. I know they are building a new one, but it'll fit only 13,000 people.

Anyway, great survey!


Blogger scaryice said ... (1:25 AM, April 09, 2007) : 

With the new qualification for the Superliga (top 4), there's less reason to have playoffs. I hope to see the playoffs end eventually.

When you have various things to play for, like in England where they have 6 spots in Europe and pro/rel, it makes virtually every game important.

I should write a big post about why I feel that the playoffs should be done away with, but I'm kinda sick of the subject to be honest.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:54 PM, April 09, 2007) : 

To Anonymous about ESPN production:

The reason that the production of the Champions League is so good is because ESPN doesn't do it. They purchase the rights to display the feed that is the standard worldwide (at least outside of Europe). All ESPN has to do to customize it is have their own commentators and graphics.

For MLS though, ESPN actually does control the production (camera work, directing, controlling replays, etc.) which is why it's so poor.


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