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Friday, June 14, 2024

Opinion: An Open Letter to MLS

Do the right thing.

Image taken from https://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/10/columbus-crew-fans-owner-anthony-precourt-twitter-reaction-move-club-austin-mls

Dear Major League Soccer and Don Garber,

Over the last couple of days, I’ve thought about the news of the potential move of the Columbus franchise to Austin, Texas. Notice that I called it the Columbus franchise… Let me explain why I did so. In American sports, we have created this false sense of commitment to towns and fan bases. If MLS truly cared about the Columbus Crew, this move wouldn’t even be threatened. The Columbus Crew is not only a team that plays in MLS, but also a group of fans, some of which are MLS fans that have been with the league since the beginning.

If we look around the world to how sports operate, this idea of “franchises” becomes that of a joke. While I am a proponent of Pro-Rel, that is an argument for a different article. The year 2018 was supposed to be the next positive step for soccer in America, something that took a major hit over the last several weeks as the USMNT failed to qualify for the World Cup. Does MLS really think taking away a team in a city that has seen some of the greatest national team victories is a good idea?

I get that from a business standpoint, the league wants to strong-arm a situation to get the desired result, but as a sports fan and a steadfast supporter of soccer in America, I am disappointed. MLS is still a growing league, is exploring expanding the league and, yet, wants to move a team that is well established in the league.

Congratulations, you have finally joined the ranks of the NFL and NBA, but sadly it isn’t for a positive reason. Those two leagues are perfect examples of the dark side of the American “franchise” model in professional sports. From the Seattle Supersonics being ripped away to Oklahoma City, to the NFL displacing not one, not two, but now three franchises in the last year, American sports leagues have shown a complete lack of respect to their cities and fan bases who have spent time and money supporting their “club.”

Soccer clubs overseas are some of the biggest sports entities in the world, both in terms of following and financially. If MLS wants to grow, it is time to remove the restrictions and move away from this single-entity system and let clubs build their loyal followings, and place an incentive on putting a good team on the field.

Moving Columbus may make the MLS a couple of extra dollars, but what you lose in credibility is a much bigger hit. Be different than the “Big 4.” Be better. Do the right thing and shut down any possibility of moving any “franchise” and prove to the fans that MLS is truly trying to become a major player in international soccer.

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