Friday, September 22, 2017

Guest Post: Why I Hang Out In a Twitter Toxic Zone



We are blessed to have another great guest post today... one that perfectly boils it down to the essence of why somebody would subject themselves to being an advocate for change in American soccer on social media. Make sure you give Erik a follow on Twitter! Let us know how you feel about this using the #ProRelForUSA hashtag on social media.

Why I Hang Out In a Twitter Toxic Zone


The discussion of the governance of soccer in the United States on Twitter has been called one of the most toxic, ill-tempered spaces on the social media platform. Given the place that political discourse has gone to, that's saying something. The Beautiful Game is full of passion and emotion, though. And that passion can be on full display in the 140-character-limited conversations found on Twitter.
From the scolds who fly the #ProRelforUSA hashtag to their antagonists who are convinced that the status-quo is the best we'll get and should be grateful for, the vitriol and invective can be off-putting for someone as conflict-averse as myself. I can well imagine a new fan of the game we love stumbling into a thread and deciding they really don't want to know more. Innocent questions sometimes find curt replies followed by behavior trolling and the re-ignition of now decades-old personality conflicts that go beyond the actual subject of discussion.
It can be a really bad look for the sport in our country. Trying to be a grown-up, I can admit my part in the occassional studs-up challenge defending my viewpoint. If I have nicked your shins, or scared you away from commenting, I apologize.
That brings me to the answer promised in the headline "Why I Hang Out In a Twitter Toxic Zone". I throw my two cents in for one simple reason: I want to see the United States Mens National Team win the World Cup in my lifetime. Let me repeat that. I want to see the United States Mens National Team win the World Cup in my lifetime. That simple.
I have played soccer since falling in love with the game more than 40 years ago, before Pele landed with the Cosmos.
I have lived through two versions of Soccer Wars.
I lived in a true world soccer power as they marched to a World Cup Final, experiencing the game’s culture and structure there . I can recall all the strange places and times I have watched the USMNT and the rest of the world play out sports' greatest drama.
I am thankful to those with the means (and those who really didn't) who have taken a gamble that the game can grow and become a success here. Through my observation, participation, and research I have concluded that the way the game is currently organized in the United States will not result in my simply-stated desire.
Based on participant numbers and resources available it is inexcusable for our on-field results to remain mired in the same place we were as qualifying for France '98. We have a wasteful, overpriced player development system whose leakage enriches the few, paid for by the unknowing, at the cost of results and excluding the many. We have eschewed world-class best-practice experience for an exceptionalism that leaves us spinning our wheels.
I don't give two scoops of rooster poop about the motivations behind this stagnation. My only concern is that we move aggressively towards an alignment and system that makes winning the World Cup a truly viable dream. Anyone or anything standing in the way of that movement needs to be removed, and removed quickly. Anyone or anything willing to collaborate to bring us in line with international best-practices is welcome on my band wagon.

I want to see the United States Mens National Team win the World Cup in my lifetime. Do you?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Guest Post: MLS Viewership Compared to Available Seating



Recently I was on Twitter and saw Jed Kirchenwitz (FOLLOW HIM HERE) tweeting out an interesting thought process he was working through concerning how stadium capacity compared to TV viewership numbers across the "Big 5" sports in the United States. I asked him to write a guest post for this blog... and I'm really glad/thankful that he did. I would love to hear your opinion on it in the comments or on social media (Don't forget to use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag). 




MLS Viewership Compared to Available Seating
One of the big obsessions with American soccer fans are the TV ratings for MLS games.  As I was looking at these numbers recently a question came in to my mind:  What if all the “average” viewers of national MLS telecasts were to show up for games in person?  How much of the available seating would be filled?
On the surface, it probably seems like a strange question.  After all, a LOT more people can watch a game on TV than can attend a game in person.  In theory all those viewers should easily fill the available seating; perhaps they would fill it several times over.  I’m not talking about playoff and championship matches that tend to draw larger audiences either.  I was curious about the viewers of the day-to-day, regular season games.  It would seem logical to say that those regular season games are going to attract the “real fans”, those that care enough about a sport to watch whatever game is on the television at any given moment.
So the question is this:  If all the average viewers for a nationally-televised regular season MLS game showed up at the stadiums person, how full would those stadiums be?
It’s a simple equation—take the total available MLS seating and divide by the average number of viewers.  Since we’re looking at American telecasts only, I even went so far as to exclude the Canadian seating.  Let the Canadians fill their own stadiums!
Total available MLS seating capacity in America in 2016: 384,132
Average American MLS national broadcast viewership in 2016: 257,683
So, if the average American viewership of a nationally broadcast MLS game on TV showed up at American stadiums in person, they would be 67% full.  Sixty-seven percent.  In other words, MLS viewers for an average nationally televised game couldn’t even fill the seats.  
Quite literally, the same people who are going to MLS games might be the only people watching it on TV.
How does the number compare to the NFL, the king of TV sports in America? The NFL would fill their seats almost 8 times over, and that’s even with the fact that NFL stadiums are typically three to four times larger than the average MLS venue.
MLS - 0.67 to 1
NFL- 7.85 to 1
I can already hear the complaints, though.  “You can’t compare MLS to the NFL!  Nothing compares to the NFL!”
Let’s look at some deeper numbers across the “big five” sports, then.  In fact, where we can let’s break down the numbers even further.  For all sports except NFL, good numbers are available for both “mothership” broadcasts on Fox, NBC, etc. and games shown solely on cable.
MLS

1.34
2016 National Broadcast Only, 6 games
0.67
2016 All networks


NFL

7.85
2016 All Networks*


NBA

5.90
16/17 National Broadcast Only
3.84
16/17 All Networks


NHL

2.93
16/17 Broadcast Only
2.00
16/17 All Networks


MLB

1.35
2015 All Networks**
1.78
2015 Broadcast Only**

* NFL Cable broadcasts are also shown on local over-the-air affiliates, unlike other sports.  Therefore I only included the number for both cable and over-the-air broadcasts.
** MLB telecasts have become more regionalized since 2015; finding good numbers after 2015 is more difficult.
What about the trend for the current year?  MLS is two-thirds of the way through the 2017 season as of this writing.  MLS has also added two additional franchises bringing the total seating capacity to 448,527.  What has this done to the viewers-to-seats ratio?  
MLS

0.57
2017 All networks
0.98
2017 Broadcast Only, 4 games

You read that correctly.  Even though MLS added two franchises, TV viewership so far this year is essentially flat.  The viewers-to-seats ratio has actually worsened.  By this measure MLS broadcasts are actually reaching less of the American soccer market!
This is only part of the story, though.  If you only went with the numbers you see above you would assume that soccer is a distant fifth place to the traditional “big four” leagues in terms of popularity.
According to World Soccer Talk (http://worldsoccertalk.com/2017/08/24/most-watched-soccer-games-on-us-tv-for-august-15-20-2017/) , and cross-referenced as much as possible through the various TV ratings reporting sites on the web, the numbers are startlingly higher for soccer in general.
  1. The total average TV audience for ALL regular season league soccer games (EPL, Liga MX, MLS, Bundesliga, and “other” leagues) is about 1,534,000.  This is almost six times larger than the average for MLS broadcasts alone.

  1. If all the average American viewers across all soccer leagues are included, the viewers to seats ratio skyrockets to 3.4 to 1.
The breakdown of viewers-to-seats, from largest to smallest, is as shown here.  For simplicity’s sake, I only used the numbers for looking across all networks, but the list would be in the same order.
NFL

7.85
2016 All Networks*


NBA

3.84
16/17 All Networks


All Soccer

3.4
All Soccer Broadcasts All Networks


NHL

2.00
16/17 All Networks


MLB

1.35
2015 All Networks**


MLS

0.57
2017 MLS Viewers-to-Seats all Networks

That’s a stunning increase and shows just how little reach into the American soccer market MLS truly has.  That’s not the 8:1 ratio of the NFL, but it is in line with the NBA and ahead of both the NHL and MLB ratings.
In the end, these numbers are just another measurement of what we already knew:  MLS is failing to capture the American Soccer market, and failing in a big way.  More importantly, these numbers also represent the huge opportunity that MLS and US Soccer are not taking advantage of.  

Perhaps what this number really gives us is the full potential that US Soccer has for growth with fans of the game.
This also brings some other thoughts to mind:  American soccer fans are clearly interested in promotion/relegation leagues.  Could AMERICAN SOCCER, by simply changing to a promotion/relegation structure, be as popular as the NBA?  And if so, shouldn’t we be clamoring for it to be implemented now?

I realize this is a simplistic view, but US Soccer is missing the true market this badly then we should be doing everything we can to take advantage of what is an obvious opportunity to truly grow the game.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

NASL files anti-trust suit in Federal Court


The NASL's press release reads:

The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced Tuesday that it has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in Brooklyn federal court. The NASL is a men’s professional soccer league that has operated since 2010.
The NASL’s complaint alleges that the USSF has violated federal antitrust laws through its anticompetitive “Division” structure that divides men’s professional soccer for U.S.-based leagues based on arbitrary criteria that the USSF has manipulated to favor Major League Soccer (MLS), which is the commercial business partner of the USSF.  Its business arrangements include multi-million dollar media and marketing contracts with Soccer United Marketing (SUM), MLS’s marketing arm that also jointly sells and markets MLS rights combined with rights to U.S. national soccer teams operated by the USSF. 

The complaint alleges that the USSF has selectively applied and waived its divisional criteria to suppress competition from the NASL, both against MLS and against United Soccer League (USL).  For example, under the USSF’s divisional criteria, there are European clubs that have successfully operated for decades that would be considered ineligible for “Division I” or even “Division II” status due to arbitrary requirements like stadium capacity and market size. 

The complaint alleges that the USSF sought to limit competition from the NASL to MLS and USL, and now seeks to destroy the NASL by arbitrarily revoking the NASL’s “Division II” status for the upcoming 2018 season. The complaint only seeks injunctive relief against the USSF’s conduct regarding its divisional designations.

Rocco B. Commisso, Chairman of the NASL’s Board of Governors and the principal owner of the New York Cosmos, which plays its home games in Brooklyn, stated:  “The USSF left the NASL no choice except to file this lawsuit. The NASL has taken this step to protect not just the league, but also the game, fans, and everyone with a stake in the future success of professional soccer leagues based in this country.”


READ THE SUIT IN ITS ENTIRETY HERE

Some questions that USSF Presidential candidates should ask Sunil Gulati



Recently we have seen public announcement by Paul LaPointe and Steven Gans as candidates for President of USSF against the incumbent Sunil Gulati. Sunil Gulati has not been a huge fan of talking to the media over the course of the last few years.

With the help of THIS NY DAILY NEWS article we've developed a few questions that we feel that these candidates and any who hopefully join in (We are talking to you John Motta and Jerome De Bontin) should be directly asking Mr. Gulati to answer. 



-- What was your relationship with Chuck Blazer? How long did you know Mr. Blazer?


-- As president of the United States Soccer Federation, did you review and sign off on contracts between USSF and CONCACAF that were negotiated by Blazer? Were you aware of commissions paid directly or indirectly to Blazer?


-- Between the bribery scandal that led to Blazer's departure from international soccer circles in 2013 and the Justice Department's unsealing of its indictment in 2015, what did you as a FIFA and CONCACAF executive do to uncover fraud in either organization?


-- As a senior lecturer in economics at Columbia with experience working for the World Bank, how did you not notice the blatant irregularities in CONCACAF's financial reports while you were serving on the organization's executive committee?


-- Have you been questioned by the FBI, Justice Department prosecutors or other U.S. government investigators? Did you appear before or submit documents to the grand jury that handed up the FIFA indictments? Have you spoken to the Swiss authorities who are leading the FIFA investigation in their country? Is it true that you were wiretapped by the FBI during their investigation of Chuck Blazer?


-- Did you ever share office space at the Trump Tower, which was home to CONCACAF, with Chuck Blazer? Were you ever aware of allegations that Blazer used CONCACAF funds to fuel his high-flying lifestyle, including a $6,000-per-month Trump Tower apartment for his cats?


-- Why did you decline to attend the U.S. Senate committee hearing on the Justice Department's FIFA investigation on July 15? USSF chief executive officer Dan Flynn, who appeared on behalf of USSF at the hearing, claimed American soccer officials did not have any leverage to push for reform at FIFA. Do you agree with his assessment?


-- Why does USSF deal with SUM as a broker for its media rights when even MLS (the parent company of SUM) feels that dealing directly with its broadcast partners is required to have a successful partnership?


-- Is it concerning to USSF that MLS favors some teams over others when it comes to player allocation and that a sitting USSF Board Member would lie about it?


-- What are your feelings on the American Soccer United "Call For Change" reform outline?






We would love to hear what questions you want to have Sunil Gulati answer also! Let us know in the comments section below and on social media. Make sure you use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag.

Friday, September 1, 2017

30 Supporter Group coalition release a letter of support for CAS case



August 14th 2017 The Supporter Groups for Promotion and Relegation coalition released a letter of support for Miami FC and Stockade FC  in regards to their complaint filed with CAS last month.

30 supporter groups have currently signed on. This list of signatures includes several MLS SG along with SG from NASL, USL, NPSL and PDL clubs.

This coalition of supporter groups represents thousands of the most passionate fans in this country and yet another display of the rapid growth of the #ProRelForUSA movement.