Major League Soccer, A Challenging Rise

Major League Soccer, A Challenging Rise
The 2016 Major League Soccer (MLS) season ended last weekend with Seattle Sounders lifting the MLS Cup. Once again, the league set a new attendance record and because of the rising number of globally-recognisable stars coming to play in the MLS, attracted greater interest from the international media. However, MLS commissioner Don Garber still describes the league being in “investment mode”. This week KPMG Football Benchmark, Soccerex's content partners, provide insights on the North American top-division and what its prospects are for the future.

In 1996, the first season of the MLS started out with ten founding franchises, which all shared their home grounds with a team from another sport or using facilities not designed for football. This is a far cry away from new clubs Atlanta and Minnesota, who are both set to join the league for the 2017 season. They have reportedly paid franchise fees of around USD 100m, and the league’s president and deputy commissioner, Mark Abbott, explained last August that fees for future teams could be "as high as USD 200m". This is even a massive step up from the sum Toronto FC paid back in 2010 of USD 10m.

Fast forwarding to 2016, with modern stadiums, the inclusion of expansion teams in key market areas and the improving standards on the field, this has seen a positive impact on attendances in the league. This season attracted an average crowd of 21,692 per game, figures comparable to Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1 attendances.

The new expansion franchises, the continuous arrival of household names in the game, the rise of average attendances and growing international recognition shows that MLS has potential for further growth in the years ahead. However, with the structure of MLS being able to attract franchise owners, this could also limit the league’s ability to get the top players required to keep on raising the quality of play.

For the full article by KPMG Benchmark, please click here.

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