Thursday's soccer news starts with the return of the XFL this weekend. The renewed attempt to make professional football a success in the spring raises an old competition issue for MLS. It also raises an old question. Is North American soccer's topflight really in competition with other sports?
Major League Soccer's season overlaps with all the other pro sports and college football and basketball at some point during its season. That's what starting at the end of February and running into November creates. There's no time on the schedule that only belongs to MLS, and there never will be. The extension of the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League schedules into June see to that.
What makes the XFL potentially different is that it's an unknown quantity in the current market and some of its teams use MLS stadiums. That overlap is different, with the original XFL finding brief success in some markets back in 2001. The original XFL also raided MLS front offices, offering personnel familiar with a startup league a new opportunity.
MLS is a significantly larger and stronger league in 2020. Unlike the last time, there's no fear of the soccer league going under entirely. MLS operates from a position of strength these days, capable of not only coexisting in big sports markets but thriving. What makes the situation for MLS unique is the amount of potential competition.
It's not just the established pro leagues in North America. It's the glut of soccer available on television from foreign leagues. MLS is in a unique position in American sports. There are better foreign leagues with Us and Canadian soccer fans well aware of those leagues, teams, and how to watch them. That can make spending on Major League Soccer a different choice. It's not the best in the world, but it's the best available here on a regular schedule. MLS has done the work to position itself accordingly.
Nobody is confusing the XFL with the NFL. It's pro football, but a different variety intended to fill what may or may not be a gap in the schedule. The USFL tried to take advantage of spring football in the mid-1980s at the same time the original North American Soccer League was going under. There's no doubt that the USFL impacted the NASL, but the broader sports market wasn't exactly booming at the time.
It's a different scenario now than it was then or in the early 2000s. Sports is one of the last remaining drivers for bundled cable television and broadcast rights fees reflect that. MLS doesn't have the ratings, but they have the outlets to improve. The XFL starts its revival with games on national television this weekend.
While it may not be a direct connection, the XFL finding television success could be the main issue for MLS. It's a broader marketplace where another league succeeding in the ratings highlights what MLS isn't doing. That's drawing the kind of viewership that justifies the broadcast rights fees.
Also in the soccer news, Matt Polster was on the bench for Rangers in their 2-1 home win over Hibernian. It took a comeback, with Hibs ahead from the 35th minute. George Edmundson equalized two minutes into first-half stoppage time and Ianis Hagi scored in the 84th minute. Ventura Alvarado's Necaxa drew 2-2 at home with Monterrey in Liga MX. Trailing from the 14th minute, Juan Delgado equalized from the penalty spot in the 44th. An own-goal had Monterrey back up in the 84th with Rodrigo Noya equalizing three minutes into stoppage time.
iNews' Alex Hess looks at how Inter Miami is building a fan base in south Florida. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tannenwald explains the process for approving jersey designs in Major League Soccer. The Athletic's Pablo Maurer also picks up the design issue in MLS.
BBC Sport has the Premier League returning to the standard summer transfer window rather than closing it when the season starts. The Guardian's Sid Lowe on Lionel Messi and Barcelona's issues. World Soccer's Nick Bidwell profiles Borussia Dortmund's Gio Reyna and Erling Haaland. DW on Reyna's quick rise in the Bundesliga. The Daily Mail's Adam Shergold looks at RB Leipzig's title chances.
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