A Deal with the Devil

Few things are more reliable than the occasional bleating of the MLS2Detroit crowd. Usually something spurs them all, all self-serving. Whether it is Dan Duggan trying to drum up support for his shitty PDL-side or Dan Garber creating a sense of demand for the franchises he is shilling for, at minimum, $100 milllion dollars.

And with the inevitable MLS2Detroit sheep come the wolves of the NGS. Or at least that is the story I keep hearing. It certainly isn’t the story I’m seeing.

The Northern Guard, for whom I cannot speak, aren’t about a league. They’re about a team. That team is Detroit City Football Club.

I think this much they’ll agree with me on. After this remember I am a single member of the NGS speaking for himself and no one else.

I don’t like MLS. In fact, fuck MLS. I mean, for fuck’s sake, I’m blocked by the MLS twitter account for calling their rules on championship stars “Byzantine bullshit”. Now, “Byzantine” is a big word for those interns, but blockable? Really?

Whatever.

Fuckers.

There are a lot of aspects of the MLS that suck. Their commissioner is a twat. Their expansion is based off the needs of billionaires. They ban fans for creating the atmosphere that appears on all the marketing materials. They active work on turning the league into a retirement league for over-the-hill Eurostars. They kill local teams, local culture, and plop down sanitized “darbies” on fans who otherwise never interact.

So if DCFC has to grow, and it is growing, it will eventually outgrow the NPSL with its short season and reliance on unpaid college players bound to the rules of the NCAA.

So where does DCFC go?

Well let’s look at our options, shall we?

We have the PDL… which is also tier 4 and is occupied by the Fucks so why bother? Really it is just a fancy NPSL with a little bit of MLS weight behind it.

We have the USL, tier 3 soccer and the first truly professional league in the pile. There are a lot of MLS “2/B” teams here which for me sort of wrecks the fairness and the prestige. They keep trying to call themselves tier 2and my reaction is always, “You can’t be tier 2 when you’re a fucking reserve league”.

There’s the NASL, tier 2 and the “wild west” of all the professional leagues. With their expansion into California their position on the pyramid is safe for now, but there are a lot of other issues we’ll get into.

And lastly the MLS – the sanitized big league with the cash, the clout, and contracts.

Who does DCFC go with? Where do we expand?

My gut reaction, and my heart’s reaction is “NASL”. Go with the wild boy. He’ll treat you right and we’ll go far together.

But. And this physically pains me to say. My final answer would probably be “MLS”.

O snap!

Fires rage in the comments below.

Give me a second.

I fucking loathe the MLS. FUCKING LOATHE everything about it. But do you know what I loathe more?

The idea of a world without DCFC.

That hits me hard. I want DCFC to survive above everything else. I want to go to DCFC games when I’m 80. I want to fucking be buried in  rouge and gold knowing that DCFC was a world-wide name, a symbol of Detroit’s rise from the ashes and a club renowned for its involvement in the community and the loyalty of its fans.

The USL is a league to get pigeon-holed in. You either bounce out of that league quick or you fucking die in it.

That leaves the NASL and the MLS.

So why one over the other?

Want to see why?

NASL Attendance

Source.

That’s why.

Strikers 52% down?! Cosmos, the reigning champions, down 13% plus a decrease of 1,400 from 5,000 to 3,600 in one week. Jacksonville down 36%. The only team that is up is fucking MinnU and they’re leaving for the MLS!

These are terrifying numbers if I’m honest. The NASL looks like it is entirely propped up on the rush of fans to new teams like Miami and Rayo. It’s like a fucking ponzi scheme or something.

Indy Eleven, the big success story that sold out like every game last season? Down 7%.

I’m sorry, but I’m not seeing a sustainable league here. Based on the average DCFC outdraws two of these teams and is not far behind a couple more. And now we have a bigger stadium to call home and the FO announced on twitter that we’re down to 200 season tickets left. I’m assuming we were selling about two or three thousand.

Now these numbers are based on only a handful of games but each of these includes the fucking home opener. That’s supposed to be a big match. It’s super hyped up! First game of the season! But here its coming with a whimper instead of a bang.

So the reality is, from where I’m sitting, unless the NASL cleans up its act really quick, it’s going under and its going to be soon. The only real hope is for new expansion teams to breath life into its quickly withering body. And I don’t want to risk losing DCFC for a fucking league I don’t owe anything to. That’s what we mean by club over league.

Now, obviously, I will follow DCFC regardless of where they go and I’ll support to the greatest of my ability, but I don’t see the NASL working out. I just don’t.

The USL could work but its a pretty big could. For the USL to work in my eyes you need to divide the independent teams from the reserve teams. Let the USL be its own league with its own character and then we can talk.

So really, what league does that leave?

It leaves the MLS.

And that is, when you boil it down, the key issue. There are no alternatives in the US when it comes to soccer. And this is why so many people are MLS or nothing (beyond they simply don’t know about the other leagues).

So what are some likely scenarios?

Well, assuming USL stays its course (a mix of indie and reserve teams), NASL stays its course (the wild west, ghost towns and all), and the MLS stays its course (sanitized franchise corp) this is how I can imagine it playing out.

 

Detroit City announces move to NASL around 2018, but league is looking shaky. Loses a few “core” teams either to bankruptcy or smaller leagues (looking at Strikers and Edmonton). Cosmos not looking good either, but league considers their history too important.

New teams keep giving a boost to the league, but nothing ever seems to pan out past a season or two.

By the time DCFC enters the NASL there are serious problems showing. Owners might reconsider at this point, fearing attaching themselves to a sinking ship, however staying semi-pro would be equally ruinous.

Detroit plays two or three seasons in NASL, but in that time the league basically sags under its own dead weight. Teams drawing 2,000 fans are hurting teams drawing 12,000. Without TV exposure any chance at success for bigger teams is nonexistent. MLS begins openly courting rumors they might be planning on stealing the cream of the crop, DCFC among them.

After that I would assume that we’d jump over, especially if NASL is in a nose dive. MLS isn’t worried at this point. They know they can claim any city recently devoid of a club as their own. They aren’t going to help anyone out of the wreckage. Teams that escape will escape on their own merits. Rumors of backroom deals are all bullshit. Does Detroit make it? Honestly not sure.

Anyway, that is pure speculation. But realistically I just can’t convince myself the NASL is okay unless we see a turn around on those numbers and soon.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m being a pessimist, and this is why I usually keep my mouth shut during the MLS/NASL debates. One is abusive and the other can’t hold down a job.

In the end they both suck.

And in the end I stick with my team through thick and thin.

 

4 thoughts on “A Deal with the Devil”

  1. 1 – 20 years in and MLS reported attendance numbers don’t appear to reflect reality. just keep an eye on its game pics, huge gap b/w attendance and what is reported. Last year’s NPSL final had higher actual attendance than all MLS play-off games except final – again, this is based just using eye ball test, feel free to look yourself and decide on your own b/w a filled Chatta and half empty MLS stadiums.

    2 – MLS is reporting 20 years of financial losses. How does it stay afloat then? Seems b/c USSF is financially supporting it via free advertising at all USNT events/broadcasts and SUM/USNT bundled tv deals (including what seems to be a taking of tv $ from USWNT and the never mentioned disbursal of money earned by USNTs to Canadian MLS teams – nothing against Canadians, but when you spend $ on USNTs did you know some of that money was going to fund foreign franchises, wrap your head around that).

    So anyway, that isn’t all really ‘new’ news, but I think the MLS is not on nearly the firm footing many believe once you pull back the curtain.

    And as for NASL, as of this year, w/no backing from USSF they are on national tv two nights a week and the Cosmos, despite modest attendance, have seen their tv profile increase steadily in each year since their return. Is it MLS level, probably not, but it is nonetheless impressive growth in a short period, imo. Attendance is just one measure of stability – otherwise MLS wouldn’t have to seemingly fabricate its numbers – for the Cosmos in particular, in addition to their increased tv exposure their sponsorship has also grown in that period. As for FCEdmonton, feel free to speak w/fans of the club, but despite their poor attendance, their owner has increased investment in the club and their profile in their city grows. Also, they reportedly have good tv numbers in their market – again, a deal made w/o help from external sources. Further, the Eddies academy is probably the best in Canada – and only five years in. I could go into some details here but would prefer for you to look into it yourself.

    OK, last, you mention the Strikers. I was amazed when the attendance numbers for the team’s first home game came out b/c from what you saw on tv it certainly looked like a larger crowd – not a large crowd, but larger than 2000. Turns out the Strikers, like other NASL teams, have decided to produce actual attendance numbers – not giveaways or what have you, but actually just people that showed up. I read this to mean they are accepting short term negative numbers with the emphasis on long term growth. The ownership’s investment in the team recently reflects this long term view as well. Lastly on the Strikers, last year they were on local tv for the first time, but they had to pay for it. This year, as per teams reps, their tv deal was renewed, except they are not paying to be televised – another step up. And again, w/o USSF help.

    Does NASL tv ratings and attendance stink in comparison to mls? Yes, of course it does, but everything that is being done positively is being accomplished w/o the help of USSF and unlike mls which is arguably far behind where it should be in year 20, the NASL is far ahead of (again, imo given their obstacles) where they should be in year 5.

    No one expected NASL to be in these conversations a few years ago, that’s a sign of growth. Whereas these very inclusion of MLS in these conversations are a sign of its shortcomings 20 years in.

    I dont know, maybe it will all fall apart next year, but I’d rather cheer for the teams like the Cosmos that try to win every game instead of teams that make excuses every time they lose, attack small markets like Chatta and demean their competitors in the CCL by calling it just preseason when they lose.

    I don’t think NASL is perfect, but the general doom and gloom that is all you hear about the league just because it is trying to go against the grain is not reality and needs to be addressed sometimes.

    Anyway,

    #ProRelForUSA

    – if you’re really so great you shouldn’t have to beg someone to take $100million of your money.

  2. I’m not a DCFC supporter, I just stumbled from google. I agree with you, I also like NASL, but MLS should be the goal, it’s safer.

    Another aspect to this is that Detroit is – by far – the biggest market left for MLS to take, in corporate presence, in media market size. I’m not counting Atlanta and Miami, since MLS is in the process of starting teams there. I just don’t see MLS letting NASL or whoever have Detroit, MLS will want this market for themselves, it’s too important.

    So if DCFC doesn’t make that move to MLS, I think eventually MLS will become competitor and like you say, MLS kills local teams. They will just keep courting billionaires, talking with the city about redevelopment projects and stadiums, until they will have a shiny stadium and a club in downtown Detroit. Maybe DCFC could survive as a semi-pro team next to that, but not much more.

    As to comment above about MLS finances. You won’t find many league commissioners who say “we are making a ton of money.” Most of them say that they lose money, because then it’s easier to screw players during CBA negotiations.

    MLS also has a bunch of billionaires who bankrolled MLS in early years. I’m sure they lost hundreds of millions in late 90s and early 2000s, MLS and their business model was shambles back then.

    Since then, they’ve been getting bigger and bigger expansion fees, taxpayers subsidized a bunch of shiny stadiums for them, ticket revenue is growing, sponsorships, TV contract is growing. I doubt they are losing money now, I suspect it’s all just talk at this point. They are crying about losing money, just like major leagues keep crying.

    To put it into perspective, some years ago MLS sold 25% of SUM to an outside company for I think 150 or 120 mil. I guess they needed the money. Not long ago I saw a report that MLS is now trying to buy that equity back, and the price might be around 200 mil at this point. That doesn’t seem like a move from a corporation that has serious financial problems.

    Also, MLS is negotiating a deal with banks where they would get low interest loan facilities for teams, similar to what NBA, NHL and other big leagues have. Such facilities aren’t available to small fish, they are only available for big, healthy corporations that are essentially considered too big to fail by banks.

  3. I hate MLS and it’s illegal SE system. It’s quality is crap and their only priorities are profit and control…NASL is much smaller but it appears their priorities are the quality of the game, sustainability as growth of the game along with fans experience….it is an obvious choice for DCFC

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