Thinking about what to write for tonight it occurred to me that 2012 has lacked some of the big business stories that have been an MLS trademark over the last few seasons. Obviously, the entry of Montreal into the league was a big business story as was the start of the NBC/MLS relationship. Over the next few weeks, two new soccer venues will open, one in Montreal and the other in Houston. Yet, there have been fewer big stories occupying the business headlines.
Since the season started in March, there have been no new jersey sponsors to discuss and no new league sponsors to highlight. There have been no high profile designated player signings and no new expansion announcements. There have no new local television deals and attendance and ratings have been solid but not spectacular.
What does it all mean? There is one argument that league has reached a certain level of maturity and stability and that big changes are now less frequent and subtle shifts will become the norm. After years of scrambling for relevance, the league has grabbed a solid foothold on the American sports pyramid and fears of crashing and fading seem like distant memories. Publications like the Sports Business Journal have sung the praises of league management for years and sports business executives remain impressed with the league’s steady growth. This consistent process suggests that league, while still on the upswing, is entering a period that will be marked by occasional significant events and fewer peaks and valleys.
Another argument is that league has peaked as a corporate property. Those companies that wanted to get involved in the league have done so, and those local networks that want to televise their MLS team have already inked deals. Teams like Dallas and Colorado continue to struggle to find jersey sponsors despite their successful runs in 2010 and the league has peaked as the nation’s 5th professional sport.
I’m inclined to the first view. MLS has grown dramatically over the last few years and has earned a few moments to breathe. New deals will come, new partners will be found and the league will continue to grow.
Do you agree?
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