Thursday, December 11, 2014

To Copa, or To Cup? That is the Question

(Making a Cup/Copa? From the movie Ghost)
(Is Patrick Swayze the United States, or is Demi Moore?)

Recently, Liga MX president, Decio De Maria unveiled the possibility of a Cup/Copa competition between Major League Soccer clubs and their counterparts in the Liga MX. Read Mark Baber's article Inside World Football.

The view from both sides of the border seems similar, capitalize on the marketability of high profile games between the clubs of two substantial leagues which grow closer and closer to being competitive equals each year. Funny thing though, now, unlike in the past, games between teams such as Pachuca and the Columbus Crew would seem to benefit the Mexican sides more than the U.S. and Canadian based sides. This seems counter-intuitive; but, hear me out.

The U.S. market for all things professional soccer: TV, advertising, sponsorship, ticket sales, merchandising, etc. is growing rapidly. Read David Keyes Soccer is no longer America's sport of the future. And this Nielson article Beautiful Game: Soccer in the U.S. Could be a Win for Advertisers and Programmers Alike

This growth includes the Mexican/Hispanic demographic in the United States. Traditionally, the Mexican American population has watched more Liga MX soccer than MLS, the various South American Leagues, the EPL or European League soccer. This still holds true, in a very overwhelming way. Read Seth Vertelney on GOAL Liga MX is television ratings king in the United States. But with the money and quality of play increasing in Major League Soccer, and more and more young Hispanic and Mexican players finding their way into MLS Academies, read Primetime Sports and Entertainment's How US Hispanic Participation Will Shape American Soccer, it is only a matter of time before the Hispanic-American demographic begins shifting a greater portion of its soccer devotion over to clubs in the United States. Importantly, this shift will mean major $$$ to the United States domestic league.

If I were Decio De Maria, president of Liga MX, I would be doing exactly what he is attempting. I would partner, in any way possible, with the fastest growing soccer league in this hemisphere, and possibly the world, Major League Soccer.

I am not ignoring the real potential for MLS to exploit such a relationship. But, the game is changing. Don Garber needs to carefully measure moves like throwing his teams into multination competitions, this includes the current Concacaf Champions League. Major League Soccer now has a lot to offer wherever it travels.

Major League Soccer is competing with Liga MX for, not only the Hispanic/Mexican soccer fan in the United States, Major League Soccer is competing to be THE professional soccer league in the Americas, and will be increasingly as each new season approaches. Perhaps the most important steps MLS will take in the next few years will be...

1. Improving the on field quality of each MLS club until they are on par with Liga Mx sides.

2. Embracing the Hispanic players and communities throughout the United States as they assimilate into the U.S. culture (whatever that is? ; )

Bottom line, MLS will grow going forward. The question is, how much? Liga MX could be losing viewership going forward. To whom are partnerships like a Liga/MLS Cup/Copa more valuable? Who has more to gain/lose?

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