Friday, May 1, 2020

Voices to shut '20 MLS down?

Yesterday, Portland Timbers and Thorns' primary investor, operator, CEO, and member of various committees and boards across the US Soccer landscape said the following via Twitter:

March was bad. April was even harder.  
But I believe May will give us some positive momentum to start a path back. Advancements are close on treatments/therapeutics & data is suggesting Oregon can soon carefully start managing the lifting of local restrictions. 
Stay strong (emoji flexed arm). - Merritt Paulson 

It is mildly surprising is that only a handful of teams have started laying off staff but the "stay strong" sentiment at the end suggests that there may be some wavering hearts among MLS stakeholders.

With reports starting to emerge that suggest that more than 80% of MLS team's revenue comes from gameday activations/activity, it makes perfect sense for investors to look at shutting it down for the year.

The pressure is on, however. Youth development leagues closing for the year along with, now, bottom tier amateur / semi-pro teams in the 82 team USL2 calling it a year and colleges (which supply many of these leagues with players) mulling whether or not to even have in-person fall classes, the writing may be on the wall for the rest.

For loosely held together leagues like (NISA, USL1, NPSL, USASA) logistics of even fielding a roster might even be a bridge too far, let alone playing games.


Two weeks ago Don Garber said conversations with the MLS Players Association were just getting started in regards to player pay cuts - but since then it has been silent on the business front (well, until Paulson's tweet).

It's clear that Garber and MLS have decided, at least in the short term, that MLS would try generating forward-looking COVID related content instead of history/past pieces like best player by jersey number, MLS Classics, and endless clips of the old shootouts. It's always a good thing to look forward, but the slight change is a signal that MLS is trying to own the situation they are in instead of just endure it.

Paulson's comments, the silence from MLS and the MLSPA and the shift in content creation leads me to believe that the league is going to hold fast as long as they can in the belief that there will be a way to play games in front of fans.

I believe this puts the league on shaky ground. I don't think fans will be able to watch games this year. The fear of COVID returning in the Fall will be too great and there will be states that enter into another lockdown situation.

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