Seems like Thomas Boswell’s latest on the NHL labour agreement is getting linked to a lot. MLS will probably benefit marginally if the NHL were to go away. The seasons don’t really overlap that much except in the first and last months of the MLS season so most of the time, soccer hasn’t had to compete at the gate with hockey. Where we’ll probably see more gains is in media coverage of the sport, if only to pad out the sports show some. Granted, during any labor stoppage, coverage of negotiations between the NHL and its players will get a lot of play. But after that?
When I read the following paragraph, I thought that it also describes MLS fans pretty accurately:
At about the same time, washingtonpost.com, the Post’s Web site, ran an online poll asking which teams would be in the Stanley Cup finals. The largest response — 42 percent of users — was: “Didn’t realize the NHL playoffs were going on.” The NHL just doesn’t get it. Both the owners and players are living in a parallel universe of complete delusion. Because they love hockey, they think everybody cares about it. Because they can’t imagine a world without the NHL, they don’t realize the majority of sports fans care little whether the NHL even exists.
But if you think about it, MLS is built on a foundation that understands its niche appeal. It doesn’t have hockeys giddy and delusional expansion to cloud its judgement. MLS is set up to keep costs, primarly player salaries, low through its single-entity system. A multi-million dollar TV deal is not likely in the near, or even long-term, future so owners are looking to build their own stadiums to keep ancillary revenues for themselves. The league is set to expand by two teams next year, definitely a positive sign.
There may not be enough room at the top for more than the 3 top sports in the States. But, the sports landscape is much more fractured and varied today. There’s plenty of room sports with a niche appeal to carve themseleves a spot.