Major League Soccer Closing in on America’s Top Sports, says Landon Donovan – Is He Right?

When Major League Soccer lost an estimated $250 million during its first five years, and more than $350 million between its founding and 2004, many were left wondering if one of the biggest countries in the world just wasn’t destined to ever catch soccer fever. After all, we’re the United States… why should we have too?

But in an unprecedented active 18/19 MLS winter transfer window, Miguel Almiron was sold to Newcastle for a record of $26 million, while a reported $2 – 3 million went to Toronto from Al-Hilal for Sebastian Giovinco. Luciano Acosta was on the verge of signing for French giants PSG for a rumored $10 million, but unfortunately fell through at the last second. Naysayers were silent.

I know what you’re thinking. “People have been saying soccer is the next big thing for years.” And yea, you’re right about that. But there are obvious factors, much like the aforementioned players being sold for *Wilder Valderama voice* casssshhh monneeyyy.

Recently speaking to ESPN, Landon Donovan gave his two cents on how far along MLS and the sport have come.

“Finally, Major League Soccer is very close to the others,” Donovan told ESPN Deportes. “I believe that, now, baseball, in my country, is for the older generation.


Donovan recently announced he was coming out of retirement to play with the San Diego Sockers, a team in the Major Arena Soccer League.

“Young people don’t watch much baseball. American football [NFL] also has issues with security and health. Basketball [NBA] is in a good phase, but MLS is really growing. In five, 10, 15 years, I believe we will be the third, second or first sport in the country.

“[That it costs] $300m means everything — because, if companies or people with money are paying a lot, this tells you business is good and that the league is growing.”

Donovan references to $300 million as his triumph card – fees for purchasing an MLS club have risen from around $40 million to $300m.

With NFL receiving its lowest Superbowl viewership since ’04 and being plagued with racial and domestic violence issues, it’s not hard to at least come to terms America’s most popular sport has significant problems.

Some recent MLS statistics are interesting to look at and support Donovan’s claim:

  • When considering 2017 regular season average attendances, MLS ranked third in comparison with NFL and MLB.
  • With a regular season average attendance of 22,106, MLS was the seventh best-attended soccer league worldwide in 2017. 
  • MLS’ total attendance has also nearly quadrupled between its lowest point in 2002 and 2017, while the number of teams only doubled in the meantime (from 11 to 22).
Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the 2018 MLS Cup Final.

Does this mean all other sports will become irrelevant? Absolutely not. I’m just saying maybe good ol’ LD isn’t wrong.

It’s okay if you don’t watch soccer, you will.

All statistics were taken from www.sportcal.com.

Andy Moran

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