Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber’s plan of steady growth certainly seems to be working. International players continue to move to the United States, and the number of MLS teams is expanding in a surprisingly stable way. But there’s still something boring about it all. It seems too… clinical? Too steril maybe? MLS just isn’t very interesting on a human level.
Sports is about more than just stats and standings. It needs genuine passion to captivate a large audience. It needs personalities… heroes, villians, characters. After all, the ups and downs of a sports season are a lot like the drama on TV. Sports is the original reality show, and MLS should embrace that.
Look at the NFL, the NBA, or the English Premier League … some players always do the right thing—you can just see the shine sparkle off of their perfect smiles. And others are just troubled at the core. Moody and unpredictable. What will they do next?! Coaches and owners can be just as quirky and unpredictable.
How is it possible that MLS isn’t as interesting? It has to be. C’mon—unearth the stories and bring them to light! And not just the feel-good stuff. We need the bad with the good—the honest human condition. Who do we love, and who do we love to hate?
Alexi Lalas has the right idea. People say he drudges up too much drama, or that he’s making it about himself by being controversial. But he knows how to make the sport more intriguing on a human level. We could use more MLS analysts with honest passion.
Or, maybe it’s the chicken-or-egg thing. If you don’t have enough legitimate interest in the first place, maybe fans will never have a chance to get interested in the stories. Impasse! I refuse to believe that.
But it’s clear the interest in American soccer continues to grow. If somebody digs up just a little dirt, it could go a long way. Maybe it would explode.