There’s no arguing that Commissioner Don Garber’s plan of steady growth over the long haul seems to be working. Popular international players continue to join the league and the number of teams is expanding in a surprisingly stable way.
But sports are more than just stats and standings. It needs passion to thrive and entice people in. It needs personalities. It needs characters. The serial nature of ups and downs over the course of a sports season isn’t much unlike the drama provided by a movie franchise or a television series. It’s the original reality show, and MLS needs to embrace that.
Look at the NFL, the NBA, and the English Premier League. Some players always do the right thing, and others are just troubled at their core. Coaches are interesting and quirky, and team owners often grab headlines in strange ways. Obviously the coaches and players in the MLS have interesting lives too, I don’t think you need to manufacture that. Bring it to light. And not just the feel-good stuff. We need the bad with the good, the honest human condition. There have to be teams and players that we love to hate.
Sometimes I’ll hear current analyst and former player Alexi Lalas make a bold and controversial statement, and my first reaction is that he seems like a total drama queen. Then it occurs to me that he has the right idea. He knows that drudging this stuff up will only make the sport more intriguing.
It could simply be a chicken-or-egg problem. If there isn’t enough legitimate interest in the first place, maybe people won’t be interested in the behind-the-scenes stories. But it’s clear there has become more than just a little interest in American soccer, and I think if somebody digs up just a little dirt, it would go a long way.