As much as Major League Baseball continues to be stubborn and tone-deaf, Major League Soccer has exhibited flexibility and supersonic like hearing as it unveiled its creative return to the pitch after three months of inactivity due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
MLS will resume play on July 8th with all of its 26 teams participating in what is being branded as an “MLS Is Back Tournament”, a World Cup-style tournament to be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando, Florida. The matches will be played without fans in the stands.
The 26 teams will participate in a group stage with each team playing three games. The top 16 teams will advance to a knockout stage, culminating with a Championship Match on August 11th.
54 games packed into five weeks of action. Perfect
All results in the tournament will count towards each team’s regular season record as the league will resume its regular season with a revised schedule and playoffs on a date to be determined.
With the NHL and NBA returning in late July and lord only knows if and when Major League Baseball returns, MLS is being bold and aggressive by being the first American team sports league to get back in action since the Coronavirus postponed or cancelled sports in mid-March.
In its 25th year of existence, MLS is a league with a very bright future. Its gross revenue is slightly more than $1 billion per year.
The league has viable national television contracts with ESPN and Univision worth a total of $100 million per year. Those deals run through 2022. Expect the next contracts to be worth more than double the current deal.
The growth of the league looks profitable as well. Carolina Panther (NFL) owner David Tepper paid a $325 million expansion fee for the Charlotte MLS franchise, which begins play next year.
The league also has a forward-thinking commissioner in Don Garber and a slew of new soccer-specific stadiums. Give MLS credit for seeing an opportunity to exhibit its game, while sports fans are starved for live content.
Meanwhile, baseball looks as out of touch as someone whose contact info is their fax machine number. If baseball was smart, it would offer Garber its commissioner’s job as his baseball counterpart, Rob Manfred, has shown a lack of leadership and vision, which is crippling his game.
MLB continues to drop the ball while MLS displays adaptability that is needed to conquer these once in a lifetime challenges.
John Sapochetti is Co-Host
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