I've been meaning to write more fanposts. There are three fanposts I've been working off and on for a while. This is the first one. Hope you enjoy.
Meditation #1: MLS, Liga MX, and future Godfather DP offers.
I believe when people try to compare MLS to other sporting leagues in the U.S., they're missing an important point. Major League Soccer has to deal with a 500lb beast in the room known as Liga MX.
I think many people in the U.S. underestimate the draw and power of Liga MX. Nate Silver last week put out a fascinating article on the global Google search frequency of North American sports teams. His conclusion? The big four sports should actually be the big five. The Google search frequency of several LigaMX clubs exceed some very surprising names. For instance, C.D. Guadalajara topped out as the 24th most search for sports team in North America, producing just as much traffic as the Seattle Seahawks, Montreal Canadians, San Fransisco Giants, and the Chicago Bulls. What was the top MLS team you might ask? The LA Galaxy was 93rd generating 40 times less Google search frequency as C.D. Guadalajara.
This should not come as a surprise. There has been a long-term, systemic campaign by Liga MX to market to and cultivate North American fans beyond Mexico. The results of their efforts have been overwhelmingly successful.
The results are clear in more areas than just Google search frequencies. U.S. broadcast of Liga MX matches on Univision and UniMas draw on average 3.3 million (Univsion) and 1.7 million (UniMas) viewers. Those numbers make the gulf between MLS and NBCSN's Barclay Premier games look like a storm in a tea cup. Add to this the increasing number of Mexican clubs that are raiding Latino talent out of the MLS.To me the message is loud and clear, Liga MX has painted a giant target on MLS to ensure their dominance. The question is how does MLS fight against this juggernaut?
If Major League Soccer wants to move the dial culturally and economically versus Liga MX, the league have to start competing with them across the board. Don Garber needs to hang a banner in his New York office that reads "How are we going to beat Liga MX today?" and go to work.
Luckily, MLS is not starting from scratch. On average, the most watched telecasts for MLS in 2013 were on the Spanish language channel UniMas averaging 229,000 viewers versus ESPN's 220,000 and NBCSN's 112,000 viewers. MLSsoccer.com and most teams have developed great Spanish media and editorial content on their range of websites and media presentations. I actually believe the Spanish language content on MLSsoccer.com is several factors better than their English language brethren. Most teams have a Spanish language radio broadcast and teams have built relationships with local Spanish language media and communities. This means the base and infrastructure is there. It just needs a focus to bring it all to the forefront.
To this effect, I have an idea. MLS must pursuit Mexican National team players as aggressively as they have with Beckham, Dempsey, Donavon, and Bradley. Want to send a message to Liga MX? How about photos splashed across every newspaper in Mexico of Chicharito putting on a L.A. Galaxy jersey and dos Santos a Houston Dynamo jersey.
Or to put in a language that Don Garber would understand - being the mafioso aficionado that he is* - for every Villarreal they sign we'll sign a Chicharito. They take Michael Farfan, we'll sign a dos Santos. For every Joe Corona, a Hector Moreno.
These deals are just not out of spite or headline grabbing marketing exercises. After all, it's easy to tell rich guys how to spend their money. It's harder to tell them how to make more money. In this idea, I think you have the latter.
If you are a team in markets like Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles - spending serious Designated Player money on a Mexican National team player of the caliber of Andrés Guardado, Héctor Moreno, Guillermo Ochoa, Giovani dos Santos, and even Chicharito makes financial sense. Just look at the demographics of each of those markets. Those players will sell jerseys. Those players will sell tickets. Those players will create local "must see TV" events for ordinary league games. Not only that but for the first time, you give Univision and UniMax marketing assets to promote their slate of MLS games.
Despite the high cost to get a top Mexican talent like those above, I think it's a calculated risk in the same way Beckham was. In my opinion, it is certainly a better risk/rewards compared to Dempsey, Bradley, and the recent USMNT influx has been. Signings like this will move the needle in a way MLS desperately needs. Not only that, its a statement that the MLS is open for everyone and evokes what the United States really is all about - inclusiveness. It would help destroy the false perception by some that MLS is just a league for gringos.
MLS has a long way to go to catch Liga MX and many other sports leagues in North America. However, there is potential for the league to gain significant ground through some smart investments. Making godfather DP signings to several Mexican National team members is a smart start in my opinion. So get the pocketbook out MLS and sign some Mexican National team players. After all, it's certainly a better idea than the premise behind Chivas USA.
*Get well soon Don.