How the European Super League mirrors Major League Soccer, why this is exactly what American owners want & why it must be stopped
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The beginnings of Major League soccer
In 1996, Major League Soccer was formed, two years after America hosted the FIFA World Cup.
The creation of a professional league was part of the US Soccer Federation’s campaign to host the World Cup, thereby helping to grow football in the States.
Back in 1996, ten ‘founder clubs’ took part in the inaugural season and they are the following:
Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, D.C United, Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas), Kansas City Wiz (now Sporting Kansas City), Los Angeles Galaxy, New England Revolution, New Jersey MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls), San Jose Clash (now San Jose Earthquakes), Tampa Bay Mutiny (dissolved in 2002).
Since then, MLS has continued to expand with 27 clubs taking part in 2021 and Charlotte FC, St. Louis City SC and Sacramento Republic ready to join in upcoming seasons.
The way an expansion club join MLS is by paying the entrance fee which increases each time a club joins, so was $325 million for Sacramento.
Does that sound familiar?
How ‘The Super League’ is like MLS
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 23: A sign with the logo of Manchester United is seen outside the stadium prior to the Group H match of the UEFA Champions League between Manchester United and Juventus at Old Trafford on October 23, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
On 18 April 2021, 12 of Europe’s richest clubs announced their intentions to breakaway from existing competition structures announcing ‘The Super League’.
As there is nothing super about it, from this point forward it will be referred to as the Franchise League.
The Franchise League consists of 12 ‘Founding Clubs’ who are as follows:
England: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United & Tottenham Hotspur.
Italy: A.C. Milano, Internazionale Milano & Juventus.
Spain: Atlético de Madrid, FC Barcelona & Real Madrid.
Reportedly, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain were invited but have so far declined.
The format sees the clubs divided into two groups of ten where they’ll play each-other home and away.
The top three in each group advance to the quarter-finals with fourth and fifth facing a play-off round to join them.
In Major League Soccer, clubs are divided into two sections, the Eastern and Western Conferences, where clubs play each-other home and away.
After that, the teams who finish highest qualify for the end of season play-offs.
The point is they’re almost exactly the same.
As you may have noticed, the Franchise League only has 12 ‘Founding Clubs’ while the format can house 20 teams.
Thus, they would essentially need ‘Expansion Clubs’, further emphasising the point that an American-style league is the ambition.
Why do clubs want a MLS-style system?
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 16: Joint Manchester United Chairman Avram Glazer looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on August 16, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Major League Soccer, like all major U.S. leagues, guarantees one thing to all of its member clubs: money.
David Beckham is, obviously, the most high-profile MLS owner with his club, Inter Miami, debuting in 2020.
But other members of the rich and famous own or part-own clubs.
The City Football Group launched New York City FC in 2015 with Red Bull having bought the other New York team in 2006.
2021 expansion club, Austin FC, is part-owned by actor Matthew McConaughey, while Will Ferrell is one of many involved at LAFC who joined in 2018.
The owners of some of Europe’s richest clubs have clearly looked at this model and want to replicate it on a bigger, more profitable scale.
This model would particularly appeal to one of these three, Stan Kroenke, who owns Arsenal, Colorado Rapids and others.
The Rapids’ recent MLS record is terrible, failing to qualify for the play-offs in five of the last seven seasons, winning only 69 of 222 regular season games in this time.
But it doesn’t matter, they don’t get relegated, so they just roll on towards the bottom of the Western Conference, continuing to make money for the owner every season.
This is what would happen to clubs in the Franchise League as they’ll be playing meaningless games year after year, showing no ambition and with no consequences.
Given the fact that Arsenal finished eighth last season and are currently ninth, no consequences football would be ideal from Kroenke’s point of view.
An expert’s opinion
A leading current European football agent spoke to 101 Great Goals about the Super League, describing the whole situation as a ‘complete mess’ from a legal point of view.
They described it as a ‘coup by the richest clubs to monopolise football’, adding it will widen the gap between the haves and have nots and quell the threat of the likes of ‘Everton and Leicester being able to compete both in the market and then on the pitch’.
When asked what you would do if you were the Premier League they replied ‘impose a transfer embargo because the whole point of the Super League is to make money so they can buy all the best players’ but added the Premier League can’t expel clubs because it would destroy their own product.
This agent regularly works with leading football players in relation to image rights, contract negotiations and transfers.
They said that players may want to play for Super League Clubs because they are ‘exposing themselves at the highest level every week, which makes big-money contracts and big-money moves more likely’.
However, ‘if UEFA cause enough of a raucous then players might jump ship as they want to play international football…. if clubs can’t attract the top talent then the whole concept is dead’.
Of course, broadcasting will be key to making this competition successful.
The agent said at first ‘there will be no shortage of bidders’ because the media companies ‘want to show the biggest teams’.
But, in the long run, the competition will ‘lose the romanticism and then lose appeal’.
How we can ensure this so called ‘Super League’ doesn’t happen
MADRID, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 16: Fans attend a firework show after the La Liga match between Club Atletico Madrid and Malaga CF at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on September 16, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
It is clear that this plot is all about money and greed, best described as ‘ingordigiousness’.
As someone who’s had a season ticket at one of these clubs since the age of seven, I and many other season ticket holders I’ve spoken to, of various clubs, have all said they will not be renewing for next season or attending any of these matches.
Not attending games, not watching them on TV or buying merchandise is the only way we can stop this from happening.
Hopefully, tribalism can be put to one side and all fans can unite together to prevent this power grab that is not in our interest, only in the interest of billionaire owners.