Over the past year, we've read report after report claiming that soccer had reached a tipping point in the United States. I prefer to avoid sweeping generalizations with little factual backing personally, but I think it is fair to say that it's been quite an eventful year for Major League Soccer.
Before the year even started, labor strife and the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations took center stage. The league also brought in an unprecedented cavalcade of big-name stars at astronomical prices, including a majority of the starters from the U.S.'s World Cup starting XI.
So, while some of this may be common knowledge for those of us who spend 23 hours a day on #SoccerTwitter, I wanted to take a second to recap the current state of affairs with MLS.
We'll start out with the obvious: Orlando City has been one of the most successful expansion franchises in MLS history, both on the field and off. If you're reading this, you already know that.
Credit where credit is due, though: New York City FC, well, could be worse. Attendance has been consistent, if not astronomical, and it's clear the club is willing to spend the money to bring in top talent. Also, don't look now, but New York City is 3-1-2 in its last six, and has climbed seventh in the Eastern Conference. By the way, have you heard that Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo are set to join the squad in July?!
What's the deal American Soccer Public...is Orlando City not enough for you?!
Apparently not, says MLS, who have continued their relentless pursuit of the next MLS expansion franchises. To recap:
- David Beckham and Miami are guaranteed a spot, if, that is, they can ever find a stadium
- Owner of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons Arthur Blank has been approved to bring an MLS side to A-Town, and Atlanta United FC, along with its hodgepodge of cliche foreign soccer names, will enter MLS in 2017
- Exit Chivas USA, enter LAFC. Details are scarce, but the new club with the excessively large ownership group will definitely enter the league in 2018.
- Taking the Orlando City route, Minnesota United FC of the NASL will be joining the MLS in either 2017 or 2018. At least, so we were told. This week, there have been serious questions raised about the stadium situation in the Twin Cities.
Oh look, the MLS made up another crazy rule! Welcome to the league, Orlando fans.
Basically, the new rule will let teams designate one of their lower-paid Designated Players as a "Core Player" instead, which would let them use their third DP spot on another player. This could be great news for Orlando City, who could use this option on Carlos Rivas or Bryan Rochez, and add another big name player.
Major League Soccer seems to have formally entered the British tabloids' lexicon. The only thing they love more than Royal Family scandals is soccer transfer rumors, and for better or worse, it now appears that they view MLS as a major player (XAVI TO JOIN NYCFC - Oops, just kidding!). Bad for humanity, good for the league.
Orlando City fans have had quite a few gripes with Major League Soccer referees so far; some fair, and some not. Welcome to world soccer, I guess?
MLS has stood by its refs so far, and don't expect that to stop any time soon. It's worth saying, all things considered, it might not be as bad as you think it is.