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Major League Soccer may use labor disputes in other athletic leagues to their advantage
When Major League Soccer kicks off its regular season in 2011, it will do so under the auspices of a collective bargaining agreement which lasts until the end of the 2014 season. Other professional sports leagues aren't so lucky.
The NFL's labor dispute will come to a head on March 4, when the two sides will have to seriously consider a new way to deal with each other. Owners and players in the NBA are still talking about a possible lock out after June 30 when the labor contract expires for basketball. Even the NHL's labor agreement was extended an extra year by the players and it expires in 2012.
Major League Soccer has a golden opportunity to make more fans and a steadier stream of revenue. The league's last collective bargaining agreement was signed in 2010. It was full of concessions made by owners and players as they recognized the need to bring in a slow but steady cash flow into the league.
If angry fans decide to latch onto another fast-paced sport, then soccer is right here waiting. Major League Soccer starts as basketball and hockey are moving towards the playoffs and right before baseball. The league crowns its champion in the middle of NFL season and just as basketball and hockey start.
Despite low scores, soccer is a fast-paced and exciting sport. With new stadiums and league expansion, it's now time for MLS to bring the show to the fans.
Major League Soccer has expanded to 18 teams and 34 games per year, 17 of which are at home stadiums. MLS teams are in 10 NFL cities, 12 NBA cities and 12 NHL sites. Teams would be remiss to take advantage of sports-loving Americans and Canadians who need another team to latch onto should labor disputes cause disruptions in other leagues.
Cost is one factor Major League Soccer should be able to relay to potential new fans. Consider the case of Chicago, home of the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and Fire. Priority season tickets for the Bears at Soldier Field cost $76 per game at the cheapest. The NBA's Bulls have home tickets for as low as $30. The Blackhawks start at $30 as well.
The Chicago Fire's cheapest ticket prices for a single game are $15. Prices drop to $12 a game if you invest in a 10 game plan.
Excitement of marquee games is another aspect MLS can use to draw in new fans. Showcasing David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Omar Bravo this year in various cities would be a huge boon to ticket sales and win over new fans. MLS shouldn't have to spend their entire marketing budgets to fill more seats, but showcasing ticket affordability and huge games should make soccer more attractive.
When and if football and basketball fans need to fill a void, it's time for Major League Soccer to step up. This year could be the best one yet for America's soccer stadiums. The richer leagues will still be popular after the labor dust settles, but MLS can still win over new fans to their side in 2011.
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