Dear Major League Soccer,
I know I'm often hard, perhaps too hard, on you. It's only because I love you so gosh darn much and also want you to reach your full potential. You, no, we, have grown so much in these past two decades, and I'm so proud of all you have accomplished in your brief time on this earth.
The reason I wanted to speak with you today has to do with your draft; sorry, your "SuperDraft," that has become a winter tradition for MLS teams and fans. While I do look forward to the draft each and every January, I also find myself wondering if I need to make some significant life changes when the actual day arrives. There are just a few steps you need to take to make your drafts a much more enjoyable experience for everybody involved.
For starters, the draft is way, way, way too long. NFL fans made similar complaints about that league's particular draft, and moves were made to reduce the overall length of that selection process. The MLS SuperDraft consists of 38 overall picks. It should never take over three hours to complete as it did on Thursday afternoon.
The first thing those of you running MLS can do is eliminate the five-minute timeout. Fans who go out of their way to travel to the draft boo each time such a halt occurs, and the break has a negative impact on the broadcast. Teams that can't make a decision in the allotted time can be skipped until they are able to get their acts together.
It's also time for you to force the hands of (at least) the top three teams picking in the draft. Anything more than a 60-second time limit for those clubs to get their picks in is too much. Those franchises have MONTHS to figure out what they're doing when they arrive to their tables on draft day. They don't deserve the picks if they need 5-10 minutes to make them.
Decreasing the amount of time it takes to complete a draft will assist in this next issue. You, MLS, must get drafts on US television each and every year starting next January. What's the point of having relationships with stations, not to mention your own US TV home, if you can't even get your draft on one of those channels? Scheduling the draft to take place on a Thursday afternoon makes sense only if you can get on TV over a re-airing of ESPN2 show First Take or what is essentially a 30-minute recap of The Dan Patrick Show and then hours of hunting-related programming on NBC Sports. Without TV, you might as well push the SuperDraft back to Saturday when more people will be off work and thus be able to watch via computer or other device.
I'm sure that somebody will respond to this complaint by reminding me that the networks and not MLS have the final say in this matter. That's fine and all, but perhaps this league needs to rethink certain relationships when current TV contracts are up if it cannot even manage to get the draft on TV on a random Thursday afternoon in January. This isn't just about airing a player selection process. Drafts also serve as advertisements for the league, something MLS can always use.
Last but not least is an issue I bring up every year. Guys, you have to change the name of this event. There's little, if anything, "super" about any draft, and the SuperDraft name really isn't necessary; unless you're going to allow all 19 MLS clubs to fight over and select big-name designated players during the draft. In that case, using "super" would be acceptable.
In closing, I want to again congratulate you on a superb 2012, and also say that I know you'll have an even better 2013. I'll see you again in March.
- Sports & Recreation