Day 51: The Business of (REAL) Football

Ryan Whelan 2014 991 Comments

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Today’s visit to Major League Soccer could not have come at a more relevant time. The world’s favorite sport reached new heights in the US as millions of fans got behind a US team who delivered a performance full of pride and teamwork. Just several weeks after 21 million television viewers watched Belgium end the US team’s memorable tournament, the MSBA Class of 2014 walked into the MLS headquarters that was unsurprised by the levels of euphoria witnessed this summer.

Our speakers for the evening at MLS were Carter Ladd (Director of Business Development) and Jesse Perl (Manager of Brand and Integrated Marketing). Before discussing the MLS, both speakers gave us honest insight on their career paths and lessons they learnt along the way.

Carter told us how he didn’t realize how much he had learnt during his internship until he moved to the Charlotte Bobcats in a full-time capacity. Jesse reminded us that there is no clear path to success in the industry and challenged us to think critically and not to always accept the status quo. A great example of this was the formation of Soccer United Marketing (“SUM”) – the marketing and commercial arm of MLS – at a time when many people were opposed to the idea. Today, SUM is one of the organization’s greatest assets.

It was interesting to hear Carter and Jesse’s forecasts for MLS and soccer in general in the US. Soccer is the second most popular sport with 12-24 year olds. In the not too distant future, these people will be major influencers. The MLS is on the right track and all it needs is a bit of time to reach the level of major American leagues such as the NBA, NHL and MLB.

The growth of the MLS over the last decade has been remarkable. This is somewhat as a result of the success of SUM and franchises owning and hosting games in their own stadiums. Eight years ago, MLS were paying television networks to air their matches. A new broadcast deal with Fox, ESPN and Univison will earn the MLS $720 million between 2015 and 2022. With significant revenue growth and widespread interest in soccer, the future looks bright for MLS to stand its ground against major league sports. The caliber of international players signed this summer – Frank Lampard, David Villa and Kaka, and the fact that many of the US National Team’s best players are locally based are both positive signs for the future of the league.

By the end of our 2 hours at the MLS headquarters, all members of the MSBA class of 2014 were now fully aware (if they weren’t already) that soccer is on the up! This summer marked a period of accelerated growth for US Soccer and being in the middle of it all in New York this summer is a memory that will never leave me.

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