Major League Soccer (MLS) is the highest level of professional soccer in the United States. The league began in 1996 with 10 charter clubs. The league was started as a direct result of the decision to give the US the 1994 FIFA World Cup. It has since expanded several times and now includes 29 clubs as of 2023; St. Louis City SC is the newest addition with the expansion club taking part in its maiden campaign in the upcoming season.
The MLS has come a long way since its inception in 1996. In the early days of the league, attendance was low and television ratings were even lower. But fast-forward to 2023 and the MLS is thriving. Attendance has increased significantly, TV ratings are up, and more people than ever are tuning in to watch matches.
How the MLS has grown its fanbase over the past two decades
1) Greater Accessibility
One reason for the MLS’s increased popularity is greater accessibility. In the past, it was difficult for fans to watch MLS matches because they were not shown on mainstream television channels. But now, with the rise of streaming services like ESPN+ and Yahoo Sports, it’s easier than ever to catch an MLS game no matter where you are in the world. This has helped grow the league’s global fanbase and has led to more people tuning in on a regular basis. Additionally, the ability to place bets on the competition via sites including the bet365 Ohio offering now available has managed to attract more interest than ever before!
2) Global Superstars
One of the main reasons that can be argued to have helped the MLS to expand and grow its fanbase as much as it has over the last two decades is due to the number of global superstars to have played in the US since its formation. For instance, stars such as David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gareth Bale, Thierry Henry, and David Villa are among just a few to have played their football in the MLS. As a result, this has seen many take an interest in the division as the quality of the league has improved. In the early days of the league, many of the players were past their prime or were not good enough to compete at a higher level. But now, thanks to an influx of foreign talent and the development of homegrown players, the quality of play has never been better.
One of the biggest reasons for the MLS’s increased popularity is expansion. The league has added numerous new teams since 2010, including high-profile franchises like Atlanta United and LAFC. This has helped grow the sport of soccer in the United States by giving more people access to live games.
In short, over the past two decades, the MLS has managed to grow its fanbase in a variety of ways. From attracting global superstars to expanding its presence and improving accessibility for viewers, the league has managed to become one of the most popular professional sports leagues in North America. As time goes on, it’s only going to get bigger and better.