MLS financial picture: are we making money yet?

Photo: Jeff Allred Deseret News

Photo: Jeff Allred
Deseret News

            This subject comes up ever few months: soccer in America.

            And every few months there’s someone saying that finally it has arrived. So it came as no surprise to see a Forbes.com article last week that said, well, you know.

            Soccer has arrived.

            Writer Alex Morrell pointed to the healthy attendance at MLS games. His point is a good one and his article had some backup material. I don’t doubt interest is rising and that the next TV deal will be better than the current one.

            As to whether MLS is actually making money is another matter. Talking to Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen on Sunday, he told me it felt like a “a non-profit community charity.”

            That doesn’t sound like a moneymaker to me, but what do I know?

               Former Jazz owner Larry H. Miller used to call his NBA team a community resource, too.

               But he did make money.

               Major League Soccer is careful about divulging details of its financial status. It usually references TV contract money, franchise fees and new stadiums to point out its growth. Commissioner Don Garber has told NPR that it wants to be one of the world’s top leagues by 2022.

                That’s a long time away.

            So in one way we’re back to where the conversation was five years ago…or 10…or 20. Soccer has a growing following in the U.S. Does it have enough to actually make money?

                This probably isn’t a huge issue to owners like Hansen, who love the sport and  their communities. Maybe American soccer will turn out like the arts – everyone wants it, but somebody has to subsidize it. The taxpayers certainly had a hand in the building of Rio Tinto Stadium.

                For now I’m OK with just watching it get better and grow.  RSL’s appearance in the conference finals is truly intriguing. The league has made considerable strides from the days when I watched RSL playing in an American football stadium.

And it is reaching the young demographics it covets.

Whether it will ever be a moneymaker, I’ll leave that up to the rich guys to figure out. My impression from talking with RSL’s owner  is that the answer is not yet…yet again.

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