Since being founded in 1993 as part of the USA’s 1994 World Cup bid, Major League Soccer has really taken off. That has been especially true in recent years with more investment into the franchise from top former players. When David Beckham and Didier Drogba begin to get involved, you know things are on the up! Currently the MLS is seeing record attendances at games, increased sponsorship deals and more media attention than ever.
Of course, the major players at the heart of this are the owners of each MLS team. As with club owners in Europe, they are at the core of what makes football clubs successful and able to compete in major league competitions.
In truth though, club ownership in US soccer is in its infancy. Only in 2006 did MLS teams begin to be owned by one operator and not centrally by the league itself. By comparison, club ownership in the major European leagues is much more advanced. Top European club owner Evangelos Marinakis is someone that MLS owners could learn a lot from when thinking about this. As owner of Nottingham Forest in England and Olympiacos in Greece, he has a lot of experience in running major teams in a successful, canny way.
So, what can these relatively new MLS owners learn from their European cousins?
Know your history
Although this is not as easy with American soccer teams being still so young, club owners in the MLS should take a leaf out of their European compatriots’ book. If a team they own has achieved great victories in the past or won a major piece of silverware, they should not be shy about celebrating it. Using past history in this way can help inspire current players to perform better and drive the club to more success in the present day. It will also remind everyone what a top club you own and how vital you are to the story of soccer in the USA.
Connect and communicate with fans
For MLS owners to see their team succeed, club revenues to go up and people to come to the games, they must connect with the fans. This is something all European club owners in the major European leagues know and make efforts to do. Keeping the fans happy and on-board by connecting with them will help create a good atmosphere in the ground when the team plays. It will also mean more will spend money on tickets and other items when in the stadium. The best way to go about this is via clear communication on a level to which fans can relate. Whether it is via regular emails to supporters or mingling in person after a game, it is worth doing.
Involve the local community
More European owners now ensure their club works in the local community. This is certainly something MLS owners could use to help increase their brand awareness and attract new fans. Useful initiatives are a great way to do this – whether it is helping offenders rehabilitate when out of prison, helping the local unemployed find jobs, or visiting local schools to showcase your club. Local initiatives can really help you reach new fans and gain a more positive reputation.
Think about global expansion
While working with the local community, forming a core fanbase is vital. You should also think about spreading your brand globally. That will have the effect of increasing your club’s brand awareness around the planet and will help you to increase the revenue you get from merchandise sales. It will also help the whole MLS in general by bringing more global media attention to it via your club. European owners have long been masters of this approach by organizing pre-season trips to new territories or continents. Some European clubs, like Everton, also set up a version of their team in exotic locations or local leagues to help spread their global presence.
MLS owners could learn a lot from European owners
As the above shows, there are several methods European club owners use to help grow and achieve success that MLS owners could also take on board. With soccer in the USA expanding every year, being positioned at the front of the pack now could well see any club reign supreme as one of the leading lights in American soccer in the future. By using some of the above methods you will be able to attract more fans, retain those you have, and also establish a greater global presence.