East Fork Utd
Reserve Team Sub
Aug 10, 2017, 4:04 PM
Two of the reasons for low attendances in lower leagues in the U.S. is facilities and payroll. Smaller city teams play in much smaller venues than those in MLS. Some of these places are in college or high school football stadiums in which dimension length of the pitch is good, but the width is substandard. Nowadays, new NFL stadiums are being built with soccer in mind. Prior to 2010, the only new ones built to accommodate the minimum width required of a soccer pitch were Gillette Stadium in Foxboro (primary tenant is the New England Patriots) and CenturyLink Field in Seattle (home of the Seattle Seahawks). Since then, every new NFL stadium has been constructed as a dual purpose facility for both football and soccer.
Conversely, there are many college football stadiums that have large capacities, but the fields are too narrow for soccer. Many of these collegiate facilities date back to the 1920's and are difficult to re-furbish. For a team like the Charleston Battery of the USL, there's no other viable place for them to play their games other than Blackbaud Stadium which has a capacity of 6000. If there were a promotion/relegation system here, it's not financially feasible for teams to play at Blackbaud. MLS and Charleston would lose money, and there's no guarantee that more fans would show up to support the team if its stadium were doubled or tripled in size. From this perspective, market research would be useful in determining an area's interest in supporting a top-flight team. St. Louis has a rich history in producing American soccer talent. MLS wanted to put a franchise there, but there was no place for the team to play. An investor group came up with the money for the expansion fee and was going to put up most of the money for a new 25,000 seat stadium. But, they weren't willing or able to pay for the entire cost of construction for the new facility. So, the city decided to implement a tax increase to pay for its share of the cost, pending voter approval. Voters rejected the measure by about 3000 votes, so for the time being...no MLS team in St. Louis, while other cities pass it by.
Also, players in the USL make considerably less money than an MLS roster player who seldom sees any playing time. Even if a team plays in the most state-of-the-art facility, if it doesn't have money to pay its players to be competitive, fans will stay away if the product they're paying for is deemed inferior. From this standpoint, relegation would kill a lot of fan support for a team. As it is now, your team can be having a terrible season, but you know it will be back in 2018 playing in the same league against familiar foes, and hope springs eternal at the start of any season, right?
MLS also has a salary cap in place for its players. You don't see players signing huge contracts like you do at top teams in Europe. You won't get as rich playing in the U.S. or Canada, but you do get a chance to play in a competitive, parity-driven league where the fans are just as engaged and passionate about the sport as anywhere else in the world.