Due to the coronavirus pandemic still possessing a vice-like grip on domestic soccer, there has understandably been a downturn in Colorado sports betting and with nothing in the way of a confirmed 2020 MLS restart schedule; it is a trend that looks set to continue.
With this year’s edition of the competition being paused after just two weeks, it has somewhat dampened what was meant to be a huge celebration, and with this being the 25th season of MLS competition, there is a danger that this landmark achievement could well be forgotten.
To reach a quarter-century in what is such a congested sporting landscape, and especially when you consider how unloved soccer used to be in this country, is testament to the work that Don Garber and his colleagues have carried out in the past two decades and beyond.
With a league starting with just a modest number of teams – 10 to be exact, the start was rather humble, and although early expansion swelled that number to 12, it soon contracted back to its starting size.
That contraction was a by-product of attempting to run before the MLS could walk on its own two feet. However, if anything, these early mistakes have subsequently set the league in good stead.
Now the approach to expansion is far more measured and, more importantly, financially beneficial to the league as a whole, and even though eye-watering amounts of money are required to purchase a new franchise, there is no shortage of detractors either.
Two new teams joined the party in 2020, and with Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF joining the fray, the MLS ranks have now swelled to 26 competing outfits – more than double the amount of the first season back in 1996.
Although American soccer’s burgeoning community would have much triumphed Nashville’s addition, it is fair to say their Miami counterparts overshadowed them, and the reason for that is down to one man.
That man being none other than David Beckham. With the former LA Galaxy star finally getting the keys to MLS entry, the long and at times painful wait to get this project off the boardroom table has finally been completed.
Admittedly with two defeats from the first two matches, it has been the worst possible start for Inter. Although failure to earn a point is frustrating, there is always a sense that this is a franchise that will need to bed in, and success will certainly not be achieved overnight.
When looking at recent additions to the MLS ranks, the blueprint that Miami will look to copy is that of Atlanta United. After joining the league in 2017, they made light work of winning their first-ever championship just a year later.
Even without a championship, it seems as if Atlanta’s planning was perfect from the off. In their debut year, they managed a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference regular-season before being knocked out by Columbus Crew in the first round of the play-offs.
However, Atlanta’s early offering does seem to be the exception rather than the rule, and you only have to look back to last year and the offering from FC Cincinnati, to see how difficult an adjustment to the MLS can be.
2019 was certainly a year to forget for Ron Jans and his players, as not only did they finish bottom of the 12-team Eastern Conference, they also finished bottom of the overall standings at the end of the season.
Things were not all that much better for Minnesota United FC in their first two years of operation, and in both 2017 and 2018, The Loons finished third bottom of Western Conference (9th and 10th) each time.
That just goes to show that adapting to new surroundings will not be easy for a Beckham-led outfit. Although he eventually dragged LA Galaxy to the promised land, his influence will be far more limited this time around.
With that said, there is no doubt that Inter Miami is a welcome addition to the league, and especially after the city’s previous offering, the Miami Fusion become defunct at the start of the millennium.
Thankfully though, Beckham and his fellow investors are in this for the long-haul and the former Manchester United star knows what it takes to achieve success. The path may be a long one, but do not write off Inter Miami ruling the MLS roost within the next few years.