Danny Bailey – Staff Writer
There are currently two leagues in the US that are scheduled to expand in the coming season. One is MLS and the other NHL. Both, however, are taking two completely different approaches.
Every time I watch an MLS match, I feel hopeful about its future. I started playing soccer at age 5 back in 1999, and continued to play it all the way up through high school.
It has been a huge part of my life, and I can still remember the days when the MLS was irrelevant to me.
Now, it has gained more attention over the past two decades. Instead of playing in NFL stadiums, cities are starting to invest money into specialized soccer stadiums to give fans even more pride for its team, which was unheard of back when I was growing up.
The MLS has added teams in Montreal, Toronto, Portland, Seattle, Orlando and second teams in New York and LA. Not only are those teams relatively new, but they have been incredibly successful performance-wise, and also in terms of buying power. You now see international stars like Kaka, Pirlo, Giovico, Lampard, David Villa and many more coming over to make the MLS more relevant on the international stage, and making it more competitive.
In the upcoming season, the MLS will see two more teams make its way to the major leagues. I have nothing but excitement for these two teams because of the way the MLS expands: they pull teams up from its minor league associates, the United Soccer League or the North American Soccer league, depending on which city they want to expand to.
Switching gears to hockey real quick, the NHL hasn’t expanded in a while, but has chosen to base a team in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the NHL has a different philosophy when it comes to expansion than the MLS.
Instead of pulling teams from the minor leagues, they build teams out of nothing. Not only that, but they want its teams to be competitive right off the bat.
To accomplish this, the NHL thinks the best idea is let the incoming team pull players from already established teams.
Every other team can protect certain players, but they can’t protect everyone.
This irritates me so much. Take the example that’s happening in Pittsburgh with Marc-Andre Fleury, an elite veteran, and Matt Murray, an elite newbie.
The Penguins developed Murray and Fleury as the city’s heroes in Pittsburgh. It’s unfair that the ownership should have to choose one or the other solely because a new team is coming in.
Hockey is a massive sport played all over the world. Europe, North America and Russia have all kinds of young talent and seasoned veterans in its respective minor and major leagues.
If a team wants to be competitive, they should put its money where its mouth is and go find that talent. If owners don’t want to do that then they don’t deserve a team. It just makes more sense to build an NHL franchise in a city that has an arena for it, has a dedicated fan base and already has an established team and more importantly, culture and tradition.
While the MLS focuses on teams that are already established, they do have an expansion draft, but they are able to protect up to 11 players… which could mean its entire starting team. In hockey, depth is not just a luxury; it is a requirement in order to win a Stanley Cup. In soccer, the starting 11 are pretty much all you need.