Skip to content

In any sport, new leagues are money pits, and rarely work

Aug 13, 2012, 9:35 AM EDT

7T

Everyone hates a buzz kill, so let me apologize straight away.

Since women’s soccer and women’s professional leagues are topical, there’s something that needs to elbow its way into this conversation straight away, something that always gets left behind as the debate motors right into more provocative and polarizing stuff:

That starting a league in this country is damn near impossible.

When we start talking about soccer leagues, the prospects of success or failure almost always becomes a referendum on whether Americans like soccer. But that’s not where the conversation needs to start. It needs to start here:

Most professional sports leagues that didn’t start more than 50 years ago are doomed the day they open a front office. In this way, it has nothing to do with a sport’s popularity.

(MORE: A breakthrough moment for women’s soccer that wasn’t much of a breakthrough)

Even pro sports with well-established domestic roots struggle mightily to find their way in a league upstart. As I’ve written before, the graveyard of busted and bankrupt leagues are littered with corpses from American football – and I think we can all agree that football is a popular sport here.

XFL, r.i.p. Same for you, U.S.F.L. (Ask your father. Or his father.)

We keep hearing about some rich guys starting another pro football league to compete with N.F.L. – but presumably those guys went back on their meds and ditched such a  cockamamie notion.

Properties with no recognition, with zero history from which to draw, without any brand equity are massive money pits.  They are mostly failures waiting to happen. (All of this is why Major League Soccer, even though it continues to lose money, is a pretty amazing success story. This is MLS season No. 17.)

Think of it like this: so many of expenses of an upstart league are the same as with a recognized one, although on a much smaller scale. (Player salaries, front office salaries, stadium costs, event expenses, marketing budgets, travel, etc.) But the income disparity in receivables is outrageous, mostly because there’s so much less TV money (or none at all) coming into a freshly dug league.

So, any conversation about whether a U.S. women’s professional soccer league needs to begin there, with the no-BS recognition that it’s a long, brutal, uphill slog, no matter which sport we’re talking about.

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Goalkeeper preview: Who’s in our Top Five, and who switched clubs?

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    <> at Emirates Stadium on July 28, 2015 in London, England. Getty Images

    Not a great deal has changed in the world of Premier League goalkeepers this offseason, but among the differences is a huge one: Petr Cech has moved from Chelsea to Arsenal.

  2. Best starting lineups for all 20 Premier League teams – Do you agree?

    Aug 3, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT

    PST selects the strongest XI’s for each PL team ahead of the 2015-16 season. Let us know what you think.

  3. Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema out injured for Real Madrid

    Aug 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Real Madrid v Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Real Madrid v Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League

    Forwards both left off Real’s Audi Cup squad after training ground injuries.

  4. Monday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Van Dijk to Southampton, Benzema to Arsenal

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    All of the latest gossip from around the PL, right here.

  5. VIDEO: Watch Arsene Wenger snub Jose Mourinho handshake. Who is in the wrong?

    Aug 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Chelsea - Premier League Preview Getty Images

    Wenger and Mourinho’s feud continues, but should both manager’s bite the bullet and make up?

  6. Paris Saint-Germain a “step up” from Manchester United for Angel di Maria

    Aug 3, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-NICE Getty Images

    PSG’s skipper Silva is risking the wrath of United’s fans around the globe.

  7. Cristiano Ronaldo buys his agent a Greek island… as a wedding gift

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo Signs Contract Renewal For Real Madrid Getty Images

    Real Madrid superstar is a baller on and off the pitch.

  8. MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 2-0 FC Dallas (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Accam Getty Images

    David Accam helped lead Chicago Fire over FC Dallas to end the visitors five-game winning streak.

  9. WATCH: Ex-Barcelona midfielder Xavi scores a wonderful free-kick on debut for Qatari club

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:06 PM EDT

    Xavi Getty Images

    Xavi gets up for preseason friendlies, and in his first match for his new club, the 35-year-old rips a classic free kick.

  10. MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Portland Timbers (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT

    Valeri Getty Images

    Diego Valeri missed a penalty as neither side could take advantage of its few big chances.

  11. Premier League friendly roundup: Southampton draws, Stoke swallowed

    Aug 2, 2015, 6:36 PM EDT

    Hughes Getty Images

    It was a tough day for a number of Premier League teams who suffered losses and setbacks, most notably Mark Hughes and Stoke City.

  12. Jack Wilshere to miss the start of the season with another ankle problem

    Aug 2, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Wilshere Getty Images

    The 23-year-old midfielder has struggled with ankle problems in the past, and another has cropped up.

  13. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: West Ham United

    Aug 2, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    WestHamLogo

    Some big signings this summer and a new manager has fans excited for what could be this coming year.

  14. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: West Bromwich Albion

    Aug 2, 2015, 3:14 PM EDT

    WestBromLogo

    Tony Pulis is a hard-nosed leader, but unless Saido Berahino can repeat his goal-scoring year from last season, it will be a tough go for the Baggies.

  15. Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho fail to shake hands, as Gunners boss finally prevails

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    The long-time spat between the managers of Arsenal and Chelsea rumbles on.

Featured video

What can we expect from PL new boys?