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. Still defending racial incident, seething at bite talk, Suarez returns for Barcelona

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Luis Suarez, Neymar AP

    It’s going to be ugly and we’re going to shake our heads. Some will feign shock. And the whole cycle will repeat itself again at Barcelona.

  2. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

    DiMaria Getty Images

    Here’s how PST’s editor and lead writer sees things panning out this weekend.

  3. Americans Abroad preview: Eyes on BuLi – Green, Brooks, Johnson tested

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Fabian-Johnson-Borussia-Moenchengladbach-Getty-Images Getty Images

    Perhaps a respite for Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, as their clubs face lesser competition this week in Burnley and QPR, respectively.

  4. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 9

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every game during Week 9 of the PL.

  5. Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. Manchester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer League Cup

    It’s a top-four battle — no, seriously — as Manchester City rolls into Upton Park to take on Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United.

  6. An end-of-season (mostly) uncapped MLS for Jurgen Klinsmann’s approval

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v FC Dallas - Pre-Season Friendly Getty Images

    Who makes the cut as MLS players deserving of a look at USMNT camp?

  7. Two left flying MLS flag in 2015 CONCACAF Champions League quarters

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Ignacio Piatti, Connor Lade, AP

    An all-MLS final appearance is impossible thanks to seeding, and Montreal and DC can only face-off if they win in the quarterfinals this winter.

  8. Introducing: “The 2 Robbies ‘Football’ Show” on NBCSportsRadio.com

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:38 AM EDT

    Earle-Mustoe

    The purpose of the show is for the Robbies to hear from the fans on this call-in show, so dial 855-323-4622 and have your say.

  9. El Clasico: Luis Suarez, Barcelona and Real Madrid together at last

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-REALMADRID-BARCELONA-CLASICO Getty Images

    El Clasico is upon us, and my goodness will it be a doozy between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday at the Bernabeu.

  10. Tear gas and rubber bullets used by Lille police against Everton fans

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:31 AM EDT

    France Lille Fan Violence AP

    French police had arrested a man for selling drugs, according to the BBC, and that earned the ire of already on-edge Everton supporters.

  11. Top European clubs prefer to play Qatar World Cup in May

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT

    Qatar 2022

    The European Club Association includes at least one club from every nation in UEFA and includes Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona.

  12. Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama fearful of Ebola at Africa Cup of Nations

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:06 PM EDT

    Nigeria's Super Eagle goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama catches the ball during a World Cup 2014 qualifier football match against Ethiopia on October 13, 2013 in Addis Ababas. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA Getty Images

    Lille and Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama thinks it would be dangerous to hold the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ebola outbreak.

  13. Dunga, Brazil football federation create new code of conduct for national team

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Carlos Dunga

    Brazil’s national football team has a new code of conduct under manager Dunga.

  14. WATCH: Spurs midfielder Erik Lamela strikes astounding ‘rabona’ goal

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-SHERIFF TIRASPOL

    Wonderful touch and power utilized on a first-class goal from Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Erik Lamela.

  15. Tottenham striker Harry Kane scores hat trick, then allows goal as emergency netminder

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane, left, and Aston Villa's Matthew Lowton. AP

    Harry Kane notched a hat trick in Tottenham’s Europa League victory over Asteras Tripoli, and he then found himself manning the goal as a netminder following a Hugo Lloris red card.

  16. Lille 0-0 Everton: Toffees stay unbeaten in Group H

    Oct 23, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    distin_3083675b Getty Images

    Lille and Everton played to a 0-0 draw at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Europa League group stage competition.

  17. Frank Lampard could be fit to play in City’s match vs. West Ham

    Oct 23, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    Manchester City’s Frank Lampard could be fit to play against West Ham in Premier League competition on Saturday.

  18. Cristiano Ronaldo on El Clasico: ‘I won’t be playing against Messi. I’ll be playing against Barcelona.’

    Oct 23, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo AP

    “I won’t be playing against Messi — I’ll be playing against Barcelona,” says Ronaldo, concerning his duel with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?