College Papers

There leagues in Europe. A major difference between

are many popular sporting leagues across the USA, these include: NFL, NBA, NHL
and MLB. However the main focus will be around the Major League Soccer (MLS) as
an analysis of the MLS links in well to the structure that Major League Rugby
is following. Particularly focusing on the overseas players aspect in the MLR
fits into literature on designated player rule and the impact it has on
attendance figures is a crucial area of analysis as attendance figures is a
crucial aspect to the MLR succeeding.


Soccer in the USA enjoyed several moments
of popularity throughout the twentieth century. Professional soccer leagues
were founded, some as early as the 1890s. In spite of that, soccer never caught
fire at the professional level with all of these leagues having folded within a
couple of decades, as they have been in the shadow of baseball, football,
basketball and ice hockey (Apostolov 2012, p510). After the USA for the first time ever hosted the 1994
FIFA World Cup. It became most successful World Cup ever in terms of revenue
and attendance. Following this people called for a professional soccer league
to be established and professional soccer in the USA was born again with the
MLS (Apostolov, 2012, p. 515). Since the inception of the league in 1996 the
MLS has now established itself as the only professional soccer league in the
USA, alongside its reputation of a popular major sporting league.

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MLS has some unique institutional structures that differentiate it from other
North American sports leagues as well as sports leagues in Europe. A major
difference between MLS and other major sports leagues is its single-entity
structure, under which the league owns all player contracts and establishes a
yearly salary cap’ (Jewell, 2017, p241). Jewell looks at the impact that the designated
player rule has had on the MLS attendance figures and whether the rule is one
of the main factors why MLS has started to establish itself as a successful
professional soccer league in the USA while other attempts have failed. The
designated player rule allows all MLS clubs to break salary cap rules, allowing
them to sign top quality overseas players who wouldn’t fit into the salary cap
range, helping increase the overall quality and popularity of the MLS.

studying seven high-paid marquee designated players in the MLS between
2007-2012, Jewell (2017) came to the conclusion that with exception to David
Beckham who increased attendance by an extra 4,400 fans per game (p247), while
the other designated players provided some but very little difference to higher
attendance figures in the MLS. Jewell
(2017) analysed MLS average attendance data with and without the marquee
players playing from 2007-2012 for the clubs the seven marquee players played
for. It was found that these marquee players’ influences on MLS attendance varied
by each season and mainly saw a drive in attendance during the first season of
the player’s appearance especially impacting attendance numbers at away games. Jewell (2017) also concluded that the positive attendance boost of having high-priced foreign
players in MLS diminishes over time, suggesting that much of their appeal is a
novelty effect (p241). However Farrell & Clopton (2015) argued that with ‘high-quality
players playing in MLS, it is hard not to argue that the Designated Player Rule
has helped to increase attendance at games, sponsorship of teams, quality of
play, and overall popularity of MLS’ (p177). Moreover, Parrish (2013), who
investigated 2011 MLS attendance figures, along with the number of designated
players involved for each game, supports this claim of designated players
having an impact on attendance increase in MLS games. Parrish (2013, p65)
concluded that ‘the statistical analysis indicates there is a statistically
significant positive relationship between match attendance and the number of
designated players present at a given match’.  While further research from Lawson, Sheehan, and Stephenson (2008) estimate that
David Beckham doubled ticket sales for the MLS games in which he played during
the 2007 regular season, home and away.


Overall its clear to see that
introduction of the Designated player rule has definitely had a positive impact
on the MLS attendance figures, as the global appeal of these marquee players
attracts huge interest from fans to go and watch them.

example of the Designated player rule in the MLS can directly relate and help
the investors and owners of the MLR league see what sort of structure and ideas
they used which will help them for when they take off with the upcoming
inaugural league and they can also see what things they might want to avoid,
when using their five player overseas rule to help increase the attendance of
matches through the use of them.