HOW the US – another country dominated by its sporting pastimes – may have laid down the lessons that could save the A-League.
In the quite brilliant '90s Aussie film Two Hands, featuring the late Heath Ledger, the voice-over from Ledger's deceased brother notes, "If you're going through some shit in your life, chances are somebody else has gone through the same thing before you. And they've written about it".
For all the protests, the links between Australia and USA are closer than many locals would venture to openly admit. It is never more salient than when comparing football's position on the respective countries' current sporting landscapes.
The MLS has been running for nine years longer than the A-League and while it has experienced its own series of peaks and troughs, it has emerged from falling attendances and folding teams with healthy crowds and a league that will extend to a 20-team format by 2012.
The sporting similarities between Australia and the USA is defined by the two country's ‘battle of the ball games', with both nations entrenched in sports largely indigenous to that country.
The US is dominated by its ‘Big Four' - baseball, basketball, gridiron and ice hockey (yes, more of a puck than a ball, but you get the idea), while Australia is dominated by AFL, cricket, rugby league and rugby union. All eight sports are tied to that country's national identity - few nations in the world play the most popular sports in the US and Australia.
Incredibly, in April it was revealed that the MLS had surpassed both basketball and hockey in terms of average attendances for the 2009/10 season. While gridiron ran away with an average of 67,508 and baseball notched up 30,213, coming in above basketball (17,149) and ice hockey (16,985) was the MLS with an average of 18,452.
The 2006 World Cup final attracted more television viewers in the US than baseball's 2005 World Series pulled in on any single night, while the MLS is the 12th most attended top-flight football league in the world.
Plus, while football finds a place lower down the scale in terms of spectators in the US and Australia, it does top the charts in participation figures in both nations. The most recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that football outstripped Australia's ‘big four' ball games, while the same can be said of the US.
Since its launch, the MLS has introduced its fair share of beneficial initiatives alongside some costly mistakes. While the A-League is currently suffering falling crowds and an investment shortage (both issues the MLS has suffered and survived), an analytical peer over the Pacific fence could find the answers to the A-Leagues problems.
To review the transitions that have turned the MLS into a flouring league and source the potential lessons for the A-League, we enlisted the league's latest club CEO and the country's two leading football authors to find out more.
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