By Jamie Ives
MLS has taken drastic measures over recent years to increase popularity and commercial value of the brand, however, as with any project there needs to be innovative new ideas to take it to the step.
The league will constantly be competing with the ‘big four’ sports in the states, and with the popularity of superstars in the NBA and NFL at such a high, MLS franchises should follow suit.
The key aspect of these athletes is that they are representing major sports brands, but are also instantly associated with their clubs.
For example, if I said the name Michael Jordan to you, you would automatically make the connection with the Chicago Bulls.
I feel that MLS should replicate this system and emphasise the need for longevity with key players, via a ‘franchise tag’ system.
MLS only needs to look across the pond to understand that this will work, as supporters in the UK tend to attach themselves to the loyal players.
Examples of these one-club players include Ledley King (Tottenham), John Terry (Chelsea) and Ryan Giggs (Manchester United).
Of recent years, the English leagues have seen many players transfer from club to club to build their own image, and few are adored by fans as a result.
This is where MLS can take advantage, as they already have many players who are widely known but mainly down to their appearances for clubs in Europe.
Landon Donovan is known by English fans as the on-loan Everton forward, but how many know his parent club are LA Galaxy?
Franchise players have the ability to unify a squad and create a stable environment within a club, something which has been lost in England.
The franchise player idea will help other fans to recognise MLS teams from abroad and will significantly increase merchandise sales as a result.
With the European seasons coming to an end and the World Cup fast approaching, this is the perfect time for MLS to build bigger audiences and become worldwide spectacle.
Having one franchise tag option per team would allow for every side to have a talismanic figure in the squad, a one club man and ambassador for the team, and is an option MLS should consider.