MLS, Killing Its Own Media Coverage

PravdaMajor League Soccer as a whole does not get great coverage in the national media. As the blogger That’s on Point often reminds us, outfits like the Associated Press don’t do soccer many favours. That makes it all the more important outlets that do try to cover MLS both broadly and deeply are treated with reciprocal professionalism by the league — there aren’t many of them, but is certainly one. Unfortunately, their coverage might soon be considerably reduced due to a dispute with MLS.

USSoccerPlayers is an odd name for a media outlet, I’m sure you’ll think — they’re owned by the US National Soccer Team Players Association, though their coverage is not just peach pie sprinkled with brown sugar. They walk the line very well, thanks to the fact they hire very good writers. This season, they published around a dozen articles on the league pretty much every week. Look at August, for example. Where else does that kind of coverage exist?

The editors at USSoccerPlayers do accept, though, that they’re not entirely “unbiased” and that they “try to portray our members and American soccer in general in a positive light.” This only makes it more amazing, then, that such has been the disdain MLS has apparently treated them with that they’re vowing to pull their comprehensive coverage of the league.

After several incidences concerning access and basic media relations at the local and league level, the 2007 MLS season will be the last that treats as a regular beat. Moving forward, USSoccerPlayers will treat MLS the same way it does the Premier League, focusing on the play of US National Team players. . .

On one occasion this year, we had it confirmed that we were a minor outlet, at the level of glorified fan sites and shouldn’t expect anything past the basic in terms of access and credentials. On another, we were denied a credential for reasons that only discounted the years of work we’ve done covering Major League Soccer.

At the same time, we’ve been told by MLS staffers how much they like our coverage.

We remain one of the only American soccer-specific outlets that pays all our contributors, takes every piece through multiple edits, and abides by our own policy for professionalism at games we cover.

Major League Soccer’s media relations is not at the level of the other professional sports, even when it’s staffed by people who have worked in those sports. Where the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball provide access, interviews, and raw materials well past Major League Soccer and still manages to run comprehensive league websites, MLS opts for one or the other.

The result is the kind of coverage where writers chase press release material and the majority of articles are responsive rather than the kind of profile or investigative work you read or see with the other sports.

We are a player-owned outlet, and the players themselves have always been in agreement that there’s no value to yet another attempt at overt public relations.

As an outlet, we have an obvious solution to our specific issues – we pull general coverage. We notified the League of this last week and did not have anybody work Sunday’s MLS Cup final or attend any of the media events associated with MLS Cup.

There would seem to be a window in that last paragraph left open by USSoccerPlayers for MLS to respond and prove they are going be serious about developing as a league and act professionally with an outlet who have long provided original, fair and good quality copy.

Sycophantic stores about the value of Brand Beckham are not all we need to read about in MLS, but we’ll have less alternative coverage in 2008 unless MLS sets an example by guaranteeing USSoccerPlayers better working conditions next season.