Perhaps Major League Soccer still hasn't quite caught on in the states not due to competition from American football or the overlap with baseball season, but because it is so bloody difficult to comprehend all the rules of the league?
It certainly doesn't help that MLS runs a frighteningly amateur website, so that when fans try to find information about how the league is run, they first need to scour the site for the 'about' section, and then come to realize that it hasn't been updated in over a year.
In addition to not having enough smarts to place Philadelphia in the eastern conference, nor to realize that they have listed Fredy Montero twice within a list of 15 players, they consistently refer to the "designated player"--but they never define what this might mean. Wait, I've found it now, four clicks away.
Of course, this might not matter to the casual fan, who simply wants to choose a team and then heap praise or rain insults upon their heads, but to those who wish to be able to discuss the composition of a team, their acquisitions, their player development, and their abilities in relation to other teams in the MLS, understanding the league matters a great deal.
Last season, I was a 'casual' Sounders fan, if that can be used to describe one with a stack of rave green in her closet who proudly sings songs about shooting. This season, however, I've been doing my best to follow the drama over the player negotiations and to read about recent player signings (this is slightly hampered by the inability most MLS writers to, y'know, write, and yes I will call you out on your inaccuracies as well as your grammar). But in order to get excited about a new signing, you first have to know where he fits into the structure of the league.
For instance, yesterday the Sounders signed Blaise Nkufo, the Swiss international currently playing for Dutch side FC Twente. Rather than simply checking out his stats and wondering where he will fit in Sigi's arrow, it's necessary to start looking at "international slots". Our 8 are filled, according to some, but when you consider the definition of "international" (is Cuban defector Osvaldo Alonso really an international, for instance?) and then thinking about how we can trade international slots with other MLS teams (for what, cash and prizes?) well, the head starts to spin. Add to that the fact that Nkufo might also be a designated player, taking one of those two allocations, and there is nothing as simple as just being thrilled over the acquisition of a genuinely decent player who might teach Fredy a trick or two.
And, obviously, the website's 13 methods of player acquisition do not illuminate the subtleties that occur with internationals, DPs, and bringing players in during the July window. However, they let us know Lando is the only grandfathered DP! My knowledge abounds! (er, no, that was 2009. Sorry.)
There are many, many things that MLS could do to help the league find greater support. I'm extremely fortunate to live in the city with the best fans, but if the league folds, Seattle goes with it. While fixing the CBA/free-agent issue seems as though it would take precedence in keeping MLS alive, it would likely be much simpler just to update the website while we're waiting for more negotiations. Sometimes it's the littlest things that keep fans from becoming frustrated and deciding to seek solace in March Madness rather than sticking with MLS.