FIFA President Sepp Blatter Slams MLS, Casts Doubts On Future Of League [VIDEO]

In an interview released this weekend by Al Jazeera, FIFA President Sepp Blatter slammed Major League Soccer calling it “not a very strong professional league” and saying that “no professional (soccer) leagues (are) recognized by American society.”

The statements by Blatter will be extremely embarrassing to MLS and US Soccer executives particularly with the criticism coming from the most powerful man in world soccer.

In the above video (fast forward to minute 20:40), Blatter was asked whether he was optimistic about the future of soccer in the United States and China. Blatter replied that with China, he is definitely optimistic but that he didn’t share the same optimism about the future of soccer in the United States due to there being no very strong professional league in the country. Blatter says the United States has “just the MLS.”

Blatter goes on to say that there are no professional soccer leagues recognized by American society.

Obviously Blatter isn’t up to speed on NASL and USL representing two additional professional leagues in the United States, but nevertheless these words are incredibly damaging to the reputation of US soccer.

His belief that MLS isn’t recognized by American society is, I believe, focused on the American mainstream. And, based on the dreadful TV ratings that MLS gets on free-to-air national television, I think he has a point there. But while MLS is losing the TV ratings war, the league has made significant improvements on the local level so that MLS IS recognized as a major professional sports league in US cities such as Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.

Blatter also makes the point that MLS should have made more of an impact in American society given that Major League Soccer was founded in 1993 and started its first league season in 1996.

Regardless, Blatter’s words — even if he’s the laughing stock in most serious soccer circles — show how he’s out of touch with the developments of soccer in the United States. When was the last time Blatter visited a MLS game? Has Blatter ever attended a NASL or USL game? What is MLS’s strategy to make the league more credible in the eyes of international soccer fans who live in the States? Is US Soccer doing enough to update Blatter on the progress that has been made?

About The Gaffer

Founder and publisher of EPL Talk, The Gaffer (aka Christopher Harris) is a journalist who has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications as well as on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who lives in Florida, has supported Swansea City since 1979. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005. View all posts by The Gaffer →
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31 Responses to FIFA President Sepp Blatter Slams MLS, Casts Doubts On Future Of League [VIDEO]

  1. JerZGooner says:

    Blatter is a douche bag clown. He should focus on FIFA corruption.

    • Kelly says:

      I am quite certain that he is focused like a laser on FIFA corruption.

      Or did you mean focused on stopping FIFA corruption? That would be different.

  2. While not disagreeing with the first comment……It would be interesting if NASL and USL were in a league that MLS clubs could be relegated to and which clubs could climb up to ascend. Of course Blatters comments are correct, but an inclusionary change like this joining, giving more communities an opportunity and reason to rally behind their local teams Our population base demands more teams participating in order to be recognized by American society. Also, the protectionism and exclusionary FIFA/EuroUnion rules preventing Americans who are minors from playing in Europe is detrimental. This policy certainly quenches talent growth for of young Americans. One can’t study the beautiful game in college like other recognized sports

    • T-money says:

      Kraig Richard, sorry but nothing Blatter said was correct, a FIFA calendar would be horrible for MLS,it’s not the NFL. MLS is not the NFL, it is more similar to the NHL,that relies on regional ratings. Attendance is top 10 in the world. With the MLS and USL merge, we will even have a better youth system and higher attendance for USL clubs. The NASL continues to grow, so the game future is bright. His comments on China, make me laugh considering clubs are struggling to pay their players,which is why Drogba and Anelka want to leave.

  3. G.J. Davies says:

    Blatter is corrupt and defintely is shady. Who cares if he accepts it or not, let the clown take his FIFA circus elsewhere. I love our league and it is steadily growing. Mr. FIFA president, see you at a game, NO?, then screw you.

    • Alex says:

      i agree blatter is shady but seing we’re part of fifa, if we let him “take his FIFA circus elsewhere” that will techincally mean US will no longer have a professional first division, mls wouldnt be able to play in the USOC, champions league, the fifa world cup. no fifpro player will be allowed to come play in MLS. mls will just be an outlier of football. like what the X-treme football league was to the NFL. i think we should care at least a little bit what FIFA thinks

  4. The Seer says:

    1. Blatter was on Arabic television.
    2. Blatter is an ass-hat Swiss uber snob, whos masters are Organized Crime and European corporations who vie for biz in Arab countries and who compete with US firms.
    3. FIFA is a mega business and everything this meglomaniac says is scripted carefully for his shareholders.
    4. Hes calling our bluff.

  5. Skippy says:

    I watched the entire video and was struck by a few things. First, I was a bit taken aback by his pandering on Middle East issues to this Al Jazzera reporter. “Belligerency towards Iraq”. Way to be non-political on that one, douchbag.
    Second, I can’t stand the self-importance and outrageous profligacy. His greeting begins: “It’s a pleasure to receive you in one of the offices of the President.” Whoa! Really?!? I thought that only petrol dictators said stuff like that. I can now safely ignore everything you subsequently say about combating financial corruption.
    On his MLS comments, I could say that it is a real slap in the face to the US Soccer Federation given the outstanding progress in a developed and saturated sports market. But, coming from the President of FIFA, this is an insult that follows injury. I haven’t forgotten that FIFA decided to award the hosting of the 1986 FIFA World Cup to Mexico after Colombia withdrew, rather than the U.S. at a critical stage of the NASL’s development. Now, as the MLS, our domestic league, sits upon another inflection point, FIFA denies our 2022 World Cup bid in favor of Qatar where the searing conditions are unplayable but at least the bribes come in manila envelopes. Seriously, I would prefer to have this bloated corrupt moron spit in my face than listen to him critique the progress of American soccer.

  6. Ronny says:

    He has a point. MLS growth has been anemic. When 12x the people watch a re-airing of the beef o brady’s bowl compared to MLS Cup, there is clearly a problem. While expansion clubs are finding success, “original” clubs like DC, Chicago, Columbus, etc are at the same or less attendance wise compared to 10 years ago. I guess it’s not hard to see why when this “professional” sports league has a salary cap around 3 million and scraps a balanced schedule due to “travel distances”.

    • T-money says:

      Ronny, he as no point. Look at how long every major league took to grow in this country. MLS growth have been steady and successful. With a league attendance of 18,000 plus. You have leagues in Europe, in which some clubs get 14,000 a game. DC United attendance, has to do with it’s stadium situation. The same with New England once both of those teams get new stadiums, you will see attendance go up, just like SKC. Columbus Crew stadium, was build when MLS was new to building SSS, and the location was determine to be in suburban areas. MLS found out this formula was wrong, and that building stadiums in downtown area’s are much better. Every league in America, does what the MLS does,it’s to cut down travel. No,league in Europe faces travel distances, like the US.

      • Alex says:

        true true, but seeing that both fans and soccer writers like Grant Wahl found playoff formats that kept a balanced schedule, scrapped pointless conferences and still reduced travel expenses yet MLS still keeps its status quo then something is wrong. theres one word why MLS wants to keep unbalanced schedule, rivalries. the rivalries MLS invents drive up interest which drive up ratings which drive up profits. thats why.

        • T-money says:

          You can not have a balance schedule in MLS. You see i’m not just a soccer fan, I watch all sports. In the NBA, travel can have a huge effect on how a team plays, the next game. MLS studied Grant Wahl and a lot other peoples suggestions, Grant wasn’t the only one to make such claims.MLS found that it wouldn’t work. Many such claims, don’t take in account, CONCACAF, FIFA international dates and other factors including MLS TV partners, openings. All these factorsgo into making a calendar, even Grant Wahl said TV can be a huge problem, that he didn’t take into account.

  7. Alex says:

    its the classic case of not believing what you dont want to hear. I agree with the masses Blatter’s credibility has gotten worse since his failure to clean FIFA house, however i do agree on his views on MLS. not because i want MLS to be a carbon copy of Europe, but because people just have to start opening their eyes.

    first off MLS is not a strong league. a very low salary cap, ridiculous player acquisition rules and in house trading system, our academy/college system and MLS agenda on the entertainment value of football rather than the quality of it puts a strain on how well we can attract and retain players. what you see are old has beens coming to rediscover the fame and fortune once had in europe and players who cant cut it elsewhere.

    i do think Blatter is alittle ignorant on the calendar though. most of the cities lucky enough to host a mls club are up north where it snows crazy. i can care less if people dont want to show up to games, what i do care though is player safety and the quality of the game will suffer if a good chunk of the season is played in heavy snow. however that doesnt mean we cant work around that. a Split season like NASL can work beautifully here. a winter break and a grand home away series final between the champs of the two seasons to determine the ultimate champion. problem solved.

    which leads me to my next point, playoffs. our system makes absolutely no sense. this season was alittle better but i still cant take seriously a league where more than half the league goes through without trying, and a champion can be won by a team that was mediocre the whole regular season. there has to be a better way.

    one last thing i know blatter is alittle mad on is our lack of promotion/relegation. while i agree pro/rel is essential to any football structure in any country, mls current business model, USSF’s reluctance to do anything, and the lower divisions lack of structure makes it hard to do so. the good news is is that some NASL clubs are building stadiums which is good. once nasl gets a good amount of stable clubs we can do a top down pro/rel like what Japan did back in ’93. where we build up the second division then enter pro rel with only the first and second division. and once USL gets big enough let them in too. its what Japan did and it hasnt failed them.

    All in all Blatter is a big baffoon and some of the things he says cant be taken seriously, however that doesnt mean his concern over MLS is nonsense, MLS is still along way and if we follow the status quo of football in this country we will get nowhere. if football was like NBA, NFL, MLB where there’s basically no other international competition then yes, anything we do is beneficial. but since we compete globally with some of the best leagues in the world, if MLS wants to be in that category it has to reform alittle bit. especially the fact that FIFA gives preference to countries which have pro rel during the world cup bids, thats also a important factor. hey im just speaking my mind here…..

  8. T-money says:

    Alex?”Its the classic case of not believing what you don’t want to hear”.No Alex its a classic case of being out of touch with the game in the US.You then said MLS has a very low salary cap,however you forget MLS clubs salary can be a lot more then 2.8 M. Based on the fact Homegrown player, GA contracts and a lower impact DP contract, can move the salary cap well above what you see. The NYRB salary cap was 16M last year. You then talked about the ridiculous player acquisition rules, you mean what? I see you mean the trading system, something every league in America has. I guess your previously statement that you didn’t want MLS to copy Europe, was BS. American culture has more to do with the college system,the MLS. College sports is apart of the culture and always will be. This was the funniest comment you made yet, “MLS agenda on the entertainment value of football rather than the quality”,you mean the millions of dollars MLS put’s each year into their academies, player acquisitions and with this new MLS and USL merge, MLS isn’t looking to improve the quality of the league? Yeah I forgot about the old has been’s, the same has been’s that go on loan each year to top European leagues, right?
    A Split season like NASL can work?the same split season that is seeing clubs not playing the first half of the tournament, and have no playoffs, will work?
    “which leads me to my next point, playoffs. our system makes absolutely no sense”. It makes perfect sense, who wan’ts to watch a league that is finish half way through the season? Playoffs give the top teams something to play for.
    The US will never have a promotion/relegation,system. It’s not financially viable, teams are in debt up to their necks in Europe,the MLS is not. It’s a terrible business model,and any clown that think it isn’t have no clue about how to run a sports league. Most NASL teams get less then 4,000 fans a game. The MLS/ USl merger is a good start, and will move MLS to the next level.

    • Alex says:

      i dont want to have an argument with you because your counter argument is pretty mad, but heres my only response to what you said.

      yes i do know the cap of a club can go beyond the 2M mark. however you missed the point that teams have to get that cap below the 2M mark. it leaves clubs no room for flexibility. a cap of maybe 6 or 7M is reasonable but 2M is way too low.

      when i typed player acquisition rules, and trading system i meant those as two separate topics. first off clubs dont buy the players, the league buys them. you have a lottery to determine which club gets certain players. the trading system can seem ridiculous too. i dont care if every american league has this MLS is not NBA, NFL or MLB. those leagues are unique because those leagues have no internatioal competition. we have to compete with other leagues with better player rights than us. if i was a player i wouldnt want to sign a contract with a random team then get told “oh you’re not guaranteed so you could be moved at any moment without your consent”. also from what i saw this season, trading can happen most of the season. shouldnt trades happen only in the transfer window? seems fair.

      we shouldnt mix culture with sport, when administrating a sport that is. having a college draft simply because its “american culture” is the weakest excuse. we need academies, not drafts.

      yes you are right the league has been pumping money into the academy systems, i agree the USl merger is very beneficial and Adidas has been helping a bit too. i never said MLS doesnt want to improve the quality. but if you havent noticed, MLS cares more about pumping hype than actually delivering the product. MlS bought players in most part to sell tickets and shirts. due to MLS protective business model, they dont care if a team wins or lose so long as they sell. also the league wants to regulate supporter groups for marketing purposes. the league knows fans come to see tifos and see the ultras jump up and down. hence entertainment value.

      if you havent noticed, NASL is a young league that split from a stable league like USL. Cosmos is a expansion club that just recently announced memebership into NASL. MLS expansion clubs usually take 2 or 3 years to prepare. its a major feat Cosmos are pulling a team out their butt in a little over a year. and as for PR Islanders, they are going through the same issues as SJ earthquakes back then. both cases have nothing to do with split season, if anything its beacause of split season that teams are able to join the league the same year. had this been a playoff structure both teams would miss the whole year. and is there any statistical report that shows that a lack of playoff is the downfall of a league. had this been 1997 yes because americans are so clueless on football they need some sort of crossover from american sports to makes sense. now that the sport has grown and people are more educated, we dont need these crossovers for a league to do well. as with everything though only time will tell.

      your arugment for the playoffs making sense is weak. i dont even see a point. you’re just stating that one is better than the other. which btw i never advocated a single table format (while is better than playoffs). i just said there has to be a better way at the playoffs. please re read my comment before trying to prove me wrong.

      same thing goes for my pro rel argument. yes european clubs are in debt but it mostly has to do with player spending and not pro rel (while relegation does mean a financial blow due to lack of tv money, they still get parachute money which softens the blow). can you name one club that has gone defunct due to being relegated? like i said clubs are in debt but its cuz they dont watch their spending and their owners are craaaaazy rich. fyi a majority of MLS clubs operate in the red. and once again if you read my comment i didnt say the business model is bad, i just said it makes it hard for pro rel. NASL gets 4k in fans because once again, its a lower divison with no hope of promotion, NOT because they dont know how to run a league.

      • T-money says:

        “i dont want to have an argument with you because your counter argument is pretty mad” How is my counter argument mad? I gave you facts, not my opinion.
        you are still missing the point about the cap, teams could continue to keep their roster in place,and don’t have to get under the 2.8 M cap,if they win. MLS gives allocation money to clubs that either, win the MLS cup, Supporters shield or advancing in the CCL. All of this puts much more impact into having a wining season. Last year LA Galaxy added to their roster, instead of subtracting because of all the allocation money they had.
        Why should who buys the player matter? every league in America has almost a similar system to MLS, the fact MLS buys players means nothing, when it’s the club who is requesting for that player and when it’s their owner who owns a share of MLS. After all, MLS is controlled by the owners, they vote as a unit. The lottery system is to stop clubs competing for players, which keeps revenue down and continues a balanced playing field. I again don’t see how the trading system is seem ridiculous, when the trading system apart of the american culture, and MLS is American league, not European. Also both the NBA,NHL and MLB have international Competition. You have Hockey leagues in Europe offering millions for players. The same for the Basketball, which is played in every major European country, except the UK, and is also played China. All have international competition, counter to what you may believe. Your argument,also can be used against you because, just like you have to compete with the international market, European leagues don’t have scouts are every where, so because the Market is so big you can end up with gems.Just like Houston with,B. Garcia. Players get moved every day in American sports, it also happens in many European leagues with no salary cap,and no trading system. Players get loaned out all the time. So players sign contracts every day, with the possibility of getting moved. MLS also already has a trading deadline,just like very league in America.
        “We shouldn’t mix culture with sport”? Soccer is about culture, the way one nation plays the game can be totally different then how someone else plays the game. Culture also comes into play in how the league is set up, South America has a different league structure then Europe, they interject their culture with soccer. Soccer is about culture, it effects how you attack the game. You think MLS is the only one that has a draft in soccer, it may not be college, but Liga MX has a draft as well. College soccer is apart of our culture, you have to integrate it with in the soccer culture, not try to destroy it.NCAA rules have to change, and most likely will, however if done right NCAA will not only develop players, it will also give players an education. Most soccer players have short careers,those who don’t make it have nothing else. So The College game in time will improve. We already have academies, the problem MLS has faced is how to develop players from 18-21. Which are those academy players and college players. MLS and USL are in talks about a possible merge, this system would be similar to what they have in Germany and would take the US TO THE NEXT STEP. However college soccer is still an Important part of that development, because of the size of the country. That is why we need to improve college soccer, not destroy it. Again how does MLS only care about hype, when the spend a lot of money on the product. Also is hype a bad thing? is it any different then how EPL hypes it’s product and players? these are questions you should ask yourself. MLS brought in players to make the league more global, which has help buy better players, because the league name is more known.
        I already know the NASL is going into it’s third year, doesn’t exclude it from criticism.The NASL, was doing a great job, to they decided to have a split season with no playoffs.The spilt season has allowed teams, to pull out. I love the Cosmos, can’t wait till they are in MLS, so I can go to their games. However, they should have entered in 2014, rather then 2013. Also you have no clue what you are talking about, the PR Islanders were funded by the former Government, they have since been replace and they future is up in the air. The split season, would have damage the PR Islanders even more, because of no playoffs, which is why they pulled out to reorganized. The PR islands had less then 1,200 fans a game, yet still made the playoffs. A split season, with no playoffs,makes the league boring to watch,with nothing to play for. I thought the NASL was going to do a south American split season, then I was given minor league format. The fans NASL you would have gotten, you no longer will get. If you were to have a split season, which in its self isn’t a bad Idea, you should have copied the South American format and had playoffs after each half, that’s how a split season is done. No league can survive, with out having the casual fan,not even the NFL. Playoffs makes the most sense, your point makes zero sense. P/R is the cause for debt, you have no clue what you are talking about, because even the small clubs have debt.When clubs go down, they lose huge amounts of TV revenue, you need to learn the major flaws of your beloved system.
        NASL gets 4k, because it is boring to watch,not because it’s minor league. If this MLS and USL merger happens, the product of USL games will be higher, and they names a little bigger. As the quality goes up, NASL would get higher attendance.

  9. SheltonFern14 says:

    MLS is growing faster than any other league in the world, so let it BE! Just be unique instead of copying Europe! MLS is for the people of North America not Europe! and in my opinion Blatter is well passed his sell by date!

  10. Cavan says:

    This guy knows nothing and shows it again. MLS has a strong niche fanbase and is growing sustainably. The Chinese league is struggling to prevent their matches from being fixed. It has a horrible reputation among the few soccer fans in that country.

    He doesn’t know our history, doesn’t know how far we’ve come, doesn’t know that MLS is designed to avoid making the same mistakes for the NASL of the 1970′s and early ’80′s.

    The less he speaks on anything the better off he is. He was just using MLS as a punching bag in order to appease some other corrupt global soccer politician.

  11. leo says:

    China cant even play there players!!! And where are those players coming to ughh mls duhh. Bladder is obviously a eurosnob the biggest troll. No matter, ur gonna choke on yur words. twitter this moron crash his page.

  12. Daniel Nieves says:

    Well, I started reading the comments before I saw the video clip and I’m thinking wow he must of really slammed the MLS. Well now that I saw it; it actually wasn’t that bad. Sixteen years is a long time since the World Cup and I wish the league I love would have come along faster. TV ratings suck, and MLS is not in the eyes/minds of your average sports fan in America. We hardly get mentioned on ESPN or any other sports program, let alone local news coverage. However what Blatter fails to realize or mention is that in no other country in the world does soccer have to compete with the “BEST” leagues in the world in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, like it does in the U.S. and dang I’m not even mentioning College sports, NASCAR and Golf. So he really missed a huge point in critiquing MLS and professional soccer in the U.S. Overall, with taking those factors I mentioned into account; I personally am very happy with the progress it has made. Were passing NHL and being a baseball fan myself; I could see it passing baseball in about 20 years, as the baseball fan base is getting older (like myself). Factor in that a lot of those youth, that Blatter alluded to who are playing soccer have also been given the opportunity to watch and/or attend soccer games thanks to MLS. So all in all, lets focus on our continued growth and not worry about what a FIFA Pres. has to say; as if they are without any faults.

  13. Corgster says:

    I see there are smatterings of EPL Talk junkies among the commenters here.

    Blatter, the sport is doing well, thank you very much. Take our world’s largest pool of TV money for FIFA competitions and shut up.

  14. Cavan says:

    Just looked at the clip again. I’ll give Mr. Blatter a pass here as he comes off as simply unprepared for that question. I doubt that he’s been briefed about the history of the game here and really knows what the sports media environment is like. I also doubt that he knows much about building leagues and player development infrastructure from scratch. He probably doesn’t know much about how we needed to seed a fresh generation of MLS fans from scratch.

    He comes off as misinformed and unprepared rather than malicious (as usual).

    • Charles says:

      Why would you give the most powerful man in soccer a break for being uninformed ?

      Just because we expect him to be an idiot doesn’t mean it is ok when he is one..this isn’t some blogger troll.

  15. Charles says:

    First of all, I saw Sepp’s comments and came here to balance you biased comments Gaffer and didn’t find much balance needed…Happy New Year then.

    Second, how funny is it that all the MLS hater trolls are on the same side as Sepp….I honestly can NOT think of anything funnier. It is like I am reading a troll on MLSTalk…soccer isn’t making it here and you need to be playing in the snow.

    Come on Sepp I need another idiot over here, these ones are too easy. Maybe he is already posting here ? Funnier than heck….

  16. Harry davis says:

    Sepp is a shlep, we love our league. It is growing stronger all the time. Can’t wait till the new season starts………………….

  17. John Smith says:

    What do you think of the Stanley Matthews boots at St Thomas FC. I heard they are going to take over the game.

  18. David says:

    Sepp’s just mad that MLS doesn’t give him kickbacks.

  19. gbewing says:

    Even if he means what he says it’s idiotic to say it publicly. On face value it’s just not true. Now I would be curious to the details as to what he’s making his opinion on- my likely list of things he’s referring to beyond TV ratings are more cosmetic and US soccer doesn’t mirror World soccer in 2 key elements
    1. Schedule- FIFA wants the US league on same time table andschedule as other leagues - obviously MSL has to consider things like blizzards and -20 degrees in some of our northern franchises

    2. Playoffs - I’m sure FIFA also wants a relegation type setup with no playoffs. MSL is in a damned if you do damned if you don’t set up here. The playoffs are unsatisfying as regular season counts for little (could be argued the season winners are punished with time off)but I don’t see an alternative that’s feasible that’s any better. Culture is an important component to the sport but we can’t ignore the USA has it’s own culture as well and I don’t think we need to abandon it all to embrace someone else’s culture. That may work for them but not for us- a blending and balance is the best track until the league gets stronger.

    Evidence is clear MSL is growing - the new soccer specific stadiums, lot’s of sell outs and enthusiasm in game. The MSL teams are having increased success in CONCAAF- so Blatter likes to talk without knowing much. Are there issues sure? but not as many as there were 5 years ago or 2 years ago. The timing of this commentary is what gets me-I think this year especially has a lot to be hopeful about for US soccer

    • Charles says:

      You don’t think he means what he says ?

      Me either. I think he is very threatened by the way US soccer is growing. It will be one of the most powerful countries VERY quickly, you would have to be as dumb as the MLS hater trolls not to see that.

      The college system is crushing it for player development, beyond what even the most optimistic would have hoped for.

      Plus the money potential is soooo big in the US. If LA was worth $100 million in 2008 (Forbes), how much is Seattle and LA worth now, $300 million ? More ? It happened and will happen more, that quickly.

      He has to be nervous about the power shift.

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