According to emails and interviews, AmericanizeSoccer.com can confirm the National Football League (NFL) received a proposal in 2007 to start a pro Soccer league to compete against Major League Soccer (MLS) for the months of March through August/September.
It appears though, the proposed new Soccer league never made it to the desk of the commissioner, Roger Goodell.
Sources reveal the proposal was rejected by the Communications/PR Director at that time and he had not consulted with Goodell. At the time, his statement read that their focus was expanding their football base and expanding internationally; Soccer was not in their plans.
New details have emerged about the proposal and what was being considered.
Matt Hill, a former Public Relations executive with the NFL, was the person who received the proposal. He has said that there was a lot of positive discussion about the possibility of having a pro Soccer league play in the dormant NFL stadiums during the off-season, but the idea got killed off pretty quickly.
The idea was to build the league to compete against MLS using new, contemporary rules made to enhance scoring and give fans a better experience. These rules changes included possible substitutions to give players a chance to rest and come back into play, a two-point goal if made from a further distance (similar to a 3-point goal in basketball) and allowing fans to keep any Soccer ball kicked into the stands (like a foul ball in baseball).
Eventually, the hope for this new league would be to pass MLS and become recognized as the 5th most watched sport, behind the other ‘big four.’ If owned by the NFL, this new pro Soccer league would market into the NFL season and vice versa, the NFL would market back into the Soccer season. It was talked about as if each Soccer team would take on the same uniform colors and marketing schemes as their NFL cousins, similar to what is being done now with the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders.
The stadiums are the heart of the matter. They sit without use for these months and can be fitted perfectly to host Soccer events. The original intent of the proposal was to take advantage of these obvious circumstances, while using the great NFL marketing machine, to create a new revenue stream by partnering with Soccer.
Hill added that there was support for the idea to move forward in the office, but it was an idea ahead of its time and too many established NFL veterans in the New York office did not take it seriously. Hill believed at the time that the NFL did not consider all the revenue possibilities of owning both the 1st and 5th most popular spectator sports.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com