Translated by Juan Arango.
The 2020 season in the United States started out strong. After many years where stars like Raúl, David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or David Beckham as well as the way Inter Miami burst onto the scene. This club, promoted by Beckham himself, created the expectations of spectacle and business to a sport that seems to have finally arrived in that country.
We have to keep in mind that they call our football, “soccer”, in order to avoid confusion with their most popular sport: Football. American football has a unique grace. It is a combination of rugby with players wearing leggings, helmets, and shoulder pads while using mostly their hands.
That said, “soccer” in the United States is growing. And apart from the name, it has several differences compared with professional football as we know it in Europe. For starters, they do not have promotion and relegation, the clubs have a salary cap established for signings except when it comes to their franchise players, they play all-star games and the teams are not owned by their “owners” amongst other things.
This was going to be an 800-word post, but as we began writing we saw it was going to end up a bit longer. This is why we decided to do this in chapters. The best thing to do is to crack open a beer, grab some nachos, and enjoy the piece because the story told here is well worth it.
CHAPTER I: The Competition
The structure established within soccer in the United States is a system of championships between clubs ranging from professional to amateur football. The professional leagues are governed by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) while the amateur leagues fall under the jurisdiction of the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA). The latter is the only entity authorized to manage amateur leagues according to the USSF.
These leagues are independent and are not associated amongst each other. There is no promotion and relegation between them. In other words, there is no first, second and third division, per se, but the league that is considered the top flight has that designation based on the number of fans that follow it and the amount of investment that it has (MLS which we will talk about below).
In addition to clubs in the United States, these leagues also have teams in Canada, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.
The system of leagues in the United States is commonly referred to as the “American soccer pyramid”.
Officially there are three levels in the professional football pyramid: Major League Soccer, considered the first division, the second division is the USL Championship and USL League One is the third.
There are several other leagues “below” that range from the amateur to semiprofessional levels.
The USSF organizes tournaments like the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup (or US Open Cup). This cup is named as such as it includes teams from every league. For the 2020 edition of the tournament, there are 100 teams participating from every league including those at the amateur level.
In reality, this tournament is not that open compared to other leagues: the US Open Cup is a tournament exclusively for teams in the United States.
The tournament is the equivalent to the FA Cup in England, the Copa MX in Mexico or the Copa del Rey in Spain.
The winner of this tournament would enter the final phase of the CONCACAF Champions League.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER (MLS)
It is the NBA of this country’s soccer. It is the “first division”, the most followed league and the one that has the most money and brings together the best professional players from the United States and Canada.
The season begins in March and ends in November. This, like many other sports, was interrupted due to COVID-19. The 2020 campaign had 26 teams after the addition of David Beckham’s Inter Miami. The league consists of 23 teams from the United States and three from Canada. These teams are divided into the Eastern and Western conferences based on their geographical location on the map.
26 is also the number of teams that MLS plans to be participating in a summer made-for-TV tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, within the Disney World complex in Orlando. With this, the MLS is proclaimed the first major sports league in the United States to return to action after COVID-19. According to an article published in the print version of the Miami Herald, MLS could lose up to $ 1 billion due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Not all the details of the deal for the tournament are known yet, but according to Miami Herald, players agreed to a 5 percent pay cut for the 2020 season, less than the league recently proposed, and agreed to a one-year extension of the CBA to 2025. Also, players will accept a reduced share of media right fees in 2023.
Players are expected to start training for the tournament on June 25, beginning early July, although games will be fans-free.
Regular Season and Playoffs.
The regular season is divided into 26 teams in two conferences- east and west. During the season, every team plays 34 matches. They do not play in a round-robin, home, and away format. The majority of the games are played against teams from the same conference. They could face each other two or three times depending on the calendar and the number of teams playing in the league that season. A few of those games are played against teams from the other conference.
At the end of the regular season, the MLS Supporter’s Shield is awarded to the team that obtained the best overall record amongst the two conferences. This awards that team a spot into the CONCACAF Champions League. The same goes for the team that earns the highest amount of points in the other conference, although they do not win a trophy.
During the season, they play the MLS All-Star Game. This is a friendly game that brings together the best players in the league as they face a foreign side. This season, they were scheduled to play against the Liga MX All-Stars, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, the MLS All-Stars played against Atlético Madrid in the city of Orlando.
That 2019 All-Star team had some brilliant players like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nani, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Wayne Rooney– players that played previously in some of the top leagues in Europe.
Illustrious players from European leagues were part of the 2019 All-Star team: Schweinsteiger, Nani, Ibrahimovic, Rooney.
Once the regular season comes to a close, the top seven teams in each conference take part in the playoffs. This tournament is played in a single-elimination format that determines the winner of the MLS Cup. Of the 14 teams qualified, the top seed in each conference gets a bye in the first round (see table). The final is played at the venue of the team with the best record.
The MLS Cup is the biggest attraction in football- excuse me, soccer- in the United States.
Within MLS there are also minor cups called Rivalry Cups. These tournaments within the league are created as competitions between teams from the same region, although there are exceptions. Two or three teams each year, usually the same ones, take part in these competitions where the winner receives the trophy at the end of the season. This is awarded to the team with the most points in matches between the participating teams.
For example, this would be like adding up the points earned in league matches that Alavés, Athletic Club, or Real Sociedad earned against each other. Or games that are played between Andalusian sides.
Many of the Rivalry Cups have long traditions, such as the Atlantic Cup between New York Red Bulls and DC United. This cup started in 1996, the same year that MLS was founded.
A brief history of the MLS
Major League Soccer was founded in 1996 after the United States hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The objective was to become one of the great leagues in the world and one of the major leagues in American sports.
The inaugural season consisted of 10 teams. Despite the growth of the game in the US, the first years were filled with difficulty for MLS and they lost millions. The teams were playing in mostly empty American football stadiums. In 2002, two teams- Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion– were withdrawn from the league.
The construction of soccer-specific stadiums was the turning point for the economic crisis that was haunting MLS. In 1999, Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio was inaugurated. The venue had a capacity of 22,000 spectators and it became the first soccer stadium of its kind in the United States.
Since then, MLS has expanded into 26 teams with an average attendance of 20,000 spectators per match. These numbers make Major League Soccer the third best-attended league in the United States behind the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB). It is also the seventh best-attended football league in the world
As we mentioned before, the last team to play their inaugural match was Inter Miami when they faced LAFC on March 1st, 2020.
The intra-history of how this team came to be will be discussed more in-depth in the next chapter.
By Juan M. Muñoz, (Artichoke CEO)
(4 min read)
The United States is experiencing difficult moments in the social and economic field created by the negative effects of the coronavirus. Although unemployment figures are through the roof and the vaccine is far away, there is hope for some e-commerce in South Florida.
A recent Ipso study, conducted in mid-March, indicates that 23% of Americans are changing the way they shop. In this sense, they state that they are using electronic stores more frequently to get products that they would normally have bought in a conventional store.
Experts in the field believe that a new reality is brewing amid coronavirus infection. This sudden change in the Americans lives, has fueled a surge in demand for online businesses in South Florida and the rest of the nation that could continue from now on.
Reasons for the rise of e-commerce in South Florida
The emergence of Codiv-19 has put traditional businesses in check, which have suffered large losses or have had to give up. Due to the social distancing and the imposition of staying at home, the traffic of people in these shops has decreased a lot.
The consequence: an increase in demand for e-commerce, a market that flourishes due to the fear of contagion of this virus, of which we still know little. That is not all, online shopping grows stronger as 8 out of 10 adults over 60 no longer want to expose their health in malls and conventional stores.
An example of success: Chewy
After President Donald Trump announced the national state of emergency on March 12, Chewy’s sales rose 42.5% that week. In the following week, this Dania Beach company that sells pet products continued to grow a 38.7% more.
While this sounds impressive, the company has already been trending upward since late February. According to its CEO, Sumit Singh, this increase in sales will mean an annual variation of 35-37% in the first annual period compared to the previous year. This is because many customers are buying products online such as medicine and food for their pets. Sing also mentions that despite the devastating consequences of this pandemic, Chewy remains resilient.
These cases are being replicated across the country, being a clear example that people are shopping in online stores that they have never used, and others have increased their average ticket in their preferred e-commerce.
How do startups take advantage of demand?
Among the success stories during the current situation, we must mention the Arteza company. This arts and crafts supply store have a direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales model and has doubled its initial capital of $ 24 million.
Brenda Freeman, the CEO of this startup, comments that: “The longer we are at home, the greater the chances of changing our habits.” He also adds: “We are seeing clear signs that some of those clients who came to us the first time are returning more frequently.”
On the other hand, the main representative of this fledgling company reports that its sales have risen significantly. Due to confinement conditions, many parents and the general public are buying more canvas, paint supplies and activity kits for the little ones.
Freeman also added that: “We believe that behaviors will change.” Despite the fact that consumers are spending less than before the pandemic, a recent Pymnts survey indicates that online transactions are increasing for different items, even those that are not essential.
This company, which manages subscription boxes, has also seen its profitability gain ground. Located in Boca Raton, its founder Jonthan Beskin has revealed that in recent weeks they have experienced a great upturn in their store.
The subscription combos promoted by this startup contain articles that add up to about $ 200. They have reached an accumulated growth of 1990% reported during the last 3 years of operations. Their figures have helped them to be included in the Inc 5000 list.
The funny thing about this story is that its managers were looking for financing before the epidemic, but they suspended the applications due to exponential growth. Today, SingleSwag ships 40,000 cases to 30 different countries, projecting its earnings of $ 11 million in 2019 to $ 15 million by the end of this year.
Despite the increase in profits, its founder remains cautious. In fact, he believes that many clients will not continue as long as the economic situation continues to worsen. This is why he said: “We offer a luxury product. Now people are buying, but as unemployment sharpens due to economic uncertainty, my concern also increases.”
Fulfillment is also on the rise
Following in the footsteps of other e-commerce stores in South Florida, we found ShipMonk. This undertaking, dedicated to inventory management and the dispatch of orders with technological help, has increased its sales volume from 10 to 20%.
According to Jan Bednar (CEO), this Fort Lauderdale company was in full growth before the health crisis. Even so, in the last month they have had to hire 100 more collaborators to supply the current demand. This has brought its staff to a total of 650 people.
It’s fair to say that ShipMonk is managing high season inventories to fulfill online orders. The company has said it is trying to establish long-term deals because it is not interested in those who only need services during this crisis.
Before the prospect of difficult days, Bednar has stated: “When this situation ends, many believe that e-commerce will have greater growth.” He also added: “The interesting thing about this case is that people who previously did not buy online are forced to do so. So I think that e-commerce is destined to grow more”.
Juan M. Muñoz. CEO Artichoke
Reading: 3 min
BRANDS ARE COMING INTO MASS ON TV IN THE USA
The company iSpot.tv, which does real-time tracking of every commercial broadcasted on national television in the US, has conducted a study of the brands that are advertising during the confinement by the COVID-19. The data indicates that almost 26% more advertisers, 1,247 more, are advertising on TV today compared to a year ago.
The study on iSpot.tv starts on March 14, the first Saturday without live sports broadcasts due to the pandemic.
Between this day and April 12, 2020, 6,126 different brands were announced. In 2019, during the same date range, 4,879 brands advertised on national TV networks.
As in Spain, in the USA, confinement has brought more TV consumption. Therefore, there are more GRPs (more inventory of ads to sell); on the other hand, the stoppage of live sports (the football season is over, but not basketball, soccer, hockey, boxing, tennis, golf, etc.) has made a large part of the high-priced inventory available, the one that generates large audiences. That is, suddenly there are many more ads available and at lower prices.
There is something else. The networks, even before the pandemic, had already started making offers to attract new advertisers (those with less budget), to compete with digital giants Facebook and Google.
In essence, TV has become very attractive to brands: Prices have fallen and audiences have risen. What more could we ask for? “Maintain quality,” might say an advertiser. Well, we have that too: There is no ad saturation since in general, investment in TV has fallen. There are more advertisers, but the average investment per brand is lower. Networks have lowered the prices, but they have not thrown them away. It’s about giving a good product to regular advertisers and new advertisers, so they sell a lot and stay on TV.
Some networks, like AMC, have gone further. This network that includes BBC Americas, Sundance TV, among others, has offered new formats and free creativity and production services to brands that join their programming grid during the pandemic.
Many new advertisers (1,247 to be exact) have been able to access TV in the USA at a key moment for their business and for the country’s economy. Audiovisual content is the format that generates the highest returns, and TV the medium that offers the most reach. Advertisers here have seen it fast. It is a textbook opportunity.
It is time for the braves… who have read the book.
Cheers, and take care.
P.S. I write these lines on April 23, the anniversary of the death of Cervantes and Shakespeare, the World Book Day.
By Juan M. Muñoz, ( Artichoke CEO)
Electronic commerce in the United States has seen going from strength to strength in a way that was not foreseen, despite the confinement here started later and is more relaxed than in Spain.
This high is in total volume, it goes through neighborhoods. Not everything is sold more and neither all rises or falls, even less equally. Those who have shown it best have been the guys from Stackline in Seattle. They have published the table below that shows the 100 categories whose sales go up the most and the 100 that go down the most in March 2020 in regards to March 2019.
The number one, the one that raises the most, for obvious reasons, are the disposable gloves (+ 670%). And the products that fall the most in sales, the suitcases (-77%).
The list is self-explanatory and it is so fun to look at it. I will only give a brief summary which is a platitude aimed in my direction.
THOSE WHO GO UP
- Products to treat cough and cold (+ 535%).
- Food and snacks. For example, soups sell 397% more than a year ago.
- Also, household items to prepare food, such as bread-making machines that rise by 652%.
- Other household supplies such as drugstore and personal hygiene products.
- Equipment for exercising at home: weights (+ 307%), mats, yoga equipment, ping pong rackets (+ 87%) …
- Equipment for work at home: PC screens (+ 172%), chairs, desks, mice, keyboards…
- Beauty treatments: hair dyes (+ 115%), hair clippers, nail polish…
THOSE WHO GO DOWN
- Products related to travel, suitcases, backpacks…
- Material for parties and events (-55%).
- Sports equipment such as swimming trunks (-64%) or gym bags (-57%).
- Formal clothes and shoes for weddings and ceremonies (-63%).
- Accessories supplies and spare parts for the car such as car mats (-50%).
It is predicted that the confinement will last at least until May and the return to normal life is going to be gradual. I even dare to say that this epidemic will leave a permanent effect on consumer habits, what we buy and where we buy. An era of opportunities opens up for e-commerce and Direct Response (teleshopping or live shopping, catalog and telephone sales).
Furthermore, options are opened for more players. Amazon, due to its position as the absolute leader in the USA (it has almost 50 percent share in eCommerce), has seen its fulfillment service collapse and has prioritized shipments of essential products. And this has made many customers look for other marketplaces and online stores with faster deliveries.