Society for Case Research Spring Conference MBAA

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Brand Identity, Community, and Growth in Professional Soccer: A Look at Major League Soccer’s Evolution Through the Launch of New Franchises

On January 26, 2022, Major League Soccer kicked off its 27th season. For a league that many critics considered doomed from its inception, it has largely thrived and undergone high levels of growth that could be the envy of corporations across all types of industries. In the first two decades of existence, as far as business performance, MLS had mixed results. It struggled to get airtime, utilized various gimmicks to keep fans interested, and in general struggled to establish itself as a legitimate enterprise in the American sports landscape (Strutner, Parish & Nauright, 2014). To gain the necessary footing, traction, and interest within the entertainment space, MLS opted to pursue the strategy of enlarging its geographic footprint via expansion. Therefore, selecting the optimal cities and franchises for expansion is critical to Major League Soccer’s future growth. Although adding additional franchises offers a chance for the league to continue expanding its presence and selecting an unsuccessful franchise (as it previously happened with Miami, Tampa Bay, and Chivas USA), could cost MLS a large portion of their revenue and set the league back in growth and national prominence (Ratliff, 2018).