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How US Sports Leagues Keep a Level Playing Field



US Sports Leagues
Even with some of the wealthiest teams in the sports world, the NFL is still competitive

As much as any sports fan will profess to want a competitive league for their favorite team to play in, the very nature of sports means that they would also rather be celebrating a championship year after year. When it comes to parity – as with many other topics – sports fans can easily hold two seemingly contrasting views at the same time.

It is true that truly competitive games make a sports league much more interesting to watch. Even those that seem to have the same champions almost every year need close games throughout the season to keep our interest. No one wants to see blowout scores every single week

For a nation that seems to be defined by the concept of competition, it is somewhat ironic that American pro sports leagues are regarded as some of the most evenly balanced in the world. An idea of parity is ingrained in the format and setup and even fan involvement, such as the great interest in spread betting, promotes a desire to make games as even as possible. So, how does US sports keep a level playing field that is the envy of the world?

Other Leagues Around the World

Depending on your sporting allegiances, you may think that the New York Yankees win the World Series too often and that it was almost inevitable for a while that Tom Brady would lead the New England Patriots to Super Bowl glory each year. But, even with those kinds of examples, US leagues can claim far more parity than their European counterparts.

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Take a look at the top soccer leagues in Europe and you will see that the same teams have won the title in England, Spain, France, Germany, and Italy repeatedly in recent years. Winning titles means more money and that attracts the top players. This cycle is continued until a new team suddenly comes into money in the form of a new owner – and then the cycle largely carries on with just a new addition.

Salary Caps

So, how do American pro sports leagues avoid repeat championship-winning teams every year? One of the major ways to promote parity has been the introduction of salary caps. The main idea behind salary caps is to stop the wealthiest teams from spending more money than the others on player salaries.

The first examples of salary caps can be found way back in the 1940s but it was the NFL that first brought one in permanently in 1994. The NHL and NBA introduced caps in the following years. Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap but does have a prohibitive luxury tax that fines clubs for spending over a certain amount on player salaries.

Draft Systems

The draft system is another way that American sports manage to keep parity in its league compared to those around the world. The drafts all work slightly differently in all of the major leagues – and have varying levels of effect. But there is common ground between all of them.

In a draft system, the worst-performing team from the season gets to pick the best prospect from the college game. The NFL is probably the most effective at this, as NHL and MLB teams can recruit from elsewhere. In the NBA it has become quite common for top players to bypass college completely and head straight to the pro league. However, the basic idea of the draft system remains in all cases.

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College Sports

Speaking of college sports, it is clear that the parity of the pro leagues does not extend downward to the NCAA. This can be explained in a number of ways. Firstly, there is no draft system taking prospects from high school level to college level. The schools will recruit as they see fit, within the rules, and the wealthiest programs tend to get the best players.

With student athletes not paid for their services, there is also no need for salary caps. But this does mean that there is also no incentive for an athlete to choose a particular college for monetary reasons. With so many schools, even just at the Division I level, the bigger programs will routinely easily beat those at the bottom of the conferences.

college football system

The college football system – and the draft – gives US pro sports leagues more parity

Money Talks

We have hinted throughout this article the reason for the lack of parity in non-American pro sports leagues. Although there may be other reasons that contribute to the state of play, the way that players are paid is a massive factor. With no salary caps, rich owners can scoop up the cream of the talent – to the detriment of the league.

The college system in the US is also unique in that there is a lot of money put into NCAA sports. It is beneficial – and usually a prerequisite – that athletes play at college level before going pro. In Europe, talented youngsters join professional clubs much earlier. With no draft system in place, the worst-performing teams have no right to pick the best of the prospects a year later.

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US sports fans will undoubtedly claim that there are plenty of other problems across all the major leagues. But when it comes to parity and a level playing field, America really is ahead of the game.

Shabbir Ahmad is a highly accomplished and renowned professional blogger, writer, and SEO expert who has made a name for himself in the digital marketing industry. He has been offering clients from all over the world exceptional services as the founder of Dive in SEO for more than five years.

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