American sports leagues have one major aspect significantly different than the rest of the world: the draft system.
The draft allows the worst teams in the league to have the ability to get the top college or high school players. The idea behind this is that if the worst teams get the best young players, the teams will be better and the league as a whole will be more competitive. Meanwhile, soccer and basketball leagues across the globe simply just sign players out of high school or college.
The crucial difference between the two systems is equality in competition. Teams like the Lakers, Celtics, and Bulls in the NBA have fantastic histories that consist of many championships, yet two of the three didn’t even make the playoffs this year. That is because due to the cap system, the teams cannot always have the best players. The success of franchises works in a cyclical fashion. Teams will have dynasties, or a period where they are one of the best, but there will always be a regression to the mean as other teams improve through the draft.
Meanwhile, in the major soccer leagues across the world, there are a consistent few teams that are always in contention for the title. In Spain, you will almost always see F.C. Barcelona or Real Madrid C.F. at the top of the league because of their ability to entice top youth talent to join their club. This also works with current day stars because no cap system exists in soccer. They are able to pay as much money as needed for the transfer of a player.
While both systems are proven to work, for the sake of competition, I believe that the draft system provides a superior balance to the league and would consequently have further impact on the league. It would generate more profit for the league as money would not be concentrated to a select few franchises. The spread of wealth among all of the teams in the league would result in stadium renovations, improved marketing strategies, and an increase of viewership across platforms.
An important piece that must be added with the draft system is the idea of cap space in order to keep the abundance of talent spread across the league. The cap system would allow roughly the same amount of money for everyone, thus regulating the teams and their ability to use external factors to persuade players to sign with them.
There is one downside to the draft system, however, and that is this notion of tanking. The worst team would receive the perceived best prospect, so why not try to lose on purpose to sign that player? This strategy called “tanking” has been deployed by teams before but is frowned upon by fans. The NBA’s solution to tanking has been to make the first 15 picks of their draft up for a lottery with the 15 worst teams in the league. The worse your record the higher probability you have to get the better pick, but there is no guarantee.
An additional benefit to the draft system is an emphasis on higher education. For example, in European soccer, you can start playing for a professional team at age 16, while in American sports leagues, a minimum of one year of college is required before joining a team. Though many players decide to leave after that single year, it has encouraged many players to obtain a bachelor’s degree before entering the league. Notable players include Shaquille O’Neal, Brett Favre, and Mia Hamm, all of whom went on to have record setting careers in their respective sports. There is no inimment change on the horizon, but the addition of a draft into global sports would benefit global sports as a whole.