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MLS steps up to the plate

Real Salt Lake's second appearance in the MLS Cup final has been an interesting look into the growth of the league.

At a Thursday press conference in Kansas City, a room was filled with 50 or 60 media members. More than that were at Friday's access period.

Jimmy NielsenMajor League Soccer isn't yet the NFL or NBA. On Friday, players sat at individual stools and were available to reporters and bloggers. Yet some players had virtually no one talk to them. That wouldn't happen at the NBA Finals. At the Super Bowl, each player sits at a large table, surrounded by chairs, in order to be interviewed. Last time I heard, something like 4,500 media credentials were issued to that game.

Still, the size and accessibility are part of MLS's charm. Media access to NFL players on Super Bowl week ends on Wednesday. Having players available the day before the MLS final is not only convenient, but shows the league's willingness to build its brand. It was surprising to see Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen mingling with reporters on the day before the big game, just walking around, hands in his pockets.

That would never happen with Peyton Manning, for obvious reasons.

Major League Soccer wants to be a big deal in America and it is making strides, with soccer-specific stadiums. Additionally, it is constantly reminding its players that they will benefit themselves by putting forward a positive image. That becomes a lot easier when the faces are there to do so.