Every decade of sports is filled with surprises. The 2010s saw the Chicago Cubs break the curse of the Billy Goat and LeBron James bring an NBA Title to "Believeland" for the first time. MLB also added a second wild card team to the playoff fold while college football starting using a four-team playoff format for the first time in history. The question now is this - what will the next decade hold? The NFL has already instituted some drastic changes that will have lasting impacts on the league!
A 17-Game NFL Regular Season
When the NFL passed its new collective bargaining agreement in early 2020, it was announced the regular season would expand from 16 to 17 games. For years, the league has pushed for two extra games while players argued it wouldn't be safe.
Adding one instead of two can be seen as a compromise. It will also eliminate one pre-season game, shortening the warm-up season from four games to three. Players also wanted a second bye-week added to the new schedule, but ultimately were not given this luxury.
An Expanded NFL Playoff Field
Another big change that was announced with the new NFL CBA was the expansion of the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams. The change came after years of frustrations that teams with winning records were missing the playoffs.
The biggest effect this will have on the league will be with the number two seed. With a 12 team playoff, the top two seeds in both the AFC and NFC would have bye-weeks. With 14 teams, only the team with the best record in both conferences will be awarded the extra week of rest.
Robo Umps Are Inevitable
Another complicated rule change that is already set to happen is the introduction of robotic umpires in MLB. Traditionally, the home plate umpire has been allowed to use his best judgment on whether pitches are called strikes or balls.
While this system used to work, advances in technology have shown that umpires regularly misjudge these calls. According to one study from 2018, umpires made 34,294 incorrect calls that season. With robo umps in place in the next few years, we will have to wait and see how more accurate calls will change the game.
The Three Batter Minimum
Baseball has a pacing problem. Out of the four major sports in the United States, baseball has the slowest pace of play. As analytics have changed in-game strategy, pitching has become more specialized, leading to constant pitching changes batter to batter.
With every change, television broadcasts cut to commercial. This has not only slowed the pace of the game further but has also infuriated more casual fans, leading them to change the channel. Adding a three batter minimum for pitchers entering the game should help solve this problem.
The NBA Will Return To Seattle
When the Seattle Supersonics agreed to relocate and become the Oklahoma City Thunder, the belief was that Washington state would be awarded an expansion franchise. In the last decade, when the Sacramento Kings were scheduled to relocate, they were planning to move to Seattle and fulfill the promise. Then they got a new arena in California's capitol.
Will the 2020s finally be the decade the NBA returns to Seattle? The Supersonics were one of the league's most storied franchises, so why hasn't the league brought the sport back to the city yet?
Arch Manning Becomes The First Overall Draft Pick
In 1998, Peyton Manning was taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the first over pick in the draft. In 2004, Eli Manning followed in his brother's footsteps and was taken first overall. There's another Manning in the pipeline now, and we bet he follows in his uncles' path.
Arch Manning is currently blazing his way through high school and will be one of the hottest college prospects in recent years. Once he finds his way to a top program, he will soar, becoming the next Manning to make it to the NFL, and making him the third in a row to be taken first overall.
Cooperstown Loosens Up On PED Users
Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire all have one thing keeping them out of MLB's Hall of Fame - PED use. The era of the game they played was full of steroid users, a fact that has kept some of the most iconic figures from their final honor.
The farther we get away from the steroid era in MLB, the easier it will become to open the floodgates for these players to make the Hall of Fame.
The NFL Goes Global
While we don't believe the NFL will ever achieve its dream of moving a team to London, we do think it will expand to either Mexico or Canada in the next decade.
The league already has a showcase game once a year in Mexico, and the logistics of having one team playing an entire season there would be much more manageable than London. So, even though London would truly make the NFL a global league, Mexico is a more likely starting scenario.
The Chargers Crawl Back To San Diego
The Los Angeles Chargers moved from San Diego after the teams' owner and the city were unable to come together on an agreement for a new stadium. So far the results in Los Angeles have not been well received.
As the Chargers become tenants in the Los Angeles Rams shiny new stadium, will they be able to broaden their fanbase? It won't be easy, especially with the Rams already having made the Super Bowl once. Egos will be pushed aside, and the Chargers will come back home.
Nick Saban Calls It A Career After His 10th Title
Nick Saban is arguably the greatest college football coach of all-time. His program at Alabama has set the standard across the nation and resulted in six national championships. Is there a magic number he's looking for before retiring?
Saban only needs four titles in the next ten years to get a ring on every finger. Achieving that would unquestionably make him the greatest college coach ever. Once that title is set in stone, we bet he'll finally walk off into the sunset.
The Dodgers Win A World Series
If you're a San Francisco Bay Area sports fan then this prediction won't make you happy, but we bet the Dodgers win it all sometime in the next ten years. The team is currently stacked with young talent including Cody Bellinger. They also have one of the best farm systems in the league.
In the last decade, the Dodgers made back-to-back World Series appearances, losing to the Astros and the Red Sox. When they find the way back, they won't lose again.
San Diego Gets An NHL Team
If the Chargers don't move back to Los Angeles, there's another league that might find its way there - the NHL. Always looking to expand, the southernmost city in California makes perfect sense.
Thanks to the San Diego Gulls minor league hockey franchise, the sport is already established there. We could easily see the team selling out its first season in the sun for sports fans hungry for more than just baseball.
MLB Shortens The Regular Season
Major League Baseball currently has more games during the regular season than any other professional sports league in the United States. Every team plays 162 games, which means that not every game matters.
Years ago, there was a drastic proposal to reduce the MLB season to 120 games. This would make every game more meaningful and give the players more rest. The truth is, cutting 42 games off of each teams' schedule will never happen. But what about ten?
MLS Adopts Relegation
There are several tiers of professional soccer in the United States. Major League Soccer is the team at the top, with the USL sitting second, the NASL next, and so on. As MLS has expanded, it has become clear that several USL teams could compete at the MLS level, so why not adopt relegation?
In European soccer, the teams with the worst records at the top tier every season are "relegated" or demoted to the second-tier league. In conjunction, the second tier teams with the best record are promoted to the top tier.
The NBA Does Away With The All-Star Game
Midway through the NBA season, the league has two showcases featuring their most popular players. First, there is the skills competition which includes the slam dunk contest and then is the All-Star Game.
Players who participate in the All-Star Game usually put very little effort into it. Understandably, they don't want to hurt themselves during a meaningless match. With a lack of excitement on the floor, we predict the NBA will do away with the featured game in favor of a much more exciting and expanded skills program.
The NFL Replaces The Pro Bowl
Much like the NBA All-Star Game, the NFL has an excitement problem with the Pro Bowl. Even though the best players every season meet for one final showdown, they rarely play the game like it matters.
Over the last few seasons, the NFL has been experimenting with various televised skills competitions that could be viable replacements. Once they find the right ones, the Pro Bowl should become a thing of the past.
The USMNT Makes The World Cup Semis
In the history of the Fifa World Cup, the United States Men's National Team has never made it past the quarter-finals. With three tournaments set to take place in the next ten years (2022, 2026, 2030), don't be surprised if the team takes the next step.
The 2022 competition likely won't be the lucky one for the United States. After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the team has been forced to rebuild. Perhaps 2026 will see that rebuilds prove fruitful!
Christian Pulisic Comes Home In His Prime
One of the most difficult hurdles for MLS to overcome has been losing young superstars to European soccer leagues to develop. But, as MLS has grown, more stars have begun to stay in the states.
Could a move back to the US be in the cards for Christian Pulisic? Currently playing for Chelsea in the English Premier League, the young American star could see a chance to reinvent the sport for Americans and make a bold move to MLS.
LeBron James Wins Two More Titles
LeBron James has been in the conversation of "who the greatest basketball players of all-time are" since he entered the league. Now in his 30s, James has been to eight NBA Finals and won the championship three times.
Before calling it a career, we're predicting he takes home the title two more times. While this prediction might not seem bold, it's important to remember James is in his mid-30s, and athletes rarely play into their 40s.
The NBA Puts More Off Days In The Schedule
With the increase of star players on good teams sitting out regular season games to rest, look for the NBA to find new ways to keep players fresh. One of those ways will be to put more days off into the NBA schedule.
The effects of this could mean the season starts earlier to accommodate the needed days, or the playoffs start later. We could even see the NBA shift away from seven game playoff series in early rounds.