Treat the MLS Like a Top League

Can Major League Soccer ever become one of the best soccer leagues in the world?  It’s a question that year after year is constantly repeated to seemingly no end.  Most players and analysts seem to think (and are likely correct) that the MLS has taken huge strides in its first 20 years, and time is the main reason the MLS isn’t as prestigious as many other leagues in the world which have been around for much longer.  While I agree, I also want to consider another possibility- that the media is actually harming the growth of the MLS by so frequently making comparisons to other leagues.

The MLS doesn’t really get the credit it deserves.  Some of it is the MLS’ fault.  For example, instead of having an All-Star Game pitting the best players from each conference against each other, the league’s best players take on a top European team.  Having your entire league match up against a single team isn’t exactly the best way to convey having a strong league.  However, on an international level, the MLS isn’t a weak league.  If you tell a lie enough times, people will start to believe it.  Similarly, if you continuously downplay the MLS and question when it will finally become one of the “big leagues”, Americans will continue to see the MLS as disappointing and won’t be enthusiastic about the league.  Realistically, the MLS is a top-15 and potentially top-10 league in the world, playing more competitively and at a higher skill level than most globally.

The United States is the biggest sports country in the world.  Americans love sports and have grown the NFL, NBA, MLS, and NHL into the most prestigious leagues in the world for each of their sports.  Already with such a gigantic sports market, incredible athletes and millions of diehard fans, the US has the opportunity to transform the MLS into a premier league on the world stage.  We just need to take the MLS seriously.  Stop treating the MLS like a joke, or something that will never get popular- of course it won’t with that attitude.  The league needs support.  A major factor preventing the MLS from further growth is low salaries for the average player compared to many leagues.  This can be altered by America changing its soccer philosophy from something we watch only during the World Cup to something we watch weekly.  Passionate fans can grow rivalries, buy tickets and jerseys, generating revenue which will allow teams to sign better players and drive the league forward.

We need to destroy the idea that we’re too good for soccer, or that we shouldn’t play a game just because other countries played first.  We should stop being close-minded, writing off soccer as “boring” because “nothing ever happens”.  While that may be the opinions of some, everyone should experience “The Beautiful Game” before accepting that idea.  The United States has produced many of the greatest athletes to ever walk the Earth.  Imagine what would happen if we chose to develop soccer players in the same way we grow future football and basketball stars?  It’s not an easy process, but one that’s very achievable.  We just need the right mindset.

 

 

Readers Comments (2)

  1. I think a lot of the MLS’ problems have to do with how they treat themselves rather than how we treat them. I agree we don’t treat them as a high level league but the fact of the matter is their odd approaches to certain aspects of the game are hindering the league’s ability going forward. I’m talking about things like no relegation or promotion despite more than enough teams in bottom leagues; as it stands now, teams must buy their way into the MLS, making it more about how much money one has and turning new teams into just overhyped businesses rather than genuinely amazing success stories. Furthermore, salary caps and designated players impede teams from differentiating between one another in an attempt to keep teams around the same skill level, like some other American sports, but this is alien to the rest of the soccer world and harms the accumulation of new, big talent.

    If the MLS wants to become more serious, it needs to remove its archaic “American” rules on these aspects of soccer and become more “Europeanized.”

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment, Alex. I’ve already written about many of the problems you discussed, in and . However, I also think the way American sports fans treat the MLS, with (no numbers here, but I’d wager) more people following foreign leagues than the MLS, and not many following soccer in general, has contributed to the issue.

      Reply

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