Alexi Lalas Criticizes Premier League

A funny thing happened tonight. I read an article about LA Galaxy President Alexi Lalas’s criticism of the Premier League and I started writing a blog post ripping him apart. Then I re-read the same Guardian article and found that I agree with about 90% of what Lalas had to say!

In the piece that will appear in Tuesday’s Guardian newspaper in England, Lalas responds to the criticism by the English media regarding Beckham’s “move to Hollywood” and how Becks is now going into semi-retirement.

I’ve listened to many of the same critics on BBC Radio Five Live and Sky Sports, and I have to agree that the vast majority of pundits in the UK are talking nonsense. As Lalas says, the majority of them probably have never seen a Major League Soccer match before, so how can they really compare it?

While I don’t agree with Lalas’s statement that MLS players would quickly adapt to the Premier League and not miss a beat, there’s still a chasm between the quality between Major League Soccer and the Premier League. And, without a doubt, Major League Soccer is not one of the most competitive leagues in the world, as Lalas suggests.

Sure the gap is getting smaller between the Premier League and Major League Soccer, but Lalas needs to be careful about what he says. The last thing that we need to see happen is for Lalas to be turned into a laughing stock in the UK.

22 thoughts on “Alexi Lalas Criticizes Premier League”

  1. Obviously the teams that qualified for European competition are far and away better than any team the MLS has to offer, but I would venture to say that the better teams in MLS could hold their own with the bottom 5 or 6 teams in the Premiership and that number is growing more and more as better players make their way to MLS.

    The problem with the Premiership is that the same four teams are the only teams with a realistic chance at the title and MLS, like the other American professional leagues, provides parity and gives fans something to hope for and believe in. It’s not always the same teams who win and Lalas was spot-on when he said that this creates excitement in the league.

  2. Ironic – US soccer exec accuses the Prem of being over hyped & more style than substance.

    He will become a laughing stock, yes.

  3. I actually understand what Lalas is saying about competitiveness. At the start of every MLS season, almost any team could have a chance at the title, which is the definition of competitive.

    And if anyone has lasted a whole match between Wigan and Middlesborough you are stronger than I.

    A Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew game is much more entertaining than another Man U or Chelsea thumping, oh the drama.

  4. I think the other point I agree with Lalas is that there is a perception that anything outside the premiership is not good enough and yet we see some very good football leagues gaining momentum around the world and the MLS is one of them.

    The top four or maybe top three next season in the premiership are known in advance and thats not good for any league, anywhere.

  5. I understand that parity goes a long way and it is refreshing to see someone really defending the quality of our football here in the States but Lalas should choose his words more carefully: because he outright called the Premier League an “inferior product”, those reporters who are looking for sound bites & quotes to use against the MLS have even more fuel to add to the fire.

    Yes, the MLS has more parity then the Premier League…but it lacks the atmosphere, fierce rivalries, concentration of skilled players, and such things that are basic to most football leagues like relegation battles. For all the reasons above, it is idiotic to call the Premier League inferior…once again, Lalas should think about choosing a better line of defense then slamming the EPL.

  6. To me salary caps and parity are exactly what is wrong with not only MLS but virutally all american sports leagues. all parity does is make for weaker champions and a watered down product. having no salary cap allows teams like madrid, man u, barcelona, and others to load teams up with amazing talents and it produces amazing product to watch. Imagine salary caps in the EPL now instead of Ronaldo, Rooney, Saha, Giggs, and Scholes being on one team creating one great team, they would be sprinkled through out the league on various teams all in the name of parity. that would too me would make a for a much more boring and diluted product, and for what just so 16 teams can have a fair shot at a title ever year.

  7. Exactly, that’s why parity is good, it gives every team a shot to win the title, not just the same teams every year. It gets boring after a while when the same few teams win every possible trophy and the same teams are left battling for 7th place and below. How can the fans of those teams get excited over a team that has no realistic chance of a championship or any kind of success?

    I don’t want to see the best players all on one team. That team is obviously going to be better than its competitors but what does that do for me? Nothing. There’s no element of the unknown, which is what makes American sports so exciting.

    Corey, I disagree with you about your comment on the fierce rivalries that the EPL has and MLS doesn’t. There are only a few real rivalries in the EPL (Manchester Utd-Chelsea, Arsenal-Tottenham, Liverpool-Everton, Arsenal-Chelsea, and possibly Manchester Utd-Liverpool). A true rivalry means both of the teams involved have to have some sort of success. Manchester United-Manchester City isn’t really a rivalry because it’s so one-sided. Yes, it’s always a spirited game, but it’s not a true rivalry. Same for some other derbies, like any team Chelsea plays in London (other than Arsenal and maybe Tottenham). Here in America, Michigan-Ohio State can be considered a rivalry but Ohio State has had the majority of success recently. MLS has some outstanding rivalries. DC United-Red Bull New York games are always fierce and the balance of power is split, it’s not like one team always wins those games. DC United-Chicago has really blown up over the past few years as well. Chicago-Columbus games are intense, physical meetings. Dallas and Houston is a growing rivalry helped by proximity, as is Real Salt Lake-Colorado, and LA Galaxy-Chivas USA. Obviously MLS doesn’t have the quantity of great players like the EPL does, but don’t sell it too short. The MLS has been around for little more than a decade and the EPL has been around, in some form or another, for a century. The league is growing by leaps and bounds, give it some credit.

  8. Well said Corey.

    Quality of football is what is important here and Lalas can get mifted all he wants when football pundits slam the MLS for being low in that department but it is the simple truth. Case in point, Angel couldn’t hit an open net when playing with Aston Villa and now with Reb Bull the lad can’t stop scoring.

    Also people don’t think any football outside of the EPL is inferior, that is just false statement from Lalas….I don’t recall anyone saying La Liga was poor when Becks moved other.

  9. Sorry, but the MLS is so far behind the PL it isnt comprehendable.

    Having watched the Galaxy – RSL game on Sunday where the players walked around, lacked any sort of passion or commitment. The pace could be described as ‘pedestrian’ at best.

    If ever it needed showing how big the gap between the MLS and PL is;

    Juan Pablo Angel.
    Couldnt get a game at Villa. Comes to MLS and scores 9 goals in 6 matches plus numerous assists. Walk in the park for him.

  10. “It’s not always the same teams who win and Lalas was spot-on when he said that this creates excitement in the league.”

    So far from the truth its incredible.

    Having relegation might create excitement and drama.

    Not having the ridiculous play off system – which means the 8th best team in regular season can win the ‘cup’. The MLS is, I think, the only soccer league in the world to employ a play off sytem. The play offs mean teams do not need to play to their best during regular season.

    In the PL, you can lose just 4 games and have your title hopes dashed.

  11. You’re exactly right, 4 losses can dash a team’s title hopes.

    How screwed up is that? 18 of the 20 teams in the league are going to lose more than 4 times a year, so the title is decided between two teams. Is that what you want every year? It’s fine if you’re a fan of those teams, but for the majority of fans and for people who have a casual interest in the Premiership (don’t support a specific team, just follow the league) that’s a major turnoff. No one wants a league so unbalanced that only 2-4 teams have a chance to win the title.

    As for your relegation comment, when the battle for 17th place is the most exciting event all year, what does that tell you?

    Here is a passage from a recent BBC article comparing La Liga and the Premiership:

    “True, United and Chelsea provided us with a modicum of interest last season but nothing as compelling as the entertainment served up by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla and Valencia in the Primera Liga run-in.

    Just how interesting is a league where only two teams compete for the title and where clubs turn up at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge and are happy to rest players because they are expecting to lose?

    The same applies to clubs who go to Liverpool and Arsenal solely intent on putting 10 players behind the ball, hoping to escape with a draw.

    Over the last few years in England the relegation struggle has become more compelling than the race for the title. What does that tell you about the Premier League’s competitiveness?

    Surely that is the test of a league’s strength, when you are never quite sure which team is going to win a match. Can you really say that about the Premier League?”

  12. Having parity in a league just brings about immense boredom and dampens the quality of the football product on the pitch. Has anyone seen an MLS game here? How can you defend that?

    MJ, you complain about the PL always having the top 4 win it. Which league isn’t like this? French League is Lyon, Spanish is Barca and Real, Italian is Inter or AC. People should stop singling out the EPL.

  13. How does it bring about immense boredom when you can’t accurately predict before the season who’s going to win the title? How does it bring about immense boredom when you don’t know who’s most likely to win a game before it starts? The league and its games are so unpredictable that the only thing parity brings is excitement. The quality is watered down only by the fact that there aren’t a few teams who stockpile the best talent and most promising young players. Instead of having a few great teams and a monstrous gap back to the rest of the teams in the league, parity allows all the teams in the league to be on the same relative playing field.

    The Premier League, while I do believe the best soccer in the world is played in it, has become too predictable. I’m not defending MLS as much as I’m defending the principle of parity here. The reason the quality of games in the MLS isn’t as high as it is in the EPL is because the EPL has some of the best players in the world. But that’s a bit misleading; it’s often the best players in the world against teams that have players who would barely make the substitute list on those great teams.

    I understand that it’s the same in most European soccer leagues; I’m not singling out the EPL, I’m just commenting on it because that’s what this whole site is about. This isn’t La Liga Talk or Serie A Talk or La Ligue Talk, it’s EPL Talk. I just wish these leagues were more competitively balanced, as a fan, what else should I want?

  14. I can understand how parity would work for other American sports league such as the NFL, but soccer is just too different. There’s more emphasis on the technicality of moving the ball forward to create chances, more so than both sides constantly scoring countless goals in a game. Of course, any true fan would love to see their club score plentiful goals, but the way in which the game is played inhibits such a thing from happening too often. Thats why relegation can work well with this type of pace.

    I believe the sport itself naturally levels the playing field between a successful club and a smaller club. The game itself can be so unpredictable, that the underdogs have just as much of an equal chance to win a game against a more successful club, provided they showcase courage and positive attacking football.

    Its true that, realistically, the top 4 clubs have a better chance of winning the league title, but you’re overlooking other aspects of the league such as relegation battles and qualifying matches for other cup competitions. Dunno about you, but watching lower table clubs fighting to ensure a spot in the top flight is just as much as exciting as watching the top 2 clubs battle it out for the league title.

  15. If last year’s overwhelming interest and number of viewers of the world cup seem to suggest to me, is that the MLS has YET to tap into the “core soccer fanbase” (I’m assuming mostly expats and American fans interested in other world leagues) within this country. This could have made up for the poor atmosphere I usually see in MLS games. The closest of a great one that I’ve seen this season was Toronto FC, and they’re not Americans! This is not an attempt discredit the sweat and effort put forth by MLS players, since the league have improved alot over the years. Just not enough that I would find appealing, and I don’t think this “competitive balance” in which the league is based on will make much difference in the future.

  16. Here’s the thing. I have watched just as much “individual” poor play in both the Premiership and the MLS and the only difference between the two is the atmosphere and the framing of poor play. In the MLS, if a defender makes a mistake it is “because he is a MLS player”. If the same thing happens in the Premiership, even if the player regularly starts, it is “below league standards” and a fluke (which it isn’t). Lalas rightfully points out that much of the percieved difference is the presentation of the sport. Ben Olson scored three goals last week that in any premiership game would have been called “top drawer” or “world-class”, but because the game wasn’t in the right country or with a built-up fan base, the media focuses on a couple instances of bad defending.

    I think the MLS should be proud of the strides it has made.

  17. I cant for the life of me understand why so many people are blogging about the great virtues of parity in a league. Parity is what is killing the NBA and NFL here in America. Champions are crowned every year that would not hold a candle to teams of the 70’s and 80’s. All parity does is water down great teams, so that we can have a even playing field of average teams. I dont understand why that would be interesting to watch clubs with 2 great player play one another, instead of 2 clubs with 5 or 6 great player playing one another. Plus the argument that the relegation was is the most exciting part of the EPL season must only have watched the EPL for the past 2 years. The EPL title chase is competitive 90% of the time.

  18. Parity is killing the NFL? The most popular league in America and one that as grown more and more popular in the last few decades?!? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    I can’t believe that there are people out there that would rail against the idea of parity. I am not at all standing up for the quality of MLS ball, but it just goes to show that many people will defend any aspect of the EPL no matter how detrimental it is to the game.

  19. I think most of these comments are garbage. Look at the quality of play in any EPL game vs. MLS game. The build from the back, the possession, the individual skill level, the understanding of playing quality soccer – there is no comparison. If MLS were on par with EPL then we would be getting top tier internaitional players to play in MLS at their prime age to play in the states. Not guys like Beckham who was coming here to play half-time or Maradona like 7 years ago who was washed up. Guys like Drogba, Allan Smith, Messi, etc would be vying to get here and play on our stage. Instead, we have who we have.

    And stop calling it football. We’re Americans. Quit trying to be like the Brits. We call it soccer here. One way for us to gain international respect is to truly build our game and our professional league. We cannot call it football, unless we change the name to MLF.

    Marketing is not what makes the EPL and the majority of players there better than the majority of players in the MLS. The EPL actually has better players, coaches, and better teams than the MLS. For instance, we have Alexi Lalas as a figurehead in our league – that in itself should prove why we are so lame in comparison.

  20. This is the most ridiculous argument that i have ever heard the MLS is way behind the Premier League. Wow how can one compare the atmosphere and game play of the Premier League to the MLS. I would rather watch division 12 teams in England play than the MLS. The MLS is boring and ruins the football name i saw a game today and there was more streamers and CONFETTI on the ASTROTURF field than i have ever seen. They basically raped the game of football and americanized it to the point that it is unrecognizable. Why is there playoffs??

    Who cares if the same teams win if you support a club you support them and you still want them to win no matter what. The MLS lacks good players and good game play. There are times when i am impressed how far we’ve come but for Lalas to compare it to the Premier League is foolish!


  21. oh ya and dipshit it is football its not everyone’s fault that a gay sport took the name of football and used it. it should be called football the brits arent the only ones who call it that its basically the rest of the world except for australia

  22. It should be borne in mind that LaLa Lalas is the American equivalent of Jimmy Hill-no one actually listens to him. His barbed comments on ESPN re England are fatuous: no modern English fan states that England is a “great team” as Lalas claims-Hell, we”re only a paltry 6 places ahead of the US in World ranking for a start- yet Lalas claims England are overrated and deluded into thinking they are better than they are. And then when his team suffers from an appalling ref error he wants FIFA to open and investigation. I don’ remember England (the Hand of God) or Ireland (the hand of Henry) demanding retribution, but Lala’s whimpering demonstrates how out of step US sports fans are: they don’t understand the concept that being “World Champions” entails playing teams not from your own continent-and anyone bringing up the Blue Jays or Caniadiennes proves my point.
    The reason for Lala’s bitterness towards the EPL could not possibly be linked to the fact that, unlike his countrymen Dempsey, Donova, McBride, Howard, Friedel, Altidore to name a few, Lala was never good enough to break into the EPL-could it?

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