Has MLS Regressed Since the League Began?

0729matador2 Has MLS Regressed Since the League Began?

It was a Mexican Superstar, Luis Hernandez that led an MLS side to its last Continental Triumph

As has been discussed recently on CSRN’s American Soccer Show, MLS Talk and on this website we’ve been fed what amounts to league driven propaganda (presumably to attract new investors to the game which is a good thing) that the standard of MLS is consistently improving. With the two top MLS sides facing down the barrel of a gun at elimination at the semi-final stage of the CONCACAF Champions Cup, let’s look at MLS’ history participating in competitions with teams from other leagues outside the United States in FIFA/Federation sanctioned events. (ie., non SUM created and marketed events)

1997

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS CUP

DC United…………………Lost in semifinals to LA Galaxy

LA Galaxy………………..Lost in final to Cruz Azul

1998

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Colorado Rapids………………Lost in qualifying round to Leon

DC United………………Defeated Toluca in the final

Inter-American Cup

DC United……………….Defeated Vasco De Gama in final

1999

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Chicago Fire…………………..Lost to Alajuelenese in Semi-finals

DC United……………………..Lost to Nexaca in the Semi-finals

LA Galaxy…………………….Lost in qualifying round to Nexaca

2000

CONCACAF Champions Cup

DC United…………………….Lost in semi-finals to LA Galaxy

LA Galaxy……………..Defeated Olimpia in the final

Club World Cup

LA Galaxy…………………..Drawn to face Real Madrid in first round…………..event canceled.

2001

CONCACAF Giants Cup

Columbus Crew…………..Lost to Saprissa in Quarterfinals

DC United…………………..Lost in final to Club America

* The Giants Cup replaced the Champions Cup in 2001 and its qualification was based on average attendance per match, thus Columbus qualified ahead of potentially more competitive sides like the LA Galaxy or the Metrostars. I look back at 2001 as a year I believe an MLS team could have won the Champions Cup, and the last season before the mass exodus of top American players from MLS to Europe really began.

Copa Meraconorte

KC Wizards………………..Eliminated at Group Stage (4 pts, 1 W 1 D 4L)

Metrostars…………………Eliminated at Group Stage (9pts, 3 W 3L)

2002

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Chicago Fire……………….Eliminated in Quarterfinals by Moriela

DC United………………….Eliminated in Round of 16 by Alajuelenese

KC Wizards………………..Eliminated in Semifinals by Moriela

San Jose Earthquakes..Eliminated in Quarterfinals by Pachuca

2003

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Columbus Crew………..Lost to Morelia in the Quarterfinals

LA Galaxy………………..Lost to Nexaca in the Quarterfinals

New England Revs……Lost to Alajuelenese in the Round of 16

San Jose Earthquakes.. Lost to Municipal in the Round of 16

2004

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Chicago Fire……………….Lost to Saprissa in the Semi-finals

SJ Earthquakes………….Lost to Alajuelenese in the Quarterfinals

2005

CONCACAF Champions Cup

DC United………………….Lost to Pumas in Semifinals

KC Wizards………………..Lost to Saprissa in the Quarterfinals

Copa Sudamericana

DC United………………….Lost to Universidad Catolica in Round of 16

2006

CONCACAF Champions Cup

LA Galaxy………………..Lost to Saprissa in Quarterfinals

NE Revs…………………..Lost to Alajuelenese in Quarterfinals

2007

CONCACAF Champions Cup

DC United……………….Lost to Guadalajara in Semi-finals

Houston Dynamo……Lost to Pachuca in Semi-finals

Copa Sudamericana

DC United……………..Lost to Guadalajara in Round of 16

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While MLS’ performances in the Champions Cup the past two years has certainly exceeded the performances of the previous half dozen years, a gap still without question exists between the Mexican League and MLS. Mexican League teams can go to the Copa Libertadores and hold their own and also have been very successful in the Copa Sudamericana with Pachuca winning the 2006 title. With all of the recent conversation about MLS entering the Copa Libertadores and the new CONCACAF Champions League beginning play this year, MLS has a better chance of having its top teams reinforce a notion abroad that MLS is not up to the same standard as the leagues many American fans like to compare it with. Based on these results the Costa Rican league is far superior to MLS: However, Costa Rica’s league generally only has two or three strong teams, while every MLS non-expansion team is roughly of the same caliber when it comes to comparing them to teams in other leagues.

The bottom line is regardless of the bluster we hear from some fans and the opinions of respected soccer journalists like my American Soccer Show co-host Dave Denholm, the results for MLS in competitive matches against squads from other leagues outside the U.S. had in many ways gotten progressively worse throughout the leagues history until 2006, and is only now beginning to recover. However, if you have a different take on the above detailed results, please feel free to comment and take me to task for this posting!

2 Responses to Has MLS Regressed Since the League Began?

  1. Stan says:

    Those early tournaments were in mid-season and MLS teams did not have to play a single true road game in them. Even if that weren't the case, the sample size is not large enough to proclaim that MLS has regressed.

  2. Stan says:

    Those early tournaments were in mid-season and MLS teams did not have to play a single true road game in them. Even if that weren’t the case, the sample size is not large enough to proclaim that MLS has regressed.

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