Impact Wins: MLS Falters

Longtime FC Dallas GK Matt Jordan kept a clean sheet as USL-1 side Montreal Impact advanced in the Champions League

Even after DC United beats the Charleston Battery in tonight’s US Open Cup Final, USL will have achieved something tangible that MLS failed at attempting, and failed badly at: to advance a team out of the qualifying round of the CONCACAF Champions League. Montreal got a draw on the road to Real Esteli and advance intyo the group stage of the competition while MLS sides New England and Chivas USA were eliminated on their home turf.

Chivas USA gave a game effort which is much much more than can be said for New England. But the bottom line is this. MLS is nowhere near as competitive or attractive a league as its proponents claim. This tournament was supposed to be different because unlike the CONCACAF Champions Cup, this event was being started right in the heart of the MLS season. But what we’ve discovered is that MLS lacks the depth not only on its squads, but among its squads to seriously compete in these sorts of events. For all those who state that MLS is the most competitive league in the world, the reality is that the same teams usually win the title and the same teams usually compete well when representing the league in CONCACAF competitions. So how good is MLS in reality? Not very good by any objective international standard. I firmly believe that MLS which constantly compares itself to the FMF isn’t even the second or maybe third best league within CONCACAF. But it is our league as is USL and we must embrace both to grow the game in the United States.

3 thoughts on “Impact Wins: MLS Falters”

  1. Kartik, I do understand where you are coming from in this analysis of the performance of MLS sides in the Champions League. I would warn, however, against being to quick to judge MLS as a whole league based on the performance of two of it's teams. As a Revolution fan since 96 I am disappointed at being ousting from this tournament, but not distraught or nearly as pessimistic as you seem to be feeling. The Revs' schedule this season has been unbelievably hectic, and considering the fact that the team which merited a spot in the tournaments like Superliga or Champions League a year ago was not at all the same team participating in said events. In this 2008 MLS season, of the full current Revolution roster, HALF are MLS rookies most of whom are fresh out of university. To go out into the league and maintain a first place position only to be removed from that position just a week ago with a squad full of inexperience should not be seen as a sign that MLS is not as competitive as people say. I would argue that it absolutely is, otherwise why would these strong, young, limber, vivacious players be getting the snot kicked out of them? It is by no means easy to play in MLS, and deriving the message that the league is “not very good by any objective international standard” from this specific situation can be detrimentally misdescriptive. If you want to get a picture of how MLS stacks up to other leagues in the world at this point, try for instance comparing Eddie Johnson at Fulham with Andy Dorman at St. Mirren or Danny Califf at Aalborg (now with Midtjylland) and look at there time in MLS, their growth, and their current form in Europe. Using specific examples I feel is a healthier, more empirical way of assessing our progress in the US rather than making broad generalizations based on isolated cases occurring under extenuating circumstances. Also one must take priorities into account. In terms of this new Champions League it is more advantageous for teams like Tauro and Joe Public to do well in this tournament so as to raise the status of their own domestic leagues. The MLS has many avenues for raising its international status, the CONCACAF tournament being but one way. The Revs have already won Superliga and have almost surely cemented themselves into the playoffs, so what do Nicol and Mariner really want to focus the remaining energy of the team on? Should they do well in yet another fledgling international competition, it would mean more travel time, more strain on an already exhausting schedule, more potential chances for injuries, the list goes on. I believe the priorities of the team at this point are to get everyone healthy again and make a strong post season push to another MLS Cup Final and hopefully winning it this time! Using the two Champions League matches as a chance to to give valuable experience to the younger guys would seem to be the most ideal way to use such a tournament to the Revs' advantage in the long run. All of this can be duly applied to Chivas as well. The fact that these tactical choices have to be made by MLS managers must only further how competitive an MLS team has to be in a season. Again, I 100% agree that MLS tends to try to run before it has learned to crawl in some aspects and this can be disheartening to see for true believers in the success of the game in the US. But be careful Kartik, this league of ours is much stronger than you may give it credit for, and if anything, the competitive level is one of the last things this league needs to improve upon. Rant over.

  2. Did you know prior to last week MLS had seven wins one loss and two draws against teams from the Caribbean?
    Now a week later we have two losses to add to the record.
    Did you know an MLS team had never lost to a Panamanian team?
    scratch that also.
    The Don says the standard is improving and everything is so great with the league. People even outdue to Don on other sites comparing MLS to top leagues in Europe and saying we are better than the FMF.
    What we’ve learned is that MLS is worse than ever and chances are the same team, Houston will win the title this year. Now we see what happens if teams other than the reliable suspects., San Jose/Houston, DC United or LA Galaxy are in CONCACAF competitions. They bomb!
    So this league is not only bad……………it’s not as competitive as everyone likes to claim!

  3. I think New England went for MLS CUP and sacrificed CCL. CCL is not the Champions league and there is no overwhelming prestige to winning that cup like there is in europe. Maybe in the future MLS teams will see more prestige in wining CCL but that will only be when the tournament means something. CONCACAF tournaments mean nothing to MLS and FMF. MLS is all about MLS cup which i think is a biproduct of us americans being fixated on our on country (ie. how can we call MLB champ world champ when they don't play world. Very pretentious.) FMF wants libertadores because of the money and the noteriety of SA football. Its too bad NE mailed it in, i wonder if they had tried to win what might have happened, but had they moved on it would definately would have placed them at a huge disadvantage to the rest of the league. It seems only DC places a high regard on winning outside MLS and thats too bad. I agree with the writer when i see this as a huge embarassment for MLS that we should all be ashamed about. But as long as MLS makes money off of Superliga and interliga, and owners get the profits CCL will be seen as nuisance. too bad becasue nothing would bring more respectability to MLS than consistently challenging for CCL. that would bring high regard for the league and bring in better players. and as fans have shown, if you bring in better palyers and raise the level of play they will come out and in great numbers.

    But all in all i see it as an embarrassment. Its embarassing that we are saddled with 18 man rosters and a 2.3 million dollar salary cap. Its embarassing to see TFC gutted because of how the league schedules their matches, but that is MLS. and until fans exert more of their will through the one thing that makes owners listen which is their money, things are not going to change any time soon. Shame on NE for mailing it in, becasue if that was an honest effort than MLS is in dire dire straits.

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