MLS Focus Shifting to Africa and Latin America

I’ll be honest. Late in this season with European Football having kicked off, the US National Team’s qualifying in full swing, USL about to decide its playoff participants, and College Soccer having started up I’m having my difficult being motivated to watch MLS games. My disinterest cannot be blamed on the quality of play: I’m used to watching plenty of third rate football: USL and College Soccer would qualify in those categories, but both right now are more compelling for me to watch and track than MLS whose recent public relations among other things have turned me off, as we’ve discussed on this site.

One very obvious thing emerges when comparing MLS and USL. Major League Soccer is becoming more latin flavored in its style of play, while USL is almost undoubtedly a reflection of how lower leagues in England appear in style of play. The two leagues though sharing the same geographical home now play a totally different brand of football: perhaps the direct, route one style of Northern Irish World Cup Veteran Colin Clarke is so atypical to CONCACAF that Puerto Rico Islanders are having success due to style of play more than quality on the pitch in the Champions League. The same can be surmised by Montreal’s solid play in CONCACAF and could have been assumed had Charleston not gotten a few unlucky bounces and beaten DC United in the US Open Cup final. This isn’t meant to minimize the accomplishments of USL sides in CONCACAF play which include defeating a Costa Rican side in a two leg tie, something never accomplished by an MLS side. Readers of this site and listeners to the show know I’m partisan in some regards towards USL but do realize much of the success of its teams when stepping out of what is essentially a second division and playing more talented sides be they in MLS or in Central America has been the style of play and the difficulty it causes for Latin oriented teams.

At the same time Major League Soccer is becoming more and more latin flavored. The New York Red Bulls lost last night to Columbus but I took note of how they played even without Dave Van Den Bergh, who is one of the best players in the league. Juan Carlos Osorio’s side valued possession and knocked the ball around with a purpose in the first half featuring incredibly technical touches on the ball. Jorge Rojas, the captain of the Venezeluan National Team leads this new look team and when you have other quality players like Gabriel Cichero and Juan Pietravello who are technically gifted no question exists in my mind that the New York Red Bulls represents where MLS is headed. On the other side last night, Columbus without the incomparable Guille Barros Schelotto featured the lively, Olympic medalist Emmaunel Ekpo in midfield. Early in MLS’ history Sunil Gulati spent alot of effort in attracting African players to MLS. These included such notable names in World Football as Shaun Bartlett, Junior Agogo, Uche Okafor, Ben Iroha and Abdul Thompson Conteh among others. But as time went on and the original management team of the league was ushered out fewer and fewer African players with the league signing more players from European second divisions like Pascal Bedrosian and Terry Cooke to fill out squads. This trend thankfully seems to have been blunted.

No point exists for MLS to continue to import large numbers of players from Europe.  The league is more than welcome to cherry pick certain players like Darren Huckerby who want to be here, but the time of David Beckham, Lothar Matthaeus and Roberto Donadoni has come and gone. The future of MLS lies looking south towards Latin America and the Caribbean as well as across the the Atlantic with a southward tilt at Sub Saharan Africa. Changing the flavor of MLS will make the product more compelling and yes of a higher quality for the American football fan.

7 thoughts on “MLS Focus Shifting to Africa and Latin America”

  1. I like your site and i thnk you have some good observations about MLS, but i seriously have to question your writing and motivation to bash MLS (whidh with all it's faults at least we have a league to complain about). You keep saying that no MLS team has beaten a Costa Rican team in a two legged tie when that in fact is blatantly not true. In the 2007 Concacaf Champions Cup, Houston did in fact eliminate in their first round match up Puntarenas FC of Costa Rica in a two match tie. The league has plenty of issues that it can be criticized for, but you loose more credability than eh very league you criticize when you can't even get simple facts straight.

  2. I guess K was wrong. 1-9 then, versus 1-0, still not a good record. Alaujense has traditionally trashed MLS teams when they played them and now we have further evidence of the two sides that eliminated MLS teams losing to USL this week.

    MLS teams have generally been embarrassed against Costa Rican sides. That's bottom line. But on to this awful posting…….

    I don't like this piece at all. It seems all the criticism of your viewpoint on USL has gotten to you and this piece subtly bashes USL teams as simply winning the CL because they play route one football which we know from your other blatantly anti English views, you hate.

    So basically anything that resembles English football is to bashed and perhaps the MLS gods have hunted you down and found you claiming they'll finish if you don't start glorifying their two bit product and ripping USL which you had been one of the few responsible people who did not dismiss the second division and act like an MLS snob.

    Now it looks like Garber/Gazidis and S(c)UM got to you. A real pity. This was the best footy site on the web. Hopefully my fears are not justified and this is a one time off the mark post.

  3. There simply isn't enough talent difference between the average MLS roster player and the average USL player. Not DPs but average players. MLS then limiting roster spots makes for too much instability and in fact ruining any sort of chemistry.

    Montreal for instance has been together for a long time as a team. The Impact and the Islanders both despite their “route one” football you decry could win alot of games in MLS. Maybe not win MLS Cup but both teams would be strong. I'm glad to see you admit partisanship to USL. Inspite of the title of this site, I am sure to check it out more.

  4. Maybe MLS can focus a little more replacating USL's quality and tone down the glitz and glamour in order to be taken seriously. You can debate about styles of play but honestly take away the top 3 players from any MLS team, and almost every USL team is better despite being hamstrung by poor finances. So what does that tell you about the way MLS and its clubs are run?

  5. Those USL guys must be geniuses. They get the better players at 1/3 the cost?

    Right now is a lull point for MLS until the playoff race enters its last few weeks. NCAA soccer is worth checking out. European soccer is in full swing. I don't blame anyone 1 bit anyone cutting back on MLS. But I can't get excited about the USL playoff race. I'm not that interested in paying to watch internet streams. FSC usually only shows 1 game a week during the playoffs (which I'll watch). USL hasn't had much of a playoff race the last couple of weeks, especially considering that Atlanta sent its best player to MLS. The last couple of weeks I've cut back on USL in favor of NCAA games. My only excitement might come when the title game arrives.

  6. Interesting point – USL being more Long Ball and MLS more posession. Things that concern me are not HOW each league seems to play but why aren't the MLS teams winning interleague competitions? If a blog writer can see that Long Balls work against Latin American teams, why aren't they using it? I thought good teams can change the way they play to situation. Lets face it, the National team are favorites to beat any team in CONCACAF (with the exception of Mexico in Mexico). Why do MLS stink so bad when it comes to international play?
    The other point, where is the American Style of Play? Why do we have to copy others when it comes to style of play?

  7. Kartik, it's because the European leagues and Champions League have started and MLS, is frankly second tier. That is why it is passé. It happens every year. I would rather watch La Liga, Liverpool and Roma. Nuff said. Quite frankly the Latin influence is MLS has made it watchable.

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