CONCACAF: MLS Teams Are Not “Failing.”
I’ve read a great deal about perceived MLS failures in CONCACAF over the last week. As many of our readers know, I am not defender or apologist for MLS. But, calling two loses to FMF sides,” failures” again show many MLS fans live in an alternate reality. If anything Columbus and DC United should be applauded for competing against the best this hemisphere has to offer.
When MLS sides have lost to virtual semi professional teams from, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Soccer Leagues and Panama over the past two years, it has been embarrassing. New England’s disgraceful 4-0 home loss to Joe Public in 2008 will forever be a blemish on MLS.
But losing to Mexican opposition is not a big deal. In fact, MLS sides can take pride in playing regularly against teams from arguably the top league in the world outside Europe, and thus improving its product.
The Mexican League, for those who do not watch it regularly is one of the best football leagues on the planet. The FMF was ranked 8th last year in the IFFHS survey of domestic competitions (it’s rating has slipped this year largely due to the Swine Flu, so last year’s rating is more instructive.) and some of the leading South American footballers play in the league.
Chile and Paraguay are two of the big stories in COMNEBOL qualifying for the World Cup. Both teams can thank the FMF for much of their success. In fact, Mexico’s league is such a standout now in Latin America, you see South American players turning down European club glory for Mexican money. Imagine that?
MLS supporters who claim some sort of parity with the FMF or lament loses to FMF sides are not being realistic. Of greater concern, is MLS’ inability to beat Central American or Caribbean opposition regularly enough. MLS wants to be considered the second best league in CONCACAF, and while realistically it is such, the results offer us debating points in the other direction.
Many European clubs would have no greater success against FMF based opposition than MLS sides. Last year, Mexican sides struggled away from home against USL teams in CONCACAF but quickly recovered and re-asserted themselves in the home legs. The same has happened in the past for MLS sides if they somehow manage a victory against a diluted FMF squad at home.
MLS fans need to temper their expectations. This is not national team competition where the US and Mexico have comparable sides. MLS is a young league, who cannot attract the type of South American star (although it once did, a subject for future CBA discussions) the FMF currently does. Additionally, Mexico has a deeper national talent pool than the USA, and has fewer players in Europe than the US.
So what we have are two completely unequal leagues, and MLS fans do a disservice to their clubs by holding our teams accountable for loses to far superior sides. Once again, if anything Columbus and DC United need to be applauded for fighting and scrapping against far superior opposition.