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.

35 thoughts on “CONCACAF: MLS Teams Are Not “Failing.””

  1. One of the points that sneaks into discussion, periodically, is the team salaries. We all know that the average FMF side has a payroll of $8-10 million, with squads like Club América hovering in the $18 million range. We also know that most MLS squads have payrolls of $2 million (minus DPs).
    Could MLS simply be improved to FMF quality by raising the team salary cap to $8 million? Sure, it may not result in gobs of flashy marquee players, but it would probably bring a lot more parity to FMF.

    1. Word. If Houston, doesnt turn things around they will be pounded at Pachuca. They have looked pathetic lately. The only thing more pathetic that the Dynamo’s play on the field was CONCACAF ref Neal Brizan’s performance. He made the Dynamo’s Pachuca task even tougher by sending off 3.

  2. Kartik, that is a very rational, measured analysis. The FMF teams have deeper rosters, a higher salary scale, and a larger international (primarily in the western hemisphere) footprint.

    Losing a game is usually quite simply losing a game. What matters is how much you learn and implement from losing.

    As a young league, MLS’s primary goal is to get profitable. Until then, the international competitions will have to play a secondary teaching role in the league’s growth. After the league turns a profit, the results in international competition will become more meaningful.

    We can see that league games and playoffs draw far better attendence than the Champions League games. For now, follow the money. We are far better off as MLS fans that we actually dare to dream big rather than accept our status as a developing feeder league forever. Most Europeans don’t have those dreams since they are now locked in an oligopolistic system where the rich get richer and everyone else struggles with impending bankruptcy. There used to be regular European Champions from the Dutch League, the French League, the Scottish League, the Portuguese League but now those leagues are locked into being vassal leagues for the EPL, La Liga and Serie A. The mighty Bundesliga is starting to slide that way since they have a more internally competitive league rather than the “4 rich teams and everyone else” of the EPL or the “2 rich teams and everyone else” of La Liga.

    We’ll grow our own and the business side of MLS and the international play will eventually follow. However, long-term growth can only follow with a realistic appraisal of the current situation.

  3. Top to bottom MLS would blow the Mexican League out of the water. Even the worst MLS team, Red Bull would crush the worst Mexican team, whomever that is. Mexico has the same teams in the tournament every year, unlike our competitive league.

    1. Well, results do not support your argument.
      Case in point:
      RBNY qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League by virtue of being a finalist in the MLS Cup. This year, as we all know, they are the worst team in the league.
      UNAM qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League by virtue of being the 2008 Clausura playoff winner. This year, they are bottom of the table with 0 points in 5 games.
      RBNY were bounced from the tourney by W Connection(T&T), while UNAM sit atop their group(which includes W Connection) with 2 wins in two games. W Connection sit bottom with 2 losses in 2 games.

      1. UNAM CCL league group is BY FAR the weakest. I am not defending Kevins point, but just wanted to let you know before you get too excited.

    2. Kevin, you must not know the FMF very well, but it is considered one of the most competetive leagues in the world, much of it has to do with the fact that every year there is a new champion, and only one team has been able to win 2 straight cups consecutivley. Also out of all the mexican teams that have won in the previous league of champions and the only concaChampions league that has been played, it’s usually always a different team to win it. If you were to look at recent games between MLS and FMF teams you will notice that many of the weaker FMF teams usually beat MLS teams, for example Atlante vs Houston, Morelia vs Columbus and so on. I’m not saying the MLS is a bad league, but realisticaly FMF top to bottom is far superior to the MLS teams, it’s been proven many times in matches between the 2 leagues whether they are friendly games or championship matches and 80% of the wins for Mexican clubs doesn’t matter if it’s the stronger or weaker teams, and on another note, Mexican teams have never lost to and MLS side in Mexico, but Mexican clubs have beaten MLS clubs in the U.S. numerous times.

  4. if I didn’t come to “Major League Soccer Talk” for…say, I don’t know, a week or two…would I miss any in-depth analysis of Major League Soccer games that were played this week? Or previews of MLS games coming up next week? Or would I miss about seven articles talking about USL, CONCACAF, the USMNT, maybe dismal ratings for MLS, etc?

    1. Some of us like this site precisely because it discusses what other sites don’t. Their are a dozen sites with MLs previews and pro MLS spin. USL is discussed on other sites also, but not as in-depth as here. This appears to be a commentary site, not a news site. The sister site EPL Talk is the same. A commentary site that sometimes have previews and sometimes does not.

      Kartik, I think is pretty biased towards Mexico though. That would be my one complaint on the CONCACAF and FMF coverage. I just skip the articles about Mexico and read the rest.

      1. I agree with Florida Goal. Rather than post articles about news stories that you can read elsewhere, we try to provide remarkable articles on unique topics related to MLS, USL, US soccer, WPS and other American leagues. Should we have more content about MLS on MLS Talk? Absolutely, hence the call to arms to ask for more writers to join MLS Talk.

        The Gaffer

        1. hopefully there is an influx of writers here that would actually provide MLS content that’s not the usual retread that this site regularly posts (I think, after multiple postings, that we all get it that USL has good coaches, Miami is a good market for soccer, MLS TV ratings are poor, there are MLS apologists, Mexico has a good league, and that MLS treats CONCACAF tournaments as a joke and therefore is bad because of it) . Because, in quickly glancing about the sister sites, you actually gain insights as to what’s going on in most of those leagues. If I came to MLS Talk today, and scanned the entire first page, it’d seem like the only thing currently going on was the CONCACAF Champions League. I’d have to go back to the posts from the 24th or 25th to actually find a post focused on things that are actually happening on an MLS field.

          1. I’m actually defending MLS is in this piece, Ric saying the CCL results don’t matter one way or another when describing MLS.

            We have other writers that cover the league extensively and offer post match audio and commentary on our podcast. The last TV piece was asking for suggestions. Since you are so quick to criticize, do you have suggestions for improving MLS’ TV ratings? That was the point of the piece, not to point out the obvious even though some still dispute ratings that come from Nielson as made up.

            Furthermore, their is very little coverage of USL around the web. Some of this, I happen to believe is by design. Again some people confuse USL-1 for USL. USL in an entire pyramid structure with 600 teams and the lack of coverage it gets in the mainstream press or on the internet hurts the sport. If covering USL makes me wrong and makes you want to leave the site, than so be it.

  5. I too am disgusted by all the USL discussion on this site.

    No other site talks about USL so much. Or CONCACAF.

    They focus on MLS and the USMNT.

    As for this post, MLS is better than the Mexican League from top to bottom. Our season is in high gear and everyone is focused on the playoffs. It takes more to win a given MLS game than a given game in any other league because it is so competitive. You even see Man U, Arsenal etc rest starters in the league to focus on UEFA. In MLS, you cannot afford to do that because the league is so tough and so balanced.

    1. Delusional. Very Very delusional. And I know you’re going to say SuperLiga. So please, just don’t. Mexican teams field under 18s and reserve players there, and still are competitive with MLS. That doesn’t say anything about MLS quality.

  6. Yeah but I’ve watched FMF games on Univison and the teams totally suck. They players are all about 5 3′ and slow as shit. I could outrun any of those little creeps. Plus they play in the ‘hood, and don’t discount the freak show factor. For some reason teams from impoverished countries always have a player who is like some kind of circus sideshow act. I don’t know why but we’d never have that stuff going on in MLS.

    1. given that Mexico is the wealthiest country in Latin America, the best in the world like the 5’3 Messi come from impoverished. Somehow I get the feeling you wouldnt be able to afford the average $10-$15 dollar ticket price to even see a FMF game.

  7. For people who seriously think MLS is better than the Mexican top flight: do the entire world a favor. That favor, STOP WATCHING FOOTBALL BECAUSE IT’S OBVIOUS YOU DON’T HAVE AN F’N CLUE ABOUT THE SPORT NOR WILL YOU EVER GET ONE!

    For those who think the MLS is one of the top four development leagues in the world, do us all a favor…STOP WATCHING THE SPORT! Holland, Brazil, France and Germany are worlds better than MLS. Frankly, MLS isn’t even in the top 20 in terms of developing talent (and that’s being kind…it’s more like 40-50th).

    Cire55, if your disgusted by the content on this blog, leave and never come back. You obviously must enjoy the content here or else you wouldn’t be coming back. Besides, you need to stop following the sport because it’s obvious you have zero knowledge on it.

    1. I think the terms ‘development’ or ‘feeder’ refer more to Europe in general. Granted the leagues you mention feed the big 3, but MLS feeds many Euro based teams, particularly Germany and Scandanavia.
      As for the FMF/MLS comparison, see my reply to Keven(comment 5).

    2. I disagree with you on the points of stop watching the game, but otherwise you’re right.

      MLS has a long long way to go.

      Steps can be made to improve the product, but nobody really cares about that in the management, they’re about the real profits they’re realizing, either through tax writeoffs or actual profits in the case of Seattle or Toronto.

  8. To further Kartik’s point, Columbus got beat by one of the hottest teams in CONCACAF right now in Cruz Azul. Just a week earlier they beat down Saprissa. Roster restrictions are the biggest thing that hurt MLS teams in CCL. MLS coaches often dont have a choice who to play in CCL, they play the only players available.
    MLS rosters 24 players,
    22 if you take out the 2 backup keepers
    18 if you take out 4 players for various other reasons (injured, calledup, or suspended)
    Thats 18 players TOTAL(including 2 development players) to pick from for 3 games in 7-8 days.
    FMF teams are better and this is one reason why.

    BTW I love the CONCACAF articles Kartik. Keep’m up.

  9. It’s kind of Finny that I’m about to disagree with Kartik here. It seems I always think you are being ti harsh on MLS. As a matter of fact i think you have it out of MLS because you are from florida and MLS hasn’t worked down there but anyway… I’m not saying it the end of the world if MLS sides get beat by Meixcan sides but as an Avid D.C United fan I have to say they looked horrid against CD TOLUCA. Despite the header by Pontuis. They looked bad.

  10. This is why Mexican teams should all get byes to the QF, and let the US, Central American and Carribean teams fight for the other 4 spots. It’d be exciting football.

    Joe Public beat New England. W Connection beat NYRB. That’s where the competition is for you guys.

  11. Where is Kartik? This piece praising MLS and not giving a damn’s worth of analysis was written by an impostor.

    Where is the real Kartik? We miss you already!

  12. If Mexico is the best league in the universe, why do they have to make two tournaments per year? Not only they have two competitions but they also have to add playoffs to each one of them. The mexican football owners know that if they had an European or Brazilian style competition their league would be worth crap. All I know that no matter how much promotion Kartik makes for Mexican Soccer people will not wacht it. There is a reason why Mexican players have problems adapting to Europe. Their soccer is to slow and the players are not even in shape. As for the Southamerican players in Mexico, they only have Cabanas and ????? I cannot remember another name.

  13. Okay, Bolacuadrada…so according to you, what mexican players have a problem adapting to European soccer? Because from what I have seen many of them play amazingly well with their teams and are quite successfull..Take Salcido and Guardado for example. 2 of Mexico’s nationals finest are doing extremely well in their teams, and that’s not to mention Moreno, De Nigris and several others. And I don’t know what FMF games you watch, because the ones I’ve seen are extremely fast-paced and have great technique and quality, something MLS lacks greatly. And if you can’t remember any other great SouthAmerican player who plays in Mexico, then it is very obvious you don’t know anything about it. Just look at the Chile and Paraguay squads and watch out for the ones that are Mexican based. I dare you to watch them play in their National team and then in their FMF team and come back here and say they are slow and out of shape.

  14. Oh and another thing, Kartik never said FMF was the best leauge in the North America, yes no doubt. In the entire western hemisphere..well that’s up for discussion because I have personally watched many FMF teams battle it out with South America’s best in Copa Sudamericana and Libertadores. Go to youtube and watch previous Chivas-Boca, America-River, America-Flamengo, past tournaments and come back here and question FMF…Anyways! Nice work Kartik…

  15. Soccerrules,
    I know the Mexican teams compete with the Brazilian and Argentinan teams. They just cannot overpower them when it comes to championship games. Mexico has been playing in the Libertadores the last 12 years and the Sudamericana for a bunch of years also. They only have 1 trophy to show for (Pachuca). I agree that the Paraguayan and Chilean player are good but they are not all that. The real good ones are in Europe (santa Cruz, Pizarro, Fernandez, Valdez, etc.). Anyways It is not my intention to offend you or offend anyone from Mexico or any Mexican football fan.

    1. Bolacuadrada,
      “Mexico has been playing in the Libertadores the last 12 years and the Sudamericana for a bunch of years also. They only have 1 trophy to show for (Pachuca)”

      Thats a bad comparison. You cant compare the number of trophies won between Mexico and Brazil/Argentina. Those are CONMEBOL tournaments and look at the invites. Mexico has 2-3 teams in those tournaments Brazil/Argentina have 10+! I like the odds of betting on on of the 10+ teams.

  16. jajajajaja its funny to read MLS fans saying that their league is better than the mexican jajajajaja, its just so freaking funny, jajajajaja, for god’s sakes, count your international trophies and count FMF…. jajajaja so funny, anyway, peaceout losers …

  17. Bolacuadrada..what makes you think I’m from Mexico? Because I’m defending the league? No. I’m a pure soccer fan, who enjoys any good leagues. I watch a lot of South American leagues and while I know Argentina and Brazil are above the Mexican league, I’ve seen enough games between the two to know the Mexican league is competetive enough to battle out with the best from this CONMBEBOl leaugue. If you watched any of these 2 tournaments you would know what I’m talking about. The Mexican counterparts have reached the last 4 finals in the Copa Sudamericana, the same one in which Pachuca won. But you have to remember that in these 4 finals, Mexican teams have only been INVITES and had to play in South American territory. Leaving all that to the side, as an American who loves soccer, it is just simply foolish to compare the MLS to the FMF. Superliga doesn’t count. The mexican teams always take their young roster, the so called “B” team to these tournaments, (With the exception of Pachuca of course)

    1. Soccerrules, I agree with most all your points, but I dont like the continued view that Superliga does not count. True, we shouldn’t weight it as the primary metric, but it DOES count.
      It’s not like the MLS teams are bringing all starters for these games either. Plus i am sure the MLS coaches would LOVE to play hungry, fully rested, “B” team players for this mid week games rather than a mix of starters and reserves, most all of which have ready played one game that week and are expected to play another then following weekend.
      Dont get me wrong, I am not at all saying MLS is better than the FMF, I just want it to be clear that Superliga does count for something.

  18. Ok FMF is way better than mls and every one knows it. do mls fans ever wonder why they dont get invited by conmebol to any competitions like copa libertadores or copa sudamericana??? and mexican teams always get invited!!! mexican teams have gone to a final of copa libertadores 1 time(cruz azul) , have won a copa sudamericana (pachuca), and how many have mls won??? bolacuadrada you only say that fmf because its obvious your racist to mexicans! mls will never win a tournament because they are not good enough to even play in those tournaments! DC united vs Toluca 1 to 3, cruz azul vs colombus 5 to 0, and houston dynamo is gunna get killed by pachuca! so keep wishing about beating any mexican team in mexico becuz it will not happen jus lik the mexican national team nd usa national team when they play in mexico!!!

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