Why the English Find MLS a Strange Experience

MLS

As our owner and head honcho The Gaffer highlighted last week, The Guardian podcast snubbed MLS deeming it not a ‘Major league’. Quite ironic for the satirist’s amongst you given it’s name but that’s irrelevant.

Now before I reel of a list of reasons, let me state this as de facto. I like Major League Soccer. A lot in fact. The following article is in no way a justification for their comments. It’s merely an explanation for why those in England (since I’m British) and maybe Europe find the concept of MLS so perplexing.

First off, the salary cap. A staple of American sports that stops the likes of Portsmouth and, lower down, Plymouth Argyle ever becoming a reality in the US. To some, though, it removes the excitement. For certain purists it’s brilliant. Imagine Manchester United having the same budget as Blackpool and forced to cut their cloth accordingly. It evens the divide and makes sure that no one stretches out. It keeps the league competitive.

In turn though it means you won’t see a team establish true dominance because they can’t just go out and sign all the best players. The situation at Man City would never happen. Nor Chelsea for that matter. To an English journalist used to seeing both ends of the financial spectrum in a league table, the concept of money boundaries is alien.

Then of course there are the playoffs. Now while the Football League does adopt a playoff for the third promotion slot, it does not give it to those in first and second so that is ignored. In some instances I do see their point. After all the team that finishes highest doesn’t always win the MLS Cup.

It almost spits in the face of the league season if all you need to do is qualify and then perform in the knockout rounds. A bit like a World Cup in some senses. To an American audience, this is fine. However, they’ve grown up with it. Yet to European football/soccer fans (delete where applicable), it can seem almost like cheating.

The distinct lack of relegation. Just as much as the English media likes to revel in champions, they love to pan the cameras, to the tearful fans of those unlucky relegated trio. Be it children or grown men balling their eyes out, the worst teams are deemed not fit to eat at the top table and must earn that right by fighting it out with the other peasants in the Football League.

The fact MLS doesn’t have a tiered league structure with promotion and relegation makes it unique in soccer. Even South America uses it, albeit on the most confusing and slightly irrational three season add-points-divide-by-three-pull name-from-hat method they use.

The best analogy I can come up with is two boxers. The loser is carried away and then a new contender is brought in. If the same two boxers just fought, it would end up the same result, in theory. I say in theory to protect myself from a barrage of abusive responses.

Personally I don’t think they take too kindly to the idea of ‘Designated Players’ either. One star per team? What about Real Madrid? I think they almost perceive it as one good player alongside 9 cloggers. And the best DP wins. Of course, the designated player is really an attempt by MLS to diversfy and bring in quality without losing teams in a financial fireball of destruction.

Of course, cynics of the league would also say that any league in which Juan Pablo Angel can score a flurry of goals in can’t be special. Now I will admit JPA wasn’t always clinical in England but that could be down to the pace of the league more than his personal quality as a player. The flurry of lower league Englishmen joining won’t strengthen my case, but Andriy Shevchenko scored for fun in Italy yet couldn’t in Italy. Does that mean Serie A is a tin pot league? No because we accept it’s a slower league with a different tactical mantra.

MLS is less than twenty years old. While the Premier League was birthed in 1992, professional soccer in England has been around for well over 100 years. It’s future is guaranteed because it has a market and a secure fan base. I’d bet in the early years of the Football League in the 1800’s, it wasn’t the streamline behemoth it is today. It probably had flaws. After all, it took over half a century to outlaw the backpass rule, and longer to decide on three points for a win and one for a draw. These things take time.

America is still trying to grow the game and from my recent trip to Northern Virginia I’d say it’s gaining popularity. Those in charge are walking the tightrope of producing a legitimate league that appeals to an American market.

With so many European leagues, I appreciate it’s difficult for the likes of The Guardian to devote time to every league, but cut MLS some slack. It’s still in its infancy and it requires an embrace from those in Europe, not a patronizing shun. After all, last summer proved quite clearly those American’s can kick a ball quite well. Plus I’m pretty sure Tim Howard wouldn’t have spilled that shot over the line.

343 Comments

  1. Glenn Williams March 21, 2011
    • Norfolk Enchants March 21, 2011
      • Alan March 21, 2011
      • Glenn Williams March 22, 2011
        • bandeeto March 25, 2011
      • Fernando Sanchez April 3, 2011
  2. Alan March 21, 2011
    • Michael March 22, 2011
      • Charles March 22, 2011
        • james March 22, 2011
          • Tim March 22, 2011
          • Jack2010 March 22, 2011
          • nick March 22, 2011
          • Charles March 22, 2011
          • soccerreform March 25, 2011
          • Alan March 25, 2011
        • b March 22, 2011
  3. Cavan March 21, 2011
    • Alan March 21, 2011
      • Jason March 21, 2011
        • Alan March 21, 2011
      • Glenn Williams March 22, 2011
        • Alan March 22, 2011
        • soccerreform March 22, 2011
        • Cavan March 22, 2011
    • Clampdown March 21, 2011
      • Glenn Williams March 22, 2011
        • Roger March 25, 2011
      • Andy March 22, 2011
        • Clampdown March 22, 2011
          • Andy March 22, 2011
  4. adam March 21, 2011
  5. Andy March 21, 2011
    • googlebot March 21, 2011
      • Andy March 22, 2011
    • Tim March 22, 2011
      • soccerreform March 22, 2011
        • nick March 22, 2011
          • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • Alan March 23, 2011
        • Tim March 22, 2011
          • Andy March 22, 2011
          • Alan March 23, 2011
          • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • Tim March 24, 2011
          • soccerreform March 25, 2011
          • soccerreform March 27, 2011
    • Roger March 26, 2011
  6. Clampdown March 21, 2011
    • Dave C March 22, 2011
      • Alan March 22, 2011
      • soccerreform March 22, 2011
        • Tim March 22, 2011
  7. tlas March 21, 2011
    • Alan March 21, 2011
  8. Alan March 21, 2011
    • NC March 22, 2011
      • Alan March 22, 2011
        • soccerreform March 26, 2011
          • Alan March 26, 2011
      • Tim March 22, 2011
        • NC March 22, 2011
          • Alan March 22, 2011
          • Tim March 22, 2011
          • Tim March 22, 2011
          • Alan March 22, 2011
        • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • Tim March 24, 2011
          • soccerreform March 25, 2011
    • soccerreform March 23, 2011
      • Alan March 23, 2011
      • Tim March 24, 2011
        • soccerreform March 26, 2011
  9. Mike March 21, 2011
    • Dave C March 22, 2011
    • Dave C March 22, 2011
  10. Clayton March 21, 2011
    • Dave C March 22, 2011
    • Michael March 25, 2011
  11. NC March 22, 2011
    • Tim March 22, 2011
      • Robert March 22, 2011
        • Gazza March 22, 2011
          • Tim March 22, 2011
        • Tim March 22, 2011
          • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • Tim March 24, 2011
        • Andy March 23, 2011
          • Clampdown March 23, 2011
          • Andy March 23, 2011
          • soccerreform March 25, 2011
          • Alan March 25, 2011
          • soccerreform March 26, 2011
          • Alan March 26, 2011
          • soccerreform March 26, 2011
          • Alan March 26, 2011
          • soccerreform March 27, 2011
          • soccerreform March 27, 2011
          • Alan March 27, 2011
          • soccerreform March 28, 2011
          • Alan March 28, 2011
          • soccerreform March 28, 2011
          • Alan March 28, 2011
  12. hendrix March 22, 2011
    • Alan March 22, 2011
    • soccerreform March 23, 2011
      • Sena March 23, 2011
        • Andy March 23, 2011
        • soccerreform March 25, 2011
  13. LI Matt March 22, 2011
    • Glenn Williams March 22, 2011
      • Robert March 22, 2011
      • Andy March 22, 2011
  14. Alden March 22, 2011
  15. Chris Ballard March 22, 2011
    • soccerreform March 23, 2011
      • Chris Ballard March 23, 2011
        • soccerreform March 23, 2011
  16. Dave C March 22, 2011
    • Alan March 22, 2011
      • Dave C March 22, 2011
      • Roger March 24, 2011
        • Alan March 25, 2011
          • Roger March 25, 2011
          • Alan March 25, 2011
          • soccerreform March 26, 2011
          • soccerreform March 27, 2011
        • Alan March 25, 2011
          • Roger March 25, 2011
          • Alan March 25, 2011
    • Dave C March 22, 2011
    • Sancho March 22, 2011
    • Andy March 22, 2011
    • Roger March 24, 2011
      • Sancho March 26, 2011
        • Roger March 27, 2011
          • Alan March 27, 2011
          • soccerreform March 27, 2011
          • Charles March 27, 2011
          • soccerreform March 27, 2011
  17. Sancho March 22, 2011
  18. Alan March 22, 2011
    • Alan March 22, 2011
    • Dave C March 22, 2011
      • Alan March 22, 2011
        • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • Tim March 24, 2011
          • soccerreform March 25, 2011
    • Andy March 22, 2011
      • Alan March 22, 2011
    • soccerreform March 23, 2011
      • Alan March 23, 2011
        • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • Alan March 23, 2011
          • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • Alan March 23, 2011
          • soccerreform March 27, 2011
  19. Charles March 22, 2011
    • Dave C March 22, 2011
      • Sancho March 22, 2011
        • Dave C March 22, 2011
      • Charles March 22, 2011
        • Dave C March 24, 2011
      • Alan March 25, 2011
  20. Ricky March 22, 2011
    • SSReporters March 22, 2011
      • Robert March 22, 2011
        • Kevin Sutton March 22, 2011
      • soccerreform March 25, 2011
    • Andy March 22, 2011
      • soccerreform March 27, 2011
  21. Totoro March 22, 2011
    • Charles March 22, 2011
    • Sancho March 22, 2011
  22. soccerreform March 22, 2011
    • Sancho March 22, 2011
      • soccerreform March 23, 2011
    • Tim March 22, 2011
      • Robert March 22, 2011
        • Clampdown March 22, 2011
      • Roger March 23, 2011
        • Alan March 23, 2011
          • Roger March 23, 2011
      • soccerreform March 23, 2011
        • Tim March 24, 2011
      • soccerreform March 23, 2011
        • Tim March 24, 2011
    • Clampdown March 22, 2011
      • Tim March 22, 2011
        • bradjmoore48 March 22, 2011
          • Clampdown March 22, 2011
          • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • Alan March 23, 2011
        • soccerreform March 23, 2011
      • soccerreform March 23, 2011
        • Alan March 23, 2011
          • soccerreform March 23, 2011
          • Tim March 24, 2011
        • Clampdown March 23, 2011
          • Alan March 23, 2011
          • Tim March 24, 2011
          • soccerreform March 25, 2011
          • Alan March 25, 2011
        • Charles March 26, 2011
          • soccerreform March 27, 2011
      • soccerreform March 25, 2011
    • Andy March 22, 2011
      • Alan March 22, 2011
      • Alan March 22, 2011
        • bradjmoore48 March 22, 2011
          • Gazza March 22, 2011
          • Alan March 22, 2011
      • Sancho March 22, 2011
        • Andy March 22, 2011
          • Sancho March 22, 2011
          • Alan March 22, 2011
          • Andy March 23, 2011
    • Roger March 23, 2011
      • Roger March 23, 2011
      • Alan March 23, 2011
        • Roger March 23, 2011
          • Alan March 23, 2011
        • Roger March 23, 2011
          • Alan March 23, 2011
  23. Alan March 22, 2011
    • soccerreform March 23, 2011
      • Alan March 23, 2011
        • Andy March 23, 2011
          • Clampdown March 23, 2011
          • Alan March 25, 2011
          • soccerreform March 25, 2011
  24. Andy March 23, 2011
    • Alan March 23, 2011
      • soccerreform March 25, 2011
        • Gazza March 26, 2011
          • soccerreform March 26, 2011
  25. Sancho March 23, 2011
    • soccerreform March 25, 2011
      • Sancho March 25, 2011
        • soccerreform March 25, 2011
          • Sancho March 26, 2011
          • Sancho March 26, 2011
  26. zentai suit March 24, 2011
  27. Michael March 25, 2011
  28. soccerreform March 25, 2011
  29. Alan March 26, 2011
    • soccerreform March 26, 2011
      • Alan March 26, 2011
        • soccerreform March 27, 2011
          • Alan March 27, 2011
  30. Alan March 26, 2011
    • soccerreform March 27, 2011
      • Alan March 27, 2011
        • soccerreform March 27, 2011
          • soccerreform March 27, 2011
  31. soccerreform March 27, 2011
  32. Sancho March 27, 2011
  33. Glenn Williams March 28, 2011
    • Alan March 28, 2011
      • Roger March 29, 2011
        • Alan March 29, 2011
          • Roger March 29, 2011
          • Alan March 30, 2011
    • soccerreform March 28, 2011
      • Alan March 29, 2011
      • Glenn Williams March 29, 2011
        • soccerreform March 29, 2011
      • soccerreform March 29, 2011
        • Alan March 29, 2011
          • soccerreform April 1, 2011
          • Alan April 1, 2011
        • Alan March 29, 2011
        • Roger March 30, 2011
          • Alan March 30, 2011
          • Sancho March 30, 2011
          • Alan March 31, 2011
  34. soccerreform March 29, 2011
  35. soccerreform March 29, 2011
  36. Glenn Williams March 29, 2011
    • soccerreform April 1, 2011
  37. Roger March 31, 2011
    • Alan March 31, 2011
  38. Roger March 31, 2011
  39. Charles March 31, 2011
    • The Gaffer March 31, 2011
      • Charles April 1, 2011
        • The Gaffer April 1, 2011
          • Charles April 1, 2011
            • The Gaffer April 2, 2011
              • Charles April 2, 2011
                • soccerreform April 3, 2011
                • Alan April 3, 2011
                • soccerreform April 4, 2011
                • Alan April 5, 2011
                • The Gaffer April 3, 2011
              • soccerreform April 3, 2011
  40. Alan March 31, 2011
  41. Glenn Williams April 1, 2011
    • soccerreform April 1, 2011
  42. Alan April 1, 2011
    • soccerreform April 1, 2011
      • Alan April 1, 2011
        • Roger April 2, 2011
          • Alan April 2, 2011
          • Roger April 2, 2011
  43. Charles April 1, 2011
  44. Gazza April 2, 2011
    • soccerreform April 3, 2011
  45. soccerreform April 3, 2011
    • Alan April 3, 2011
      • soccerreform April 4, 2011
    • Charles April 4, 2011
      • soccerreform April 4, 2011
  46. Santillana April 3, 2011
    • Alan April 3, 2011
      • Andy April 5, 2011
        • Alan April 5, 2011
    • Tuttle April 4, 2011
  47. Roger April 4, 2011
    • Alan April 4, 2011
      • soccerreform April 4, 2011
      • Charles April 7, 2011
        • Alan April 7, 2011
  48. Alan April 5, 2011
    • soccerreform April 5, 2011
  49. tlas April 5, 2011
    • Tuttle April 5, 2011
    • Charles April 7, 2011
  50. soccerreform April 5, 2011
    • Alan April 5, 2011
  51. ExtraMedium April 5, 2011
    • Alan April 5, 2011
      • Andy April 5, 2011
        • Alan April 5, 2011
          • Roger April 5, 2011
          • Alan April 5, 2011
          • Andy April 5, 2011
          • Alan April 5, 2011

Leave a Reply