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Why Fans of EPL Clubs Should Give MLS Another Chance

the guardian Why Fans of EPL Clubs Should Give MLS Another Chance

As a Brit and Newcastle United supporter, I must give credit for this piece to one of our readers, ‘Clampdown’. In the article on our sister site MLS Talk about how The Guardian dismisses Major League Soccer as not a big league, I liked the premise that Clampdown suggested. He recommended I should write a piece to ostensibly persuade readers and those at The Guardian to take interest in the MLS. I do, after all, think that there is enough reasons to want to watch the league otherwise I wouldn’t be devoting my time to it.

The opening gambit of my argument will be money. That thing you hear most of the older generation cite as what’s killing the game. Wayne Rooney earning more in a week than 10 nurses do in a year. Andy Carroll being worth £35 million after 6 months in the Premier League. In short, the MLS doesn’t have it, and it’s better for it in some ways. Yes you have designated players, but clubs are still governed by a $2.3m salary cap. Yes Guardian writers that’s per squad, not per player. The idea of it being a last paycheck is very much outdated. In MLS you earn your money.

In a romantic way it makes the players more approachable. I’ve only had very brief encounters with Premier League players during my short writing career, but with many it’s like they live on a different planet. They have no real concept of normality because of it and it’s often why you see them caught up in National Enquirer-style escapades. How am I supposed to identify with a man who’s on more money than I’ll ever see unless I guess the six correct numbers in the lotto?

The idiots aren’t ever present either. Like it or not, MLS doesn’t have near as many stupid fans in it’s stands. They may not be as clued up on the game, but you won’t hear a racist word at an MLS game that’s for sure. If I could say the same for England I’d be a happier man but I can’t. You can extend that to Europe in truth. Football racism still exists and the games worse for it.

What I also find quite charming about the MLS is it’s ability to mix passion with sportsmanship. You have players like Dax McCarty who want to win and occasionally may swear on the pitch. But they are still solid role models for those younger members of the crowd. When was the last time you saw an American player involved in an infidelity scandal? Or a punch up with a nightclub DJ?

They give their players a foundation. Yes the college system isn’t perfect. In theory it holds players back because they don’t start professional soccer ’til 22-23. But at least they have a degree behind them. I’ve seen countless players during my lifetime play a handful of games in the top flight then fall from the radar of the Premier League, playing amateur football and living on a poor wage.

At least the American system provides its players with a back up plan should they be not good enough or be so unlucky as to suffer a career ending injury.

I quite like how active clubs are in getting you involved. I believe it’s because in America, soccer is not the biggest slice of sports revenue like in Europe. When I went to my first MLS game, I was greeted in the car park by latino music, hot dog stands and club booths. And that was before I got into the stadium.

At half time they loaded T-shirt’s into a cannon and fired them into the crowd. Cheesy, it may seem, but I still wanted one. I thought I wouldn’t. But as they came close to my section, I moved to the edge of my seat ready to fight man, woman or child for that T-shirt that might not even fit.

They look to bring young coaches into the game. This point really does relate solely to the UK. Figures post-World Cup showed a chronic lack of coaches in the UK. And despite empty claims from Sir Trevor Brooking, it’s still increasingly difficult for a football coach to get anywhere in the UK, especially in the Premier League. Amplify that if you aren’t a former professional.

My younger brother intends to be a coach and I don’t envy his task. I’ve already advised him to look at coaching in the US and even purchased the official USSF training manual. The promotion of youth and emphasis on the future in all aspects of the game is exactly why you are seeing a rise in the quality of the USMNT.

I do find the lack of hyperbole around MLS refreshing as well. When watching the BBC’s highlight show or Sky Sports, I find the way players are made out to be modern day miracle workers a little sickening. What makes it worse is it’s the same bunch of media darlings. Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney all considered wonderful life savers yet I’m reminded of the moment Alan Shearer admitted knowing little of Hatem Ben Arfa, only made worse by the fact he was playing at Shearer’s old club, Newcastle United.

You don’t hear MLS proclaim itself as the best league in the world either. I often believe if you are a self proclaimed great, you probably aren’t that brilliant. Andy Gray’s rather hilarious debate regarding whether Lionel Messi could perform on a wet night in Stoke typifies this. In truth there is no best league, and if you are to elect one it’s not likely to be England because much of the Premier League’s appeal and excitement is based on its physical nature and the fact that goals are often based on individual mistakes as opposed to individual brilliance.

Rivalries don’t equal bloodshed. I’m blessed or cursed to be involved in one of England’s biggest rivalries depending how you perceive it. Newcastle versus Sunderland is the one fixture a year where I actually get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Nerves hit me big style, but as soon as the game is over, I happily converse with my friends in red and white. Sadly not all are able to do this and the requirement for a large police presence is sad for what is supposed to be entertainment.

I’m all for passion. I advocate it. A game’s quality can be defined by the fans that participate, but the need for violence in an arena inhabited by both adults and children is still alien to me.

I’m well aware that it’s unlikely AC Jimbo or any of the podcasting team at The Guardian will actually read this article, that wasn’t why I wrote it. Instead I decided that things needed addressing so that if by accident one of them stumbles across it, they can see that the MLS is a viable option for soccer fans in Europe. I don’t expect to see Sean Ingle with a Sporting Kansas tattoo, but acknowledgement of it’s place within the game would be much appreciated.

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77 Responses to Why Fans of EPL Clubs Should Give MLS Another Chance

  1. Stacy Richardson says:

    All of your points are well-taken. But none of your arguments changes the reality that the quality of MLS play is pathetic. The play’s the thing.

    • DomiNate says:

      Stacy-

      No question, there is a hug drop in talent. Here is a reality. No one in Europe will be playing any meaningful games this summer. Why not check it out? And if you do end up supporting a club please avoid LA or NY.

      • MG says:

        Question: Why avoid LA or NY?
        JUST because they are the so-called ‘top clubs’? NY was awful the season before last, in fact they were last in the East. And who know what can happen this season. Makes sense, just seems so sadly calculated. Stacy can follow whoever she wants, assuming she doesn’t have a local club.

        • DomiNate says:

          Why avoid NY and LA?

          Nothing against them, great cities and great clubs. I meant in terms of supporting someone. It’s the same as top players coming to the country in any sport. Everyone wants to be a Laker or a Yankee. It’s the equivilent of your Madrid, Barca, Arsenal, Man U, etc. They’re easy picks.

          • MG says:

            I see what you mean, but again that’s no reason to avoid them. I’m an American Arsenal fan and I personally don’t think it’s entirely ‘easy’ to have chosen them as the club for me to follow. Of course they’re easy in comparison to a club like Wigan or Blackburn, but all these years I’ve been seeing them (post-Invincibles) has been a witnessing of a club that plays amazing football and not winning anything in the process. Man Utd, Madrid and Barca sure fit the bill though.. Those clubs HAVE been winning and win regularly. (Just because NY has become relevant last season mean they are an ‘easy pick’. They’ve never even won an MLS Cup haha)

            I understand what you mean about easy picks, but if someone wants to be a Madrid fan, assuming they’ll become a real fan and not just claim to be fans strictly because of their stature, then let them. If Stacy likes the way NY or LA plays and digs everything about said clubs, then she should go for it. Then again, I wouldn’t be against the idea of her following another club. I wouldn’t be against the idea of her following ANY club.. I guess that’s my point haha.

      • Stacy Richardson says:

        I am not interested in the LA/NY teams. I am located in Tulsa, midway between Dallas on the south, and Kansas City to the north. I follow FC Dallas a little bit, and KC an even smaller bit. I try to develop a little interest after the season ends in Europe, but I have a nasty habit of dropping the MLS in August, when English football begins again. If the MLS players had some speed/pace and could string together three passes occasionally, I might be persuaded. But if it’s July and they’re playing in Dallas or Houston (or DC, or . . .), they’re going to be walking the ball up the pitch. Snore. I don’t entirely blame them, but American football is played at its usual pace in the warm-weather months, and I expect the same level of effort from the MLSers before I’ll become more interested.

  2. Neal Thurman says:

    I love the article and generally agree with the exception of the bad behavior. You don’t have to go very far to find plenty of infidelity – the differences is that they aren’t scandals because the media don’t report on them because MLS players minus Becks and MAYBE Landon Donovan and TH14 don’t move the media dial here. A certain former USMNT player who now makes his money commenting on matches for one of the big networks would have been John Terry well before John Terry was John Terry if anyone cared to report on it.

    I’d also disagree on the “giving the players a foundation” thing. More and more players are going either straight from high school/MLS academies (see Andy Najar, Bill Hamid, Juan Agedelo, etc.) or coming out after a year or two of college (Perry Kitchen et al). There are certainly more who get an education than elsewhere in the world but the US system is going away from that rather than going towards it.

    In any event, I love the Prem and have had a mostly-solid relationship with MLS (varying mostly on the quality of DC United’s squad and my proximity to DC in that year). I’m all for promoting what I think is a strong league given the uphill battle against other entertainment options and the limited history of the sport and the game here in the US.

    Cheers – Neal

  3. Robert says:

    You never mention the quality of football being played. As an American who follows Spurs, I often find the mls hard to watch because of how poor the standard of play is. However, I watched a few minutes of the opening weekend (including the opener LA Galaxy @ Seattle Sounders) and there was some quality back and forth football being played. The Galaxy win was full of chances and the only bit pf the NYRB match I saw was Agudelo’s fantastic goal. The quality is on it’s way up which will make it a much more enjoyable league. There are a number of teams that try to play positive football, duh as real salt lake and Houston dynamo.
    Disclaimer: I’m far from a mls fanboy. I’ve bashed the league for years and would change the channel when it came on. I caught a few matches toward the end of last season and the playlets and the quality has grown a lot. I have no rooting interest for any of the teams (waiting for the 20th team to be in New York), which also decreased my interest in the league

    • MG says:

      “However, I watched a few minutes of the opening weekend (including the opener LA Galaxy @ Seattle Sounders) and there was some quality back and forth football being played. The Galaxy win was full of chances and the only bit pf the NYRB match I saw was Agudelo’s fantastic goal.”

      What? Hahah Did you even watch the LA v Seattle game? The last twenty minutes of the first half were some of the worst MLS football I’ve ever seen. They were trading possession every 3 seconds and there was hardly any teamwork going on. It was horrific. The second half was a little better, but yeah.. awful. And conversely, did you watch the first half of the NY v Seattle game? There was great possession by NY, despite not being able to put the ball in the back of the net.. Still, it looked like a match. The Agudelo goal wasn’t the ‘only’ bit like ‘looked like PL’.. Is it just because he scored that you say that? There were many close calls and good passes here and there. What Agudelo did to earn the penalty that Henry missed (quickly tucked the ball toward the defender as he was running) is a testament to that.

      Just wanted to make that clear.

    • Dave (dlbags) says:

      I too was waiting for the 20th team and then NYRB got Henry. Granted I’m a Gooner and you a Spurs fan so…

      Either way the stadium is very nice and games there are fun and the rivalries with DC United, Union and Revolution are definitely starting to increase.

  4. Ernesto Hernandez says:

    I have to agree with Stacy. “Pathetic” seems a bit harsh so I’ll go with “poor” to describe the quality of play. I follow the Chicago Fire and have gone to a couple of games. In all honesty, the games were pretty dull. It’s not to say that MLS can’t grow to be a respectable league, but it still has quite a way to go and it first needs to catch up to the Mexican First Division if it wants more recognition, domestically, let alone internationally.

    • DanB says:

      I have to agree that Stacy and Ernesto are Pathetic. The thing is MLS is putting out good talent (Ex. Holden, Dempsey, Donovan, Demerit, Howard, Friedal, Bradley and more).

      What Separates MLS from EPL is the fact that with a Salary Cap in place the Dominate teams the ones that have strong Management, Not a Endless bank account.

      While Europe is over spending MLS is budgeting their and useing strong Managers to create Dynasties.

      Then their is the fact that MLS has alot of promising young players all over the world. Rome wasn’t built in a day Euros show why snobs are added.

      Besides If you love the game you would notice that every year the MLS quality is getting better.

  5. robert says:

    ditto. quality of play. that’s the big difference. most mls games are painful to watch after you’ve watched too much prem, bundesliga, la liga, or serie a… heck even french and dutch football are more captivating.

    • tnnelson says:

      completely disagree. obviously MLS isn’t up to the standard of the leagues you just mentioned, but keep in mind, those are the best in the world, by far. that’s where all the money is, and they have been the best for decades and decades. to compare MLS, a 16 year old league, to that is just absurd. clearly MLS isn’t as good as those, but you obviously haven’t watched it enough if you think it is ‘pathetic.’ subpar, yes. pathetic, no.

      the fact of the matter is that MLS has made huge progress in a very short period of time, in a country where it’s main competition is engrained into society. when i first started following football religiously, i watched the Premier League only, and i laughed off MLS like many Europeans. but looking back, i see my ignorance, because i had never given it a chance. i watch it now just as much as the Euro-leagues, and while the quality of play is not the same, I can watch an EPL game in the morning and an MLS game that night and be equally entertained by both. you just need to open you mind. if you consider yourself a fan of football, you respect every brand of football for what it is. the spreading of football to America is only a good thing for the world’s favorite and best sport

      • robert says:

        I’m not the guy who called it pathetic so I’m sure you’ve replied to the wrong guy. And I’ve seen enough mls. Been to several of my Quakes games, even back when Donovan was there. My loyalties even left with them when they went to Houston, but really… it’s tough to spend two hours of my weekend watching soccer that doesn’t compare aesthetically to any of the leagues I mentioned. Still fun to catch a game here and there.

  6. Maybee says:

    Eh. I hear what you are saying, but I’m still not buying. As strange as this might sound, the actual game is not my favorite part of the game. For me, football is about the people, the communities, the passion, the singing, the chanting, the rivalries, the culture, the drama, the history. Sadly, so much of that is missing from American “soccer”, and always will be while it remains a third or forth tier sport.

    Oh, yeah, and even if you are only interested in the on-pitch side of things, the quality is still MUCH higher in England. End of.

    • meowmixsf says:

      Community? Seattle has 33,000 season ticket holders, that’s more than Everton or AC Milan. Watch the crowd and festival at Portland’s downtown stadium this weekend. Here the songs of the ECS, Gorilla FC, and Timbers Army. Agreed, Americans don’t know how to be sports fans; tailgating is so banal. But American SOCCER fans are special.

    • DanB says:

      Seriously have you even watched a game. Have you never heard of the Nordecke, Section 8, Timbers Army, Emerald City Supporters, Texan Army, The Southsiders, Screaming Eagles, The Sons of Ben, The Red Patch Boys, Midnight Riders, Empire Supporters Club, The Cauldron, Union Ultras, Pid Army, Hoops Nation, Angel City Brigade, Rogue Cavaliers Brigade, and the Crocketteers.

      The Supporters culture is growing, Maybe you should go to youtube and look up them. Because you must have been watching something else.

    • MG says:

      Though Maybee is judging the MLS a bit too harshly and in some respects incorrectly, I can understand what he/she means by ‘the actual game is not my favorite part of the game..”

      When I read that, it got me thinking about why I follow the Premier League in the first place.. and the answer, in a short on details nutshell, is the history. It is something that is analogous to what baseball and MLB would seem like to an interested Englishmen.. The history of all these clubs on that island, and the matches, the whole culture.. (that’s the keyword) is what makes me interested..

      It is more their sport in a way that it hasn’t been and continues to not be America’sherThough Maybee is judging the MLS a bit too harshly and in some respects incorrectly, I can understand what he/she means by ‘the actual game is not my favorite part of the game..”

      When I read that, it got me thinking about why I follow the Premier League in the first place.. and the answer, in a short on details nutshell, is the history. It is something that is analogous to what baseball and MLB would seem like to an interested Englishmen.. The history of all these clubs on that island, and the matches, the whole culture.. (that’s the keyword) is what makes me interested..

      It is more their sport in a way that it hasn’t been and continues to not be America’s (unfortunately). There’s no denying it, it is what it is. And I say that as an MLS supporter, not a slanderer. All the history that attracts me to the PL and English football in general, I can get the equivalent fix in the form of American leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA and the NHL). The MLS is still a baby compared to these and I’m along for the ride.

  7. DomiNate says:

    Great article. I’m very interested to read the responses of those from across the pond.

    I’m American and have been a Chelsea fan since well before the Abromovich era. I never fully embraced MLS until my home town of Seattle got a team. While the league has obvious limitations it still worth watching. My suggestions for newcomers is to wait until the European season is over, and there’s no other soccer on. Otherwise you may get aggrevated by the drop in talent.

  8. DomiNate says:

    Somehow my post disappeared, so here we go again.

    I’m an American who has been a Chelsea fan way before the Abramovich era. I never embraced MLS until my home town of Seattle got a team, I got season tickets, and now I follow the league very closely.

    I AGREE with all of you who say there is a huge drop in talent. It is unbelievably painful to watch MLS while the EPL is still going. That said, MLS has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment. Our players work hard and aren’t a bunch of flopping divers, apart from a few latin american imports.

    MY ADVICE- If you have never watched MLS before wait till the EPL is done in May. No meaningful games are being played in Europe this summer. If the mood strikes you to watch some football then check it out.

  9. BradMc says:

    I’m a somewhat newer soccer/footy fan of five years. I definitely agree that the level of play is a joke compared to watching EPL. The designated players are helping – the loss of Schelotto at the club I follow (Columbus Crew) has left a really sad level of play by comparison. But I have noticed a general increase in quality every year since I’ve started following it. Enough to keep me somewhat interested and waiting for a breakthrough.

    But my real problem following MLS is the lack of any good TV analysis shows. I loved Fox Football Fone-in – Eric Wynalda was great – but FSC killed it, and it didn’t run through the MLS season anyway. Any MLS stories there are to follow seem insignificant and boring. I actually think pointing out controversial and bad behavior would be great for the league, as would singling out and elevating some superstars (besides Beckham). Something, anything. FSC claimed they looked to ESPN for whatever that awful show was that replaced FFF. Well they didn’t pattern it after the right shows. Sportscenter, Inside the NFL, Baseball Tonight… those are the types of shows we need dedicated to the MLS. The pre-match commentary by Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman before the opening match this year actually approached something interesting, but 10 or 15 minutes is not enough.

    We need some stories and some actual emotion well beyond the dry reporting we get with Fox Soccer Report and the MLS podcasts.

  10. Josh says:

    Nice article, and the points are thoughtful and well-argued. However, I do consider most of these points of argument an indication of preference over the presentation and politics of MLS, rather than the game itself. Without question, the skillfulness of most MLS players is way below most other nations. The game isn’t as fast and the players are not as decisive.

    • Clampdown says:

      The game isn’t as fast? I’m sorry, but that’s nonsense. I watch English soccer every week and have for the past 13 years. I also am a season ticketholder for Red Bulls. If you think MLS isn’t fast, I don’t think you are watching MLS. All of the players that come here from Europe mention how they didn’t realize how fast and physical the league would be.

      Anyway, there is no denying the level of play is not up to that of the EPL (or BPL for the pedantic among you). But it has gotten much better in the past five years or so. There are some obstacles that need to be overcome for sure, but like Nate said, if some of you are willing to give it a try, do so in the summer. You may be pleasantly surprised.

      I wouldn’t expect many outside of the US to become fans of the league, but you may have a little more respect for it and not believe the stereotypes that have been dished out by people who have spent zero time getting to know the league.

    • Dave says:

      Josh, you say “Without question, the skillfulness of most MLS players is way below most other nations.”

      Yes, there are a handful of nations in which the teams spend significantly and attract talent from around the world. But there are dozens of countries whose leagues are just scraping by, and who are feeding their best talent to the blessed few. MLS is besting “most” of these leagues, and gaining ground on the others. On the talent side, MLS is attracting foreign talent, and we’ve seen some unquestionably talented DPs come into the league and fail to really stand out. We aren’t doing so badly.

  11. George says:

    I agree with a lot of the points above, but I’ll pitch in regardless.
    I’m an American, only got into soccer seriously in the past three or four years (to the point where I would rather watch it than baseball, my life-long sport of choice), so I’ve been really hopefully of finding an MLS team that I can stomach. Just can’t do it. It’s not simply that they are poorer quality players, though that contributes. It’s that there seems to be a general lack of an idea about what good football should look like, from the players to the coaches, fans and commentators. There is no tactical chess match happening on the pitch, no probing and countering, prying away at an opening all game to get that one chance to take. I don’t know how David Beckham can stand it, he’s trying to play a completely different game than those around him. The MLS looks like soccer for children compared to Europe, with players clumped around the ball, clumsy passes and poor control, banging it from end to end with no hulking forward to aim for and no wingers or strikers to burn defenses. It’s just boring, clumsy, and no fun to watch. Especially as the commentators in the US make it out to be world-beating stuff. Please consider this example: at the opening game this year, one of the commentators said that some no-name Sounders’ winger (I should probably put “winger” in quotes, MLS games always seem to lack true wingers) reminded him of Dirk Kuyt. Just let that sink in. Did he mean the Dirk Kuyt who plays for one of the biggest clubs in the world, with 74 international caps for one of the better national teams in the world? That Kuyt? Who scored a hat-trick against the biggest club in the world just two weeks ago? That Dirk Kuyt? That’s the level of disconnect between MLS and Europe. It’s like MLS can’t even comprehend how good football can actually be, and doesn’t realize that it can’t comprehend.
    If I move to a big city with a team, I will try to support them, but as soon as the game is done, I will run home and get a replay of the latest European game going, just so I don’t forget. I want US soccer to grow, and it is, but I hope we stop kidding ourselves about its quality and give it time to develop. Of course, it will only continue to develop if we go out and support it. So there’s our challenge, from fans on up through to the media.

    • Clampdown says:

      He probably did mean that Dirk Kuyt … the one that is constantly slated in England for seeming like a golden retriever rather than a footballer. That Dirk Kuyt … the one who ISN’T a winger, but a forward playing in a wide role because that’s where Rafa used him. Kuyt works extremely hard and scores a lot of garbage goals, so why would this seem to be a poor comparison? (BTW, I am a Liverpool fan and actually have a great appreciation for Dirk).

      You actually hit the nail on the head at the end, George. The league needs more support. Sure, the quality isn’t as good as any of the top European leagues. But your criticism is over the top, and it’s clear to me you don’t watch or attend the matches with any regularity. That’s too bad.

      Also, I have watched plenty of matches in England where I was stunned by the lack of quality, creativity, or tactical plan. I wanted to tear my eyes out watching Liverpool without Gerrard or Suarez against Braga.

      • Gaz Hunt says:

        “It’s that there seems to be a general lack of an idea about what good football should look like, from the players to the coaches, fans and commentators.”

        What should football “look like” then, mate? You may prefer the Premiership (as I do) but don’t insist they don’t know football because they fail to replicate another league. This is an American football league and should reflect being so – it shouldn’t try to become the ugly step-child of the Premiership.

    • Sam says:

      as a huge supporter of both the epl and mls let me start out by saying its not that hard to watch both, you have to accept that theyre not on the same level.
      Now if you take arsenal, spurs, bolten, and well thats about it out of the epl, its just like mls, long balls a booting
      man u are not the best team in the world right now, not top 3 imo
      and we can compare players with whoever the hell we want, Im sure one of the ones who thought walcott was gonna be the best ever cause he was fast, we have players just as fast as he and we dont over hype like you english are world famous for doing!

    • R2Dad says:

      I hear ya. I’m not an MLS fan, and am still pissed the Earthquakes abandoned the Bay Area–for Texas! Now we have a fake Earthquakes team that I go out of my way to ignore. Regardless, I did watch a little play at the beginning of last season and it was dreadful. The weekly highlights were lame, goals were all set pieces and defensive errors. The only thing that I found interesting were the refereeing recaps:
      http://www.ussoccer.com/Referees/Week-In-Review.aspx
      But a funny thing happened midway through last season; the play started getting better. Seriously. There was much less kick and run, even some decent possession and goals scored in the run of play. The highlights looked better, and certain games became—watchable. Maybe it was an anomaly, and with new teams there is bound to be dilution. But I do not find MLS as depressing as it had been, and hope it continues to improve.

      • Jim says:

        I too was a passive observer of MLS until last year, refusing to get sucked in until Philadelphia got a team, but then I jumped in with both feet when the Union was born. It’s obviously not Prem quality, but it’s MY team, in MY city. And that’s all that really matters.

        I generally agree with the statement above re: gradually improving quality. One thing I disagree with (acknowledging my thinking is counter-intuitive on the surface), is that I don’t believe expansion is creating dilution in this case. I believe it’s creating new owners with new capital, hiring new coaches with new ideas on how to build sides and bringing with them new pipelines from which to mine talent. And that talent is more players in their prime (Saborio) or even younger players with massive upside (guys like Montero or recent FC Dallas signing Fabian Castillo) then the “retirement league” players of the past.

        And I’m extremely bullish on the impact the youth academies will have on this league. The system is only like three years in, and it’s already producing top notch talent (Agudelo, Najar, and there will be others that will emerge this year). Just wait until that hits critcal mass.

        The ceiling for MLS may not ever get above a tier-2 “Euro Feeder”, but nobody bashes the Eredivisie for being that, so if MLS ever got to even that level, I’d be satisfied.

    • DanB says:

      Either your a Euro Snob or Your NOT an American. But It is also Obvious you don’t watch MLS. I mean seriously Didn’t Man U lose to Sporting Kansas City ( aka Kansas City Wizards). So shove it.

  12. Gaz Hunt says:

    I agree with a lot of what Kristan is saying here.

    I’m an expatriate and there’s no denying that Liverpool is and will always be “my club”.

    But the MLS is growing on me. I attended a few Philadelphia Union matches last season and am now a season ticket holder.

    It’s the same argument that people in the UK give for supporting their local side over whatever Premiership team is nearby (or at the top of the table). Sure, the quality of play isn’t as good but you get to take the egotistical, money-grubbing variable out of the equation. In a way, this is pure football.

    The MLS is still missing the history of English football at this time but that will, literally, come with time. Fan passion and support is not an issue – it’s easy to support a Premiership club but takes much more dedication to cringe at Philadelphia’s goal keeper being unable to catch the damn ball and still sing through the entire game.

  13. Jim says:

    This cracks me up. Here we have all this “real football fans” saying they’d rather watch no football at all this summer than watch MLS. Get off your high horses. It sounds like most of you only watch the EPL’s Big Four. Oh, please tell me about the sublime skills on display when Blackpool face Blackburn as opposed to when Columbus face FC Dallas. I hear a lot of whiny snobs, not football fans.

  14. MG says:

    I just don’t see what’s so hard about following the MLS as an American if you love the Premier League or any other league in the world, for that matter. Yes, the quality isn’t the same, but these aren’t children playing. You do see quality, albeit not the same as European league.

    But yeah.. It’s not that big a deal for me. I am a fan of the game and I’m going to enjoy my country’s league. Love the MLS and the PL.

    • DanB says:

      Thank You MG, You are a true fan of the game and i wish all the Eurosnobs would learn that you can still support your Euro teams but it is also Important to support your Country’s Leagues teams.

      • R2Dad says:

        Actually, i don’t think that. Does that make me a bad fan? Or just a bad American? I vote with my eyeballs, and if the MLS doesn’t put a quality product on the field I’m not watching. The invisible hand, and all that free market hoo-ha our country is so adamant about (unless it hurts Wall Street bonuses, in which case the Fed needs to spend trillions in QE to rectify).

  15. Dave (dlbags) says:

    The quality of play is not up to the EPL but I would like to see some MLS teams play some Championship teams. I bet the games would be contested.

    Still watching the MLS last week on the same day as the Champion’s League does show a big gap in play. And as more rising stars go off to Europe The league will, if ever viewed higher be more like a talent pool as most sub top flights are. This is good and bad. I think them wanting to keep Donavan back in the MLS hurts the sport. Many were surprised at his abilities when on loan to Everton as he was written off.

    As the Holdens and Dempseys get taken more serious so should the players of the MLS. Theirry Henry has raved about Juan Agedelo and would be shocked to see him not grabbed up by bigger clubs.

  16. Grav says:

    When the New York Cosmos get a team in the MLS, then I’ll follow the league religiously, but until then, I’m just a casual fan. MLS can be fun, though, and I think it’s wrong for anyone to say they refuse to watch it, especially if they live in the U.S. Why not watch it when it’s on?

    • Steve says:

      You know you’re the definition of fail, right?

      • Grav says:

        Why because I grew up as a Cosmos fan and desperately want my team to be back on the professional stage? Yeah, you’re right, that’s the “definition” of fail. Try again.

  17. Brian says:

    The English get drunk, fight, drunk some more and sing until the end. That’s their way and it doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s cultural – just your like “culture” dictates you go do NattyIce beer bongs in the parking lot and consume double loaded nachos, two dogs and a hot pretzel during the game instead of keeping your throat clear to sing.

    I’d rather be stuck in with them because they KNOW good football and actually care about their clubs, rather than a bunch of plastic wankers that think clapping and chanting “Sounders” is passionate support and Landon Donovan is God incarnate.

    If you want hot dog stands, Americans who cannot cut it in Europe, T-shirts launched from a cannon, all in a league who advocates spend more time pushing its credibility than what it does well, then stick to MLS and writing gobshite pieces like this about how you dislike what happens over in England for no good reason.

    • Clampdown says:

      Little Englanders are so cute.

    • DanB says:

      And you wonder why the USA won the Revolutionary war. American farmers and Traders defeated the British Empire. Long Live George Washington.

    • DomiNate says:

      Don’t pretend for a second that the English aren’t as FAT as we are. We love nachos and hot dogs, you love fish sticks and blood pudding. I have seen countless whales in EPL stadiums; shirtless, tatted up, and slobbering all over the place. If you are comparing stadium obesity it’s a wash.

      As for fan chants, I can only defend Seattle. Haven’t been to a road game but that changes this year. I stand in the Sounder’s largest supporters section (Yes, I said stand, it’s allowed in MLS). At least two thirds of the songs are completely unique. The other third can be heard all over the world. We have outlawed the Allay Allay Allay, the one the Italians bit off the White Stripes, and the “everywhere we go”. All three can be heard watching the EPL on FSC any weekend.

      Again dude, no one is trying to convince you that MLS is better than the EPL.

    • R2Dad says:

      Why is this being personalized? You’re awfully defensive. You must be Scottish. We could talk about how the MLS compares to the SPL, but that might make a few Brits uncomfortable!

  18. Smokey Bacon says:

    MLS is moving in the right direction, albeit very slowly. Who cares if the standard is not premier league or la liga? I think the biggest problem for MLS right now is none of the teams really inspire any passion beyond a few hardcore fans. The atmosphere just does not come across on TV like it does in the EPL. MLS really needs a big name team like the New York Cosmos to generate some buzz. Even the non-soccer fan in the US has heard of the Cosmos. Sort it out Gerber. Get a proper rivarly going in New York and watch the ratings go up.

  19. Norfolk Enchants says:

    All these comments about the quality of play crack me up. Yes it is true that the EPL currently plays some beautiful soccer, almost no long ball to speak of. That is a new thing. Have you ever watched any of the older games?

    I love the MLS. In 10 years this will be a totally different conversation.

  20. MG says:

    You simply cannot judge the MLS and compare it FAIRLY to English football. It’s 25 years against over 100. It’s stupid to expect MLS to be like the PL and it’s unfair to judge it in that same sense.

    Love the MLS for what it is, a 25 year old league that is growing, especially in the last few years.. and love Premier League, a 100+ year old league that is special for reasons that are needless to say. It goes without saying.

  21. Earl Reed says:

    Here, I’ll add a point too:

    - Growth potential. I’m sorry, but the only way the EPL will grow is internationally. There is no need for a grassroots effort in England, it’s there. In America, you have the opportunity to start a soccer supporter’s group in a large city without a team, and actually have an opportunity to experience the growth that can result. Take Philadelphia (my favorite team) as an example. They started with supporter groups, no NASL or USL team, and were strong enough to be awarded a franchise. So now, you have a 20,000 seat stadium that’s full just about every weekend, with rabid fans who got in at the ground floor. That’s one of the tough parts for me about the EPL…if I choose a team to like, I’m jumping on a bandwagon. With Philadelphia, I wasn’t a fan in their first few matches, but instead about halfway through the season (coinciding with the World Cup). It’s a great feeling, and will only get better as the Soccer Pyramid evolves.

    • DomiNate says:

      That’s pretty awesome that Chester got a team without any prior NASL or USL history, I never knew that. We miss Le Toux Legit 2 Quit, we’ll trade you, let’s say O’Brien White?

  22. DPB says:

    OK. I’m English and I’ve watched MLS for a couple of years so I guess I am as qualified as anyone to comment.

    For those of you who are near a MLS team and refuse to watch, shame on you.
    It doesn’t have to be the best soccer in the world to be fun and that is what sport is supposed to be about.
    Get out there on the terraces and you will have a great time supporting your team in the flesh – that is what real fans do and that will grow your league.
    How will it ever expand and improve if you refuse to support it – catch 22 right?

    I agree with most of the positive comments about MLS in the article but
    Some of the disparaging remarks about the PL and European supporters were unnecessary IMO – you don’t have to put one thing down to elevate the other and it would of been better if you had just concentrated on the merits of MLS.
    I certainly haven’t been aware of any show of racism in the stands of PL matches for some time and unfortunately there are racists in every country whether they voice their prejudice or not.

  23. MG says:

    Well said, DFB. The PL criticisms were unnecessary and partly false. There is more racism in La Liga and certainly in Serie A than there is in PL. The MLS stands on its own.

  24. Dan says:

    i hate americans who are snobby and only watch foreign leagues. They even go to the point of actually acting and talking like they are from england or spain. you wouldn’t imagine how many people who are barca fans who talk about the spanish civil war or “try speaking catalan”. don’t get me started on americans who use british slang and terminology like “mate” and “yanks”. I’m a proud american and willspeak and act like one. I see people who copy the culture of other countries as posers and fake. Hell you guys are giving money over to european clubs when you could be giving it to home grown americans and the people who work at the stadiums. Support local is what they say when it comes to produce, goods and services to support your economy and this works in sport too.

    • MG says:

      Wow haha really? That’s entirely teenage and high school-esque. I understand that the Premier League is English but I’m perfectly aware that I am an AMERICAN watching an ENGLISH league.. You have to be.. I don’t understand why someone would even be compelled to want to ‘pose’ or use slang, in a serious way. Unless they were speaking tongue in cheek.. but yeah. Very strange. Hope I don’t encounter those people.

      The internet is really funny though. It brings out the worst in people. Actual English fans, if you meet them in person, are more likely to treat you with respect than some people online. People let the internet get the best of them, so they think and spew nonsense. Fans are generally kinder and less judgmental in real life.. Like I mentioned that guy who I met at my girlfriend’s chiropractor’s office who grew up a block away from Highbury and has been following Arsenal since he was 7.. That guy was ultra chill and ultra cool and we talk about the team’s current state every time I see him. I think, “Now if THAT guy can treat me with respect, then surely any a-hole who spews nonsense on the INTERNET should just not be taken seriously..” haha, you know? I’ll take that guy’s word for anything since he’s been around it and has experienced it longer than most of us have been alive.

      Again, the internet is a strange place.

    • Tuttle says:

      I see people who copy the culture of other countries as posers and fake.

      Tell that to “Real” Salt Lake, Houston “Dynamo”, DC “United” or “Sporting” Kansas City.

      • DomiNate says:

        Real Saragosa, Dynamo Bucharest, Leeds United, Sporting Gijon.

        Everyone copies everyone. Not just MLS.

        • Tuttle says:

          Real Zargossa isn’t copying, they have a royal charter just like Real Madrid does. Real Sociedad, Real Betis, Real Burgos, Real Jaén, Real Murcia, Real Oviedo, Real Unión and Real Valladolid too. And many more.

          The various Dynamos/Dinamos were associated with electricity workers unions in former Communist nations just as the various Lokamotivs were associated with transportation workers.

          “United” just means the club was formed from more than one former clubs. Or at least it did until Man U decided to use it because it sounds cool.

          Funny thing about Gijon? It’s another Real. And they predate Sporting de Portugal but not Sporting Charleroi in Belgium.

          All that said, I wasn’t the one who had a problem with it.

  25. [OPTI]Madschester United says:

    “When was the last time you saw an American player involved in an infidelity scandal? Or a punch up with a nightclub DJ?”

    — when the players make more money such “luxuries” will follow… look at NBA, NFL, and other pro leagues in USA. By the same argument, why don’t you follow College soccer or high school soccer… none of those guys commit horrendous crimes…

  26. Miles Davis-Jimi Hendrix-JohnnyCash says:

    Come to a Portland Timbers match anytime, we will show anyone to a pint and a good time.

    We know MLS is a joke, and it will take time, but all we can we do is support our local team.

    Remember, the distances here are brutal, we cant realistically hop a train to see an away match. Our whole state of Oregon is the size of the UK (w/ under 4 million people.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZegmC62kF4&feature=related

    Sorry for partying!

    • DomiNate says:

      As a Timber you can’t claim Jimi Hendrix. He’s ours. Looking forward to May 14th.

      • Dave C says:

        Nah, England can claim Jimi as an honorary Brit. Discovered by an Animal, built his rep in London, and his band were two-thirds English

  27. pete says:

    I’m from England and did watch the L.A game on an internet stream. I found the game quite hard to watch although i think the conditions that night didn’t help the level of play. I agree that if you live near a mls team you should go and watch them, yes the quality is not great but it doesn’t mean a good day out can’t be had. A few pints, something to eat and a chat with other people who are interested in the game should be enough.
    Not only that but it is the only way the league will grow.
    I understand that people have an interest in other cultures, it is only natural, i like talking to americans about football because i find it interesting to get their points of view and i can understand why americans might find the english league and culture interesting.
    Still i’m of the opinion that there’s no harm in watching both, especially when the prem league ends.
    I love the game and i will watch football whenever i can. The mls provides a source when all the main european leagues end. I’ll be watching from this side of the pond, i don’t see why you guys over there will not

    • Dave (dlbags) says:

      Here’s the thing: it doesn’t interfere with your watching of European soccer and when those leagues go on hiatus the MLS is in full swing. Seems like a smart way to watch soccer year round. Not to mention that clearly players are up and coming in the league and you could see some future Euro stars in the making.

      It’s really the only advantage of the crappy non globally synced season really.

  28. Sean says:

    Just a little tip for the MLS supporters. If you want other people to support your league, it is probably not a good idea to belittle their views no matter how ignorant you think they are. Belittling people does not convert them. Belittling does the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve and just further entrenches people in their previous view.

  29. Moose9t9 says:

    All these arguments for and against are pretty good. And I was almost swayed, then I hear about Ochocinco on trial at KC today… That cant be defended I’m sorry.

    MLS wants to be taken seriously? It should take itself seriously first.

    • DomiNate says:

      HA! Yes good point, but you forget that mulit-sport athletes is a tradition in America. Bo Jackson, Michael Jordon, Neon Deon, etc. Let him get his 4 day trial, great for marketing. He’ll never get a contract.

  30. TGov says:

    I hear the rivalry thing a lot and that teams don’t ‘travel’ well in the MLS, meaning their fan support. It is a lot easier to travel a few hundred miles to support your team (or even across town) in an away match than it is a couple thousand here in the US. Hell, the closest team to me is 250 miles away. The next closest is 600. That will contribute a lot to the atmosphere at a game. I support Sporting KC and I watch every game I can (when they are actually on tv) but I just can’t afford to drive four hours to each home game. I do plan on going to a few this year though in their new stadium.

  31. spark says:

    With this reasoning why not go see high school plays instead of Broadway? And why not watch cable access channels instead of HBO? Because when we are looking for entertainment, we like to see the best. And the best footballers don’t play in the MLS. Sorry.

    • MG says:

      flawed logic.
      no one is saying watch MLS ‘instead’ of European football.. i personally don’t find it hard at all to watch and follow the MLS AND watch PL.
      you don’t have to watch both if you don’t want to, but that’s a poor excuse. you make MLS sound like children play in it. there are quality and there is talent.

      • Dave C says:

        Yeah, VERY flawed logic. It’s obvious to everyone that people DO go watch school plays, and cable access channels.

        Just because something isn’t “the best” doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

        Last night I ate steak at Gordon Ramsay’s posh restaurant in Manhattan (yes I am showing off). But I ALSO like Subway 12″ Chicken Teriyaki. Nothing wrong with that.

  32. Dan S. says:

    One thing of interest to note: Real Salt Lake has a 2 goal lead going into the second leg of their Champions League match against Saprissa. I for one thing it would be interesting to see an MLS team make it to the Club World Cup and possibly get matched up in a meaningful game against a UEFA or COMNEBOL club.

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