The beautiful game. The World’s sport. America’s “communist” game. Fútbol. Soccer. All terms given to the game that is played only with your feet (other than goalkeepers and throw-ins that is). The sport that the majority of countries in the world live and breathe by. The one where countries gauge their success as a country by the results of their national soccer team. The game where every 4 years all the countries in the world compete to see who reigns supreme as the best team in the world. And… the sport that many Americans would love to see just go away.
Soccer is a growing sport in the United States, but it is a sport that many Americans do not understand, support, or even like. More than any other sport in the US, soccer receives scrutiny from the public and is disregarded by many in the sports media business. Despite its struggle for acceptance, the sport is growing in this nation. This is evidenced not only by the recent promotion of soccer by ESPN and the new MLS/NBC TV deal, but it is shown by the increase in Major League Soccer as a league. The MLS began in 1996 with 10 teams and has now expanded to 19 with 3 in Canada. Also, while still not near the level of the NFL or MLB, attendance rankings show that the MLS averages more fans per game than both the NBA and NHL. This makes MLS the 3rd most popular sport in the USA when looking at average attendance per game.
So now that the MLS has improved its stock in the United States, the next step is to improve its stock to the rest of the soccer world. While I do not believe the MLS will ever overtake the NFL or MLB, the league has plenty of room to grow. However, as it sits right now, the MLS is nowhere near capable of competing with the top soccer leagues in the world, and with the rules in place, they never will. Repetitively, I have heard people saying that Major League Soccer can become one of the most dominant leagues in the world, but the United States mentality will not allow that. This is due to the MLS foundation. As is the way with every sports league in America, the MLS is built on fairness and equal competition opportunities, such as:
- Major League Soccer has an annual draft each year where the worst team in the league gets the first draft pick. In international soccer, the teams with the most money sign whoever they want, and the worst teams get the leftovers.
- In the USA, kids are pushed to go to college and get an education. Internationally, clubs sign young players when they are pre-teens, and players play soccer rather than earn an education.
- In MLS soccer, teams have a salary cap limit, as well as a cap limit for each player, except for 3 possible designated players. In international soccer, teams can spend whatever they deem necessary on their team or on a single player- the teams with the most money spend the most on the top players. In MLS the most expensive team based on salary per player is the LA Galaxy with an average player salary of $555,799, while the most expensive team in the world is Barcelona of the Spanish Premier League (La Liga) at $8.68m per player. Further, every team in the English Premier League pays more than the highest paying team in the MLS.
So how can one expect the MLS to compete with the top soccer clubs in the world? Not only are the international teams paying top dollar for the best players in the world, but the MLS is playing with players in a country where most kids grow up dreaming of playing in the NFL, MLB, or NBA. As it stands right now, the MLS has no shot of ever competing with the soccer leagues around the world. The MLS would have to change its fundamental rules completely, and being that the USA encourages equality and fairness in sports, I honestly don’t see that happening.
… Now if the top athletes in the USA played soccer instead of football and basketball, things may change, but that’s a topic for another time.
By: Spencer Boothe