Major League Soccer has made significant strides in the overall quality of play over the course of the last 16 years. The natural progression from start-up league—with all of the inherent handicaps that implies—to established competition has done wonders for the level of play. Based on trends, it's very possible MLS play could reach English Premier League levels within the next 20 years.
Limitations, mostly the small salary budgets imposed on American and Canadian clubs, keep MLS quality from improving in giant strides. Rules that allow for big spending on a handful of players can only do so much, especially when they do nothing to bring up the quality of player at the bottom of the scale.
In order for MLS to reach a better quality of play that could even conceivably rival the Premier League, further movement towards higher spending is a must. More money means attracting better talent.
But MLS has a few things going for it that don't necessary have to do with big time spending. The influx of Colombians into the league in recent years shows that simply being stable and open to Latin players looking for jobs will attract a better quality player.
Meanwhile, the standard of American players can only get better with the next generation spending more time in professional environments. The professionalization of youth soccer in the U.S. worries many in that community, but it will pay massive dividends for MLS as a league.
As MLS grows (and Europe faces financial concerns), the two leagues will draw closer to each other in terms of quality. By taking a hard look at the landscape as it exists now, we can already see harbingers of a possible future where MLS and the EPL are equal footing from a quality perspective.
Here are eight signs the quality of MLS play could rival the English Premier League in 20 years.