7 Signs MLS Is on the Rise
The MLS is a league that is on the rise in World Football.
This is not to say that the league will be on par with the likes of Serie A, La Liga or the Premier League anytime soon, but there are signs that the MLS is becoming a better league in general.
Whether it's the number of talent within the league, or the growing popularity of the sport in the country in general, the MLS is getting better.
Here are seven signs the MLS is on the rise.
Two footballing greats have spoken about the increase in quality in the MLS and how they would love to play in the league.
"No, I don't think China is ahead of MLS. I think [my decision] was a personal choice," Drogba said. "I've played many games here with Chelsea over the years and I've seen the evolution [of American soccer]. When we came here in 2004, the stadiums were busy but not really. In 2010 it was amazing. The footballing has improved a lot in America. So it wasn't about the [quality], it was a personal choice and my decision."
Before announcing his decision to retire Andriy Shevchencko had similarly positive things to say about the continued improvement in the league when he reportedly considered making a move to the US. Via Sports Illustrated.
"I'm very interested in playing there,"
"I've seen the level of the football every year is getting better and better. Also, I really like America. My wife is American, my children are Ukrainian-American. In a few years football can reach the same level as maybe baseball or basketball there. So many young kids are interested in football, and the people in America are starting to get interested too."
These aren't the only star players with positive things to say about the league and it goes to show how far the league has come.
More Quality Play and Players
One effect of that respect is the continued immigration of some of Europe's top players.
Tim Cahill is the latest addition to the list of former European club stars currently in the MLS and other players like Alessandro Nesta and Robbie Keane have joined the league as well.
These players will help the quality of the their teams and the league in general. Keane has already done a great job at the LA Galaxy, but they aren't the only ones to make a difference.
The lesser known—to the European fans—South American players like Freddy Montero have had a major impact on the league and their teams as well.
Last but not least are the usual American suspects with Landon Donovan topping the list and other North American stars like Dwayne De Rosario and Brek Shea continuing to be top players.
There is plenty of individual quality within the league and that has led to some great team play as well.
Improved Youth Development
Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil is one of the more recent and prime examples of MLS clubs growing young talent within the league.
While Gil is an example of home-grown talent, other young stars like Andy Najar and Fabian Castillo are being shaped by their respective clubs into becoming major attacking talents.
When a league has such levels of young talent coming through the ranks, it's a sign that positive things are happening and many of these players could soon become household names within the league.
As noted by the Sports Business Daily, MLS attendance improved across the board during the 2011 season.
In fact, MLS attendance surpassed that of both the NHL and NBA in 2011 and while that should be taken with a grain of salt considering the differences in the arenas of these sports, that is something that should continue as teams and players get better and attract more interest.
Coverage Is Getting Better
While fans may be used to seeing the occasional game on ESPN and FOX Soccer, if they have a subscription, NBC's recent deal with the MLS gives fans even more access to the games on television.
There are also games on Galavision for those who don't care what language they are hearing.
Just as U.S. networks have begun to increase coverage of major tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championships, as the MLS continues to grow so will the coverage.
One thing that can make a league interesting is tight competition between clubs and the MLS certainly has that.
There has been a different MLS Cup champion since the Houston Dynamo won it back to back in 2006 and 2007.
Last season the San Jose Earthquakes did not make it to the playoffs and the New York Red Bulls were the last team into the playoffs.
This year both teams lead their respective conferences and other teams such as FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew are fighting to get into a playoff spot.
Improved Performance in the Concacaf Champions League
In the 2009/10 season one MLS team made it to the knockout rounds of the competition, that went up to two in 2010/11 and three in 2011/12.
The performances of these clubs varied, with a final appearance by Real Salt Lake being the highlight, but the fact that more teams are becoming a factor in the competition is a positive for the MLS.
One other notable achievement was the MLS' first win in Mexico, which came thanks to a victory by FC Dallas.
As the clubs in the MLS continue to improve, a win in the competition could be on the horizon.