This Christmas, MLS Commissioner Don Garber finds a more popular league under his tree, so let’s take a look at the five players who helped wrap and deliver that present.
First, we need to define terms. Popularity is one of those more fuzzy words that can mean pretty much whatever anyone chooses it to mean (which itself is a Christmas gift for writers of seasonal twaddle).
Typically, popularity sort of means something having to do with a state of being well-liked.
For a soccer league in the land of the NFL, NCAA BCS, NBA, MM (March Madness, but rolling with the acronym theme), MLB, NHL and even PGA, couldn’t popularity also just mean a state of recognized existence?
For purposes of this Christmas-season slideshow, it can and does.
But then even recognized existence is too vague. Soccer, which is occasionally referred to as football, is as global as Rudolph's flight path. Recognized existence in the U.S. and overseas are different things.
This brings up the 800-pound gorilla in an elf-sized room. Being known internationally and being respected internationally are also altogether different things. So another category of popular player is who brings MLS the most international respect.
We’re only doing five slides of Christmas. (Who would flip through a full 12?) So, for the last category of soccer Christmas popularity, we’ll remember that professional sports are a business.
Player popularity in that sense means who sells tickets and merchandise. From that player’s perspective, those gifts to the team are rewarded with Santa-sized paychecks from the club.
There we have it. The five slides of MLS Christmas popularity: Who wears the gold rings, gives soccer the most credibility among global football fans, makes the top U.S. league known overseas, best puts MLS on the American sports map, and is the most-liked player.