Is The MLS Really Getting That Good?

Walter Gibson www.dbbsports.comContributor IMarch 26, 2009

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - MARCH 24:  Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Ben Foster of England share a joke during England training at London Colney on March 24, 2009 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)


People who don’t know soccer often ask about the MLS. Is it any good? How does it compare to soccer in Europe?

No it’s not. And it doesn’t.

People who do know soccer would never ask. It would be like asking if the Lions are any good, and how they compare to teams from the NFL.

Will the MLS get better? Maybe.  

Then again, it’s all perspective. Is Justin Timberlake better than he was?  Just because he’s not in ‘N Sync anymore doesn’t mean he’s sweet now.

Did I just use ‘N Sync and sweet in the same sentence?

Anyways, it's true that quality players came into the league last year, like David Beckham.

And then he left.

More quality players are coming into the league this year, like Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg.  

The fact that they are at the end of long and successful careers in Europe doesn’t diminish the significance of their arrival. Actually, that’s exactly what it does. No amount of money would have gotten Ljungberg to leave Arsenal in his prime.

Ok—maybe Ljungberg can be bought.

This is to make up for the previous picture.

Brian McBride left Fulham to come back to MLS last year, making room on their roster for another American—Clint Dempsey. Maybe when he turns 36, he’ll come back to MLS too.

When kids reach the age that pro clubs start to look at them in Europe and South America, kids in the states have a coach whose tactical advice is usually, "Kick the ball. Get it. Run. Go.”


But we are getting better. A number of our players are true quality, have left MLS and earned spots on some of the world’s almost best teams.

But the fact is simple. Since Claudio Reyna played for Glasgow, not a single American has had a regular spot on a Champions League squad. Maurice Edu and DaMarcus Beasley play for Glasgow now, but they have only 11 starts between them all season. Jose Altidore made it to Villarreal, also one of the top teams in the world. But by midseason, they loaned him off to a second division club.

Giuseppe Rossi also got a spot on Villa. But he’s half Italian, and when an interviewer asked him if he ever thought of playing for the US instead of Italy he smacked the microphone out of the journalist’s hands.

That’s not true, but it was a stupid question.

Sure Rossi is talented and jumps like a deer—but he’s not really American.

And then there’s Donovan. Landon. I had high hopes for him going to Bayern. Truth is, it was complicated and I don’t think he had enough time. But what does it say when arguably the best player in the US can’t get a starting job in Munich?

Simple. It says that MLS sucks. The level of play just isn’t there.

The touch isn’t there. The vision, the flow, the creativity—all not there. It takes ten guys out on the pitch to do it, and in MLS you’re lucky if you have three.

The reigning MLS MVP is Argentine, in his mid-30s. In over 15 professional years, he was chosen nine times for the Argentine national team. Nine times is not a lot. Beckham, for example, has been selected by England over 100 times.  In other words, a second rate Argentine playing past his retirement years is the best in MLS.


Guillermo Schelotto: the youthful look of the best in the MLS.

Still don’t get it? Of the 22 players named by coach Bradley to play for the US in World Cup qualifiers this coming week, 16 play in Europe.

Without them, we’d probably lose to El Salvador.  

Yeah, El Salvador.


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