Major League Soccer: Why Soccer in America Has Nowhere to Go but Up
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Soccer in America has been a roller coaster ride in recent decades.
In 1994, the FIFA World Cup was held in the United States. US Soccer president Sunil Gulati tried to bring it back in 2022, but the tournament was awarded to Qatar.
The explosion of EA Sports' FIFA video game franchise has helped propel the sport into the lives of millions of younger fans who would have otherwise been unexposed.
The Internet has been immense in helping the sport grow stateside.
Twitter has made the players of the US Men's National Team instantly accessible. Youtube has been fantastic in showing the brilliance of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo.
The problem with soccer in America is not that the sport is not liked. It's that the domestic league is viewed as inferior and looked down upon by many fans in the country.
I am not one to suggest that the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are not miles ahead of the Los Angeles Galaxy in terms of quality. But I do believe the Reading, Celta Vigo and TSG Hoffenheim would have trouble beating an average MLS side.
The MLS is one of the most competitive leagues in the world. The gap between the top and bottom teams is not similar to the chasms between the same teams in the European leagues.
This should be viewed as positive. It makes the MLS much more interesting to watch, and the product on the field is more entertaining because of this.
Last season, the top MLS team, the San Jose Earthquakes, finished with 66 points. The 10th best team in the league, the Columbus Crew, finished with 52.
How many MLS games do you watch a year?
That's a 14 point gap.
In last season's Bundesliga, the same gap was 39 points. In the Premier League it was 42 points. In La Liga, the gap between the top team and the team that finished 10th was an astounding 51 points.
There is great quality in the MLS as evidenced by the fact that there are two MLS sides in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
On March 16th, NBC Sports will be broadcasting 12-and-a-half consecutive hours of MLS soccer for the first time in the network's history.
I implore you to watch.
The MLS is doing great things. There is quality within the league. Don't be surprised when the league is considered to be in the upper echelon of soccer within the next two decades.
Soccer has a future in America. Right now, that future is clouded by the branded likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona.
The MLS has a lot to offer the soccer-loving community of the states, but the fans must embrace the league if they ever want a top-quality product, domestically.
Jake Little is a Los Angles native and LA Galaxy season ticket holder. He can be found on twitter @jakelittle
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