Soccer in America: Is the MLS More International Now Than Ever Before?
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The quality of play in Major League Soccer is improving every single season. I don't think that there are very many people that would argue the contrary.
Players are developing in the MLS and more and more quality talents are being imported into the league.
It's difficult to quantify just where the MLS would stand in the hierarchy of other countries. For example, if EA Sports' FIFA video game franchise is to be believed, then the average MLS team would probably be playing in England's Championship division.
Commissioner Don Garber has stated many times that he wants the MLS to be one of the top leagues in the world by the year 2022.
An ambitious goal indeed, yet as we approach the self-imposed deadline, the likelihood of achieving that goal seems more and more likely.
There is no question that Beckham's time with the LA Galaxy helped the league gain worldwide recognition.
As a Galaxy season ticket holder, I can speak with first-hand knowledge of Beckham's influence. His jersey is still the most popular one sported at the Home Depot Center.
People like to argue that the MLS is where great players come to retire once they've lost their quality. This is an argument that simply isn't true.
Henry had a remarkably successful loan spell at Arsenal in 2012. He even scored one of the Gunners' most important goals of the season against Leeds United to help them advance to the next round of the FA Cup.
Beckham has just recently started in the Champions League for his new club Paris Saint-Germain. Players that lack quality don't start in Champions League quarterfinal matches.
If we look at the talent currently in the MLS, there are players like Landon Donovan (proven at the Premier League level), Omar Gonzalez (an incredibly underrated defender) and Graham Zusi (hailed as the next Donovan).
Montreal's designated player, Marco Di Vaio, has immediately helped his side become one of the surprises of the season. The Italian is a Serie A champion with Juventus, and enjoyed Coppa Italia success with Parma.
Di Vaio is a great addition to the league and he helps prove the fact that the MLS is indeed international.
European and North American talent, Champions League winners and Gold Cup champions, all play in the United States' domestic league.
In the last set of World Cup qualifiers, USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann called up 10 MLS players. Only three of the players in the squad had never played in the MLS during their careers.
There is no question that Major League Soccer is more international than ever.
And with the continued success of the players within the league, there is no reason to believe that its ascension throughout the ranks will not continue.
If the MLS could find a way to fix the playoff system, which I believe to be badly broken, the league will be in a position to catapult to a top-10 ranking in the world by Commissioner Garber's 2022 target date.
Major League Soccer is ascending quickly. And with that ascension comes international recognition.
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