The Big Four—and no we are not talking about the impending college football super conferences.
It's the traditional and socially accepted number of major sports in America today, MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA. Is it time for a fifth? Can America handle MLS?
Before the anti-soccer crowd starts to yell and complain about how it's not American, it’s not a suggestion that we adopt it as our country’s sport, start roaming soccer gangs or slowly work back to being an English colony. I am saying it's time to accept it as a legitimate sport rather than an outsider biting at the ankles of true American sports.
MLS is on its 15th-plus year and still going strong. The league is ever-expanding, adding two new teams this season and planning to add a 20th team in the near future. Our national team is growing towards international respectability and more and more of the MLS players are on top European radars. If there was ever a time to jump on the soccer bandwagon, it is now.
The MLS is shedding its image of retirement center ages and starting to evolve into a place that is viable for young promising stars from around the world (as well as a place our young stars are willing to join in before their jumps across the sea). Young athletes such as Brek Shea, Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury, who are just beginning to blossom onto the National team scene, are pairing up with established veterans from around the world (Thierry Henry, David Beckham and Landon Donovan for example) to create a more exciting league.
As Americans, we love the Olympics as it is a chance to prove our athletics are the top in the world—the MLS could give us that type of excitement every year if we allowed it to.
Unknown to most of the sports-fan population, there is a thing called the Concacaf Champions League where teams from the MLS face off against teams from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America in order to win a spot in the Club World Cup. This is a chance for a team from America to go out and play the best in the world. No other sport offers an opportunity like that. In fact, two of our boys just went down to Mexico and came out with 1-0 wins, the first two in the history of the champions league.
The time to change has come America; four will become five. Draw up a chair and make space because the MLS is taking a seat at the big boy’s table.