MLS: 10 Things It Does Better Than the Premier League
Some people don’t realize that the English Premier League is only a few years older than Major League Soccer. Nevertheless, it’s the tradition of the soccer teams in England that has allowed the EPL to become one of the best leagues in the world.
Yet, the little ‘ole MLS has thrived in the United States, and even though not at the caliber of the EPL, there are several things that MLS was done better than the EPL over the last decade of its existence.
No. 10: Work Permits
It’s really difficult to do well in the English Premier League, however, at times it’s even more difficult to be granted permission to even play in England.
Work permits for players wanting to transfer to the EPL outside of the European Union are difficult to attain and the guidelines are very strict. This was made so to prevent an influx of international talent over English talent.
MLS makes the task easier for players that come to the states on a transfer or a loan. It doesn’t matter if the player is a well-known international or one riding the bench, it has been rare to see any trouble for players coming to MLS to be denied a work permit.
This is favorable to young talent—especially from Latin American—that have found it difficult to play Europe and have rather chosen to play in Major League Soccer.
No. 9: Respect
Disrespect among players and from fans is rarely seen in MLS, however has become somewhat of a trent in the the EPL.
It’s something the MLS has done well—instilling in the minds of all players and fans—such thing isn’t tolerated - and everybody has adhered to it.
You don't read in the papers about a player making and obscene gestures to fans, or that the captain of the English national team made racist remarks to an opposing player.
Now, there has been occasional retaliation in MLS among players and once or twice against fans, but the organization responds quickly to those actions exterminating any idea that such behavior is acceptable.
No. 8: Growth Opportunity
The biggest thing that MLS has going for itself is its possibility to grow to markets not yet accessed. While the EPL has teams that are over a century old, it has also expanded to every possible corner of England; therefore looking forward to a new team coming into the league is non-existent.
The only option the Premiership has to see a new team is through promotion of the second division, but more often than not newly promoted teams don’t make any difference and are dropped back to the second division.
MLS still has the possibility to expand to cities that are craving for a soccer team. And even though the trend has included growing pains for many new teams, the way MLS is set-up, there is always opportunities for success regardless the age of a team. Just ask the 1998 Chicago Fire or the 2009 Seattle Sounders.
No. 7: Approachability
Maybe it’s the fame or the money, but Premier League players don’t seem to be as approachable as MLS players. Not having lived in Europe, this all speculation, but MLS players have always appeared to be more humble, and more importantly, grateful to their fan base.
The same goes to the higher-ups in the league. Commissioner Don Garber is constantly interviewing with different media outlets, answering questions by fans. Maybe his responses have a touch of politics—never giving a concise yes or no—but the fact that the big boss of a league is open as Garber, says a lot about the league.
No. 6: The Stadia
You can't help but admire in awe the views from PPL Park in Philadelphia, or the technology that has been integrated in Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City.
With the growth of MLS comes the construction of soccer specific stadiums that are both beautiful and state of the art.
Face it, stadiums in Europe have been there before the first World War. Old Trafford opened in 1910, Liverpool's Anfield opened in 1884, and Chelsea's Stamford Bridge opened in 1876. Of course there have been renovations and needed upgrades over the decades.
But even as such, MLS stadiums have overshadowed their EPL in design, construction, and technology.
#5: Controlled Chaos
English soccer, and European soccer at that, is synonymous with hooliganism. It’s a shame, but it’s the truth.
MLS has been able to control any development of a violent environment throughout the league’s existence. Part of this is due to the fans that MLS has been trying to attract—kids and families.
During the middle years of MLS, fans criticized the league for neglecting passionate fans that want to verbally and physically show their support for their teams. The main focus was to make MLS family-friendly—since mom and pop paid for everything.
Eventually MLS embraced the fanatical supporters and made a better job of integrating them into the soccer atmosphere. But it didn’t lead to violence or the hooliganism that few people feared.
MLS was and has been able to provide a wild and crazy environment without sacrificing safety.
No. 4: Spending Limits
The much-despised but nationally-accepted salary cap keeps the cost of teams in Major League Soccer more-or-less equal with each other in the league. It was the biggest thing that prevented MLS to go under like the North American Soccer League did several decades ago, but it also limits the talent pool of the league.
Due to the limited spending teams can make—which everyone agrees is ridiculously lower than most other professional leagues—a lot of good talent jump ship and heads to Europe for better pay.
Even though year-after-year the idea of raising or eliminating the salary cap is brought up; it is the salary cap that has allowed MLS to grow the way it has. It’s also the salary cap that has allowed MLS to be competitive instead of a lopsided league like the English Premier League has slowly become.
There has only been four different winners of the Premier League since its inception in 1992: Manchester United (12), Chelsea (3), Arsenal (3), and Blackburn (1). Meanwhile Major League Soccer has crowned nine different champions in its 16-year history.
However, to allow the league to further develop, MLS has had the salary cap rules tweak and exceptions made. Generation Adidas, Homegrown, and Designated Player have no or very little impact on the salary cap, allowing teams to add talent and not have to worry about a spending limit.
No. 3: Playoffs
The idea of playoffs is a foreign concept for the English, but it’s simply the American way. Every professional league has a playoff season to decide a champion—even NASCAR has a pseudo-playoff system.
The argument exists that playoffs should be removed and that the champion be crowned to whoever has the most points at the end of the season, similarly like the Premier League. Sure, it makes sense, but look at this last 2011 MLS season.
The LA Galaxy clinched the Supporter’s Shield—given to the team with the most regular season points—with one game remaining. They faced the Houston Dynamo, on the brink of elimination from a playoff spot.
Houston had to win that last game, which they did by smashing the Galaxy, 3-1 and got its three points to clinch a playoff spot. Without a playoff system to fight for, this game would have had no meaning for either team, but ended being so since Houston was fighting for survival.
Now, who played for the champions at MLS Cup? Los Angeles and Houston.
It shouldn't be difficult to understand that playoffs add excitement to the season till the very end.
No. 2: No Relegation
The discussion of relegation is a really hot topic for followers of MLS. The English Premier League has the bottom teams relegated to a lower division at the end of the season while promoting top teams to a higher division.
In theory it’s an interesting practice, but in practice—even in the EPL—it’s negligible and almost useless.
The biggest reason why MLS rejected a relegation system with the United Soccer League, for example, is due to money. The teams in USL do not have the same spending money or the facilities to help grow itself or MLS.
Now if you look at teams that are promoted to the EPL, it’s the same thing. The economic discrepancy from the newly promoted teams and those at the top like Manchester United and Chelsea is astronomical. Newly incoming teams don’t have the cash to improve their squad to compete at such a high level, and eventually descent to a lower division after a couple of seasons surviving in the EPL.
For the relegated EPL teams, they get a large payout—to make up for lost television revenue—that allows them to do the needed upgrade in personnel to quickly ascend to the top flight.
It’s become a seesaw battle at the bottom of the Premier League with teams at the top of the Premier League left untouched.
For MLS to follow this pattern would be foolish and would kill any progress it has done over the last 16 years.
No. 1: Championship Match
It’s been ingrained in the DNA of Americans to always expect a championship match—one last game to decide who will be champions.
Those that argue that MLS should follow the EPL and crown an MLS Champion based only on regular season points, either doesn’t see the beauty of a final, or fail to realize that following the Premier League's format would eliminate an MLS Cup final altogether.
Using the same example that defended the playoff system, how boring would that LA-Houston game have been if LA had clinched the MLS title and Houston had nothing to play for with a week left to play?
Ending the season with one final game to decide a champion brings excitement and a festival-like atmosphere to match day with fans from all over watching closely.
What would happen if the UEFA Champions League was decided with a point system instead of a final that’s usually watched by the whole world? What would happen if FIFA decided to do the same thing with the World Cup? It would cause uproar.