MLS: Which Clubs Could Legitimately Compete in the Premier League?
It is a question that all MLS fans ask despite knowing they will never truly have an answer.
As fans of a young developing league, we are constantly trying to compare Major League Soccer's clubs with those of the best in Europe as we ponder how things would play out if the leagues ever combined.
With so many variables and differences between the two leagues that are unknown even to the most attentive follower of the MLS and EPL, we will never truly know for sure how MLS clubs would fare if placed up against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League.
For pure fantastical fun, here are the three teams in MLS which I think could legitimately compete in a long Premier League season and hold their own against some of the best clubs in the world. Enjoy!
Note 1: Of course, there is always going to be different opinions on this unsolvable and subjective topic. Comment below on how you think certain MLS teams would fair if suddenly placed in the Premier League.
Note 2: I am not saying that these three teams would legitimately compete for an EPL crown, but at least be relevant in discussion of mid-table finishes and avoid relegation altogether.
New York Red Bulls
Yes, the Eastern Conference leading squad has everything it needs to at least compete in the English Premier League week in and week out.
For one, they have the star power and experience in Rafa Marquez, Teemu Tainio and Thierry Henry who have played in big games and would give the team some leadership at vital moments of the season.
Next, they have the depth to at least stay relevant in a long Premier League season where injuries happen often.
In fact, the Red Bulls’ current four-game winning streak has been played for the most part with a backup squad as Henry, Marquez, Tainio, Solli, Conde and Miller have all missed significant time with injuries.
Finally, being owned by a big company such as Red Bull, the club has plenty of cash to spend and bring in players who can make an immediate impact.
Having signed Henry and Marquez and been linked with Steven Ireland, Michael Ballack, Alessandro Del Piero, and Alessandro Nesta, New York has proven it is not afraid to spend big cash if it results in trophies, or in this case, consistent Premier League football.
Los Angeles Galaxy
When most Europeans think of Major League Soccer, immediately the Los Angeles Galaxy come to mind, and for good reason! With the amount of stars the club has boasted over the last couple of years, the Galaxy have become one of the most popular and competitive teams in league history. Although the Galaxy may not be on course for a repeat of their 2011 success, they still have all the capabilities of being a solid team if a move to the Premier League was possible. A front four consisting of Premier League legend David Beckham, Everton winter-star Landon Donovan, Ireland international Robbie Keane, and USMNT international Edson Buddle certainly is as talented an offense as anything Norwich or Sunderland had this season. However, it isn’t just the offense that would help the Galaxy hold its own in the Premier League, but the defense as well. Led by MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez, last season LA let up eight fewer goals than the next best defense in the league and was one of the toughest back lines in league history. With Omar Gonzalez and Josh Saunders healthy, there is no reason why the Galaxy wouldn’t be able to post a few shutouts in a Premier League season. They have the talent, they have the experience, and they have the money. What more do they need to compete in the Premier League?
While the Sounders may not boast the big names like New York and LA, Seattle may play the best football as a unit of any team in MLS. The team has a plethora of attacking weapons, from Eddie Johnson to Mauro Rosales, and the offense might be the most dynamic in the entire American league.
The style of play that Sigi Schmid has his squad play is a confident, open-minded game, creating opportunities for anyone on the pitch and not just relying on one player to make plays. This offense is then backed by a stud defense that has allowed just four, (Yes FOUR!) goals through roughly 1/3 of the MLS season.
The team also might be better than any other in the league at finding underrated players in the transfer market as can be seen by their signings of Alvaro Fernandez and Michael Gspurning.
Make no mistake, Seattle might not have Henry or Beckham on the field, but they have a squad that could battle for a mid-tier Premier League finish.
Honorable Mention: Why Not...?
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City currently thrives in MLS as an attacking minded team that creates multiple opportunities per game in a 4-3-3 formation. However, shifting to a more competitive Premier League would certainly lead to a necessary change of formation and therefore a change in identity of the club.
Yes, the defense would be able to hold some opponents scoreless throughout the season, but the main concern would be scoring in a less-aggressive formation against better defenses.
From what I have seen so far, Teal Bunbury, CJ Sapong and Kei Kamara might not be able to translate their individual success into a traditional 4-4-2 formation, and even a strong defense like SKC wouldn’t be able to hold off opponents long enough to give the offense a chance at earning the W.
San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose has really taken the league by storm this season and established itself as a premier team in MLS. However, I am not exactly sure this American league success could be applied to the English game for the Quakes.
For one, San Jose simply relies too much on Chris Wondolowski and does not have enough attacking options for the team to pose a threat on offense. Premier League center backs are good enough to isolate Wondo and keep him out of the game, forcing other, less-talented players to make the key plays instead.
San Jose’s defense is solid, but not nearly good enough to carry a Quakes team in the EPL. The lack of depth would also prove to be a liability as the season wears on for San Jose in the Premier League. Simply put, there is not enough going on for San Jose to avoid a first-year relegation from the Premier League.
Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake is another name that comes to mind when thinking of which MLS teams would be able to compete in the Premier League.
While the club plays incredibly well as a team and is excellent at developing young players, the lack of major finances and depth would prove to be detrimental to the RSL Premier League campaign.
RSL simply does not have the deep bench or deep pockets to sustain consistent play throughout an EPL season. The main concern, of course, would be the club’s lack of ability in attracting a big name that has competed at this high level before and could lead the team mentally and physically throughout the season.