MLS Paychecks: Is the American Soccer League Value for Money?

Ross Bellamy@@ross_bellamyContributor IIINovember 8, 2012

Is Beckham worth the money?
Is Beckham worth the money?Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

While doing some research for a future Bleacher Report article, I stumbled upon Yahoo’s list of the highest paid MLS players.

Ex-European based players, such as Tim Cahill, David Beckham and Thierry Henry, are earning millions of dollars playing in America. Meanwhile, the MLS attempts to compete with gigantic established sports like the NFL and NBA.

This got me thinking: does the long-term gain justify the expenditure?

Do not get me wrong, the MLS has seen a huge increase in popularity and mainstream TV coverage, particularly here in the UK on ESPN and in North America on a range of stations, including NBC and ESPN.

This exposure appears to have seen an upturn in fortunes for some of the MLS based players, who have secured lucrative moves to Europe.

Landon Donovan’s successful spell at Everton, where a short-term loan deal turned into a mutual love affair, and Stoke City's summer signing of Geoff Cameron are just two examples of players who appear to have benefited from the MLS’s enhanced reputation here in the UK. 

The financial regulations also make the MLS appealing for ordinary football fans.

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David Moyes would happily embrace the MLS’s ethos of financial parity and providing every team with an equal opportunity of winning. The EPL is sprinkled with some affluent clubs flexing their mighty muscles in the transfer market, as they attempt to monopolize the race for the Premier League title.

Unpredictability always wets the appetite when watching games of football.

On the surface, everything appears to be rosy, with the decision to spend millions of dollars acquiring European based players completely vindicated.

But if you dig a little bit deeper, you’ll see that not everything is a bed of roses.

The MLS is still firmly in the shadow of the NFL and NBA, who are in no mood to allow the European sport of "Soccer" to take their spotlight.

Indeed, The Guardian points out that the EPL is still more popular in the States than the MLS. This caught my attention after a Los Angeles based friend of mine explained to me that I was more likely to see a Manchester Utd shirt rather than an LA Galaxy one.

Yes, David Beckham has helped to augment LA Galaxy’s brand, but it still badly lags behind other major football clubs.

In a country where advertisements and commercial activities are key, the EPL has scored the equivalent of a "hat-trick" with the MLS enviously looking on from the sub’s bench.

But, what about players, such as Stuart Holden. who moved from the MLS to the EPL? Surely the influx of big named foreign players trying their trade in America has helped players like Holden come onto club’s radars in Europe?

Not necessarily.

In an age where even computer game companies like Sports Interactive—who own the incredibly successful Football Manager series— employ experienced football scouts, major clubs have an extensive worldwide scouting network, meaning that if you are a talented footballer, European clubs will find you regardless of your geographical location.

I did not want to illustrate the amount of dollars being paid to each individual, but are players like Kris Boyd really worth $1.5 million a year?

The MLS’s problem in a nutshell: they pay players handsomely but receive very little reward in return.

Some would have you believe that the MLS and the Chinese Super League will one day become the two biggest brands in World Football.

In my opinion, there is more chance of Scotland winning the World Cup than the EPL and La Liga being displaced at the top of the football tree.


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