We are fastly approaching another edition of Major League Soccer which arrives this weekend. One of the world’s youngest and most exciting leagues kicks off with a new look as two more teams join the fray and the Seattle Sounders look to defend their 1st MLS Cup from one of the most challenging leagues on Earth. MLS is one of the best leagues in the world that is unfortunately overshadowed by some of the biggest and most historic leagues. Legends such as Gerrard, Lampard, Drogba and Keane have made their rounds in this wonderful league and found out for themselves that this organization is the real deal. Yanks playing football, it’s what we do best amirite?
The State of the Union
When the MLS season was finished and the Seattle Sounders lifted the cup, the National Team were a couple weeks removed from their horrific start of a World Cup Campaign, and a familiar face was introduced as new manager of the Yanks. Bruce Arena returns for his second stint as coach of the National Team after leaving the LA Galaxy. I’m a firm believer that Arena is a top coach that could work his trade anywhere. He took the National Team to a Quarterfinal appearance in the 2002 World Cup and begins his work looking to turn the Russia 2018 campaign around. The Yanks have plenty of talent that are displayed throughout Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Pulisic, Brooks, Green, and Cameron lead the oversees charge while Kljestan, Morris, Bradley and Howard push the domestic roster. This team is too good to sit at the bottom of the Hex and consecutive defeats to Costa Rica and Mexico, including a 4-0 beating at the hands of Los Ticos, is catastrophic and changed needed to be made from Jurgen Klinsmann’s administration. A new man is in charge and the draw to Serbia and the Jamaica victory gives the Yank’s a lot more hope going into the next round of Hexagonal matches in March. It all comes down to what Arena can do in 2017 that will determine the World Cup future for the Stars and Stripes.
The firing of Jurgen Klinsmann left a huge shake up in MLS. The Galaxy were left without a coach and although they chose to stay in house, the options sure were interesting. Miguel Herrera of Tijuana was a name being thrown around and a very interesting name at that. Replacing a former (and now current again) U.S. Men’s National Team coach with a former Mexican National Team coach? It may just be crazy enough to work. Of course Herrera chose to stay with Los Xolos in Baja and respected his contract but could Herrera touch down in MLS when his contract in Mexico ends? Another name being thrown around was another former Men’s National Team coach and that’s Bob Bradley. He ended up taking (and failing) the job at Swansea which crossed his name on the list, but I’m sure he was re-added at the bottom when his borderline joke of a short tenure in Wales was over. Bradley may be a name linked more often to future expansion side LAFC but Bradley coaching this year for the Galaxy would be exciting. His previous experience at Chicago and Chivas USA proves that he understands the way MLS works and he could surely build a winner for any MLS team in need of a leader. One more interesting coach appointment this season was the appointment of former Blaugrana and Albiceleste coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino to Atlanta United. The new expansion side have been setting themselves up as nicely as possible for their first season in the league with a rockstar head coach signing and a few nifty South American signings, but the struggle bus is what’s expected for the Rookie side even with all the paper grabbing signings. Even NYCFC needed a year to figure things out and so will Atlanta and Tata. New expansion coaches don’t normally fare well in MLS or last very long so the prerogative for Atlanta is to stay patient. They gave a man with a very impressive resume the job, now it’s time to let him go to work.
With each passing year, MLS gets more and more popular with even brighter lights put on the league and with the popularity come the people who want a part. Many teams have put in bids, plans, and proposals to welcome yet another team to Major League Soccer. The United States is a big country with many big cities. Many cities could potentially admire their club and get behind it the same way some of the most popular clubs in MLS already have. San Diego, San Antonio, Sacramento, Miami, and Detroit are ideal cities to welcome a franchise but at what point does MLS stop the expansion? One cannot ignore the fact either that, the more teams join, the harder it is to argue against a promotion/relegation system. The United States is used to 30 team leagues but Soccer is more accustomed to promotion and relegation. Could the participation of more teams in MLS lead to promotion/relegation? Absolutely, and once the United States begins to give Soccer more love, then can traditional ideas like Promotion and Relegation be instituted. For now however, MLS must stay American for mostly only Americans watch it. You must treat to your demographics and right now the MLS demographic isn’t ready for traditional soccer views and look more towards playoffs and a balanced league where anyone can win.
Major League Soccer In Comparison to the World
The build up to another season in MLS, gives fans and followers of the league another chance to match up their beloved leagues to some of the others on the planet. The most popular leagues to compare MLS with are the European Super Leagues and Liga MX. MLS take keen observation on the best leagues in the world while also paying close attention to the most popular league on this continent. MLS look to climb into a destination league and become one of the best, but they still have a ways to go. MLS is taking the right steps towards becoming a top league, and you can’t rush a delicate and careful process like the rising popularity of a league. One wrong decision, and all those dreams of being beloved vanish. MLS with the playoffs at the end of the season while also designing their teams in the traditional Soccer format such as names, results, and standings keep the popularity of MLS going. MLS is no way on par in talent with the biggest leagues in Europe. Even MLS Cup champions, Seattle Sounders would more then likely struggle to stay up in the top flight in England. Europe is a completely different beast and although no lower league in Europe trumps MLS (none, not the championship, not Serie B not anything) the top flights still have a clear edge on MLS. MLS is gaining on Liga MX with each passing year and although Liga MX still edges MLS, they both battle for my attention every weekend and are run just as brilliantly as the Argentine Primera Division and the Brazilian top flight for top league in the Americas. The new league that is now competing head to head with MLS is China. China have been swiping away a lot of exciting but deteriorating talent but offering an absurd amount of cash to each player. China may have more world class talent in their prime, but quite frankly, their competition is pathetic. If your name is not Carlos Tevez or Hulk or any other foreign star to arrive in China, then you are terrible. Old man Alan Gordon would run circles around the Chinese Super League. MLS could potentially develop a young talent into a star (Dempsey, Altidore, Morris, Giovinco) but the Chinese League is where a career goes to end. All the money in the world won’t give China the edge over the work MLS has accomplished thus far so those in the Far East can keep flinging their money left and right. Because all it is, is a waste. Gerrard and Keane developed Zardes, and aided in ending Gio Dos Santos’ career roadblock. China’s stars couldn’t dream of developing their “talent” the same way.
Next Big Signing
Speaking of European legends past their prime. China may be throwing all their cash around but several stars such as Fabregas and Rooney have come out to say that they would prefer a move to MLS over China. So with that being said, could Fabregas and Rooney be on their way to MLS? And what about Chicharito? The top line of the LA Galaxy is looking very lonely since the departures of Keane and Gerrard and with only Gyasi Zardes left to support Gio, could Chicharito make his way to Carson? Rooney’s move to MLS has been brought to a halt since his desire to stay in the Premier League was made evident (not to mention Beckham’s Miami flopping bid probably chased him away), so the States may never employ the likes of Rooney but that leaves Cesc Fabregas. What is the next stop for Cesc? Conte called him a genius like Pirlo but does Conte want to use Fabregas as often as he used Pirlo at Juve? An interesting thought would be if Cesc could join MLS next year for the second half and to team up with Pirlo in his last year as a footballer. If Cesc could lock this move down before Pirlo announces his intention to retire, maybe Pirlo will want to stay for one last ride and play next to the likes of another Chelsea legend after spending last season with Frank Lampard. I can’t see Rooney or Fabregas ever coming to the United States, however, but Chicharito is a different story. It’s only a matter of time before the Little Pea finds himself Stateside or backhome in Mexico with Chivas.
Yanks Abroad, But Do We Want Them Back?
There’s nothing more exciting then hearing an American international signing for a top European club. The signings of Dempsey to Spurs, Bradley to Roma and Pulisic to Dortmund will always ring in the heads of American soccer fans. Other talents such as John Brooks, Matt Miazga and Julian Green apply their trade in Europe. The question is, should MLS try tempting them to comeback or should they encourage going abroad to work their trade? I think it all depends. I would start sobbing if guys like Miazga, Green, or Pulisic came back to the States with nothing to show for their European exploits but failure. Young, bright talent must stay in Europe because that is where the best play. Players such as Gyasi Zardes, Darlington Nagbe and Jordan Morris should really consider leaving the states as well as they are all potential world talents. Some Yanks are overseas for no reason at all though. Danny Williams at Reading and Geoff Cameron at Stoke is a waste of time. Williams should be playing in the top flight somewhere, if Cameron can break in at Stoke, then Williams should be able to fit SOMEWHERE in the top flight. If a European top flight team isn’t an option for Williams then he should return to the States. Geoff Cameron has been out for an extended period of time and plays on a Stoke team that is firmly place in 10th forever. That’s pretty cool having a Yank overseas playing regularly in the top flight, but I’d consider a move back to a more competitive league (competitive as in Man United, City, or Chelsea doesn’t win every year) (and don’t give me that, “Leicester won last year,” stuff, how are they doing this year?), and competing with a team for a title closer to home.
Giovinco’s Plight and His Inevitable Exit From MLS
It won’t happen this year, and it probably won’t happen next year, but Sebastian Giovinco’s career in MLS is quickly coming to an end, and it isn’t hard to see. Giovinco is the victim of ignorance by the Italian National Team who continuously snub the former Juventus man due to the league he plays in. Major League Soccer is a league that can compete with anyone, if a Mexican National Team mostly composed of domestic league talent can be a force internationally, then so can MLS. MLS can fill any side with talent if they are just given the chance. MLS may not be a top notch defensive league but Giovinco cuts up the entire league like it’s butter. He may not be the Atomic figure he is in MLS if he left for Serie A or something, but this guy is really good and there’s no denying it. His snubbings from the Italian National Team has been a huge mistake for the Azzurri (especially considering that they are toothless. Graziano Pelle leading your attack at Euro 2016 is the best you got? C’mon man), and it’s going to result in Giovinco leaving for greener international pastures as he climbs the hill to the wrong side of age 30.