Football is the biggest sport on the planet and has millions of fans worldwide who follow every kick. While there are some big European leagues around, the English Premier League (EPL) is arguably the most closely followed domestic competition. It is estimated to attract a cumulative global audience for games of over one billion, for example. Of course, the star players, action and drama also help make it the top league around as well!
One domestic league that has caught many people’s eye, though, is America’s Major League Soccer (MLS). It has attracted some of the world’s greatest players in the last ten years; most notably David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimović.
While this fast expansion is excellent news for the MLS, it is still nowhere near the EPL yet in terms of popularity. The Premier League versus MLS statistics suggest the gap is closing and the two competitions could therefore be a battle over the next few years to see who is top dog. But can the MLS ever truly rival the English top-flight? Flight over Europes next teams.
MLS needs to attract more big names
If you take a look back at how the EPL evolved in the 1990s, a significant step forward was importing the best players from world football. The MLS has followed suit but only to a limited capacity. To genuinely compete with the PL though, the MLS needs to continue to attract more big names and people who will draw global audiences to the American league. It must also attract the best young talent. If it begins to pull off deals like the recent Manchester City swoop for Ferran Torres, then it will be in a good position.
A niche within this that the MLS must also address is attracting big names who are not at the tail end of their career. By signing famous players in larger numbers who are in the prime of their career, it would help the MLS seriously rival any league in world football.
Better coverage in the media
To rival the EPL, the MLS must improve its media coverage, on both a national and international scale. There is no doubt the game has had a big push in the US over the last couple of decades, and greater media exposure should help it to attract an even larger number of fans domestically.
On the international stage, the MLS would need a vast amount of media coverage to compete with the EPL and the other best leagues in the world. While there may be some MLS games shown on global or foreign TV channels, it will not be anywhere near the amount of EPL games. The same is true for coverage of both leagues across print media, news, highlights and analysis programs across the world.
What is holding the MLS back?
Of course, it may be the case that the MLS will never really be able to climb past the EPL. But why is this? The biggest challenge facing the MLS is the depth of history behind the English game., which has more heritage and prestige attached to it. Not only did England invent football, but the English football league was founded in 1888, over 100 years before the MLS even started.
Additionally, the MLS is not as competitive or exciting as the EPL. There is no relegation in the MLS conferences, for example, which many feel make it less dramatic when compared to the EPL. This lack of competitiveness plays directly into the standard of the MLS game, which is much lower than the EPL. While attracting top-class players and coaching talent could improve this over time, it is a perspective that could hold the league back from rivalling the EPL.
No Champions League or Europa League for MLS sides
Of course, the other major stumbling block for the MLS in terms of rivalling the EPL lies around the big global domestic tournaments. While English teams can enter the Champions League and Europa League each year if they qualify, MLS teams cannot and have no equivalent. In itself, this is enough to attract the best players in the world and fans of the game.
The truth is that the MLS is still a way off being as well-followed or well-regarded as England’s Premier League. While this may change in the future, there is a lot of hard work to do before then as the above shows.
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