Monday, March 11, 2013

Why you should stop being a Euro snob and watch the MLS

After reading the ESPNFC article "Can you call yourself a U.S. soccer fan if you don't support MLS?" (read the article here) I decided to give my take on this. And my answer to that question is yes, and no. The MLS is one of the most intriguing leagues in the world. You either think the league is filled with a mixture of over the hill stars and talentless rookies or you think it is a league full of potential and that others should give it a chance.

If you are one of those who thinks the MLS is a wasted league you fall into the Euro snob category. The loose definition of a Euro snob is someone who refuses to give leagues outside of Europe a chance to be a fun and exciting league. This category is filled with about 70% of the people who talk about the MLS. These people feel that the MLS is filled with bad passing, boring goals, and slow pace of play. Now in some instances they are right about all those things, sometimes watching a MLS game can feel like torture, but you could say that about any game where the play is sloppy and unorganized. I'm going to tell you why you need to stop being a Euro snob and give the MLS a chance.

Major League Soccer is only 18 years old. That is younger than most of the people that follow the league. So the fact people want to say MLS doesn't have any real talent in the league can be a valid argument, but not for long. We are slowly seeing more and more talent start to shine through the cracks of the MLS and these players are very promising. Young talent such as Juan Agudelo, Darlington Nagbe, Freddy Montero, and others look to be the next stars of the MLS.

With a young league comes young league mistakes. Many of the players are right either right out of college, have never played overseas, or are aging stars who are past their prime. In theory the mixture of inexperience and experience should produce for more exciting soccer and a better development for those inexperienced players, but as we have seen this isn't always the case. This is why we see bad passes, a lower game IQ, and a slower pace of play. But this can all change once the MLS teams start to adopt a youth system that really teaches their youth players how to play the game properly. The MLS should look to model itself after the Bundesliga, a league where big name stars are there but the focus is really on homegrown talent that starts at clubs youth levels.

The MLS also suffers from having a playoff system as their way of crowning a champion. It seems like they tried to appease the fact the American public wants to see a Super Bowl every time there is a champion crowned. They want to see underdogs win and upset favorites, but that is not the approach the league should have taken. Look at all the major leagues in the world and you will see a model that is proven successful: whoever wins the most games all season and racks up the most points wins the championship. Simple right? It seems like the MLS doesn't want to change for fear of this way of crowning a champion not appealing to the public, but as long as you keep the US Open Cup the way it is you still get your playoffs and a Super Bowl style game to crown a champion.

All that aside the MLS can be one of the most exciting leagues to watch. It seems like a lot of the time that amazing goals are produced out of thin air. Honestly I have seen more overhead kick goals scored in the MLS than in any of the top leagues in the world. Does this mean the MLS is better than any of the top leagues? No of course not, but it doesn't mean the league is in any way terrible. In the past few years the quality of the MLS has started to really rise.

I looked up a lot of responses and discussions about if you can really be a U.S. fan if you don't support MLS and why people say to give the MLS a chance and I agreed with what most people said. Yes, you can be a U.S. soccer fan if you don't support MLS but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a chance. Pick a MLS team, support it, follow it, maybe even go to a game and I swear to you that you will have a change of heart if you think the MLS is a terrible league.

Go watch kicktv's video about why you should watch the MLS, it might give you a little more incentive to give it a chance. (watch the video here)

What do you think? Is the MLS a terrible league? What should the MLS do to improve?

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