Why we should all be watching Major League Soccer

March 23, 2015

Daily News Service

Sky has recently unveiled its shiny new acquisition, Major League Soccer. With the season running right through the summer, and games on at exactly the time of night when you’re about to succumb to another rerun of Friends, I’ve been exploring the league and why we should all be tuning in.

Major League Soccer (MLS) was established in 1993, just a month or two after I was born. It took three years for them to successfully gather 10 teams and the MLS embarked on its first season in 1996. If I take into consideration that like Major League Soccer, I am just 21 years old, living at home, and still trying to figure out what the heck I want from life, it’s doing pretty well. In terms of it being quite a young league, the chorus of D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better springs to mind and rings around my head.
If morbid curiosity isn’t enough to draw you in, and you can get over having to call the game “soccer” it can actually be a very enjoyable league to watch. That being said I’ve personally only caught the second half of one game so far – New York Red Bulls winning 2-0 over DC United. My first thoughts being that it was really no different to watching QPR or some of the top English Championship sides, it tastes a bit like chicken.
The fans seemed quite enthusiastic, jumping and singing cheeky songs. I heard some fans sing “hey you, over there, you’re not singing!” and even managed to spot a fan toting a cardboard cut-out of the “F*** her right in the p***y” guy. I can only hope(!) that with the popularity of the Premier League in America, it won’t be long before the fans chant the infamous Steve Gerrard/Demba Ba song at their new signing come next season. Great song.
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Hey... I recognise that guy!
The first time MLS came to my attention was when David Beckham joined LA Galaxy in 2007. Beckham certainly helped to raise the international profile of the league and is now interested in starting his own team. Between Victoria’s fashion line and David’s underwear modelling they are already a franchise of their own. Plus they could probably start a team with the amount of children they have harvested – definitely a 6-a-side team anyway.

With Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard set to follow suit, you can only wonder if they will be as celebrated as their predecessors. From a football perspective ‘Stevie G’ and ‘Lamps’ will be a great asset to the American game, but I think perhaps they will not provide the same level of class and celebrity as the Beckhams did. Gerrard’s wife, Alex Curran attended the Grammys whilst on a house-hunting trip to LA which suggests she is trying to launch an American career a lá Posh Spice.

America and Canada combined is very large, and with the influx of teams and franchises now joining; Major League Soccer is split into East and West leagues. The size of the countries (even divided) can make being an away fan near enough impossible. There’s certainly no following your team to a rainy night in Stoke, so being an armchair supporter in England must be a quite similar experience to that of a fan in the USA.

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The interestingly named Perry Kitchen//USA Today Sports

If you’re tired of the relentless spending of the Premier League, the MLS could be fresh breath of air. The league has laws similar to Financial Fair Play, but much more financially fair. Each team has a wage cap of $3.1m a year, but are allowed to make one marquee signing, or “designated player” outside of the cap. This is where the teams sign your past-it Premier League favourites – it used to be called “The Beckham Rule”, but you can only have one designated player in the side at once, so unfortunately we won’t be able to see “the band getting back together”.

Unlike Formula One and the Premier League where the teams with the most money are the ones contesting for the title, MLS sits comfortably with touring cars and the true talent of each side shines through. These rules are in place so that everybody has an even standing point. New York City FC was going to sign Frank Lampard, but his sojourn to Manchester means they signed David Villa instead. The rules in place mean that next season Lampard can join the team, but unless Villa wants to be paid less than $350k per annum he will have to make way. I think this makes things pretty fair.

The MLS has a system called the SuperDraft, in which each team gets to select a young player – usually a college graduate – who has been signed by the league. In this selection process it is ordered from top to bottom. Any new teams will get first choice, teams who didn’t make the play-offs next, and so on until the winners of the league get last pick. Although each team can still have their own youth academy, The Draft is still a tradition upheld, though it is becoming secondary in importance to the academies.

American football (ok… soccer) is growing in World prominence and the USA is now ranked 31 by FIFA. Compare that to England’s ranking of 15 and it’s not too shabby. The new Sky deal seems to have come at a good time as we all enjoyed watching the USA at the World Cup.

With names such as Perry Kitchen and Bobby Boswell, there is no way watching this league can be boring, and with legends like KaKá gracing its well-trimmed-pitches it’s certainly got a nostalgic feel to it. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has publicly said that he wants to play in the MLS in a few years time, and that’s reason enough to watch it for me.

This article was originally published on www.dailynewsservice.co.uk

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