The Growth of Major League Soccer
Opinions of Major League Soccer (MLS), like many topics in soccer, are quite polarizing. In the eyes of many, the league is written off as an inferior wannabe that will forever be less than its international counterparts. To others, the league is an amazing one just as worthy of viewing as any other.
MLS started back in 1996. The league has been through several changes. Many teams have entered and left the league throughout the years. Right now, the face of the league is continuing to transform. There are currently at least a dozen ownership groups vying for the remaining expansion spots before the league reaches its maximum number of teams.
The status quo is being turned on its head. With several new teams entering the league within the past few season, clubs that were always frontrunners are now struggling to keep their top spots. The league is constantly being rejuvenated by top talent from all over the world. With the growth of major league soccer, gone are the days when MLS can only attract aging Europeans. While the teams are still making headlines for the older European every now and then, MLS clubs are signing notable, proven players for all over the world. Some international player that we all know and love–Andrea Pirlo, who plays for New York City FC. He is currently one of the highest paid MLS players. Let’s not forget Brazilian legend, Kaka, who is currently the highest paid player in the MLS.
This season, although not over yet, is also reflecting the overwhelming theme of change, innovation, and improvement surrounding the league. The standings have changed drastically since last year.
For example, Orlando City SC and the Columbus Crew, two clubs that lingered at the bottom of the table last season, are both at the top of the Eastern Conference standings right now. Chicago Fire, a team that would have been relegated last year if such a thing did exist in MLS, is hovering midtable at the moment. This is marked improvement from last season, and, undoubtedly, the addition of tenacious World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger to the squad certainly accounts for a portion of that success.
Perhaps, two of the most surprising table turning scenarios are occurring with LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids. The two usually successful clubs are both dealing with negative goal differentials at the moment. Both clubs finished last season at the top of the table. Both clubs were strong contenders in the 2016 playoffs. This year, neither club can seem to find its form. LA Galaxy has suffered five defeats so far, and Colorado has suffered four defeats. It should be noted that Colorado has played one less match than LA Galaxy so far.
Minnesota United and Atlanta United are the two rookie teams this year. Atlanta sits in 5th place with 11 points. In its seven matches, the club has earned three victories, suffered two losses, and played to two draws. Minnesota had a rocky start to the season that left many wondering whether the club, which was formerly in the second divisions, was really ready for MLS. At this point, Minnesota sits in 8th place of the Western Conference with eight points, two wins, two losses, and four defeats. To make matters worse, the team has a goal differential of negative eleven. Fortunately, less than a quarter the season has passed, so Minnesota, and all the other struggling clubs have plenty of time to turn things around.
That opportunity is exactly what makes MLS so entertaining. No one is safe. No one is doomed to decades of mediocrity. Every team is an attractive destination for players who have the potential to make or break seasons. For the most part, many of the teams have access to a level of funds that is, at the very least, comparable. These factors make the league entirely unpredictable and more exciting to watch.
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