Major League Soccer deserves respect, and here’s how it will get it

Major League Soccer; when you utter those three words you’ll get one of two reactions – “ha America” or “it’s football, not soccer”. The league has been cast off from the rest of the footballing landscape because they’re different. People often question if they can ever compete with the elite leagues – and the answer? Of course not.

They’ve been around since 1993 but let’s be honest, their real history started sometime around 2007 when David Beckham went over and actually made people care. The ’94 World Cup generated a bit more interest around the States but the games felt more like a carnival than a grand footballing event, as if I should’ve had candyfloss in my hand rather than a beer.

Going back to Becks, when the Englishman graced Los Angeles with his presence, more and more star players were following in his path as they could smell the money they’d make from thousands of miles away. David Villa, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard all decided to ride into the sunset of the USA, essentially turning their FIFA difficulties from world-class to amateur.

However, some people have gone as far as to rank the MLS among the top 10 leagues in the world. Whether they’ve gone clinically insane or have a great deal of biased is irrelevant, as it does bring up the question of what it will actually take for them to compete.

First off, the terminology needs to change. ‘Soccer’ is always going to be the phrase that they associate with the game we all know and love, and as painful as that is we need to learn to accept it. However, using words like ‘shutout’ really isn’t helping. We aren’t in Canada, we don’t play on ice and there aren’t an average of 16-fights-per-game.

They need to decide on a structure and stick to it, too. The play-offs are interesting, but most fans prefer a decisive winner within a regular league format. If a team in 3rd or 4th end up winning the whole thing, the regular season champions will feel like they’ve been robbed blind. Sure they get a trophy, but it’ll feel more like a participation award.

There’s also the expansion issue with new teams coming into the system every few years, with Minnesota United and Atlanta United making their presence known starting in 2017. Imagine if the Premier League just decided to invent a few new teams and whack them into the top flight ahead of lower league sides.

The bragging is something else that needs to stop. Statistics have been released that show the average attendances in the MLS are exceeding the NHL and NBA, but that’s barely even an achievement. With the sheer gulf in difference between stadium and arena sizes they should be doubling or tripling the numbers that the other sports are getting. It’s just common sense.

Some people don’t see ‘soccer’ as a real sport in comparison to theirs. They like to see it as a fabrication of a more grand event like american football. But if the Americans start to apply different methods to advertising and marketing their product, they could find themselves rising up in the ranks of the footballing world.