The English Premier League is arguably the best soccer league in the world. The world’s greatest players, greatest managers, greatest fans, and the greatest traditions all reside within the EPL. It is hard to argue the point that on the pitch, there are any better options to watch as the casual fan. However, as a citizen of the United States of America, I find myself enjoying Major League Soccer much more. Sounds crazy, I know. The play is not of the same quality. The traditions are not old enough to make a statement throughout the world. Managers and players are just starting their careers, or they are ending them. It’s true, MLS is not at the same level as the EPL; but here are some reasons why all US fans should prefer the domestic league.
- It is the Domestic League–MLS has been proving itself over the past two decades as a viable option for all players. Many US National Team stars started within the confines of MLS. Great US players such as Tim Howard with the Metrostars, Landon Donovan with San Jose, and Clint Dempsey with New England; the list goes on. As an American, and a fan, I enjoy seeing the success here at home and watching the quality improve year after year by bringing in better players and developing home grown talent.
- The Salary Cap–Granted MLS has “Designated Players”, thanks to David Beckham, which can skew the salary cap, but for teams to be able to have an equal financial obligation is a positive for the league. Owners with deep pockets who will buy every top player possible is not present, which allows smaller market clubs to compete for and ultimately win the MLS Cup. Kansas City, Kansas is not the likes of Los Angeles, California or New York, New York. Yet Sporting KC won the MLS Cup 2 years ago with designated players that are domestic players, because of the equality across league.
- Academy Structure–Great teams in the EPL have strong Academies, but the difference lies in the future of those players. Liverpool Football Club has long touted its Academy producing stars such as Steven Gerrard, but that seems to be the anomaly inside the EPL. Most mid-level clubs focus on their Academy to groom and sell players to finance the first team, not to groom and place players within their systems. MLS wants to keep their talent within the clubs and produce future players for the first teams. There is always an exception to that rule, but for the majority, MLS does not like to sell their future.
- Supporters–MLS fans are not at the level of their counterparts within the EPL, but they are growing stronger. Every MLS club has their “rabid” group of supporters that live and die by the club. Sons of Ben in Philadelphia, Screaming Eagles in DC, Timbers Army in Portland, and Emerald City Supporters in Seattle. These groups are creating an atmosphere that the casual American fan has never seen. This type of support is contagious, and when you’re a growing league, it is vital.
The EPL is a top league by all accounts, but it is not the best league for American fans to watch. If you live in the US and enjoy the game of soccer more than once every four years, invest in MLS. You will not be disappointed.