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As we all know, soccer is the most popular sport on the planet. Millions of fans gather in front of their TV’s to watch some of the world’s most talented players kick the ball around, mostly across European soccer fields. Most of us are aware of the popularity of European soccer, but where does MLS rank among other soccer leagues?
MLS is commonly ranked as the 10th best soccer league in the world, both in terms of popularity and the overall quality of the game. Approximately 2 million TV viewers follow each game, while competitors such as the Premier League have up to 7 million viewers every game.
Major League Soccer, more commonly known as MLS, is the main soccer league in North America. Consisting of 26 teams out of the United States and 3 from Canada this league has been uniting the soccer fans of these two nations for almost 30 years. In this article, we will learn more about MLS by comparing it to its European counterparts. Enjoy the reading!
What level of soccer is MLS?
MLS is the highest level of soccer play in the US and Canada, as the official statement of the league proclaims. As such, the level of play exhibited in the league should be comparable to other major leagues in the world, including those in Europe. This is, however, not the case.
MLS is mostly compared with second divisions in top European leagues. For example, it’s much more appropriate to compare the level of play in MLS to the level of play in the English Football League Championship than it is to compare it with the play in the Premier League.
What are the causes of this drastic difference? Find the answer below:
Difference between MLS and European soccer
In addition to the popularity among viewers, there are some other major differences between MLS and European soccer, as well as their respective leagues. Let’s take a look at some of those differences:
- The soccer season is conceptualized differently in MLS and European soccer leagues
While MLS players start battling it out on the field in March and playing until late November, European soccer is typically played from August until late May. Once the regular national season has finished, the real European soccer, and the reason behind its popularity, starts: UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League both await the best teams of the continent. MLS has the CONCACAF Champions League, which is not nearly as popular as the European counterparts.
- The players’ salaries are different in MLS and European soccer leagues
One of the biggest differences between the MLS and European leagues is the fact that MLS teams function as franchises, meaning that the majority of investments in the league come from them. This way, the teams work together to grow the league and share the profits.
This isn’t the case in Europe; teams function individually, which means that they are more motivated to bring stronger, more expensive players in. With incentives and the prestige that come with winning the Champions League or comparable high-reward national competitions, European teams are the ones who pay their players much more.
During the 2019-20 season, the average MLS player was paid 0.41 million dollars. At the same time, La Liga paid its players an average of 2.55 million dollars.
- Player recruitment is approached differently in MLS and European soccer leagues
While MLS focuses on bringing in the talent from lower leagues or in the SuperDraft, in European soccer, the focus is placed on youth development.
Finding the talented players young, developing their talent, and securing it for the team is the European way that has been more than successful during the last 50 years. In America, high schools and colleges are mostly in charge of youth development.
While an 18-year-old player in the MLS is joining their college team, a European player of the same age is likely to already be playing for the first team, which is an incomparable difference in experience.
- There’s no relegation in MLS
The majority of European leagues have rules set that ensures that the teams who continuously perform poorly are sent down, or relegated, to a lower tier of competition. The same rules reward the teams from lower divisions that perform well – they get promoted to a higher tier. This manner of operation ensures competitiveness among teams throughout the season.
The MLS, on the other hand, doesn’t relegate teams. In the American soccer league, the worse that the team performs, the higher their pick in the player draft is. As opposed to the European concept, this is an incentive for teams that fall behind to keep losing in order to obtain draft pick priority, with no risk of losing their spot in the league.
What are the top 5 soccer leagues in the world?
Before we list the top 5 soccer leagues in the world, we should discuss the criteria involved in the making of it. In addition to viewership and popularity, we’ve taken the number of goals per game, as well as the point differential between the first and last place holders at the end of the last season as the main parameters. The number of continental championship wins was also taken into consideration. Here’s the list according to these statistics:
1. Premier League – The best soccer league in the world
With an average of 1.33 goals per game and a 31-point differential between the first and last place holders, the English Premier League is recognized as the world’s most popular soccer league. Premier Leagues have won trophies in 26 continental championships.
Even though it has more goals per game, at 1.59, Bundesliga is still considered to be behind the Premier League when it comes to the overall quality. The difference between the first and last place at the end of last season in this league was 33 points. Bundesliga teams have 21 continental wins.
3. La Liga
With 1.45 goals per game and a 39-point difference between the first and last spot on the table, the Spanish La Liga holds the third spot on the list of top soccer leagues in the world. La Liga teams have 23 continental wins.
4. Serie A
Coming in at the fourth place is the Italian Serie A with 1.38 goals per game and a difference of 39 points between the first and last team in the league. Teams from this league have 15 continental wins on the record.
5. Argentine Primera
The last spot on this shortlist is reserved for the Argentinian Primera. This league has 1.08 goals per game, a 27-point difference between the first and last spot in the last season, as well as 18 continental wins.
According to the same criteria, MLS holds the 10th spot on the list of the best soccer leagues in the world. This league has an average of 1.3 goals per game, as well as a 43-point difference between the first and last team on the table. The league also has 11 continental trophies.
Soccer fans around the world agree that European soccer is the most exciting one to watch. Placing patriotism to the side, American viewers also prefer soccer that’s played on the Old Continent. As the list above shows, the quality of play in European leagues is what drives viewers away from MLS. However, this US soccer league is still young, and it can only improve in the years to come.