Major League Soccer – Football’s diamond in the rough

With Liverpool top of the Premier League and European Champions, I’d still swap the Premier League for MLS tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong, Liverpool Football Club has been my life and will always be a huge part of my life and it is more than just a football club to me but what the Premier League has allowed English football to become – to me at least – is an abomination.

Even with the team performing as well as it ever has in my lifetime, I crave something that the Premier League especially has never really been able to give me. A level playing field.

Major League Soccer or MLS is far from perfect and is considered a “joke” to many over here and many in North America to be frank.

If people just gave it a chance though, they’d find out what I know – that while not without its own issues – it’s a wonderful league.

I’ve been ignorant in the past and while not disparaging of MLS, I never took it as seriously as I should. It was an afterthought, if that.

I “follow” teams from all around the world and from a young age I followed NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, so why not MLS? I honestly can’t say definitively.
In large part I’d say that ironically other North American sports were far more accessible over here.

If you ask any fan of American sports in Britain you will hear stories of their favourite US Sports shows that were aired on Channel 4, and Channel 5 when we were younger. Shows on free TV that were accessible to anyone with a set. We didn’t have that for MLS.

Obviously of course, it’s important to accept that the biggest reason for this was that the North American sports we watched were a superior product and MLS was – no offence – an inferior product.

The tide is turning though I’m glad to say. The amount of people following MLS in Britain grows by the game and while it is still viewed with disdain by many, there are those fans of David Beckham who came and stayed. My own friends who wouldn’t have entertained the idea previously even watched and attended LA Galaxy games because of Steven Gerrard.

And yet, it wasn’t Beckham that brought me to MLS, it wasn’t Gerrard, it wasn’t any single player. It was an idea, an idea that I should be more open to the experience of football in North America.

When I became a Columbus Crew fan, I found everything I didn’t even know I was looking for. When I started understanding what MLS is, despite its foibles, I fell in love with the league as a whole.

There are those who will say that MLS seeks to give big markets preferential treatment and from what I’ve seen and supporting a smaller market team myself, I couldn’t really dispute that as vehermently as I might like to.

What I would say is, it’s nothing compared to the disparity that exists in the Premier League.

There have always been teams like Liverpool and Man United in the English League that have had financial advantages, but at least they were earned to some degree. Now? Any team can become a contender overnight based on no more than a ridiculous cash injection.

MLS has rules and regulations which prevent money being the be all and end all for a club and I love that.

You only have to look at the teams that have won the Premier League and how much has been spent to assemble those sides. As a Liverpool fan, I’m immensely proud of what Klopp has achieved as honestly, I wasn’t sure we could overcome clubs that spend even more money than us and were threatening to dominate this new era before his arrival.

Despite what Liverpool have achieved and will continue to achieve (I hope), the majority of games we play, I expect to win and it’s more of a shock if we don’t because we have such a significant advantage over the majority of our opponents.

Liverpool fans and fans of other big clubs or big spending clubs in the Premier League are spoiled and what it leads to is bitterness, bile and hatred.

The club someone supports is used as a reason to dislike them regardless of who they may be and instead of bringing people together as the game should, it creates more disconnection in a world where we are already given more than enough reasons to blindly hate.

If you win in MLS, you don’t win because you were one of the teams that was able to outspend your opponents and therefore automatically gain a significant advantage, you win because you were able to assemble the best squad and perform at the highest level when it mattered most. It is for this reason that there’s a purity which people can at least accept and at best respect.

To me, that is the true spirit of competition at its absolute best and what football should be all about. 

Leagues across the world should take note and fans of the league should be more grateful,  MLS is a diamond in the rough.

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