Soccer is played in nearly every country in the world. Here in the United States, while some soccer fans follow Major League Soccer, most fans follow the better-known European leagues such as La Liga in Spain, Bundesliga in Germany and the most notable English Premier League in England.
This begs the question: What is so attractive about leagues around the world and what is it about MLS that is missing the mark of excellence?
Superstars like Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, and Wayne Rooney are considered the best names in the sport and their unbelievable skill, finesse and amazing goals attract fans all over the world.
“Football in La Liga is on a whole different level. Spanish clubs seem to be winning every single tournament around the world,” said student Solomon Petkov, who originally is from Bulgaria. “I would be more interested in the MLS if they got more players from Europe and raised the level of play.”
The quality of play is also reflected in the salaries of players around the world. Ronaldo makes roughly $35 million (32 million Euros) for Real Madrid. While Clint Dempsey, who is considered to be the best soccer player in the U.S. makes roughly $4.6 million: a whopping $30.4 million dollars less than Ronaldo.
It is safe to say that the U.S. looks at soccer as the fourth or even fifth major sport with football, baseball, basketball and some would even argue hockey ranking as more popular
“American culture is not really into soccer. In countries like England and Costa Rica, fùtbol is the first and greatest sport,” said ORU Costa Rican student Alejandro Camacho.
While some older international stars like former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy-2014) or David Beckham (LA Galaxy-2007) have come to the MLS and created excitement, there is still very little to draw fans away from international leagues.
Besides a few stars on a limited number of teams, fan support for MLS in American culture is scarce. While most people know a season ticket holder for teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder or Texas Rangers, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has season tickets to teams like the Chicago Fire or FC Dallas.
“No one knows common household names. People haven’t heard of the majority of MLS teams [as opposed to] the Denver Broncos or Carolina Panthers in the NFL,” said English Premier League fan TJ Smith. “I see they are trying to grow, but they don’t have the raw passion like Europe does.”
Soccer has been embedded into cultures around the globe for over a hundred years, but in the United States, the development is still taking place.
MLS was founded just 23 years ago in 1993, so it is understandable that the league is not at the same level as others around the world. European leagues have been developing for much longer. For the MLS to reach this point and to develop larger fan bases, it’s going to take the same amount of time and passion.