MLS problems lead to Americans support of the Premier League

Many American soccer fans support teams in the Premier League, despite living across the pond. America’s soccer league, on the other hand, draws less support from people within its own country. Americans cite the better play in England, the chance to see the some of world’s best players and the friendlier timing of the games as reasons they watch the Premier League

Eddie Kerekes, Sports Editor: Can Americans support both a British and an American side? Is it even okay to support a British club? Is a main problem of the MLS—a newer league—the fact that Americans prefer the Premier League?

Niko Kamlet, Staff Reporter: For me personally, I do not dislike MLS, but I think that is mostly because those are the games I can watch the most. European football is often in the early morning or afternoon here in America which makes it really hard to catch any games on television; whereas, with MLS the games are typically in the evening, so I find it more reasonable to watch.

Also, I like the personal connection I have with Columbus Crew SC. I have no connection with any teams or cities in Europe so it makes it hard for me to have tons of passion for them. How would I even pick the team the I am supposed to root for? In Columbus, everybody at the games is from around the area and can truly throw their support for a local team, which I appreciate.

I am definitely not saying that MLS itself is better because the talent is not there as compared to European soccer which boasts the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo, just to name a few, but it is a lot more practical for American soccer fans.

Andrew Ford, Staff Reporter: I believe the main problem with the MLS and the reason many soccer fans are fans of the Premier League is the lack of talent. Not to say that the MLS doesn’t have good talent, it does; it just doesn’t have the best talent. All the other leagues in the U.S. have the absolute best players in the world; the NBA, NFL and MLB are the pinnacle of their respective sports while the MLS is not. Because of that, I think it is very legitimate to support a team from both leagues. I don’t see any contradiction. I would encourage soccer fans to support the MLS if they do not already because if popularity grew, money would too and that would enable teams to pay for the better players in Europe.

Kamlet: I couldn’t agree more with Andrew. Americans are used to being the best at everything, and thus there is lack of interest. I think this even goes back to the US Soccer Beyond the Arc discussing the fact that if we want a better MLS, then we must become a more respected soccer country. We need to grow and develop talent to gain some dominance which will then lead to more countrywide interest. Consequently, the MLS will garner more support and players worldwide. We need to see the growth locally before we look abroad.

Sanjay Annigeri, Staff Reporter: I agree with everyone above. MLS is more like a league for overflow players that were unable to find much success in other better professional leagues. The Premier League displays a higher talent level in terms of players and skill levels, which is rare to witness in MLS. People enjoy watching sports in which the matchups are competitive and close, and as of now, the MLS is unable to produce such a result. That’s why many fans prefer to wake up early weekend morning to watch the Premier League than watch MLS in prime time.

Kamlet: To Sanjay’s point, I agree, and it is almost like the MLS is land of the rejects. I mean, just look at MLS superstar, Sebastian Giovinco. He may tear up the MLS, but he came here because he couldn’t find good employment elsewhere. Even more so, Italy pretty much never calls him up to play for his country because of the fact that he plays in the MLS. Also, the MLS is taking all the European players who have grown old or went out of favor in Europe. The list could go on from Kaka to David Villa to Bastian Schweinsteiger. Europe is the land of their success, and MLS tries to reap the benefits by bringing them in, often late in their careers. The fact is, the MLS is quite the land of misfits.

Shounak Bose, Web Editor: I think we’ve done a pretty good job summarizing why the MLS hasn’t and (at least in the near future) won’t come close to the level of popularity of European soccer. I also agree with Niko tremendously that this ties back to the discussion we had a few weeks ago about developing homegrown talent. Until a U.S. soccer player reaches the same level of stardom as say LeBron James or Tom Brady, I don’t expect the MLS to grow much in popularity.

I think it’s very much possible, and even encouraged to support a European club. Where I live in New England, many people can trace their heritage back to different places in Europe, and are very passionate about the local teams there. For example, I have many Portuguese-American friends who very passionately root for either S.L. Benfica or FC Porto. With the large Italian-American population here, it is very common to see jerseys for Juventus F.C., A.S. Roma and A.C. Milan. From my own observation growing up here, all of these clubs seem to be much more popular than our local New England Revolution.

On a similar note, a popular British team around Boston is Liverpool F.C., and the reason is quite unique: Seven years ago, the owners of the Boston Red Sox, John Henry and Tom Werner, decided to purchase Liverpool and promote it with the Red Sox. To do this, they would have Liverpool-themed promotions at Fenway Park, and they would show Liverpool’s games on the Red Sox TV Network, New England Sports Network. Several fair-weather Premier League fans I’ve met started rooting for Liverpool just because they had the most exposure. With all of these factors in mind, I think it is perfectly reasonable to support a European club in addition (or not) to an American club.

Ford: I think another problem with the MLS is the lack of media coverage the league gets. ESPN especially does not promote the MLS like it does the NBA and NFL. For example, the owner of the Columbus Crew is threatening to move the team to Austin, Texas, but it doesn’t get any coverage. If the Cleveland Cavaliers threatened to move, ESPN would not shut up about it. More people might follow the league if the major sports networks paid more attention to it.

Kamlet: Exactly, the very first team in the MLS is threatening to move, and seemingly, nobody cares. The MLS is all caught up in expansion of the league, but it does not even seem to care about its roots. No league can grow if they cannot bring up and keep fan bases. MLS needs to reconsider its setup and continuation.

Also, one thing that I find interesting that the MLS does not do but seemingly everybody else does is the relegation system. Bad teams do not worry if they are bad in the MLS because there is no consequence. The next year is a brand new fresh start. But in the Premier League there is relegation to a lower league if your team’s performance is bottom three in the league and promotion of the top three in the lower to the Premier League. This system needs to be implemented into the MLS because it fosters more competition. Instead of continually making MLS bigger and bigger, expand the United Soccer League and then set up a relegation and promotion system between the two. Make our league more European. It is not a bad thing when it comes to football.

Ford: Dilly dilly to what Niko said.

Kamlet: Dilly dilly!

Jacob Rayyan, Staff Reporter: I personally have as close to zero interest in MLS soccer as possible. The extent of my knowledge are buzzwords like “Donovan,” “Chicago Fire” and the acknowledgement that the team from Los Angeles won the title a few years back.

While I have tremendous respect for the athletes that play the game and acknowledge that there are larger than life figures out in Europe, I have zero interest. That being said, I bleed red, white and blue during the Olympics and World Cup (when Team USA actually qualifies) and for that short moment in time I am the biggest soccer fan in the world. I don’t have any regrets for this either, I support any sport that Team USA is currently competing in.

Oh, and to answer the original question about supporting both an Premier League team or an MLS team, sure, why not?

Until the Premier League vs MLS is not the equivalent of the NFL vs my cousin’s touch football league for ages 10 and under, why not? I do think that if the MLS gets to an equivalent standard of play (probably in our children’s lifetimes) than fans will have to choose loyalty between an American club versus a European club.