Major League Soccer, often shortened to MLS, is a relatively new concept, founded only 23 years ago compared to the 122 of The Football League, and this has been evident for some time. However, more recently the standard of play has improved and the caliber of players being introduced to the league has heightened. If the league had been around since the late 1800’s, then World football could be an incredibly different story. The league holds teams from both America and Canada in the ‘Western Conference’ and the ‘Eastern Conference’.
The MLS has grown in size over recent years, with more and more people choosing their allegiance and supporting a side, and the love for these teams is growing exponentially through the growth of their fan base. There have been cases of fan fights and marches, the like of which have not necessarily been a part of the aesthetic of the league until now.
The latest New York derby, between New York Red Bulls and New York City, sometimes referred to as the ‘Hudson River Derby’ ended with a 7-0 win for the older side, the Red Bulls. Both sides, in retrospect, are brands and have various ‘sister-clubs’ or subsidiaries around the world which in the opinion of many is not something that should be present in modern football. The result of this game, and events before and after it can, however, show the world a number of things about the still fledgling league and its future.
In scenes reminiscent of British football, hooliganism is beginning to rear its head within American and Canadian football. Last year there were fights in New Jersey, and this year was no different with two arrests made before the game and local police intervening between the rival fans. Violence should not be condoned or promoted in any sense of the game, but one thing that this shows is that football, or soccer, is finally being embraced by the American public as the most watched sport in the world. It can also be argued that they have realized that if they can win the Women’s World Cup that with enough support at the grassroots level and professional, they can become a world-beating nation in the future.
It needs to be considered that perhaps the fans are not passionate about their side and are just looking for a scrap, however, the passion that is beginning to surface within MLS will rival that of Baseball or the NFL by the end of the decade. Stadiums are getting closer to reaching capacity and fans that are watching are becoming more and more like that of the rest of the footballing world.
The migration of big name players into the MLS has always been around as far as I can remember, but with household names gracing the league both in the past and present, the league is gaining more and more exposure across the world. At the derby, New York City fans voiced their displeasure towards England and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, who made his first appearance this season as a substitute. This comes after news earlier in the week surrounding his huge wages compared to the rest of the squad. When it is put into consideration, the number of appearances Lampard has made, along with the ‘extended loan’ he took at Manchester City, it is evident that he has not put the local fans first, regardless of any injury troubles he may have had.
While the league at the moment allows for world-class players to extend their career in a league that is perhaps not as fast paced as others, there are odd cases of development for young players coming through the ranks. Something that clubs need to do in the future to make a move away from being known as a ‘retirement home’ of sorts, and develop players that can have long careers in the league, or aside from that make a break into European football which is a larger market.
The 7-0 drubbing of New York City equals the biggest defeat since the creation of the MLS and has created a lot of attention for the league. With fans becoming interested from areas outside of the American continent, alongside the home based fans becoming more attuned to their national league, the MLS is expanding slowly but surely into an entertaining league, yet it doesn’t quite hold the stature of other leagues in modern football.
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