I've been in the U.S. since 1991. In 1996 Major League Soccer (MLS) played its first season. Since that time, I have been many MLS games and seen a ton more on TV. I must admit though, that I have seen more EPL and Champions League games. The MLS has gone through some changes in the last 14 years. After the first season in 1996, attendance declined and the league made somewhat of an emphasis of marketing itself as a place to showcase American players. This didn't really go down well and the league actually shrunk losing the Tampa Bay and Miami franchises. And to be honest, the quality of play on the field wasn't the best. It didn't help when a U.S. National Team made up mostly of MLS talent, failed miserably in the 1998 World Cup.
But since then, things have picked up. In 2005 the league expanded with Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA and now MLS is made up of 16 teams with a plan to expand to 18 teams pretty soon. The quality of play on the field has improved and so has the level of players. Excitement has been added with the addition of more quality overseas players, most notably, David Beckham. U.S. stars like Landon Donovan are also generating interest from fans. So overall, the league is looking much better and in good shape.
So with that background, I will ask the question that is often asked here in the U.S. How does the MLS compare with other leagues around the world. I don't know about other countries, but I can give some educated guesses at how it compares with the English Leagues.
First off, let's be honest, they are miles away from the EPL level. Or should we say they are miles away from the top EPL teams and maybe just a long way from the lower EPL teams.
I have often thought that it would be pretty neat for teams to switch places. For instance, what if the LA Galaxy switched places with Birmingham for a season? How would they do? Would LA finish bottom of the EPL? Would Birmingham be MLS Champions? It's an interesting debate.
So getting back to how good is the MLS? The most often answer I hear to that, is that they would hold their own in the English Championhsip (the old 2nd Division). Sometimes I think they would, other times I think they would struggle. Mostly because of how tough it is and how physically gruelling the season is.
I'm not sure you can look at players like Juan Pablo Angel, Blanco, Donovan, Beckham, Dempsey, and others and say that those players are capable of playing at a high level in Europe so that means that MLS teams can also do the same. And that highlights one of the weaknesses of the MLS...strength in depth. On most MLS teams, there are players in the squad and starting for the teams, that really would have trouble making any professional team in England. And that is another reason why it's hard to figure out how they compare with other leagues.
I'm sure others have their opinions, but my best guess is that I think they would survive in the English Championship (old 2nd Division). What do you think.