Don’t look now, but MLS is more than aging pasture for old Superstars.


That Major League Soccer (MLS) has had exponential growth in recent years is no secret. Different incidents have made soccer in the United States more enjoyable for fans.

The export of young stars, European and experienced players who come to bring quality to the league, state-of-the-art stadiums, multi-million dollar television deals and greater investment in young players, are some of the changes that have allowed MLS to grow.

Despite the fact that people continue to favor the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB) or the National Basketball Association (NBA), the MLS could impose a new order of preferences in a couple of years.

And it is that the arrival of stars this season, such as Gareth Bale, Giorgio Chiellini, Lorenzo Insigne, Juan Camilo ‘Chucho Hernández’ or Federico Bernardeschi, added to those that already existed, such as Javier Hernández, Carlos Vela, Carles Gil or Ilie Sánchez, just to mention a few, have caught the attention of both amateurs and new investors.

The exponential growth of Major League Soccer
Gareth Bale plays for Los Angeles FC MLS

The expansion plan

The year was 1996 when the first MLS game was played between the San José Clash and DC United. By then only 10 clubs were registered. By 2022 there are already 28 clubs and by 2023 the league will be expanded again to 29 teams with the arrival of St. Louis.

But this will not stop here. According to a report by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the owners of Aston Villa in the Premier League, Wes Edens and Naseef Sawiris, would seek to create a new franchise to compete on the top American circuit.

This new team would be based in the popular city of Las Vegas, also home to the NFL Raiders. However, this new MLS franchise is expected to play its games on a soccer-only field and not share the venue with the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.

In the last two years, a total of six franchises have been integrated. First came Nashville SC, representing the state of Tennessee. Then it was the turn of Inter Miami, owned by former English soccer player David Beckham, who also played games in his time as a soccer player with the LA Galaxy. Subsequently, FC Cincinnati became official, becoming the 26th franchise in the tournament.

Last year Austin FC, from the state of Texas, debuted, and this year Charlotte FC from North Carolina is doing the same. Thus achieving that the first category soccer extends in up to 19 of the 50 states of the United States. An unprecedented progression for the American nation.

An investment for the future

The training of players at an early age is important so that in the future they are the ones who lead their respective teams. This is how the top leaders of the MLS see it.

For this year they created the MLS Next Pro, which consists of being the third division in the competition system of the leagues in the United States. 20 affiliates of the MLS teams participate in this, with the exception of Rochester New York FC.

This aims to be a springboard for those under 21 years of age towards their senior teams so that they acquire experience, knowledge, and continue their growth in the football field.

In an interview with the newspaper Marca, the sports director Alfonso Mondelo explained that “these academies are training high-level players and the next step for our competition is for the American player to become the average player in this league.”

“It is a model very similar to the one that occurs in the Second Division B of Spain, where the teams have a subsidiary and compete in this league to accelerate the development of their players. It is the last step between the youth categories and professionalism. If the process can be accelerated in this way, I think it will allow the clubs to know the players who can reach the MLS, “said the sporting director.

An expansion of eight teams is also planned for 2023. LA Galaxy II, Atlanta United II, Loundoun United FC and New York Red Bulls II will no longer be part of the second division of the United States (USL Championship); While the remaining four will be new affiliates of the teams that play in the MLS (Austin FC, Charlotte FC, Los Angeles FC and Nashville SC).

Thanks to these projects, the MLS has positioned itself as the third league with the lowest average age in the world (27.15 years), being only surpassed by Ligue 1 (26.30 years) and the Bundesliga (26.55 years). ).

The rest of the top-5 is completed by the Premier League with an average of 27.16 years and Serie A with 27.26 years.

The league with the most international representation

Many international players choose the United States to continue playing. Either because of the level of competition, the aspirations of the club or in search of a better quality of life.

Since 2010, MLS has ranked first in the leagues with the most representation from different countries, with a total of 82 different nations. It is followed by Serie A with 62, Ligue 1 with 60, followed by the Premier League with 59, then La Liga with 54 and finally the Bundesliga which has had a total of 52.

These numbers also relate to the number of players registered so far. A total of 812 players compete in the current top circuit in the United States, impressive numbers for a league that is barely 26 years old.

The rivalry with Mexico

Many fans have had the great debate that soccer in the United States is of lower prestige and level than that of Mexico, but in recent years the rivalry between the two has taken a radical turn in favor of the Americans.

The ‘stars and stripes’ team has managed to beat the Mexican team in the last two international championships that they have played against each other.

In the finals of the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League and the 2021 Gold Cup, the United States team has defeated the Mexicans 1-0 and 3-2, respectively, winning the most important tournaments in the region. selection level.

Later, during the octagonal route to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Mexico could not beat the United States both at home and away. The selection of the ‘stars and stripes’ won 2-0 in the first duel and then tied at 0 at the Azteca stadium.

In the last 16 games, the United States leads with seven wins against Mexico’s five, and they have tied four times. The last time the Aztecs beat the United States was in a friendly in 2019. Two years undefeated for the American nation.

In addition to the selection matches, there are also duels at the club level. The last edition of the Concacaf Champions League, the Seattle Sounders won the title beating the Pumas of Mexico. The last time an American team managed to be crowned champion in this tournament was in the 2000 edition, when the LA Galaxy beat Olimpia of Honduras.

This championship would break a streak of 15 consecutive years in which Mexican teams would become champions.

Finally, the last two editions of the All-Star between MLS and Liga MX have been in favor of the Americans.

All these points reinforce recent comments made by ESPN sportswriter John Sutcliffe, when he estimated that MLS could be overtaking Liga MX in no more than five years.

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