Originally published on 19 December 2007.
According to The Daily Mail, Major League Soccer has approached Liverpool FC in an attempt to get the English giants to play against the MLS All-Stars next summer. The report also proposes the idea of Liverpool playing Italian giants Juventus in Montreal to gauge the interest in Canada.
As much as I like seeing European teams come to the US to play against MLS clubs and all stars, I don’t see the point, besides making money, and possibly raising the profile of soccer in the States. If MLS wins, people view them as being that much closer to the EPL. The reality is that when European teams come over (Celtic and Chelsea recently), they are generally in preseason form, and therefore that much easier to beat. If MLS were to lose, the media in Europe can sling even more mud at MLS, especially if the game is a blowout.
When it comes to raising the profile of the game here, why do we need European sides to do that? I’ve long believed in the idea that if soccer is to become one of the big 4 sports in America, then it will need to do so from within. While players like David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco are nice, the fact is they are not Americans, so they can only do so much for MLS.
I’ll never understand why so much emphasis is placed on David Beckham when we have future American stars such as Jozy Altidore in MLS as well. We live in a country that thrives on the idea of an American hero. David Beckham can’t be our American hero, but Jozy Altidore can be. Right now, MLS cannot hold onto its stars, and many of them leave for the greener pastures of Europe (Clint Dempsey, Freddy Adu, etc.)
Instead of focusing on spending money on big name players from Europe who are on the downside of their careers, focus that money into building up youth programs and MLS in general so players won’t want to leave. The fact is, I feel as though these players have to leave, because they are wasting both their time and talent by staying in MLS right now.
It is high time for MLS to take the next step in becoming a bigger and better league. For the youth, we only have to look to the streets of Brazil to see how the young kids there are doing tricks and having fun. Youth soccer is too structured, too English if you will. Let the kids have fun, and chances are you’ll have more imaginative Ronaldinho’s (not the Ronaldinho of today, 2 years ago) instead of robotic players.
Granted, I understand that many people in America could care less about soccer. But these same people are probably turned off by the idea of seeing David Beckham 134 times in one game too. Fans love a winner, but how can MLS become a winner when they depend on Europe for exposure?
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the Euro teams come over and play. But while seeing them is nice, MLS needs to soon realize that Europe can’t make MLS bigger, only we can do that.