Ahead: * Successful expansions * Stadium development * Gameday experience * Ability to sell players to other leagues * Quality of play/ no longer relying on retired stars Behind: * Getting some of the owners to care at all about their teams * Getting casual fans to watch MLS on TV


To your ahead category (and I guess this is really a subcategory of the first and second bullets), I'd add the league's ability to successfully plant a flag in the Southeast. This is particularly impressive to me given the region's general preference for football/baseball and the fact that we had already seen two failures to launch with the Fusion and Mutiny. I never would've expected Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, Nashville, etc. to be as successful as they have been, so huge tip of the hat to them.


I agree, but I’m also surprised how many people compliment my Dynamos jersey around Texas


Honestly no disrespect meant…. But when will you guys get people back watching your games again? I think there were more Austin fans last week than dynamo fans. Were the DeRo days just as sparsely attended?


This is a great point. Focusing their expansion on growing cities that didn't already have fanbases committed to summer sports teams (the cities you named, could add Miami, Portland, SLC, San Jose, Austin) was a savvy long-term plan. Conversely, putting stadiums outside the city limits (Revs the main culprit here, but also RBNY, Dallas, Colorado) continues to be a missed opportunity—or perhaps reflective of an intentional effort to only court \*a certain kind of\* fan.


I find these comments to be weird. But then again I never cared about football or baseball and have been patently waiting for an MLS team to call my own.


Yeah mls is exploding compared to when I started. I legit never thought that the mls would ever get luxury stadiums. I really expect the mls to be in the top five leagues in the near future.




I thing the growth will continue BUT it will reach a stalemate point. Given that MLS cannot compete in CONMEBOL Libertadores or UEFA Champs League. It will be very difficult to determine true major improvement. Yes, if MLS Teams begin to win CCL more often that would be a good indication. But not to the point to see if we have reached a position in the "Top 10 Best Leagues on the world" List.


True but if they start winning the Club World Cup it’s another indication.


Brazilian and Argentinian teams haven't been able to win the FIFA CWC during the last decade. But no problem, we will do that, so we can achieve an indication (???) Unlikely.


Never said we had to do anything. But if we did win that, it certainly would be an indication of something.


Ya I think the ceiling is #1 non UEFA destination and by a fair distance from #2. You can sell the atmosphere, the media exposure, the quality of life, stable ownership and start to be a true global jumping off point for players on the rise (already happening but much more so) and a true destination for players on the fringe of cutting it in a top 5 league.


They just need to continue on a linear trajectory for the next 4 years for the 2026 world cup to act like lighter fluid on a fire. Some MLS based quality on the squad would help too


>some mls based quality on the squad would help too It really frustrates me when some fans are just against any and all mls players in the squad just because they’re in mls Like shouldn’t you *want* there to be good domestic league players in the squad, that’s good for both the domestic league and the national team


Which will it replace?


Edit: I read the comment as a top 5 sports in the US. But if OP meant top 5 soccer league worldwide, that’s a stretch. No way it’s passing any of the following: EPL, la liga, bundesliga, serie A, or ligue 1. It’s already in top 5, behind NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. Wouldn’t be surprised if soccer climbed to top 3 behind NFL and NBA. NBA is gaining popularity in the recent years but it has inherent flaws like as breaks/ads which kind of makes the game more casual whereas a high quality soccer game (such as UEFA champions league games) is hypnotizing. I have no stats to back up my claims regarding the popularity, but new stadiums definitely are a huge plus to the experience. First season I watched MLS it was so distracted by the pitch. So I converted to NBA as a rockets fan. Last year I moved to Austin and they’re doing fine so far so I started enjoying MLS. (Been a soccer fan since childhood.)


In some studies, MLS has passed NHL in the USA. At least in asking groups what sports do you follow. Granted, MLS doesn't have the TV numbers of NHL yet, but those often add up for casuals watching important or playoff games. MLS is moving forward. They will overtake NHL completely in our lifetime for sure. The problem is NHL still has more money as there is more commercials, so better TV deals.


They need good ratings to justify major network coverage. Major network coverage would get them good ratings. Chicken and egg....


Who would be the worst owners? Asking for a friend.


Whitecaps owner


Been following since 2011. It depends what aspects you’re talking about. Salary Structures: behind what I expected Quality of play: better than I expected Entertainment value: right where I expected


Agreed, ahead on some and behind on others: TV Deals - Way further behind, I figured they would have had a unified streaming option by now.... instead they killed it Soccer Specific Stadiums - Way further ahead, the new stadiums that are either purpose built or joint built are just amazing. Never expected to have this many great options. Quality of Play - Much better than expected! The fact we export to Europe now and have teams that can beat MX teams (CCL, etc) is so much better than expected So, depends on what area you look at.


Hopefully ESPN+ will be the unified streaming option?


>Hopefully ESPN+ will be the unified streaming option with no home market blackout? FTFY


The Galaxy have started streaming our non nationally televised games on their site for free (as long as you're within the Southern California area), in addition to them being available on Spectrum Sport Net. That's been huge for people like me who ditched cable.


Austin FC does the same in central TX.


Really, I’d like to see more Austin games, do you know it it extends to College Station?


FC Dallas does the same.


I have a strong feeling Apple+ is going to win this...


Apple+ is cheap compared to Bally so I’m in if they get it. I’d also be happy with ESPN+ or HBO Max.


The home market blackout is so infuriating


If it wasn't for the blackouts they would easily be it. Luckily Ballys has something coming in June https://www.bleachernation.com/cubs/2022/05/04/sinclair-and-bally-announce-their-direct-to-consumer-streaming-platform-is-coming-in-june/


I'm little confused here with your streaming comment. Ten years ago there was a streaming option? I thought it as MLS Live?


There was, and they killed it. That was my point. Following and watching not just your team but MLS in general had gotten harder. There is always one game on Twitter and UNIMAS where I can try and watch video from a short blogging service or in Spanish. Many are on a cable only local sports network. They are randomly on different networks between broadcast and cable only. Start times are erratic at best. Late night Eastern games, early Western games. No pattern or sense to it. Don't even get me started on the production quality.


Every game is on ESPN+ unless it’s nationally televised. UniMas is free over the air in a lot of markets but not all, so Twitter is an option if it’s not in your market. This is the same as MLS Live. There were blackouts for nationally televised games.


The proliferation of new teams, awesome new stadiums, and new meaningful fan bases is better than I expected as well. ​ Went to Nashville's stadium opening with some high school soccer friends of mine (high school was 20 years ago). Was a great time and great reintroduction for some of them, who checked in and out of MLS 10-20 years ago. And then to watch the Sounders on Wednesday, winning a continental championship in front of 70k people... Better than expected :-)


Spot on


Fucking nail on the head buddy


Up vote for accuracy


And what’s funny, they fix those salary structures and your other two points elevate in my opinion.


I started following the league in 2007 - 2008 (currently in my early 30s). The Sounders CCL triumph is a massive step for the MLS and American soccer, and got me thinking about other developments that have been made along the way as the league has developed. For me, things like more Soccer Specific Stadiums, better quality foreign players coming over at younger ages, and drastically improved domestic youth development are currently about where I expected them to be in 2012. And while the excitement and popularity of the expansion teams has exceeded my expectations, I would say that the overall popularity on a national scale is not where I expected it to be given the progress in other areas, but that is likely due in part to the US missing the 2018 World Cup. Thought this would be a fun Friday discussion and curious to others thoughts!


I started following in 2000 or so and in most ways I'd say the league is at or ahead of where I would have expected. Considering the growth of youth soccer over the last 25 years and with people who are in their 20s now having grown up with "local" teams I'd say the overall exposure of the league is pretty far behind where I'd expect. US soccer fans seem to rally around the national team for big events and follow European soccer closely but the level of engagement with their local league is nowhere near that level and needs to improve a lot. A cohesive TV deal would go a long way to improving this. The level of play and soccer facilities across the league is amazing considering what it was like when I started watching. Beckham coming to MLS was such a monumental moment for the league. It really helped bring a higher caliber player to MLS and add some desperately needed legitimacy to the league at a crucial time. I remember the Crew getting the first soccer specific stadium while most games on TV had faded football lines across the pitch.


The USMNT Dos A Cero game at the Crew SSS back in the early 2000s was a huge deal back then. We've come a long way. I remember when Carlos Valderrama and Mamadou Diallo played in this league. It was fun as hell watching those players. When Chicago played in a high school stadium and seeing where other teams are now in terms of SSS, we are on pace to be a great league to watch IMO.


Ahead. The addition of TAM (Omar Gonzalez rule) after the 2014 CBA really accelerated the quality of play with the importing of internationals into the league at the expense of domestic players in the short term. I think the league will get rid of the budget mechanisms once the league has fully expanded and when the majority of the teams have nothing else to spend loads of money on like facilities/stadium


Ah the 2014 CBA! That was a fun night in this sub.


Yeah just the fact the owners were so caught off guard that the players wanted a form of free agency instead of more money really made it wild. Oh and also how close we were to an actual strike. Not even a couple months later TAM was introduced. I’m dead sure they budgeted for the player salaries to go up and the product strategy committee was like “welp we have to spend this”


Thats actually a great point about how TAM was introduced! All I remember from that night was the threads getting wild, people standing outside of the building and watching shadows in the windows, and ordering stuff to the negotiation room. Fun night, crazy to think how pivotal it was.


Remember how everyone was doing a play by play? I think MLS twitter really was a hoot and how we were constantly trying to get updates. Fun times.


Was that meeting held in Toronto? I cannot remember but I remember that night here on Reddit.


In the long run this CBA deal was well worth it for everybody. Salaries didn't spiral out of control and the players who worked their ass off building this league were rewarded.


TAM was a bigger role in the improvement of squads than I think people will give it credit. Getting that level Between a dp and a regular player increased the quality even if it made the salary rules even more insane. Having a hard cap is something the owners will never give up but I can see tam and gam getting eliminated if the tv revenues blow up. Dps will never go away I don't think.


100%. Just for the Sounders alone, our TAM players are: Joao Paulo (bought down from DP, MVP candidate last year and one of the best midfielders in the league), Cristian Roldan (one of the best midfielders in the league), Jordan Morris (getting back to pre-injury form but pre-injury, one of the best attackers in the league), Yeimar Gomez Andrade (one of the best defenders in the league), Xavier Arreaga (very good starting center-back). Now of course you can't expect every team to hit like us when it comes to TAM players to surround Ruidiaz, Nico and Rusnak, and certainly we got lucky in that only three of those TAM players needed transfer fees (ie we were able to give Roldan and Morris higher deals than most TAM players since they did not require a transfer fee), but for sure it helped with our roster build and makes it that much better. The introduction of TAM has been so significant for MLS in that it improved that 4-7/8 in a roster which allowed for starting lineups to have more quality in them and also fed improvements down to the 8/9-14 of a roster, who would no longer be needed to be seen as the key supporting players for the top 1-3 of a roster in the DP's. IMO it's been the biggest catalyst to why MLS teams are stronger and deeper as a whole, and in quite a few ways CCL results show that. I think the U-22 initiative could have similar improvements for rosters too especially if the 3 U-22 players signed are also seen to be win-now players instead of just players a club hopes to make money off when selling. IE players who would be signed at 21-22 then be seen as a future TAM or DP once he hits 25. That gives 3 more quality players to help with your starting lineup and overall roster depth, and gives you 6 total DP caliber players for a team with potentially TAM players to add to that.


A hard salary cap won't even be a problem for league growth if it's sufficiently high enough. Once that salary cap is $50M+ MLS will be a Top 5 (Top 6 then) league


I keep hearing people call the salary cap a salary budget. For example, if Messi or CR7 come out and say I'm signing with MLS as the 4th DP. Would it surprise people if MLS decided to change their rules? Hell no. It's the MLS way. lol


One of the really telling things about the CBA was how it changed the USOC performances in the first couple rounds of MLS participation. Used to be that minor league pro clubs could win a game against MLS backups up to half the time, with chances slowly declining each round as more regulars participated. Now, 4-13 feels like a good showing.


I'd say it's even showing in CCL results too. 3 out of the 5 MLS CCL Finalists have come since 2018, and I'd argue those three finalists had the strongest paths since they had to beat multiple Liga MX sides to either get to the final or win. And it's not just the improved results in head-to-head meetings v Liga MX sides since TAM was implemented, but we've began to show "historical Liga MX over MLS dominance" type records and dominance over non-Liga MX sides. Like besides the Olimpia upsets (Olimpia punches way above its weight for a non-Liga MX or non-MLS side in CCL, beat the Sounders/Montreal and also came close to beating Club America the year after), a loss by a MLS side to a non-Liga MX or non-MLS team is seen as a massive upset and failure. MLS v Liga MX in knock-out ties since 2018: 11-16 (40.7%) MLS v Liga MX in knock-out ties from 2008-09 to 2016-17: 2-18 (10%) MLS v non-Liga MX sides in knock-out ties since 2018: 17-5 (77.2%)


That took a little longer, but yeah, I think it's also pretty directly related. With a deeper bench, CCL could be prioritized higher, because each team had 2-3 more players that could be counted on as regular rotation guys without feeling like you were being asked to accept too many mismatches in league play to really compete in CCL.


The biggest teams in Central America, (Saprissa, Olimpia, Comunicaciones etc.,) are all capable of pulling off upsets. I would argue they’re around low to mid-table MLS quality although they lack the depth of most Liga MX or MLS teams. MLS has steadily improved and I would argue that level of talent has gone up. Teams are more well-rounded, with greater depth. One thing I like about MLS is the emphasis on player development. If MLS ends up being a feeder league to the best leagues in Europe, there is absolutely no shame in that. South America and most of the world already operate that way.


Was it 2014? Jeez, I can't believe how everyone broadcasting back then thought it would change MLS forever. Boy, they were right.


>importing of internationals into the league at the expense of domestic players in the short term. At the expense and at the benefit of Domestic players. Less domestic players in the league, but those who do play, have the ability to play at a much higher level. There is no question Jordan Morris is a much, much better player as a result of this environment.


in the early years of r/mls we had post about the league going under now a days that doesn't cross anyone's mind. we have come a long way from where we were.


"does anyone use this reddit?"


It's a multifaceted question: * Compared to 10 years ago, I'd say the league has exceeded where I thought it *would* be. The quality is crazy different from even five years ago, 10 years ago feels like an almost entirely different ballgame sometimes. I mean that both on-field and off-field. * Compared to where it *could* be? A bit behind. It's definitely held onto the salary structures a bit more strictly than I think has been necessary - though it's difficult to say with the public's lack of access to MLS' internal numbers. I understand the caution, and it hasn't stopped the league from growing, but it's perhaps stopped it from growing as much as it could. Where we are is probably a middle ground between the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario had you asked me 10 years ago, but I'd say better than the middle-case scenario


All great points. Given the financial volatility of the early years, I can't say I blame the league for playing it safe though.


IMO, I think MLS being protectionist on their numbers is a good thing. The new owners in the past few years see MLS has maybe the next EPL. When oil money starting buying clubs in the EPL, that is when things are really start to get crazy. I think MLS is a long term investment. We still need to build a lot of TV creditability and some prestige as a league of choice for players / coaches / fans.




I'm not sure how it is in other markets but watching Orlando City games in central Florida is a pain the ass, cant help with the ratings.




I dream of any service where I can get my home town teams, ESPN, tnt, abc, nbc, fox, NBA tv, and NFL TV with nothing else


I'll offer a slightly different perspective. I'm an Australian that moved to the US 2 years ago. I've started watching MLS and for me, the quality of play is mind-blowing compared to Australia's A-League. It feels like I'm watching a European league by comparison. I say this because the US and Australia have a very similar sports history, especially with soccer. Both had top-tier soccer leagues come and fail multiple times. Both have been hindered by major rival sports that were considered more mainstream. I wanted big things for the A-League, which launched back in 2005. Since then, like MLS, the history has been rocky. Teams have come and gone. But the biggest difference between the 2 leagues is that MLS has continued to grow and evolve. It has added a LOT of teams and has gotten to a very healthy and steady 20k average attendance per match. The A-League, on the other hand, is bleeding supporters and may not last much longer. So from the perspective of someone not having grown up with MLS, I can tell you that it's phenomenal in comparison to what I'm used to. I suspect it'll only continue to grow and improve, especially with the 2026 World Cup. Side note: I can also tell you that a lot of Australian soccer fans were super envious of MLS when the crest was updated in 2015 and clubs could color-code it match their kits.


Oh man! I didn't realize how bad things had gotten - I remember seeing A-League highlights pretty prominently featured on mainstream sports programs and being very jealous you got that sort of treatment. What went wrong, in your opinion?


There’s a lot of factors, unfortunately. Things were looking good back in 2012 when Alessandro Del Piero signed. And I was blown away in 2014 when Western Sydney won the Asian Champions League (I imagine you’ll now know the feeling!). But then things just seemed to go downhill. A lot of fans weren’t happy with the way the FFA (governing body) ran the league. But I don’t think that’s the only factor because the league broke away and became independent in the last couple of years, but things are still where they are (maybe a normal schedule in the next season will help reset everything). Repetition played its part too. The 10 teams would play each 3 times a season (27 games), so people got sick of that. Naturally there are a lot of soccer fans in Australia who care more about European leagues than their local one. Not unlike here in the US. I tried to promote it to people but they wouldn’t hear of it. So that’s always an ongoing issue until the on-pitch quality is significantly higher. For me, I think one of the biggest factors of all is a long historical one. The Australian sporting landscape has been dominated by its local sport: Australian rules football (AFL), a sport most Americans will never know exists. It’s only played and known in Australia, but it’s immensely popular. The problem is that this sport’s governing body, and the media, and the government are all biased against soccer. It’s been going on for more than half a century. But unlike MLS and NFL, in Australia, the 2 sports can’t find a way to coexist. Commentators in the AFL make jokes about soccer during their own broadcasts. Government funding goes toward AFL stadiums, which are round. Rectangular stadiums in Australia are a lot harder to come by, especially in the south. When Australia put in their bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup back in 2010, the AFL refused to let them use their huge stadiums for the tournament. The list here goes on and on, but to summarize this point, the A-League will never really have a chance to thrive when the media and government don’t think soccer even exists.


I have to say that as I write this, I'm watching an AFL game, but I really do think the lack of expansion has been a big deal for the A League. I watched MLS back when it only had 10 teams, and it really was repetitive. There should be a team in Canberra and a second NZ team already. 14 teams would be workable, 16 would be better, but where would you put them? It feels to me as if everyone running soccer in Australia is ridiculously territorial, rather than working together to advance the game.


Feel like my view is unfairly biased by growing up in France, and having the closest MLS team to me be FC Dallas. The players are getting better, the fanbases are apparently getting better in other places haha. The league and some owners are the ones that I still wish could be different.


10 year ago, I was the only person in the office who followed the Timbers & MLS. Now it's common to hear people "water cooler" talk about Timbers matches and my company has a block of season tickets. I know that's not really a "metric" but it certainly shows a cultural growth of the league.


thats definitely interesting.


I'm an original '96er, and I'd say it's ahead where I expected it to be. Almost 3 times as many teams, in soccer specific stadiums and not having to lean into gimmicky stuff as when it started. When compared to the NFL, it started in 1920, playoffs started in 1933 and didn't have the first Super bowl until 1966.


Year One guy here too, and back then I would have said there's a 50-60 percent chance that the league wouldn't make it past ten years. Highlights of the Dallas Burn inaugural season included: 1) A supporters section that usually got 50-100 per game. 2) Ted Eck, defensive forward (no really, that was his official position in the program). 3) Refs so bad that one forgot to send a player off for two yellows, and another that only gave a yellow for a last man back that executed a beautiful textbook wrap the man up with both arms American Football tackle. I live in Austin now and have been to five home games so far, if you had told me 26 years ago that scenes like this were possible in a Texas soccer stadium I would have looked at you like you were from another planet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brIyBiuRx9k


To be fair on number 2 - my team has that this year with Khiry Shelton.


Nice, a buddy and myself drove down to the Cotton bowl that year to watch the Wiz v Burn, you should see a doctor match.


When Miami and Tampa Bay folded, I was sad. Remember the dominance that was Alex Pineda Chacón? He had 19 goals for the Fusion. Diego Serna was a beast too


For a league that didn’t turn the corner toward stability until around 15 years ago, when half the current teams didn’t exist yet, it’s right where it should be. I think MLS skeptics have unfair expectations for the league if they’re snubbing it for not being one of the top five soccer leagues in the world by now. It’s one thing for the US to have the top league in North American-originated sports played professionally in only one country (football), only a dozen countries (baseball and ice hockey) or is a distant No. 2 to soccer in most of the world (basketball). But for a country to go from having no stable professional domestic league to having one of the world’s top leagues is a process that will take more than a couple decades, when we’re dealing with the only globally competitive sport that has a professional presence in practically every country on earth (men’s soccer). Hell, even if MLS were to surpass every Big Five top-flight league except the EPL, I expect some of the skeptics in US mainstream sports media to STILL not consider it a “major” league just because it’s not THE top league in its sport.


the part that rubs me the wrong way are the hardcore pro/rel crowd who think its the be all and end all, negating the American Sports Landscape in general, and the differences between American Sports Structures and european sports structures.


They also always ignore the pro/rel downsides of extreme debt for many teams, and massive bubble of player valuation being contributed to.


the former NASL from the 60's and 70's should never be forgotten for that reason.


Ahead and behind in some aspects. Ahead in expansion and new stadiums opening. Behind in salary cap level and how empty stadiums look on TV for games. Really makes me sad. I took an English friend of mine to a game back in 2012. Stadium was half full. He said in ten years, will be sellouts every game. Here we are ten years later and game attendance looks less. TV ratings are still crap.


Not fully to blame, but I feel COVID really made attendence lose momentum, even for the bigger clubs. It was dipping a bit before that, though.


Attendance looks great here in Austin


Indeed. Great stadium. I hope it lasts. You still have the new car smell going for you. I hope attendance is still strong in five years.


With the way our city is growing I can see it only going up from here tbh


In terms of the casual fan I would say behind of what I expected just before I thought by now at least MLS would be slightly in the sports news cycle


**Ahead of pace in aggregate...** For disclosure, I was mostly a neutral for many years as we didn't have a team in ATL. So, I pulled for DC United briefly when I lived near Baltimore, then Philly (my childhood hometown) when they got a team. But being out of market in ATL for most of those years, I only got to watch a handful of games with those teams and mostly saw national games which were often LA Galaxy vs. someone with an occasional Seattle-Portland rivalry. Even so, as someone that followed the league from the beginning, I'd argue it's ahead of pace in aggregate. As someone else mentioned, I thought total payrolls would be a bit higher by now and I thought the overall roster rules would be a little more streamlined and less complicated. I also thought our TV ratings would be in the 1 million+ range for most national games by now and we're not even close to that yet. But the league is ahead of where I thought it would be in the following areas... * No longer just a retirement league * Overall quality of play is now pretty even with Liga MX and within striking distance of the top South American leagues. In fact, given all the talent we've poached out of Argentina, we just might be on-par with them too (but still a bit behind Brazil). * Expansion to 28 cities and soon to be 30 * Team valuations are closing-in on the NHL * The huge collection of new soccer-specific stadiums we have is outstanding, maybe top 3 or so in the world behind only England and Germany. The atmosphere at many of those stadiums is truly world-class as well. Plus, when you see crowds approaching or exceeding 70,000 in Seattle, Atlanta, and Charlotte, you know the league is starting to break through. * Youth development system is finally legit and the domestic player pool for the USMNT (and the Canadian national team) is starting to benefit from that


Love having MLS in Austin, we have zero other pro teams. The new stadium is gorgeous and easy to get to as well. The crowd is great at the games too.


I had been following the league a little bit before the Sounders joined but that was when I was first able to start going to games regularly. Since that time, I have loved attending games and following them when I can't. The league has always been at the right level for me. I'm a fan. I love watching soccer and I love going to games. I have also always loved the goal of having parity among teams. The Sounders just won the CCL this year and they did it by following the same roster rules as every other team in the league. That's not something that many other teams can say in the world. This wasn't oil money bastards or some bullshit like that putting together their hobby team. It was all determination, grit, savvy, and skill. I like that we can say that about our teams that do well. Do some teams lag behind sometimes? Sure, I think of how bad Toronto was for a while before they started showing up in finals and RIP Chivas. But the league works that out. It's always been "our" league too. The fans have kept this alive, not just TV deals. And thank God. The day that the Disney Entertainment overlords decide that they are going to start interrupting the game for the sake of commercials is the day I start to find another sport to watch. And they will. How much do you want to bet assholes like that are trying to gain that leverage for the sake of offering a deal. Many of those sports fans in the US market that a lot of people want to think MLS should compete for (football, basketball, baseball) are already trained to sit through commercials. Gross. As long as the league is always trying to improve the quality on the field, respects the sacred sport of soccer, aims for parity among teams, and is affordable to follow, I'm going to keep loving it.


If they interrupt play for commercials, I’ll cry. And I haven’t cried during a soccer match since Australia got eliminated in the World Cup by Italy in 2006. If it’s a 30-second commercial after a goal, I’ll still hate it, but I could live with it. Maybe. If it’s literally interrupting play though, I’d go ballistic. Although I can’t see FIFA allowing it. As far as I’m aware, the only stoppage they allow aside from the usual stuff is for drink breaks during hot matches. But then again, who knows


I've been watching since the inaugural season, when I knew just about nothing of the game. My expectations were very unrealistic at that time. I thought we'd have the best league and the best play in the world within a few years. I was very naive. My home town didn't even have a youth soccer club, or a soccer club of any sort. I never once thought, "hey, where will we grow the players?!" Back then, at least where I grew up as a kid, you didn't want to be *accused* of playing soccer. Forget about being caught with a soccer ball! I for sure thought the league would fold during the era when we were down to 8 (?) teams total. Prospects seemed really grim. These days? My home town has a soccer field painted on the football field. Kids play soccer. It's not as big as football, but it's there. The league doesn't seem like it'll fold tomorrow or next year. So, in that light, I'd say we are far ahead of where I thought we'd be. On the flip side, I haven't watched an MLS game all season. Because I don't have ESPN+. Last season, the only games I watched were when someone on the Earthquakes sub posted a stream of questionable legal status. The league really needs to improve their TV deals.


Your first point is an interesting one as it pertains to how the sport is viewed in the US. While it's popularity has dramatically increased with significantly more interest in MLS, international leagues and the USMNT, the anti-soccer mindset is still very prevalent. I would have expected that to die down as the sport has gotten more popular.


I'd say the stigma is almost completely gone. Maybe some chest-thumping football players might make a stupid comment about soccer, but probably not. My perspective these days comes from my kids going up through the youth leagues. Now I see all the issues in the youth system. We've got three youth soccer associations in my area (not counting AYSO) and none of them play each other. The clubs fight propaganda wars to woo over the best players. Player development is emphasized mostly in words (not actions). The real emphasis is on winning games, keeping the kids flowing in, and the main concern is just keeping the team afloat financially from one season to the next!


There’s “anti-soccer” in people who don’t like the sport ragging on it—that’s never going to go away (about anything, anywhere. Even the more popular American sports get that from people who aren’t personally a fan). That’s different from the outright hostility that the original commenter is referring to, and I agree that that has mostly gone away over time. Soccer is pretty much universally recognized, at minimum, as a legitimate sport/interest, or at the very least above complete mockery.


I've been following since the 90s so expectations have fluctuated a lot over the years. I'll say since Beckham came over this is my take: The league is ahead of where I thought it would be in quality of play, both the floor and the ceiling, but the floor being much more noticeable. The reason for this is a couple things: 1) Minimum salary has increased. Sure, $82k is nothing for professional sports, but it's better than $40k or $50k or whatever it was back then. This keeps players in MLS as opposed to trying out random European leagues for pay increases. 2) The international roster limits mean that the league floor is only as good as the wider domestic talent pool. This factor is the biggest variable, as the general American talent pool is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was. The top end of rosters have also grown in talent immensely through Homegrown, TAM, Young DP, and more DP spots. Now in terms of popularity of MLS, we're probably about where I predicted. I had hoped that some of the 1.0 and 2.0 clubs would have put more work into growing in popularity than they have, it's still much better than the empty stadiums and pure focus on soccer moms that it used to be.


For me, far ahead. I remember the 1996 final with John Harkes lifting the trophy. Soccer was finally on TV. After the initial few years of boom - fanfare, big crowds, big names - there were some really, really lean years. Contraction, pitifully low salaries and in the early 00s there was a real concern that the league might fold altogether. Since that existential moment, somehow, the league came roaring back. Beckham was a pivotal moment, as were the 10 and 14 world cups. As an OG fan, I couldn't imagine ever seeing soccer specific stadiums (30k+ in NASHVILLE?!) outside of major, obvious markets. I couldn't imagine full youth academies, multiple professional leagues and such a deep and successful pipeline of talent to Europe's biggest teams. All of those things are miles away from the first phases of league history. Agreed with everyone else, the TV product hasn't grown to the same extent as everything else. One would think the other parts, infrastructure, squads, transfers and all that would've lagged behind TV, but here we are. We're also so much more spoiled for choice now than we were in the 90s, it's incomparable. I used to wait months for a single USMNT game. If you didn't have cable your options were severely limited. But now with basically every league of interest available for a few bucks a month...my dark ages of soccer in the US brain still can't believe it


96 fan here also. I remember the days when "attendance smack" was a thing on BigSoccer, and as much time was spent analyzing ticket sales and TV ratings as on the actual on-field product. Somewhere around 2014 I realized that it had been several years since I'd even considered the possibility that the league might go under, and noticed just how *weird* that felt. So yeah, wildly ahead of my earliest expectations.


If we're just talking about quality of play/rosters/on-the-field stuff, I am pretty satisfied. I do think some owners are holding the league back, but in general I am satisfied with the increased level of play and improved rosters and also better roster depth. The DP rule did a lot to have teams sign better players to boost their 1-3 roster slots, then TAM came in and did the same for the 4-8 with residual effects to the 9-11. I think the U-22 initiative - if used well of course - will help further especially if teams use those slots on win-now players instead of solely banking on selling those players in the future. So now well-ran teams will have 6 DP caliber players as DP/U-22 players, then 4-5 TAM players who could be DP-type players too. 10-11 starting caliber players will then help feed the improvements to the roster-build down to 11-18, which while perhaps still not as deep as your typical big Liga MX side, the improvements are still tangible and we're seeing the fruits of that labor in that MLS teams are at least more competitive in CCL. Perhaps Seattle winning was a one-off that could only be replicated by a few other clubs, but seeing MLS teams at least consistently be able to beat Liga MX sides in CCL and at least make semis (I'd like to see at least 2 MLS teams in the semis in future CCL's even if an MLS team doesn't win again in the next 5 years since I think that shows stability too), so we're seeing improvements there. A huge part of making the improvements in the roster-quality and depth happen too is the improved youth development off academies seen in many MLS sides. MLS teams are getting quality talent who can at least be serviceable or good depth for a fraction of the salary fee, which adds to my argument above. So that too is a huge factor. And of course being to sell off said talent helps fund roster improvements too as well as infrastructure/club improvements, so that helps. MLS becoming more of a selling league while still being able to be one of the strongest buying leagues for a non-Big European league (along with Liga MX) is a strong and undoubtedly positive sign. MLS has always been a league that I felt punched above its weight when buying players - even during the "retirement player" days because many other middling or B/C leagues would have wanted said "retirement player" - but the improved selling nature of homegrown/young players adds a new and welcome dimension to MLS role in the world soccer market. Now a few owners are still frustrating because I feel they are holding the league back in terms of dictating where salary levels can go, but also doing a piss poor job managing their team and helping it grow. Colorado, San Jose and maybe DC are the ones that strike out the most. It has to be said even New England and the Kraft's have done well recently and spent more on a better product and a new facility (and I'd argue a new stadium away from graduating fully past this tier of bad ownership), ditto with FC Dallas and the Hunt's spending heavily this summer in both foreign and local transfers. I like a lot of what the Chicago ownership has done so far, though it'll take longer I feel to have the on-field play add up to their off-field improvements. But to me, to have bad owners still hamstrung the league is a bit of a disappointment. Infrastructure wise, much has already been said and seen about teams and new soccer-specific stadiums so I won't focus on that. Instead I'll focus on seeing more teams get their own training facility is undoubtedly a positive and bodes well for MLS teams having strong infrastructure. That to me is a massive sign of a strong and stable club, and helps not only with the first team but also with the academies, youth teams, MLS Next Pro. So seeing more teams shell out and build their own facilities sure is a sign that infrastructure wise the league growth is great. One sign of disappointment is I feel TV ratings have gone from going up to levelling off at a solid level last season to seemingly going down in a trend this season. That is where I feel the league is behind in a way. It's hard to see what could be done to improve it in the short-term or even immediate term, because I still feel even if MLS becomes a league that is non-top third Ligue 1 level (which to me is a realistic ceiling for MLS) - which would be top-6 in the world - that people still won't watch the league heavily or at least watch national TV games. Perhaps bringing back USMNT stars - which won't happen until after the 2026 World Cup - might help but still. That is where I think the league needs to try and focus attention to now. As a whole though I am pretty satisfied with where the league is at more or less.


Shaming teams in the league to get a second team and invest in youth recruitment like the sounders is very important for that infrastructure. I'm very happy with the dubloons and what it means for the league. The dubloons got a pair of transfers from Argentina and central America.


Speaking of shaming teams... we shamed Chivas out of existence. That probably helped improve the league.


What year did we progress from “retirement league”? Was it like 3-4 years ago?


I would say that the Retirement League status really fully wore off around 2015-2017. That's around when the rosters started to get more fully fleshed out with TAM and youth players, and more quality young players came to the league from overseas. Imo we are fully out of that phase at this point, with teams like Miami trying to trot out guys like Higuain who seem to be more detrimental to their squads performance than anything else.


Who were the last of the retirement league guys anyway? Like Gerard? I totally agree. I started watching in like 2017 and that’s all I had known it as so it’s been great to see the growth.


I would say yes, the Lampard/Pirlo/Gerard class was the last of the "Retirement" guys. But even they were mostly beneficial to the performance of their squad, so even that was a step up from some of the earlier examples. You also can't put a value on the effect having players of that caliber at the training ground and in the locker room on young Americans in the youth systems of MLS teams. So for as much as the guys who come over and don't perform deserve criticism, they still provide value in that respect.


Super true. That kind of experience is helpful regardless of pitch play. So I had a leader of DC United give a talk at my work in like 2017 and I asked him about the retirement league reputation and his thoughts and he was so awkward about it. But it was true. So happy it’s past that!


Pirlo had a real impact on Jimmy Sands and Lampard definitely had an impact on Jack Harrison.


We stopped being a retirement league when Kei Kamara beat Drogba.


ST Holder (well Dad was) in 1996... when I grew up in KC... have followed it closely since. Was a Charleston Battery STH in between when I moved to the south and then Atlanta United since inception. I firmly believe that David Beckham changed the fortunes of this league... and then the league was smart enough to pivot away largely from the retirement league just in time. We have had some economic fortune as well since so many of the ultra rich who own MLS franchises actually took minimal financial losses over the last 2.5 void years... whereas so much of the rest of the world was hit hard with a lack of gate receipts at sporting events and government shutdowns. MLS has been putting mechanisms in place to build up slowly (sometimes too slow for some of you) and then removing training wheels as stability is realized. This league is becoming a legit destination for players who are good but not quite great... The owners have seized opportunities to lure players from South America but also from Europe with the DP and TAM slots... America for all its faults is a great selling point. We live a very good life here if you are compensated nicely. We are beyond what I thought we would be and I think the momentum hinges on the next media deal.. Brand expansion at home and abroad. Folks will notice that the product is EONS ahead of where it was in 2012 when David departed.


Since TFC came to be, I definitely expected the league to have no cap/much higher cap to allow ambitious teams to sign players. But were not there yet


It's way behind my 1998 expectations. It's miraculously ahead of my expectations after 2004 and still way ahead of my expectations after the Toronto FC expansion. The flood of money to the European leagues changed my future expectations. I think trying to spend like the euro clubs is sure death to any US league.


Ahead for me. When I first started following I was in DC in the late 90s. I thought it was cool to have a domestic league, but I just assumed it would fold at some point. The other time it looked like a death spiral was contractions. The fact that the league still exists has exceeded my expectations


Been a fan since 1996, as I was a Columbus Crew season ticket holder from then until I moved away from Columbus over a decade ago. I think soccer in general in this country is behind where I expected it to be by now. Not many people pay attention to the league like they do with the NFL, MLB, and NBA. And outside of the US making a run at the World Cup (both men's and women's teams) and the occasional ManU/Real Madrid/Liverpool/etc. preseason (late summer) tournaments those teams have had here, not many people seem to care. So based on the level of attention MLS teams get in general and attendance levels, I'd say the product on the field is in par with those numbers (salaries, quality of play, etc.). I just wish the league as a whole would be making more money so it could invest in even better players.


Definitely behind. It's still just not relevant to the casual sports fan in or outside the U.S. I kept hearing how MLS's young diverse fan base was going to make it a top league but it hasn't happened and I'm not sure if it will at this rate. No one I know who cares about sports knows anything about MLS, other than the people I specifically met through the Timbers


I started following in 1996 (I remember the days when the Crew played in Ohio stadium...and when Ohio Stadium was a horseshoe) The league is WAAAAAAAAY ahead of where I expected it to be right now in every metric except TV ratings. I expected TV ratings to be much stronger by now, and they're not.


Been following since '96, but I was in 6th grade at the time and how no concept or expectations for the future. Really started following international soccer during 2002 World Cup. Might have shown my own bias right there, but during the 2002 World Cup and then during the 2006 World Cup I really expected/hoped that the US would see a soccer boom. I think some of that has come to fruition in terms of the level of play in the first teams, and especially in the academies that have started producing world-class talent. The impact on larger popular culture has not come as far as I would have hoped. The last few years have been really interesting for me because, as I said, I started following the Dallas Burn in the mid 90s when I was in school. I even had FCD season tickets at one point and got to see a high-school class mate of mine play for our home town team. But the fan support was always disappointing to me. We might sell out if Beckham or Henry came to town, but that was about it. For the past 10 years, however, I have lived in Austin. And I am now an Austin FC season ticket holder, and that experience has been night and day. I don't mean to disparage Dallas, I just mean to say that there are some clubs and stadiums in this league that really engage the fan base and create a great atmosphere, and others that seem dead. In that regard I think the first step was to create some high quality markets and environments to show that it can be done. Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, LAFC, Minnesota come to mind. I'd even give the Galaxy credit as taking the first real stab at that with the Beckham and Donovan signings back in the day. The next step is to have that be the standard. We are seeing Columbus bring the club and stadium level up to match what the team and supporters are doing, Nashville is in a new stadium and starting to look like a quality club with a real culture behind it, Inter Miami has had some issues, but seems to have a fan base and looks like a new stadium deal on the way. Austin showed some real passion last year and still has the longest active sellout streak in the league, and the team and club seem to have made significant strides. But there are still teams and stadiums that are kind of depressing. I was low key shocked and disappointed by what I saw when Austin traveled down to Houston last weekend. Granted it was in the middle of a hot Texas Saturday with very little shade, but there were more empty seats than there were occupied seats...and by a good margin. I would guess that 1/3 to almost 1/2 of the spectators there were supporting Austin. That's the next step. They say an amateur can get it right once in a while, a master never misses. The MLS has shown we can get it right, now we need to up that base level.


been following since TFC showed up. based on my initial (pretty uninformed and honestly ignorant) thoughts- it's behind. I assumed naively that 1) MLS 2.0 would grow far quicker in the US and 2) the power of the us financial might and draw of being able to live in la/ny/toronto/mtl etc would draw a lot of top players would combine and MLS would be a borderline top 10 league within 10 years. though by 2010 when I understood the league and probably more importantly a lot more about soccer in the US, the politics, the tv stuffs etc, I reset expectations relative to those expectations, MLS today is ahead of where I'd expect to be off topic- I moved to NZ in 2014. back when I started watching MLS, A league and MLS were considered roughly equal in quality. when I first moved here, A league reminded me of watching early TFC games (in quality, minus the atmoshpere etc) I dont really watch a league, and watched my first game in several years this year. I was shocked at how bad a league was. it really made me reflect on how far MLS has come so fast


Yep, A-League has gone pretty south. This season, average attendance has plummeted to something like 5,000. COVID restrictions played their part, but fans still aren't coming to games now that things have eased up. Australia has a pretty weird and unique sports market. Definitely makes for a good comparison for anyone doubting MLS. Considering MLS' age, it's thriving.


yeah the attendance at the reds/highlanders game last night was pretty shocking. even eden park got 15k for a game against probably the worst/least interesting team in the comp most of the aus states really bungled the covid stuffs though. not like, US/UK level or anything. but compared to how WA or NZ did at least edit: also I dont think we should sell MLSs growth short either. went from a minor league to top 15 in the world at this point in quality. thats honestly super impressive. whether a league stagnated the same, or got worse, either way it shows how it couldve gone for MLS and how well MLS 2.0 went and hopefully how well MLS 3.0 is going


I’d say right where I expected. Yes it’s leaps and bounds different but in early 2000s it was so obvious that the game was going to grow in just an insane way, and MLS had the right ingredients to be where it happened. It was weird and unique, but most importantly the passion was always there. Anyone who didn’t think soccer would become bigger just wasn’t paying attention. And so many people in America, like Jim Rome (lol), weren’t. But it’s just as obvious today that we’re on the path to winning a wc eventually.


so I did a quick Cntrl+F to search the keyword "defense" in this thread. no results. I have the impression the MLS has grown tremendously in market, fanbase, attracting great talent from around the globe, even snatching them off direct competition like brazil and mexican leagues. But, how has your league improved defensively? Do you guys buy any defensive DP that really contribute for the defensive solidity of the league?


Money is spent on defenders but nowhere the rate of offense. Big money earners include Omar Gonzalez, Liam Ridgewell, Chad Marshall, Thiago Martins, Rafa Marquez (remember that guys lol), Ashley Cole, Demarchs Beasley, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Walker Zimmerman etc. Part of it was the nature of the leagues spending. You only had 3 DPs who you needed to be impactful. Now that we have DPs, TAM, and Young Money you have more room to spend on defense than in years past. And its paid dividends. Championship winning teams tend to have the more elite defenses (even if its only for that year). For instance Chad Marshall for Columbus and then Seattle, Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers for Ptx, Chanot and Callens for NY etc


> defensive solidity of the league? What does that mean? > Do you guys buy any defensive DP Very rarely, but the teams that do seem to do extremely well. Which makes it odd that it isn't more common. Even with the teams that have had defensive DPs. Paulson praised our "DP spine" when we won the cup in 2015, and then proceeded to never sign another DP defensive player


I just think we should continue with the expansion, I won't be satisfied as long as the MLS has 36 teams playing 35 unique games, it's a possibility that the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB can't emulate.


I actually agree. Still a lot of room to expand into and capture medium size markets if there is a billionaire ready to shell for it. Places like Louisville, Sacramento or New Mexico would certainly get a massive following if they could find an ownership.


I've seen people saying that New Mexico wouldn't be able to sustain a major team, that's small mentality, Villarreal was Europa League champion last year and reached the UCL semis this year in a city with less than 70K All they need is a billionaire, and they don't even have to be top spend squads which they never would be, I bet my ass they in a 22k stadium would sell out more than Houston Dynamo, San Jose or Colorado


It over expanded.


Been watching since 2010. I kinda expected more tbh. I’d imagine teams having 5 DP’s. Did not expect this many teams in the league also. The style of play has been more attractive. And my family that watch Liga mx now watch MLS from time to time and talk about it every once in a while. Never in a million years expected that. And I must say that’s the best.


I started following in 2008. The league is miles ahead of what I expected in quality of play, spending and support. Back then, MLS was a minnow league where most of its teams play out of baseball or NFL stadiums. No investment existed in youth academies, training complexes and such. A lot of more work to do however, but that's the nature of incremental growth. Cautiously optimistic for the next 10, 20, 30 years. I'm more of a realist that can say MLS will probably be in the Top 10 soccer league with a considerable amount of growth in 2032.


It’s so much bigger than when I started watching 20+ years ago.


It's still around, so, ahead.


[Following since '96] The league is bigger than I thought it would (or should) get- at least for a first division. The relative success of a disconnected USL is surprising to me, I was expecting MLS to go in that direction once it was clear they weren't going to die. Stadium attendance hasn't grown as much as I expected, with a few exceptions. What has surprised me more than MLS is the great popularity of the EPL and the Champions' League, etc. While there is some synergy there, I think it does make people look down on MLS a little bit, as does the recent underwhelming performance of the men's national team.


Casually watched when I was a kid, started following much more seriously when the Quakes returned in ‘08. I wouldn’t say that I had ever thought about where the league would be, but I’m hard pressed to think about what hasn’t improved in the past 10-15 years. Sure, some bits have improved more than others: if you ever watch old MLS matches, the quality of play today is so much higher. But even the areas with work to do, like TV coverage, is significantly better than it was in the past. Say what you will about ESPN & Fox, but damn it’s better than it used to be. That’s one of the things I like about MLS. In general, the league continues to improve as a whole. Even if my Quakes are terrible.


To be honest, I’d definitely say they’re ahead of where I thought they’d be in 2012. Successful expansion in cities like Atlanta and Nashville were things I never could expect seeing how poor of a sports city ATL is. Another surprise for me was the continued and even accelerated growth of the league in 2018 while the National Team failed to qualify for the WC. The MLS marketing model was so reliant on bringing in fans from WC exposure. Seeing they’ve added 4 new clubs since then in viable young markets has been a treat to watch. Also, the way the league handled the COVID pandemic was quite impressive, being the first NA League to play in the FL Bubble with the MLS is Back Tournament. I’d definitely say the level of play is where I expected it to be, with far more to offer.


the way Garber talked about being a top league in the world soon, you would have to say majorly disappointed. but since I never believed the TV ratings or fan engagement was ever that impressive outside of a few markets, I knew better than to expect so much. I would say MLS has exceeded pessimistic expectations and vastly underachieved on optimistic projections


I started watching regularly in 2006. Its a mix. I would've been impressed with alot of things. But I had suspicions then about the ambition of the league office -- that they weren't actually as ambitious as they wanted to seem in 2006 -- and those would've been confirmed. The moves that the league has made recently toward focusing on developing young players, becoming a league of choice for CONCACAF and accepting your place as a selling league in a global market were clear in 2006 and there's no reason it should've taken them 15 years to accept and react to what was obvious at the time. It doesn't feel like they're making wrong moves it just feels like they're making obvious moves 5-8 years too late. In alot of ways the pre-TAM era from 2006-2015 looks like a waste of time where the leagues critics were proved right ...


The development you noted of course started building about when you started paying attention too, not long after their worst period of hemorrhaging money. Obviously the dividends take much longer to appear.


But you also have to understand the attitude from the time and the expectations that were set were different though. They used to call the salary cap rules "the training wheels" in a way that made it seem like, you know, training wheels come off at some point. In 2006 the idea that by 2016 we'd have a completely open salary cap of $12M seemed much more obvious and likely than what we got which is TFC spending $20M with the training wheels still in place. We expected that the league central office would release control to the clubs so that they would be free to do their own business in the global market and for there to be like an innovative laboratory of how well a salary cap league could work and instead we got a strange, confusing blueprint that the league forces every team to follow that even some owners will admit doesn't work well and prevents the league from being what it could be.


This is all really well put. I'd posit that the training wheel mechanisms have helped to keep the league financially stable, and we've seen rapid expansion in lieu of more lax financial rules. Ironically that expansion, and the new owners that are being brought into the fold because of it, are likely going to be a driving force behind those training wheels coming off sooner rather than later.


It might not even be ironic. It might be intentional. The more owners you bring in with ambition, the less power the unambitious have. I'm not saying that is why the league focused on expansion, but sometimes the best path to change is neither simple nor direct.


Thats the thing -- the training wheel rules that they've created since 2006 have nothing to do with financial stability at all. The type of open cap that I think the league should go to, the type advocated by the owner of the Fire recently *is what the roster rules were in 2008 when David Beckham signed*. There was one non-tradeable DP slot for a marquee big name player, and then everyone else was just under the salary cap. They didn't have to create the restrictions of TAM slots and GAM and additional DP slots and young money slots, they could've simply just raised the salary cap by the same amount and maintained the same amount of financial stability. The ridiculous salary rules they have now do not save money, they just allow the league office to exert way too much control over how teams were able to spend their salary in a way that has no clear upside.


Great points! I believe the article that Stejskal and Tenorio did for the Athletic a few months ago where they interviewed league GMs indicates that there will be a strong push within the league for more lax salary rules. I think we are approaching that "rubber meets the road" moment, where the league and owners realize that in order to really get this league to where it wants to be, real spending needs to start.


Perfect time before the 2026 World Cup.


The growth is good. The territorial expansion is good. The level of play has increased. The league is very healthy. It’s probably ahead of pace by most important “will it survive” measures. The entertainment value is well below my expectations. Many clubs are less than 10 years old, so I don’t know what I expected, but there’s no showmanship in an average match. It feels like there’s very little “to” this league beyond what happens between the chalk. And that’s ok to a degree, but the reason every major league in the world (not just soccer!) is fanatically followed has a lot to do with context, history, storylines, superstar narratives, etc. There is very, very little of that in MLS. If you don’t fanatically love soccer and/or just decide to love your hometown team, sometimes MLS feels like the old west town built of plywood fronts with nothing behind it. Right now it’s a league (for good reason) for Uber fans and not for the average sports fan, and every successful league is successful because the average everyday fan is its backbone.


WAYYYYY AHEAD. Ten years ago I was in an MLS academy and because of that I spent a good amount of time around the senior club. Being in an academy then was just glorified high school ball, now it means you’re on your way to pro and nothing will stop you but you. The senior clubs with the exception of LA, Seattle, and New York, we’re all pretty Mid I’d even go as far to say that the average former player could walk onto most clubs pretty easily ten years ago. When i entered the academy it was 2011 and when I left it was 2016. I watched that club go from a bunch of mid players to having European legends and now to today having the best striker in CONCACAF history and become the home to the best CONCACAF has to offer when they’re done with europe. The MLS as a whole now has budding world class talent in each club and has even surpassed Liga MX in terms of skills and trophies will follow in time. MLS is leaps and bounds ahead of what it was ten years ago and I expect in another ten years that we can expect to be the 4th top league in the world right behind Premier league/ La Liga/ Bundesliga. Today as we speak if you remove PSG from Ligue 1 the MLS would be the 4th top league already. Remove Bayern, Madrid, and Barcelona and we’re competing for the 2-3 spot. In time we’ll inevitably end up the top league in the world, we’re the richest country in the world, where every sport except soccer is losing its fan base. Makes me feel lucky to had been born when I was because there’s no way I would make an academy today.


> Today as we speak if you remove PSG from Ligue 1 the MLS would be the 4th top league already You are absolutely delusional.


All those chumps like Marseille, Monaco, Lille, Lyon, and Bordeaux would be competing for wooden spoons if they were in MLS. /s


> today having the best striker in CONCACAF history Disrespectful af to Hugo Sanchez


Incredible mix of unique and relevant perspective (former academy), genuine great reason for positivity (second paragraph), and then absolute delusion (MLS 4th in the world if you factor out PSG from France). A rollercoaster of optimism into nonsensical madness. Exactly like MLS. 10/10.


I honestly don’t know if what you’ve said is true but I’m going to upvote you because, dammit, that was inspiring.


> Remove Bayern, Madrid, and Barcelona and we’re competing for the 2-3 spot Enjoyed the perspective of the post, up to this part. Holy shit, come on now - MLS still lags behind even Holland and Portugal. Hell, I’d even argue it’s a step or two behind Scotland. And that doesn’t even begin to factor in the English Championship and other quality second tiers in Europe. The MLS is not as bad as its detractors think. It’s also nowhere close to as good as its biggest supporters think.


I think OP is talking about money spent/revenue and if so I believe they are correct. In terms of quality of play though, MLS is definitely getting there but as you said, there are still a few top flight leagues that edge out over MLS and second tier, especially ones like the English Championship. I think some MLS teams could fit quiet comfortably in somewhere like the Championship.


> I think OP is talking about money spent/revenue and if so I believe they are correct. They’re not. Even relegation battling teams in La Liga spend more than almost all MLS teams.


Gotcha. I was looking at Wiki and as of 2019, MLS is 6th in terms of revenue.


> Holy shit, come on now - MLS still lags behind even Holland and Portugal. Hell, I’d even argue it’s a step or two behind Scotland. That's not really an argument you could make even a decade ago. We have almost as many markets the size of their entire country as they have teams in their first division. At some point the revenue was going to translate into higher levels of talent throughout the league rendering these kinds of debates obsolete, and we've long since reached that point. SPFL still can punch above its weight (though even Rangers and Celtic aren't close to what they were; you can see it in continental play), but with respect to MLS, it would still be punching up. And neither is Portugal any more the top 3 than it is the bottom 3. People don't seem to realize the entire bottom half of that league averages at best a few thousand people a game, and sometimes plays in front of mere hundreds. And the lack of revenue from that is pretty well reflected in the rosters. These are just realities.


Let's compete with Mexico consistently before we say we're competitive with all but two teams in Spain better than us and one in Germany, ffs. If Atletico, Sevilla, Villarreal etc were in MLS it'd be a bloodbath. Some perspective, please.


I say this as a Sevilla fan, they'd win, but bloodbath is too strong of a word. The thing about La Liga is yes, those teams are awesome, but you also end up with teams such as Cadiz or Rayo Vallecano, neither of whom has anything on your average MLS team.


I'm 95% of the way with you, but no way MLS competes with Italy, Spain, Germany, or even France. Look at how Busio and Tessman are floundering at Venezia, or how a guy like Carles Gil can be MVP in MLS. Being on par with Portugal/Netherlands is really impressive! One thing that really struck me was an interview with Nathan, the new San Jose CB, after he came from the Swiss league. He said something like "An atmosphere like this doesn't exist anywhere I've played" - and he's right! Even the Earthquakes, who are about as middling as it gets, are a better game than most of Europe and South America. I'd say I'm blown away by how much MLS has grown. Even without any of the USMNT stars playing in the league, it's got way better support than I could have expected and it's a league of choice for the Western Hemisphere, selling more talent than LigaMX but providing a higher floor than Argentina, Colombia, or Brazilian leagues.


Surely there has to be more context to that. Nathan played for Palmeiras.


You have to be delusional to think the Earthquakes have a better atmosphere than most clubs in South America. He only said that because the Earthquakes are his current employer.


Very cool perspective and I agree with a lot of what you said. >Today as we speak if you remove PSG from Ligue 1 the MLS would be the 4th top league already This is absolutely 100% nonsense. As it stands, PSG does exist - and even without PSG Ligue 1 is better than MLS. Clubs like Marseille, Monaco, Lyon, Lille, etc. would wipe the floor with the best MLS clubs 9 times out of 10. The bottom half of Ligue 1? More of a fair fight against the upper-echelon of MLS, but Ligue 1 as a whole is still measurably better even minus PSG. If we're being realistic, top-to-bottom, MLS is currently in the 8-12th bracket in terms of league spot worldwide. The top five euro leagues are clearly a step above (England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France). The next couple of leagues are some mix of Portugal, the Dutch Eredivisie, and I'd personally say Brazil - that's your 6-8th grouping, IMO, though I think you could exchange the Netherlands or Brazil for one of the leagues in the 8-12th bracket if you wanted - Portugal is pretty firmly in 5-8th. 8-12th is some ordering of Argentina, Russia, Liga MX, MLS, and the English Championship. You can toy around with the back end of this group, maybe you think the top ends of Austria, Scotland, Belgium, Turkey, etc. are strong enough to break into the top 12, fine, I can understand that logic. But overall, these league have some top clubs that are better than most MLS clubs, some bottom clubs that are worse than most MLS clubs, and on average I'd say it about equals out. Personally, I'd place Argentina and Liga MX 8th and 9th in some order, over MLS, Russia (it's very much fallen off these days), and the Championship about equivalent and put MLS somewhere from 10-12th overall.




is same with better graphics and stadiums. i mean league is moving in right direction but clincing to american way of playing football is boring. you just saw difference when you use simple world wide football tactics(bielsa) how it looks and how exiting is and watching american trying to simplify football. there is a reason hainze , de boer stam, and almeida did not work they want to play next level complicated tactics football and american mls is just not ready for it


I would probably say on par to maybe slightly ahead of where I thought it'd be; I'm a realist in my optimism. I think the league has done a lot of good things and is slowly growing but still has many areas of improvement and opportunities. Even though the ride might seem slow I'm still as excited as ever to be a small part of it.


2002 - Miles ahead of where I expected us to be. Having our own stadiums, academies, the player signings, quality of play, supporter culture. I remember watching matches in 50K stadiums with maybe couple thousand people with grid iron lines and level of play I'd say most USL sides now surpasses. There were legitimate concerns about the viability of the league and several clubs might fold any day (Kansas City seemed to be prime one). I thought someday we'd be stable, but the rapid expansion (the fact my local city Cincinnati got a club!) and over all success of MLS has been several degrees beyond my expectations. The league isn't going anywhere and with the massive investment coming in I only seeing it getting stronger and establishing deeper roots. Sure, there are clubs with issues, but what is an outlier today was the standard back then.


I've been watching since the very first season when I used to take the bus out from Port Authority to Giants Stadium. Today's league is ahead in quality, stature, relevance, pitch quality (except for the few plastic pitch teams left), and stadiums but behind in mainstream acceptance and viewing audience. ESPN's average cable audience today is about where it was 20 years ago - when the amount of cable subscribers wasn't significantly different. There were far less teams then so maybe that made it easier for people to follow the league as a whole and watch games not involving their own team. Plus the league had more USMNT stars back then which might have helped the viewing audience.


Started following in 2005 or 2006 just after MLSE had announced it's expansion plans for a team in Toronto. It's far ahead of what I expected. I had really low expectations originally, even accepting the reality the league would likely fold inside a decade or so. Half expected people in Toronto to not come out to the games, but was proven wrong on that in the first season. I remember when DeRo and De Guzman came to Toronto that felt like a peak and I expected that type of situation would be almost best case. I remember thinking we'd get CMNT guys coming out at the end of their career and that'd be a best case scenario. Osorio having a career in Toronto, or Toronto effectively redeveloping Laryea was outside the scope I expected from the team at that point. So all in, I think the league and team have done a hell of a lot more than I expected. That doesn't mean it's all roses obviously, but coming out of the dark ages of early TFC for that run in 2017 was a different type of fun. For me, practically every component of the league is ahead of what I expected. The infrastructure specifically, from stadiums for training grounds, is way beyond what I could have dreamed in 2007. The quality of the players, and specifically, the age of some of those quality players is shocking. Taty being a standout right now, but even with Brenner not taking the league by storm just the fact that he is in MLS would have blown my mind back then. So yah, shockingly ahead in pretty much every capacity. It's incredible. Only thing I think is behind would be broadcast, I can't watch any game I want here in Canada. Which is disappointing.


Ahead in some aspects, but behind in others. Ahead in terms of DPs and TAM, but far behind in terms of overall salary cap. Ahead in terms of more teams than I thought there would be. Behind in attendance, but maybe that's because I'm in the NW.


Relatedly, while DPs are maybe a bit ahead of what I expected, the level of the lower 2/3rds or so of rosters is definitely behind where I had hoped we'd be. The very average and the filler players are often just not that good for a league that has this much money and quality near the top of rosters.


And for that you can blame how MLS is structured.


Way beyond. Started watching in 2010 when I was 15. If you told almost anyone who was fan back then what the league would be now most would be astonished.


A bit ahead; we’ve moved away from being a retirement home which is good, but the league still needs international exposure to become truly attractive to players; feels like the league is a selling league now, which isn’t what I’d want it to be personally If there’s a CWC Seattle being there will be huge for MLS though


Following since 2001 season, league grew absurdly fast and there's some really strong talent. I hope expansion slows the fuck down so teams can fill out their roster with good players and strengthen the bench instead of having the huge drop after your top 2-3 bench players. But stadiums, cities, academies, talent, etc is certainly well above where I thought things were only a little while after the Florida contraction and talk of the league folding.


I think everything is as expected, except some of the owners that don’t invest enough on their teams. The sounders winning the CCL is huge though. Hopefully it helps the MLS negotiate decent tv rights. More money and more coverage will take MLS to another level. I think the next CCL will be even more fun to watch.


Ahead in terms of quality, credibility, and infrastructure. Attendance and TV audience are still problems, especially in big markets. It's weird too, because a lot of the rot tends to be older teams. I actually think to some extent being an old team that was around in the early years is almost a curse because you were around when the league was a genuine laughingstock and these owners often haven't caught up to modern spending habits. It took new ownership for Chicago or Houston to start spending cash, but Colorado and SJ for example haven't been so lucky, and SKC basically had to do a full-on relaunch when Sporting Park opened to go from "nobody cares about you" to "one of the league's model clubs" seemingly overnight


Infrastructurally and team count, way ahead. Play quality, behind. Fan since '96.


I remember back in the day you could count the number of Argentines on one hand and have fingers left over. Now they're the 3rd most represented nationality in MLS.


Been following since 1998. The league is right where I expected it to be. However, the league has expanded a lot and I feel like the player / talent pool has diluted. You are starting to see a more separation from the teams that invest and the teams that don't invest. As other commentatiors have noted, we are behind in TV money. You can only grow this league organically and that has been the MLS blue print for awhile. Back in the late 90s and early 00's, MLS had marketed itself to soccer moms and whatnot. It wasn't until later that it found itself marketing to a different marketing segment. Give this league time and it will grow into a strong league. I don't think we will ever compete with the tv money that Europe gets.


I think the pool of players still needs to catch up. If they stayed at 20-21 they could have really put some great teams out there. Don't get me wrong...I played this sport all my life and I love it and I'm happy these new stadiums are already sold out, it's great. If it's"major league" it should be the best of the best. I would live to see them switch tovthebeautioean model and bring in all the us league teams and create a relegation system.


When I started following the MLS around 2010, nobody took the league seriously, not even those who were living in a city with a team. Now it's easily up there with the 4 major leagues of North America. I love it!


Behind what I expected, but I’m not displeased.


I'd say its about 3-5 streets ahead of where I thought it would be.


For me, far, far ahead. I'm from the DC area, and old enough to have watch the very first MLS game, DCU vs SJ. The quality of play was poor that season. The difference in skill between the allocated and "regular" payers (for lack of a better word) was embarrassing, to be honest. Furthermore, some attendances were abysmal. Like 7k average in Kansas City, and IIRC something similar in SJ and Tampa.. The league was mocked & ridiculed by major sports media when it launched. Even 2-3 years in, there were questions about the league's ability to survive. But look at the league now! I think a huge factor was MLS growing into a legitimate career path for hotshot college & ODP players. Before MLS, players that could have formed the rank & file of MLS had to quit & move on to other careers. But like 7-8 years in, MLS became a viable career for promising young players. I think that really helped to fill out the rosters & dramatically raise the level of play. JMHO.


Debería haber liga de ascenso pues por ejemplo, el Chicago fire siempre termina de último y está en la mayor. Para hacerla más competitiva los equipos deben bajar si su rendimiento es malo y subir a los que están en la USL para que esto sea más competitivo. El Chicago fire está ya acostumbrado a ser de los equipos mediocres y se conforma con saber que para qué competir si no va a bajar a una categoría inferior


Han hecho grandes (y malas) inversiones en jugadores como Schweinsteiger, Nico Gaitán o Shaqiri. El problema es su proyecto deportivo, no la inversión.


My feeling is that the league is ahead of where I expected it to be!


Way ahead and getting better every season


'96 here. So ahead. Players coming in from southern leagues has always been a thing but these players aren't 20 or 35 anymore. Mid career players are playing here. There wasn't a proper youth program for 10+ years. MLS Jr teams showed up and soon later academies and much more have grown. The league is surviving by itself. What I mean is that stadiums are selling out without having a sideshow of Freddy Adu and David Beckham. Markets don't need these large names and crazy stories to be relevant. Teams used to blackout the Galaxy just because David Beckham was going to show up, then he not play. I never thought the league would survive with more than 18+ teams but that's proven to be false. I do still think that a MLS 1 and MLS 2 is still in the works. The playoff system is easy to follow for Americans but for the strength of the league, having 16+ teams in a 30 team league make playoffs makes for a lame mid-end of season for most teams. Everyone will disagree I know but I wish there was a more interesting system than what we have now.


I got into 08 when Sounders joined, which was officially when MLS was born as a league, let's just be honest about that fact 😀 My first impression for for the first half of the season was "what kind of 4th regional bulgarian bullshit league is this?!" And it was like that till about 2014 - 2016, that is when quality started ramping up. Majority teams did not just run around like drunk chickens, they were actually doing something meaningful for spells of the game. Quality of the game is good now, however, due to expansions and almost everyone able to get in playoffs, I tune out MLS till the last 10 matches if Sounders are in the fight for a playoff spot. If they are secured, I just watch playoffs. On the course to be a good feeder league, certain academies are doing their work, others need to step up. Went from F to solid C/B-.


The league is split between the haves and have nots. MLS 3.0 consists of Philly Union, LAG, LAFC, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Charlotte, Austin and the Ohio clubs. Then you have clubs stuck in MLS 2.0 with cheap owners, shitty FO, horrible attendances. These are your Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes, Colorado rapids, etc.


The growth of USL will help MLS get rid of these mediocre teams, I can see relocation happening more naturally between MLS and USL (closest to pro-rel), with San Antonio, Pittsburgh, Memphis, New Mexico, Indiana, Sacramento, Louisville, that kind of market coming in instead of Houston, San Jose and Colorado, I didn't even count Las Vegas, Phoenix, Detroit because those are likely to be unavoidable. A lot of people think Colorado Rapids is safe because it's from Denver, I think we've reached a point where market size doesn't matter, especially when it's already full of teams in town, I know people in Louisville, New Mexico would give it a finger to have a single major team.


Way behind where I thought it could be. Tv numbers are terrible, attendance still sucks, and the quality isn’t as good as I thought it would be.


It was supposed to talk about the league, not the San Jose Earthquakes