Why MLS = A Retirement Home



A few football hacks have been criticised on Twitter for suggesting that ‘Major League Soccer’ is nothing more than a retirement league. People have often answered back with the line ‘Have you even watched the league?’.

Well let me tell you, I have watched the league and it is a retirement home for some world-class stars who have lost a bit of their shine!

Just look at the European household names that currently reside in MLS; Thierry Henry, Mikael Silvestre, Marco Di Vaio, Tim Cahill, Carlo Cudicini, Peguy Luyindula, Kenny Miller and Robbie Keane. They are all over thirty with most being in their mid-thirties or older.

Then you look at some of the other notable players from outside the US and you have; Djimi Traore, Obafemi Martins, Frederic Piquionne, Steven Caldwell, Sam Lloyd, Nigel Reo-Coker, Andy O’Brien, Matteo Ferrara and Jordan Stewart. A lot of these players are also older and all are journeymen.

They are all in the US for a good/decent wage.

A lot of hype has been made since the Jermain Defoe signing for Toronto FC was announced. But at 31, would he get a £60k plus weekly wage or even a four year deal at one of the sides in Europe’s top leagues? I don’t think so.

Would Tottenham have got in the region of £8m for a striker over thirty, who has only one league goal to his name this term, from any other league? I seriously doubt it.

Look at the last ten years at some of the players who also turned up in MLS. You have Rafael Marquez, Cuahtemoc Blanco, Juninho Pernambucano, Freddie Ljungberg, Alessandro Nesta, Youri Djorkaeff, Torsten Frings, Marcelo Gallardo and of course David Beckham.

That list tells me two things.

Firstly that MLS was/is a golden last payday for ageing stars. But secondly it also shows why the league has become an exciting league. Who wouldn’t pay money to watch most of those stars?

Instead of fighting against the retirement home tag, MLS supporters should embrace it. The league has evolved and is better because gates have gone up and the home talent has improved.

Now we see top US internationals like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley return to the league earlier in their careers after successful stints in Europe. That’s the best way for the league to improve and get even more spectators into the stadiums, fans love seeing top stars (even if they are a bit past it) and successful homegrown talent. Add a good group of up incoming central American youngsters and you have a very watchable product.

The trouble is you can’t fight your location. The really big money is in Europe and that is down to the Champions League. MLS sides just can’t compete with that, nor should they. It would be a very reckless business model if the MLS throw all their money at some stars at their peak.

Just because you have a league that isn’t full of top players in their prime doesn’t mean you have a bad league. I’ve watched quite a few MLS games over the past three years and I’ve been impressed with the standard of play, the competitiveness and the excitement the league structure lends itself too.

In football everything gets defined and compared. We have the top leagues, the stepping stone leagues, the rich leagues, the smaller leagues and the retirement home leagues. These definitions/comparisons change from time to time. But at the moment the MLS falls into the last category.

Listen I know all about it. I am Scottish. Our league has been called a small league, a retirement home league, a rich league and a stepping stone league. You learn just to go with it and enjoy your football.

As long US soccer continues to evolve and is exciting to watch, then who cares what us Europeans say?

7 Responses to “Why MLS = A Retirement Home”

  1. This article lost it’s credibility on the second word. It’s not “The MLS”, it’s MLS.

    But I do concur with your last line: “As long at the MLS continues to evolve and is exciting to watch, then who cares what us Europeans say?”

  2. I would argue that is just down to me being European. When I use acronyms with leagues I stick a ‘the’ in front. Like the SPL or The EPL.

  3. You may argue that, sure, but I could also argue that you are being ham-handed in calling our league, in essence, The Major League Soccer. Which makes not sense. What does that say then about the accuracy of the rest of your article?

    Sincerely, Jass.

  4. It shows that it is in fact an opinion piece on a blog. A successful blog but a blog none the less.

  5. And as it offended you Hugh, I have went through & taken out all the ‘The MLS’ out.

  6. scott, don’t sweat it. i’m american and same ‘the MLS’ all the time. there is a vocal minority that get their panties in a bunch whenever anyone adds the ‘the’. fuggem,

    i think you view THE MLS a bit worse then i do, but seem to have an overall good natured take on it. i think MLS is a young league, and is using big name players to add some marketing oomph, while it gets its legs under it. the arab league is a straight up retirement league, and there is a big difference.

    between the US population size and the size of the US economy, its only a matter of time before our domestic league is ranked as one of the best. we only need to achieve similar finances as our least popular major sport (NHL, fourth by a large margin) to equal the financials of the EPL.

  7. Thanks Murikan.

    Haha you have to take everything with a smile on here.

    Yeah I agree. MLS is much better off than the Arabian leagues due to a better understanding and structure.

    It will only get better if crowds continue to grow.

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