How strong is MLS compared to other Leagues? Updated Methodology x2

An intriguing topic to so many who follow MLS is just how good is this league? I commonly refer to it as between the 15-25 range, but that is a wide range, and highly subjective. Without the Holy Grail of statistics finding a unified number across leagues though can there be an objective study on league strength rather than the classic arguments centered on the top third of a league or its middle third?

Within UEFA they use the coefficient system, which has strengths, and some weaknesses but with the interplay brought about by the Champions League and the Europa League it is a decent system, but where do CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, and the AFC fit into that? The Coefficient system also ignores second and third leagues, which in England, Germany and Spain can be pretty damn strong.

So I thought to myself, why not judge a league's strength by how many of its members are likely to be at South Africa? At this point we only have estimates, so of course I will have to update when 23 man rosters are announced, but for now I used only those players on wikipedia with 10 plus caps for all 32 teams. Sure there are some leagues with over-representations due to the closed system that their national leagues use, but this should be a fair estimate, that will get stronger next June.

Number one is very obvious and needs no massaging of the numbers. The Barclay's Premier League will have more representation than any other league. Not just because of England, the EPL will have players on 22 national teams come the World Cup and by the measure of 10+ CAPs has 69 total at this time.

The next three are to be expected, though in a slightly different order than some would assume - La Liga at 49, Bundesliga at 43 and Serie A at 40.  The big four are clearly the Big Four. France comes in fifth, and then the realm of caveats starts as leagues with heavy representation from a single nation take the next 9 slots.

MLS has that same caveat but sits at 17th, just below the Championship. After the recent performances by MLS vets in Serie A and the EPL - Donovan! - that seams to be fair, even with the caveats. Sure this method could be tweaked by applying FIFA ranking, or SPI. It could be done including the next 20 teams that didn't qualify, but for a single Saturday afternoon it seems a good place to start. Full data below the break.

Nation

Total

EPL

69

La Liga

49

Bundesliga

43

Serie A

40

Fr Lg 1

26

Japan

20

Mexico

17

Netherlands

13

Portugal

13

Australia

13

Greece

12

Honduras

12

North Korea

11

So Korea

10

Russia

9

Eng Champ

9

MLS

8

Turkey

8

2 Bundes

5

South Africa

7

Swiss

6

Chile

6

Argentina *

5

Israel

4

Belgium

4

Poland

3

Algeria

3

SPL

3

Denmark

3

Norway

2

Colombia

2

Paraguay

2

Brasil *

2

China

1

Qatar

1

Tunisia

1

Ukraine

1

Uraguay

1

Austria

1

Cyprus

1

 

* I think that Brazil and Argentina are dramatically underrepesented as they are sell-on leagues of the first order.  Brasil and Argentina are the only top footballing nations whose players do not stay home at any significant rate.

It is notable that using the 10+ CAP benchmark 40 leagues are likely to be represented at the World Cup. I intend to revisit this when the 23 Man rosters are fully out, and then I will count every player.

Below is the update that uses a National Team's Soccer Power Index rating as a weighting for its players, so a league with 10 players from Brazil is better than a league with 10 players from North Korea. The caveats for Brasil and Argentina still exist. This change moves MLS down 2 overall, North Korea goes down as well, which it should. Next step is to double the number of national teams that are included overall.

Nation

Total

EPL

5411.6

La Liga

4037.3

Bundesliga

3299.7

Serie A

3070.9

Fr Lg 1

1987.5

Japan

1414.9

Mexico

1307.1

Portugal

1032.1

Netherlands

1018

Honduras

901.2

Greece

898.6

Australia

814.3

So Korea

701

Russia

632.8

Turkey

632.3

North Korea

627

Eng Champ

618.8

MLS

593

Chile

484.4

Swiss

445

South Africa

443.8

Argentina

391.8

2 Bundes

371.4

Belgium

308.1

Israel

280.6

Denmark

230.4

SPL

228

Poland

215.9

Algeria

195.6

Brasil

160.8

Colombia

157.4

Paraguay

154

Norway

140.7

Uraguay

80.4

Cyprus

72.6

Tunisia

72.5

Ukraine

72.3

Austria

68.2

Qatar

65.2

China

57

 

I have now gone with all of the World Cup teams and the next 32 best teams using SPI (Morocco was the final one to make the cut, and only Costa Rica was added from CONCACAF). Also now the SPI Rating (not ranking) is keyed in as a point total per player. Closed leagues like North Korea, Iran and to some extent Japan are still have their strength over represented. There is also the issue with Brasil and Argentina. To me it is notable that when looking at these 64 teams the only second division leagues that have players are the Championship and Bundes 2.  MLS sits 24th, barely behind Israel, Egypt and Belgium while ahead of the two Koreas and Scotland.

Nation

Total

EPL

8246.6

Bundesliga

4982

La Liga

4682.1

Serie A

3793.5

Fr Lg 1

3338.7

Russia

2187.3

Turkey

1952.7

Mexico

1526.5

Japan

1414.9

Netherlands

1314.5

Greece

1266.6

Ukraine

1118.6

Portugal

1107

Iran

1078.4

Eng Champ

1057

Honduras

901.2

Ecuador

889.2

Norway

871.8

Australia

814.3

Israel

778.8

Egypt

748

Belgium

736.7

MLS

735.9

So Korea

701

North Korea

627

SPL

579.8

Chile

554.8

2 Bundes

509.6

Argentina *

465.9

Colombia

452.5

Swiss

445

South Africa

443.8

Costa Rica

435

Bolivia

418.8

Tunisia

416.9

Poland

355.4

Venezuela

352

Denmark

304

Austria

293.5

Saudi

279.4

Romania

276.4

Paraguay

224.4

Cyprus

213.5

UAE

209.6

Algeria

195.6

Brasil *

160.8

Croatia

151.4

Uraguay

80.4

Sweden

75.2

Guatemala

72.5

Czech

69.1

Macedonia

68

Gabon

68

Congo

68

Oman

68

Morocco

66.4

Qatar

65.2

China

57

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