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How good is MLS?

Recently in a Seattle Times comments discussion the question of how good MLS is and why players don't seem to want to come here to the USA in their prime.

Simply, it isn't just about money, but also about the overall quality of the league.

Currently, it is difficult to rank MLS in comparison to other leagues because the only ones that are encountered regularly is the FMF (Mexico) and the USL (USA/CAN/PR). There are of course a smattering of games now from the CONCACAF Champions League and the old Champions Cup.

Well, in Europe they have this fancy number called the coefficient. It is a single number that judges national team, league and club strength based on five year performance in international competition. At least one blog has done the fancy math for us and figured out the coefficients for CONCACAF based on the Champions Cup/League over the past five years, and frankly, it doesn't look too good for MLS fans.


And this is just in the region!

With the lack of games against CONMEBOL and UEFA we can only speculatre, but we know that right now MLS is not on par with any UEFA Champoins League league that gets more than 2 slots, and probably fits somewhere near the middle of the 2 slot group (probably between Ukraine and the Czech Republic). In CONMEBOL with the Copa Libertadores they don't break down to third and fourth tier clubs, but we know that MLS isn't as good as Brazil, Argentina or Mexico (they qualify 3 teams - 2 from InterLiga competition in USA). Considering how the Mexican teams generally do in Libertadores with two teams typically making it to the knockout rounds, MLS is likely only as good as the following South American leagues; Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. The other nations all give the Mexican clubs a run for their money.

It would be impossible to compare MLS to CAF or the AFC, as there hasn't been enough interaction yet. Although as the Pan-Pacific Championship continues we should get a better snapshot of how MLS compares to the A, C, J, and K leagues from the AFC. With Tunisian and Egyptian clubs performing the best out of CAF I don't know that we could say MLS is better than either of those at this time. The only way to find out would be to have an MLS club make the Club World Cup in Dubai for '09 or '10.

But being in the top 25 in the world isn't awful, unless you are American and used to being number one in sports - although that isn't as true now as it was last decade (WBC'06, Olympic basketball since 1996)

There is a bright future for MLS, one that could see the strength on the pitch increasing, because the marketing dollars are coming in, and not just for SSFC, but the league as a whole. The CBA is up after 2009, and both the players and owners are looking at ways to make the league stronger while not making the mistakes that the NBA and NHL have with strikes/lockouts. It would be particularly disastrous in this economic climate. First the commissioner, the owners and the players need to decide what kind of league do they want to be, and how do they get there.

It isn't dire. I have some suggestions, and those are forthcoming.

How good do you see MLS at this time?

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