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MLS remains the most diverse league in America

Foreign-born players make up a whopping 43 percent of the league's players.

MLS Soccer

Major League Soccer is the champion when it comes to player diversity. Out of the five major leagues in the United States and Canada, 42.8% of MLS's players currently in the league were born outside of the USA and Canada, which comes out to be 237 players. In comparison, the MLB and NHL are around 26.5%, the NBA is at 19.6%, and the NFL ranks last with only 2.8% of players being born outside of the USA and Canada (courtesy of MLS and Elias Sports Bureau). The league has players from 58 countries around the world, including the USA and Canada.

So how about the Sounders? For starters, beat the MLS average for foreign born players on the roster, starts in 2015, and minutes in 2015.

Team #
Vancouver Whitecaps 20
Orlando City SC 18
Portland Timbers 16
Montreal Impact 14
Philadelphia Union 14
Real Salt Lake 14
Sounders FC 13
Chicago Fire 12
Sporting Kansas City 11
Columbus Crew 11
New York Red Bulls 11
San Jose Earthquakes 11
Colorado Rapids 10
Houston Dynamo 10
Los Angeles Galaxy 9
Toronto FC 9
FC Dallas 8
New England Revolution 7
DC United 6
Total 237
Average per Team 11.85

Sounders are tied for 7th with 13 of the 28 players born outside of the USA and Canada, though we have no Canadian players. The rankings are slightly skewed, as not every foreign-born player counts as an international on the roster. Any player with a green card and certainly anyone with an American passport counts as a domestic for roster purposes.

The next thing to look shows how the Sounders use their foreign-born players, in comparison to other squads. For both starts and minutes played, the Sounders rank 4th. These minutes and starts are only for minutes in MLS, players like Victor Mansaray, who has minutes in both the MLS and USL, only has his MLS minutes counted.

Team % of Starts % of Minutes
Vancouver Whitecaps 84 81
Orlando City 74 73
Portland Timbers 71 72
Sounders FC 58 58
Real Salt Lake 56 55
League Average 47 47

What helps keeps the Sounders average up is the revolving midfield between Pineda, Rose, Ozzie, and Azira all count as foreign-born so while each has missed time, or been pushed down the pecking order, the minutes still rack up. The benefit for each of teams in the top four are that the starting goalkeeper is an international. Frei, born in Switzerland, keeps the minutes up for the team. Overall, Cacadia and Orlando dominate the charts and if you add in Canadians the top three teams would increase their grip on the most diverse squads.

Overall, this means very little in the table, Vancouver is the leader but Orlando is fighting for a playoff spot and Portland is sitting on the outside looking in. The team with the lowest percentage, DC United, with only 6% of minutes going to foreign-born players sits 2nd in the East. So while foreign-born players currently do not hold the key to standings, they paint a very good picture for the landscape of the league.

What should you takeaway from this?

1. While we have Captain America, the Sounders have a very strong mix of natives and foreign-born players on our roster and in the First XI. Representing 13 countries and five of the seven continents. And yes, I want a player from Antarctica.

2. This is the only rankings Portland has a chance of beating us in. OK, maybe player beard lengths too.

3. The Sounders' ability to scout across the globe has paid off. The players who make up these minutes, make an impact on the field.

4. We should expect nothing to change percentage wise. At Real Salt Lake, Garth Lagerwey had about the same percentage of internationals on his roster and so has Adrian Hanauer in the past. Expect to see Chris Henderson posting from around the globe and continuing to bring players from every corner of the world.

5. As the league grows its presence in the USA and Canada, expect this to be a selling point. The ability to show we are truly are global league, representation wise, in the world's game will be key to getting new fans.

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