On July 31, the night of the MLS All-Star game against AS Roma, MLS commissioner Don Garber announced that four more teams would be added to the league by the year 2020.
It was also released that one of the teams will be placed in New York, where they mean to create a rivalry similar to that of Manchester United and Manchester City.
The news has been received well by many, but has simultaneously managed to stay off the radar of many major sports pundits. As with other US soccer stories, the announcement was overshadowed by outside international leagues and other professional sports.
The Confederations Cup, which featured international greats Brazil, Italy, and Spain, in combination with the International Champion’s Cup, which sported Chelsea, Real Madrid, and other teams, managed to sandwich and reduce Garber’s announcement to nothing more than a simple statement. However, the commissioner’s announcement means more than just the addition of four teams and should be closer examined.
One only has to look at the history of Major League Soccer to read into the importance of Garber’s announcement. The league started modestly in 1993 with ten teams. In 1998, that grew to 12 teams when they included the Chicago Fire and the Miami Fusion. Unfortunately, that number did not last long.
By 2002, the league was back down to ten teams. However, a surprising and uplifting performance by the US National Team at the 2002 World Cup, where they reached the quarter-finals, created resurgence in men’s soccer. The league took advantage of the country’s newfound interest in the sport and, by 2005, the league added both Chivas and Salt Lake. In 2007, the league had expanded into Canada.
Six years later, the league has grown to a total of 19 teams and is the third most attended professional sport in the USA.
It should be viewed as no coincidence that the growth of MLS has corresponded directly with the development of the Men’s National Team. Under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the team has established itself as a force to be reckoned within CONCACAF.
Their success has been highlighted by their recent win over Germany, a Gold Cup first place finish, their first place position in World Cup qualifiers, and their current world ranking of 19. To top it all off, the LA Galaxy recently defeated Juventus 3-1.
The national team, and MLS in general, are quickly making their presence known on an international scale.
The expansion of the league to 24 teams only bodes well for the future of the sport in America. With the expansion will come the growth of underdeveloped players and harder competition. Would you be surprised if Major League Soccer begins to draw in top European players or if the US becomes one of the favorites of 2022 World Cup?
I sure won’t be.
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