As the Men in Blazers – America’s premiere soccer pundits who are also, incidentally, British – say, “Soccer is the American sport of the future. As it has been since 1972.” But the tide has slowly been turning, and with the World Cup being held in our time zone for the first time in many young soccer fans' adult lives, this may be the year for footy to make it big in the States. If that is the case, we want to prepare you for the inevitable flood to Major League Soccer, with a primer of everything about the American soccer league. Here are the best excuses to tune into Uncle Sam’s almost-favorite sports league.
Prior to this summer’s World Cup, the MLS saw a flock of Americans migrate back stateside, most notably Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey coming home to complete the trifecta of elite American players (Landon Donovan in LA being the third) all playing on their own soil. Jozy Altidore also told us that he would relish the opportunity to come home to MLS at some point. If the Americans are lucky enough to advance past their difficult group in Brazil, these guys are going to gain a whole lot of new fans.
If you live in an area without an MLS team, you may be getting one soon. If you live in New York, you will be getting a second (suck on that, Boston)! The league is getting big fast, with NYCFC and Orlando City SC both joining next year’s ranks as the 20th and 21st squads, and David Beckham leading the opening of a new team in Miami in 2017. Just last year, Commissioner Don Garber claimed that the league aims to have 24 franchises by 2020, so even those stationed out in the boonies should have a team incoming.
(Photo: Tom Hauck / Getty Images)
If any region serves as a template for what the amazing future of the MLS could be, it’s the Pacific Northwest. The three teams in that area – the Seattle Sounders, the Portland Timbers, and the Vancouver Whitecaps – compete for a regional trophy called the Cascadia Cup. The model of the Pacific Northwest’s success wasn’t really mapped out, but Portland and Vancouver’s inaugural season in 2011 was greeted by almost 100% sellout crowds and ferocious rivalries with their neighbors almost immediately. Tune into one of these matches and you’ll notice it looks a lot more like a European match than anything you thought was happening in your own country.
Designated Player Rule
A much more SFW version of “DP,” the rule allows MLS owners to bring in three players per roster that don’t count against the team’s salary cap. This allows MLS squads to go after big time names in the European soccer market such as David Beckham (for whom the rule is unofficially named), Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Tim Cahill, and Jermain Defoe. With the new teams looking to make a statement and to fill seats immediately, the rumors of which huge names might come in are flying around in full force.
MLS is right in that sweet spot where it’s easily available, but not yet oversaturated enough to prevent you from being able to get in where you want. You can watch your local team on cable and out-of-market matches multiple times a week. You can even subscribe to a cable service that will bring you all of the matches. However, the small stadiums and the cheap tickets make going out to support easier and more fun than any of the major sports in the country right now. You can even afford to get yourself a few disgustingly price-gouged beers at the match.
You Can Be the First of Your Friends in on It
And really, who doesn’t want something to hold over those idiots’ heads?
Photos by George Frey / Getty Images