Major League Soccer Puts Its Best Foot Forward Friday Night
If you’re one of those people who has a passing interest in soccer but are really not into Major League Soccer, you may want to check out Friday night’s MLS match-up between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls (ESPN 11:00 PM EDT).
This will be a battle between two of the league’s marquee teams and several of its marquee players as on one side you have the Galaxy’s David Beckham and Landon Donovan and on the other Rafa Marquez, captain of Mexico’s national team and Juan Pablo Angel, the Columbian striker who’s been one of the best players in MLS for years.
The Galaxy have the league’s best record (15-5-5) and are just now getting Beckham back after he blew out an Achilles’ tendon earlier this year. The Red Bulls are 2nd in the Eastern Conference.
Unfortunately this game and the Red Bulls will miss one other major attraction - ex Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, has been ruled out of this one with a knee injury and the timing certainly doesn’t help MLS in its ongoing effort to grow its fan base in a landscape already crowded by Major League Baseball, college football and of course, the NFL.
But that still shouldn’t wreck what should both a terrific soccer match and a vehicle for the still struggling MLS to showcase its product to what unfortunately is still a bit of a skeptical audience.
That’s because while the United States has plenty of soccer fans, a pretty good sized chunk of them have yet to embrace what MLS is selling.
These are the people who are fans of the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and the other top European leagues. Many are first generation Americans who grew up watching the Chelseas, Real Madrids or Barcelonas and think, perhaps with good reason, that MLS is inferior.
And it probably is since the typical MLS team payroll (Galaxy and Red Bulls excluded) averages just under 2 million dollars year – or less than 1/5 of what Manchester United star Wayne Rooney reportedly makes.
But here’s where the ‘MLS stinks’ crowd totally misses the point. If you actually give the product a chance, it’s pretty entertaining soccer played at a surprisingly high level. And as the season winds down and the playoffs begin, we’re about to see a series of terrific matches played with all the passion and play-for-keeps mentality that you’ll see in any of the top European leagues.Continued on the next page