Major League Soccer has worked to strengthen its position as the top competitive soccer league in the world. However, new research could damage that metric.
The Twenty-First Group is a sports intelligence agency that works to compare leagues across continents. Consider the Five Thirty Eight global soccer rankings. Twenty-First Group wanted to analyze the impact of the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo on Al Nasr and the Saudi Pro League. In doing so, the group’s chief information officer, Omar Chaudhuri, provided MLS fans with something of a reality check.
When I spoke with Dan Sheldon, he ranked the Saudi Pro League on the same level as Major League Soccer athletic.
“The only comparison I can think of is MLS,” said Chaudhuri when comparing the competitiveness and quality of the Saudi Pro League. “We rate MLS as the 29th best league in the world, so it’s not that low. But the difference with MLS is that quality is much more focused.”
Chaudhuri means MLS is much more competitive. In other words, the worst team in the MLS is more likely to play against the best team in his MLS than the worst team in the Saudi Pro League against the best team in the Saudi Pro League.
Domestic players are important for MLS to be a competitive soccer league
One of the biggest factors in the Twenty First Group ranking is the role of domestic players. “The quality of the league is basically determined by the quality of the local talent,” Chaudhuri added. So when looking at the league rankings for the group, a world-class talent like Ronaldo doesn’t often have an impact on the overall league rankings.
Bring this back to the somewhat outdated tactics of MLS to earn stars in the late stages of your career. Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard, Didier Drogba and Bastian Schweissungtiger didn’t do much to improve their league rankings at the time, using Chaudhuri’s logic.
But they helped grow the game’s fandom. As a result, more young people started playing and following MLS. Then the American soccer talent pool expanded and MLS paid off. At the start of the 2022 season, MLS reported that over 50% of his players came from Canada and the United States.
I hope this cycle continues for MLS. The MLS could benefit from its status as a competitive football league if the quality of domestic football improves.
Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire