Professional soccer has been growing in the U.S. and it does not seem like it will be slowing down anytime soon. Major League Soccer is about to begin its 19th season in March and many Americans are anxious to see what it entails.
During this past offseason, the league announced major additions that will occur within the next few years and will positively impact professional soccer in the U.S. Expansion teams are new clubs that are joining the league and have been just one reason why the league is gaining popularity in the U.S.
“[In 2009] the Seattle Sounders became the new expansion team and they became the biggest franchise in the MLS. They have the most attendance in their stadiums, most fans and the most merchandise sold in the MLS,” said sophomore soccer fan Stefan Ellis. “The league has definitely been growing with the new teams coming out.”
MLS currently plans on adding two more franchises in 2015 and another in 2017, expanding the league to 22 teams. The goal for MLS is to have expanded the league to 24 teams by 2020 in an effort to get soccer nationwide.
There are already many rivalries throughout the MLS, making it more exciting for fans to express their love for their favorite team. Fans create chants and wave their teams’ flags in the stadium during games to build an exciting atmosphere.
“People are starting to get more into professional soccer in America. Fans go crazy when it comes to games like the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers rivalry,” said Alex Wardle, captain of the Kingsmen soccer team. “All the MLS teams are trying harder to get better players and enhance excitement for the league.”
As the league grows with more teams, players from around the world are given better opportunities to play in the U.S. Some of the top players in the world have come to the U.S. to compete and help the MLS grow.
David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley are soccer players who competed at the highest levels around the world and later joined the MLS. California Lutheran University junior Joel Canacoo believes that the MLS has style similar to the Premier League (in Europe) and that could be why many of the top soccer players come to the U.S. and compete.
“It’s looking more like the Premier League, where there are so many different styles of play, which is what makes it attractive to the players in Europe,” Canacoo said. “A perfect example is Thierry Henry who left Arsenal and joined the New York Red Bulls and they play exactly like the way Arsenal plays.”
Although MLS is not as popular as the National Football League or the National Basketball Association, it is still a young league with tons of potential. MLS began in 1996 with just 10 teams and has now grown to 19 teams with plans to add three more within the next few years. Ellis believes it will just take time for the league to gain popularity.
“The NFL and NBA definitely have a bigger U.S. fan base, but that is also because they’ve all been established for a lot longer than professional soccer has been in America,” Ellis said. “Definitely within the next four or five years, the MLS will be on the up and up in the United States.”
MLS will continue to grow and gain popularity throughout the world as time goes on. The league is working hard to earn the respect it deserves while this generation is witnessing history being made in the U.S. MLS will kick off its 19th season on March 8, so don’t be surprised if you hear about the season more often in the media.
Published Feb. 26, 2014