How good is the MLS?
Have only become a Liverpool FC supporter in the later part of last year. Conveniently, recently, our condo association was able to upgrade the cable plan to include NBC Sports Network with Extra Time that current carry English Premier League matches. Perfect timing for me as a new fan!
Having watched some Liverpool contests and LA Galaxy matches in close proximity of time, it is pretty clear there are differences between the two leagues. With Liverpool, it has been amazing to watch Philip Coutinho and Raheem Sterling move so fast with and without the ball! Watching the Galaxy, it is a generally slower game.
The other obvious difference is passing skills. It is amazing how Jordan Henderson can pass the ball long and short right on target quite often. Even the backline players of Liverpool, occasionally known to make a hash of handling the ball, are by comparison, quite accurate in passing the ball.
Watching a few LA Galaxy games recently, in the just started season, there are more than a few passes that land in a patch of field with no one of either team or fly out-of-bounds from both the Galaxy and their opponents.
Nonetheless, there are some individual talents on MLS teams that could probably play in Europe and as the league grows the quality of play is going to continue to improve. But for now, the salary structure of the MLS supports three designated players per team outside the salary cap. These are either Americans who could play in Europe or European league players winding down their careers.
As MLS keeps growing they will have more revenue for salary thus improving its attractiveness to skillful players beyond the designated players.
But, at this time, "objectively" how does MLS compare to other leagues?
One approach is to look at the various national teams competitive for the World Cup, rank those teams and then assign the contribution of the various leagues to players on these national teams.
Using such a model, not surprisingly, Premier League (UK), Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy), and La Liga (Spain) were one through four. MLS came in 12th.
Another way is to look at the salaries of the players in the various leagues. Again the one-through-four is the same: Premier League (UK), Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy), and La Liga (Spain). MLS ranked 22nd by this scaling.
Since I'm now married into a Swedish family, I track teams (Elfsborg and Falkenberg) in the Allsvenskan. Based on salary that league is 27th. The LA Galaxy recruited Stefan Ishizaki from Elfsborg in 2014.