I recently attended an MLS (Major League Soccer for all you newbies) game between San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy to see what all the fuss was about over the past few years and I can honestly say I was rather surprised by what I experienced.
Firstly let me tell you the 2 reasons I picked this game. 1: LA are deemed the biggest ticket in town, kinda the United of the MLS. They sign the biggest players and have the largest budget so I wanted to see what you get for your money in the MLS. 2: San Jose was the home for our very own Georgie Best.
Best played 77 games between 1980-82 scoring 54 goals (Albeit the second season was indoor football and the bulk of his goals came that season) and depending on who you ask scored the finest goal of his illustrate career against Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in 1981 beating 4 players twice before shooting into the bottom corner. The goal itself can be found on YouTube and is a joy to watch.
Much has changed since Best dazzled the American supporters with his dancing feet and LA seems to be leading that change. Although it must be said they are followed closely by New York Red Bull (Thierry Henry played there from 2010-14) and lately new MLS side New York City (Pirlo, Lampard and David Villa) but they fall short of an LA team that consists of Robbie Keane, Giovanni Dos Santos and a certain Slippy G along with a host of International players from the US national team. The MLS has certainly grown in the past 10 years and a lot of that is down to another former United great in David Beckham. Not only did Becks signing take the MLS global when he signed for LA in 2007 but also brought more fans through the turnstiles. Gates for the MLS in 2007 where just over 3.2 Million but recent figures show this stood at 6.1 Million in 2014. Albeit in 2007 the league consisted of 13 teams and now stands at 20 this stat proves not only is their huge growth through the gates the league has been on such an uphill surge that it could add 6 more teams while growing average attendances. More teams want to join the MLS and while it’s a tedious process to get “elected” it seems like it’s now a smart move for some cities.
The only gripe I have with the MLS is there is no promotion/relegation and this hinders there growth somewhat in my opinion. There is a growing movement within the US to introduce this and websites like Soccerreform.us are leading that charge. But still the MLS now has the pulling power somewhat to attract some of the world’s top players. Albeit at the latter end of their careers it’s worth noting that these players would of being playing in Asia or the Middle East 10-15 years ago but now choose MLS as their second home which is a big thumbs up to all the hard work put in by each and every club in the MLS.
I’m not sure what George would have thought of today’s San Jose who now play out of their newly built stadium (Avaya Stadium) but I’m pretty sure he would approve. George was loved in the US and none more so than at the Earthquakes. One thing is for sure is that Bestie would of enjoyed the new look MLS and the fans would of loved to have had him again.
Written by Dave Murphy. Follow him on Twitter.