The 2014 FIFA World Cup books are closed--and this World Cup provided a great four weeks of on-the-edge-of-your-seat soccer. But when the four week, every four year tournament is done, give me some MLS!
Before I expound on this--congratulations to Die deutsche Fußballnationalmannschaft (aka, Germany) for a thrilling win and a fantastic tournament. All of my family pulled for Germany, but still felt sorry for Lionel Messi (why does he have to be compared to Maradona?). But I confess, as an Arsenal fan, I was thrilled for Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker, and Lukas Podolski for coming back to London World Cup champions.
Yet, even with all that, give me some MLS!
Last year, Sporting Intelligence ranked MLS the 7th ranked league in the world, with Germany and England taking the top two spots, and Mexico just one spot ahead. Granted, one doesn't have to be a soccer aficionado to see that the German and British leagues pass the 'eyeball test' on many levels. The Bundesliga, Premiere League, La Liga, Serie A, and Mexican leagues demonstrate a technical and clinical proficiency that impresses. They have a history that is far longer than the new-kid-on-the-block MLS (born in 1996). The top teams in Europe and elsewhere have a fanbase that views soccer as not simply a sport, but a religion. So many positives. So many reasons to follow, even as Americans.
But still... give me some MLS! Why?
I'm an American. I want to support the MLS because I want American soccer to flourish, giving us a seat at the world table. Granted, we have so many other sports offerings for children that, unlike most other countries, soccer is not the #1 (or the only) option. I want MLS and US Soccer to make some noise on the world stage. When I go to a Rapids match and take my spot in the South Stands, I'm not simply pulling for the Boys in Burgundy, I'm contributing to the financial and fanatical stability that MLS will provide for this and upcoming fans and players. It's about pride for the USA. Old-fashioned, maybe. Unapologetic? Absolutely!
Secondly, MLS players were fairly well represented in Brazil--and more support and development is needed. In 2010, only six of the 700 players represented in the World Cup played in the MLS. In 2014, that number jumped to 31 (15 US, 16 international). Again, the World Cup comes four years every four years. Here, our burgeoning and blossoming league is around every week putting a very good product on the field that deserves more attention.
Australian Tim Cahill of the New York Red Bulls made worldwide news for his goal against the Netherlands in the group stage. We here in the states, and especially the fans of RBNY have the pleasure of watching him every single week.
Clint Dempsey made noise for the USA during this World Cup, even making a trip on Letterman--but the Sounders are the beneficiaries of Dempsey's talents and services, with 9 goals in 16 appearances. And we benefit as well--even as Rapids fans.
We could go on about the talents of Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Julio Cesar (poor guy), and the list goes on of others representing not only their countries, but MLS in general, making a great showing and giving the league more momentum in the days ahead.
Lastly, few things are more special than supporting your local team. How I love supporting the Colorado Rapids! The atmosphere at DSGP, the activity of the players in the community, the camaraderie developed with the fans and the players either on the field or via Twitter--all of these things (and more) converge to bring a bond that leaves Brazil in the dust. The World Cup is like a vacation to an exotic place--but now we come back home where our home club is part of our DNA! Our home club is... well... home! It's back to work. Back to the routine. Back to what we love. Home is where the heart is, right?
Granted, most of you who stand as devoted readers of this blog know this. But maybe--just maybe--now that the books on the 2014 World Cup are closed will get on-board the MLS wagon and be grateful that you can see high quality soccer every single week from March to November.
Get on-board the MLS train. It's a great ride.
And go Rapids! Chop down those Timbers next Friday (9 PM MST).