Analyzing the State of Play in MLS

It all started with a David Beckham free-kick in Los Angeles… As an American Soccer fan, we have seen the sport grow tremendously over the last decade. Not only are there more than 20+ teams in Major League Soccer but each of them now have internationally recognized talent playing for them.


Toronto is home to Italian stars Lorenzo Insigne formerly of Napoli and fellow countrymen Federico Bernardeschi who came from Juventus. Back in the States, players such as Christian Benteke, Cucho Hernandez, Hector Herrera, and now… in more recent times Lionel Messi.


These groundbreaking players being acquired to the league have set a new landscape to the sport here in the states, the timing could not have been better with the 2026 World Cup quickly approaching. I just think it’s time to acknowledge how far this country has come and what more it has left to achieve in the coming years. 


San Diego FC: The New MLS Franchise and Their Student-Athlete Model


For starters, again, we must applaud and I will even personally thank David Beckham, an England International Footballer and Hollywood star came to the states after retirement and had a plan. He wanted to own a soccer team, he chose Miami, and since then has brought the likes of Messi along with his former teammates Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, and I’m sure many more to come.


Not only did this put huge eyes on MLS but all over the world. Just about everyday now I see a former European star linked with a movie to an MLS side. I believe if this continues this will no longer be considered a “Retirement Destination’ but a place where talents of all ages and backgrounds can arrive and make a huge impact on the American Soccer culture.


This summer’s Copa America will be here as well so the United States National Team will be competing against teams like Uruguay who also have talents in the MLS, Messi will be there with his beloved Argentina and so on. The future is bright but Messi’s impact won’t be here forever. The league needs to continue to act on bringing these superstars and add new things to appeal to them as well as fans. 


Darlington Nagbe: Midfield Dynamo and MLS Legend


Obviously if you play the lovely game or work in that same niche then you’re probably aware of our lower leagues like USL, USL Championship, NPSL, and so on. The biggest argument these days is why can’t these teams/players get the opportunities to be promoted into the MLS and achieve lifelong goals as players and as the clubs as well? I believe this could/would have a positive impact if done correctly.


I’ve heard and seen USL teams having packed stadiums, with 1000s of people in attendance and basically making their own fan bases flourish. But if the USSF (United States Soccer Federation) isn’t giving the same importance to all levels of soccer then what’s the point?


I am also aware a lot of ex players now play in these lower leagues just for the lover of the game. It wasn’t too long ago the famous ex Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was lifting a trophy with Phoenix Rising in a lower division league. These leagues matter. 


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Another example of exposure to the sport is “The Soccer Tournament” or TST7v7 for short. This is my first year viewing it and it has been a blast. Players such as Luis Nani (formerly of Manchester United) are playing against ‘Team Aguero’ (Manchester City legend) along with many athletes from other sports with names like J.J. Watt, Chad OchoCinco, and Pat McAfee all of which have their own platforms and have been promoting the tournament and sport through them. I am also aware that people like Watt have ownership in Premier League clubs in England, Burnley to be exact. 


So what does this all mean? It means that while this sport has taken a huge 180 in the last decade or so, there is still work to be done, as someone who’s had season tickets for the Houston Dynamo for 5+ yrs. Now we have seen the club turnaround but it’s not where it should be, people in the area still are very unaware of the club, when the games are, the players on the team, or even what they managed to achieve in recent seasons.


The people in charge of these clubs that are put in these positions need to find new ways to bring in fans or make it easier to walk into a stadium and enjoy the experience. I hope by the beginning of the 2026 World Cup the US, Canada, and Mexico as host countries did the very best they could to make the entire experience a memorable one and with that it will continue to put the respective leagues on the map.


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It won’t happen overnight and maybe a few more of these articles will help the cause but the endgame goal should be striving to be a top league destination spot around the world but also the competition and thrill of winning an MLS Cup.


By: Jeffery J. Bolton / @TheJBolt

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Matthew Ashton – AMA – Getty / Patrick T. Fallon – AFP