Fans' View

Why MLS is more exciting than the EPL

Which is more fun to watch: people taking risks, and occasionally messing up (which can be hilarious) or watching people be very conservative and be very predictable? If you picked the second answer, you will disagree with my article.

On that point, I will now state that MLS is much more exciting to watch than the EPL.

Let’s say you have two really great friends, that you love to hangout with. One is very exciting and fun to be around. You always have a great time together and it could just be you two discussing life on a front porch on a nice night. You will always find a way to have fun. Now the second friend is the more level headed one, where they may or may not be boring to you, but they don’t like to take risks. Both are great. But with everything in life, we typically lean one way or another.

In this case, MLS is the exciting, unpredictable friend.

Playoffs

The MLS Cup playoffs is the biggest difference between European soccer and the Americanized version. The playoffs offer a chance for any team to claim their stake in MLS’s elite. You win the playoffs, you gain instant credibility. Whether it was Toronto ripping NYCFC in Yankee Stadium last year or the double post PK hit by Abdul Salaam in 2015, the playoffs offer unpredictable but entertaining soccer. The playoffs are my favorite part of the year, whether or not the Union are participating. England and other European leagues have no playoffs. Our Supporters’ Shield winner would be the winner of MLS if we followed that type of format. Usually by the last 2-3 weeks of the EPL season,┬áthe winner is already determined and sometimes, months before you can limit it to maybe two or three teams. In other countries, the winner is determined as early as 5-6 weeks left in the season. To me, that is not entertaining. I would much rather see the playoffs and I hope MLS keeps that format because it is unique in the soccer world.

DP money

DP money is, more often than not, spent on quality attackers unless you’re the Union where one DP hasn’t seen the light of day since he was born. When teams spend big money on creative attacking midfielders/world class players and clinical goal scoring forwards, it creates imbalance. If you disagree, talk to Toronto, NYCFC, and Chicago. Rarely do we see big money spent on brilliant overlapping fullbacks or world class centerbacks. So we have our homegrown, American defenders struggle against guys like David Villa and Seba Giovinco. We see lots of goals in MLS and I think how DP money is spent is a large part as to why MLS is a goalscorers’ league.

The Gap

For teams in the bottom half of the EPL table, you dread the weekend where you play Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal or Tottenham. Most games in England are predictable unless you have a fighting spirit like little old Leicester City and shock the entire nation by winning the EPL. There is always an exception and Leicester was the exception. In MLS, anyone can beat anybody on any day. We see this week in and week out after we look at the scorelines and say “how does Minnesota beat Portland 3-2?” A 5-goal game and upset creates this notion that MLS is often pretty unpredictable. Is the EPL unpredictable at times? Of course it is – I am not arguing it isn’t. The EPL is a little more predictable in results and a more tactical game creating a division between MLS and the EPL and other European leagues.

18 Comments

  1. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    I couldn’t possible disagree more with the premise of this article.

  2. I also don’t really enjoy watching the premier league as much as mls. For me I think that when I watch other leagues its harder to care about who wins or loses the games because I rarely feel compelled to root for one team over another. I know most people have picked a team as ‘their’ team, but it feels wrong to do that. In all sports the only justifiable reasons to root for one team over another are geography or maybe family.
    .
    I agree with most of your other points too. I would hate if the league were decided a month before the season was over. I also really hate the idea of a handful of powerhouses consistently dominating a league and mls doesn’t have that. I would probably lose interest if that were to start happening

    • I’m in the same boat. When you don’t have any dogs in the hunt, the chase is pretty boring, and that’s the case of EPL, Liga MX, Bundesliga and really every other league in the world for me. I couldn’t care less if Arsenal loses to West Ham. I can’t just pick a team and root for them, just like I can’t understand how someone from Philadelphia can pick the Dallas Cowboys as their team. I root for the local teams. Period. I didn’t even watch MLS before the Union were established. My soccer watching was all about the international game and the USMNT before then.
      .
      Yeah, the quality of football is better in other leagues, but without a rooting interest it becomes as exciting as watching a soccer clinic.
      .

      I also agree about the point about playoffs. I understand the argument that it cheapens the regular season, but ask an NHL fan if they would like the product better if they went single table. They’d look at you like you were insane. I don’t see why soccer has to be different.
      .

      The Eurosnobs will be quick to point out that even if the champion is decided, you still have the battle to stave off relegation. But I can’t understand the attraction of seeing which of the suckiest teams in the league are the least suckiest.

      • Liga MX has 2 seasons in a calendar year, each with a playoffs. It’s even more unpredictable than MLS. The 3 seed last season beat the 6 seed in the finals, and going into the playoffs the 6 seed was arguably the favorite to win the whole thing!

      • Where to start…First your Philly-Dallas comparison is apples and oranges. They are in the same league, so it doesn’t fit. Second, if you can’t root for Dortmund and Pulisic, let alone the way the team plays, then I can’t help you.
        .
        As for the EPL, I started watching just to see better players play, and to soothe my soccer addiction. It’s also replaced the NFL for me as much better entertainment. I came to like a few teams, Tottenham, Liverpool, and Fulham because of Dempsey. But after watching the 30 for 30 on the Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool became my main rooting interest. Add in Klop and a more exciting time can’t be had on a weekend morning.
        .
        Now, would I root for Dallas or LA in any other sport, hell no! But I can easily pick a favorite team to follow in most the major leagues.

  3. Yeah, I gotta disagree too on some points. It’s true that playoffs and the feeling that any team has a chance to win it all is exciting, but watching the actual games…not so much. To each his own of course, but am entertained by watching athletes do things that are unpredictable AND exceptional. While we get some of those moments in MLS, you definitely get more in some other leagues. The biggest reason I watch the Union and MLS is because its OURS.
    .
    There’s actually some interesting research on this topic of whether fans prefer to watch games with evenly matched teams vs. games in which there is a big gap. Take for instance a fan of Leicester City. The research says that fan is more likely to tune into a game against Arsenal than it is to watch a game against West Ham. Why? They are more likely to win and score goals against West Ham, right? The theory is that people like to watch the David vs. Goliath matchup – more drama and excitement. And if you’re a fan of Arsenal – you’re surprisingly more likely to watch a game against a lower team for the same reason – you want to see your team dominate and take risks and do amazing things they may not do against Chelsea.
    .
    So…should MLS ditch parity and become a totally open league? Well, if you’re a fan in LA or NY, then of course, you’d say, yes, but if you’re a fan in Philly…

    • This ^. Also, I’d rather watch EPL, because a foul is a foul 9 out of 10 times. Ok maybe 8 out of 10. It’s the officiating in MLS that makes it a joke of a league. All one needs to do is watch the Union week in and week out to see this. Obviously the quality isn’t the same, but I’d argue it’d be a better product if officiating was more consistent and closer to the rule book.

      • I’d wager that you could ask any fan of any league and you won’t find one that says “yes, the refs in our league are pretty good”. That is, unless you are a Barcelona fan.

      • Maybe Jack, but the EPL still has better refs, and for me a much better watch.

      • SilverRey says:

        Refs in EPL make game deciding blunders all the time. I don’t think the refs are any better/worse at making calls than what we have in MLS. If anything I think we have a better ref moderating system in place here.

  4. I am a Chelsea fan and also a founding season ticket holder at the Union and subscribe to the MLS package on DirecTV. I get much more enjoyment watching Chelsea play since the season is often unpredictable (who would have thought that they would win the league after last season), since the passing, skills and tactics are superior compared to any MLS team, and since the atmosphere at Tir Na Nog during a Chelsea game is superior than watching the Union play at Talen Stadium.
    .
    There is also the Champions League. These matches are way better than any MLS playoff game. And the chance that Chelsea makes it far in the CLL is higher than the Union winning a play-off game.
    .
    Have been to many Union games and there have not been many instances when the atmosphere was electric. I remember maybe one Cup game and maybe couple others when it was intense. Not saying that we cannot have many more fun times like that but it will require a better coach and better players (a la Chicago this year).

    • i’m not trying to be rude and i’m not trying to argue with your stated preference for chelsea games at tir na nog, but i don’t know how you can say there haven’t been many union games that were intense. i don’t know how i can even elaborate more on my comment. there are at least 3 or 4 really intense games in even a really crappy season and many more during our handful of ok seasons. more often than not the intensity stems from the team being too loose and risky, but there are many times a season that i drive home from a game with an elevated heart rate and a completely shot set of vocal cords

  5. If you love the game, I’m not sure how you can enjoy watching MLS more. Sure, I get the argument that in MLS at least you have a home town club, but any morning I turn on a PL game I’m going to see much better players playing the game at a level I rarely see even a glimpse of in the states. MLS has no Leroy Sane, Sadio Mane, Luis Silva, Coutinho, Dele Alli, Harry Kane. Hell, it doesn’t even have a Peter Crouch. And even the coaches are more entertaining. There’s no one nearly as entertaining as Jose Mourinho in MLS. There’s no Jurgen Klopp or Antonio Conte equivalent.

    Look, I love the game and will stop and watch an intramural match for a bit if I happen to pass one. But MLS can look frustratingly wooden by comparison to even a match between West Brom and Stoke. That’s really not eurosnobbery. It just is what it is.

    I think we MLS fans are better off not worrying about the comparison. The game is improving here. We don’t need to wallow in inferiority or try to rationalize superiority based on “parity” or “competitiveness.”

  6. Nice work Collin! You are poking the bear on this one. I root for the U,Bournemouth, and Pulisic! I like to think both systems have merit. The playoffs in MLS just fit the single entity system. They are fun and offer other teams a crack at the title they would otherwise not have. As for quality,MLS is on the up swing. Soccer in this country is still the step child. But the people your age Collin…you could see some great players on a regular basis! Pulusic like in their play,heart,creativity.

  7. el Pachyderm says:

    What makes the article true and important is the greater message being sent by a young man.
    .
    The game is growing in the US for a younger age audience. Collin would not have written the article if he did not believe it and what matters is more and more people his age likely fee and believe this way too.
    .
    CULTURE.

  8. I work with some guys in the UK who are huge MLS fans, and would agree with the author’s premise (note he said MLS is ‘more exciting’, not ‘better’). One main attraction, they say, is the DP rule — you put an EPL-level playmaker in the middle of the field with a bunch of League Two-level defenders, chaos ensues and it’s “brilliant”. It might help that the MLS games are on at midnight over there, and they’re hammered. But whatever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*