When the MLS season begins after a rare Columbus Crew replay, the league needs to take advantage of the opportunity to take the next step
The teams that won the two biggest trophies in Major League Soccer will open their seasons on Sunday evening on national television. This is a lot for the teams involved. It should probably be a bigger deal for the league overall.
The Philadelphia Union won the Supporters ’Shield at the end of the 2020 season cut by COVID, scoring 47 points from 23 games. It was the first major trophy the club has ever won, but the celebration was shortened to the first round of the play-offs against New England.
The Union, which was due to watch three weeks later, won the most prized honor in the league at Columbus Crew SC, the MLS Cup champion, on a cold Saturday night at Crew Stadium.
“We’re not the only ones because we want the final prize, which is the MLS Cup,” Union coach Jim Curtin told Sporting News. “We are disappointed that our season ended at home against New England last year.… It’s always devastating when the year ends. But I think that also motivates us.
“We were able to raise the supporters’ shield, our young players and experienced guys felt comfortable. For some of them it was their first trophy. That’s the taste and feeling you want again and again in your career. There are a lot of great teams in MLS this season. it continues to get better and better. They are exciting fans now, as they are slowly returning to the stadiums. “
According to Philadelphia Inquirer Jonathan Tannenwald, it’s the first time the Supporters ’Shield winners and MLS Cup champions have opened their first season against each other. It would probably be wise to make this league a tradition. It is important for FS1 to show the game.
The 26th season of MLS will open on Friday with the Houston Dynamo-San Jose Earthquakes game (20.00 ET, ESPN +) and a match with the Seattle Sounders and Minnesota United (9:30, FS1).
While MLS strives to grow among professional sports leagues in the U.S., and in the broader landscape of football, it remains a sort of personality issue. Not a crisis, but maybe confusion. As a sports competition it is covered less than the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball or NHL. This is partly because the major media outlets cover too little of the team league on a daily basis and are the result of much of the conversation about the league at the national level.
As Commissioner Don Garber took time to talk to reporters about the 2021 season on Monday, the main focus was to introduce another new team, Austin FC, and the opening of new stadiums in Cincinnati and Columbus. The comment that generated the most reaction was that Darryl Dike was a player competing in England.
Borrowed with Barnsley in the English Championship section, the Dike could return to Orlando City FC or be sold in the summer transfer window.
“That’s a $ 20 million player,” Garber told reporters.
“Really today’s Major League Soccer story is about youth,” he said. “Now, on average, we are the youngest in the history of the league. We are making a deep investment in player development, with academies in all markets. And now we need to have programs that allow young players to play at the highest level, develop at the lowest level and ultimately build a career. you have “.
Those who cover MLS generally believe that Dike, Tyler Adams (now RB Leipzig in German) and Brendan Aaronson (who scored four Union goals in the last 23 seasons and four seasons in the Union) have been positive for the league. RB moved to Salzburg in Austria).
Arguably the best thing for the U.S. men’s team is to have players who develop and compete on multiple fronts. There is no doubt that the advantage is that young players who develop in professional academies have been like football nations that have been established for decades. That’s why there’s so much attention to be paid to the advancement of MLS, like what some would call a “selling league”.
To gain more traction in the U.S. sports market, however, it should be seen primarily as a league. Fans need to take care of their race, standings, playoffs and champion, no matter how much one of the young stars can charge in transfer fees.
The team is an area that could be worth a decent league this season. Star player Lucas Zelarayan was injured in part of last year, finishing third in the Eastern Division. His return to health led him to advance to the playoffs and defeat the Seattle Sounders 3-0 in the MLS Cup final. The organization kept most of the lineup intact and deepened the list by signing striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who is ranked sixth in the league’s career goal list.
Columbus’s second consecutive championship could bring the league’s focus back to the field. Winning two in a row isn’t easy, as Bruce Arena is the only coach to do it twice: 1996 and 1997 with DC United, 2011 and 2012 with the Los Angeles Galaxy. And that’s part of what makes it compelling.
“Last year was a weird year. I give all the credit to the crew for winning the MLS Cup, to Philadelphia for winning the Supporters ’Shield. But I think it’s going to be very different this year, ”Arena said.“ Columbus definitely has a good team, and I’m sure they hope to compete throughout the year not only in Supporters ’Shield but also in the MLS Cup.
“I think it’s harder with more teams. This year too, the schedule is different now. Now, we’re playing conference schedules compared to playing them all in the league. The league is surely as safe as competition. It’s definitely going to be a challenging year for anyone who wants to win the MLS Cup. ”