Long has the MLS been labeled a league for Europe’s retirees and it has not been able to shake off this tag easily. Things are now changing. With the academies producing more and more young talent, the MLS could become self-sufficient in terms of top players and rely less on signing top European players past their prime at high salaries. This was necessary to put the league on the map. The MLS could do without it now.
Young Talented Exports
Canadian MLS players Alphonso Davies from the Vancouver Whitecaps and ex-Montreal Impact player Ballou Tabla have both shown the World of football that the MLS is not just a “retirement league”. Davies had already been snatched up by Bayern Munich and will link up with the German giants once the MLS season wraps up. Earlier in the summer, Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla was signed by none other than Lionel Messi’s Barcelona. Tabla is currently playing with Barcelona B, learning the Barca way before competing in the A team. The MLS, at least the Canadian part of it, is finally producing top talent that the top European clubs are interested in – that’s a very good sign.
Toronto FC lead by example
Getting back to the ever present “retirees” argument, we should note Toronto FC won the MLS Cup last year with Giovinco and Altidore acting as spearheads of a very prolific attack. Both are players in their prime who left top clubs in Europe to come play in the MLS. Toronto FC winning the league without so-called “retirees” is a major win for the league. The Canadian team has the funds to pay these types of players well above the average MLS players salary and attract them to a team where they are guaranteed to be starters and fan favorites.
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Back to Europe move for General Ciman
Laurent Ciman, another export from Europe who was already at his prime when making his move to the Impact of Montreal, recently explained why the MLS is not a retirement league and how they can improve things in North American soccer. Ciman is now moving from LAFC to a Ligue 1 club, meaning he is moving from the MLS to a higher level, just when he is about to be past his prime.
People have an image here [in Europe] of a league of retirees — it’s false. There’s really a good level there. Having said that, there are things to improve, such as the handling of the travelling between games, but I liked my experience there. – Laurent Ciman (Source: ESPN)
As academies develop young talent, teams gain more fanbase and clubs become financially better equipped to sign quality players from Europe, we will see the MLS surpass Liga MX in terms of competitiveness and challenge European leagues for supremacy. The latter may only come to fruition in a two or three decades but the former is well within reach in the next five years.
See also: Could the World Cup be rigged?
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All pictures taken by The Overhead Kick