Young stars leave Europe, Central America for MLS

 Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 9.54.39 PM“I honestly think people care more about the Houston Dynamo than they do the Astros.”

             -– Overheard from a restaurant in Houston, Texas.

Could that statement be anywhere near the truth?  Well, consider this:  Average attendance at an Astros game:  19,643.   Average attendance at a Dynamo game: 20,114.

It’s hard to believe a league which a few years ago donned uniforms that resembled a 6-and-under church league’s jerseys has now drawn comparison in popularity to America’s pastime.

With the exception of the lowly Chivas USA, every MLS team has an average attendance over 13,000.  Some teams average more than 40,000.

Attendance would be still higher if some stadiums were larger.  For example, Buck Shaw Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes, has a capacity of 10,525.  But for every Earthquakes game more than 13,000 people squeeze through the doors.

Part of the reason for soccer’s growth is the continuing improvement of the talent on the pitch (field, for those that are still learning).  The most recent well-known European import is the former Fullham striker, Clint Dempsey, who joined the Seattle Sounders and played before 66,000 in his new-home debut.

The MLS usually takes players from the English Premier League who are considered too old to play at the sport’s highest level.   To draw a comparison, this is much like Stephon Marbury going to China after the conclusion of his NBA career only to have a statue of him erected in Beijing.

This is how most view players like Thierry Henry, David Beckham, and Landon Donovan, all of whom had careers in the EPL before stepping down to the MLS.

Beckham was 33 when he switched to the MLS.  But Dempsey has just turned 30, and he joins talented young players from Central American leagues, such as Oscar Boniek Garcia of the Houston Dynamo, who became 29 last week.

No, MLS is not on the same level as the EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, or Serie A (France).  But it is on the next tier with Ligue 1, Serie A (Brazil), and Eridivisie.  With plans to expand to 24 teams by 2020, MLS could be moving up this list, very quickly.

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