MLS ranked 7th best soccer league in the world by Sporting Intelligence

By Ryan Carreon, Deseret News

Published: Tue, April 23, 2013, 3:00 p.m. MDT

 Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Velasquez (26) competes with Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani (11) during MLS action in Sandy  Saturday, March 30, 2013.

Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Velasquez (26) competes with Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani (11) during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013.

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Major League Soccer is the seventh best soccer league in the world, according to Sporting Intelligence.

The survey of world leagues takes into account attendance, finances, goals, competitiveness, caliber of players and managers, stadiums and success in continental competitions, according to ProSoccer Talk.

The German Bundesliga is the top league in the world followed closely by the English Premier League, according to the rankings. Spain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, MLS, Holland and France round out the top 10.

According to tweets by Sporting Intelligence, the English Premier League was severely docked for quality of stadiums, and while MLS has built many new soccer specific stadiums, Sporting Intelligence noted that MLS scored well in competitiveness and other areas.

One of the reasons the MLS has vaulted up the rankings may be parity of play. Many of the world's top leagues are dominated by a small group of elite teams. Manchester United recently won its 20th league title, and fifth in seven years. Bayern Munich has won five of the last 10 Bundesliga titles, and nine of the last 10 La Liga titles have been won by either Real Madrid or Barcelona.

In contrast, five different teams have won the MLS Supporters' Shield for best record, and seven different teams have hoisted the MLS Cup in the last decade.

In 2012, the MLS ranked eighth in total attendance for soccer leagues across the world, and had a higher average attendance than the NHL and NBA. In 2012, the MLS set records for total attendance with Seattle Sounders FC leading the way for the fourth year in a row with an average attendance of 43,144.

Despite the increasing attendance figures, MLS lags far behind other league in player salaries. The lack of a major television deal has kept average salaries relatively low. MLS teams have a salary cap of $2.95 million with non designated players making as little as $35,125. The lack of salary money has made it hard for MLS clubs to attract top-tier talent in their prime.

New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry has openly stated his displeasure with the MLS salary cap structure.

“If you’re in any other league in the world, you keep your good players. Not in this league,” said Henry in an interview with MLSSoccer.com. "It is an American way of dealing with things, salary cap, draft, trade. In Europe, we don’t do that. In Europe, if you perform for your team, you’re sure of staying. But here it’s different and if you want to be compared to some of the big leagues in Europe, something has to be changed. I don’t know what, but something has to be changed.”

Ryan Carreon is a web editor for DeseretNews.com. E-mail him at rcarreon@desnews.com

1. ekute
Layton, UT,
April 23, 2013

I'm a big RSL fan but the talent and quality of play is very noticeable when compared to the English Premiere League. The MLS still has a ways to go before they really challenge Mexico in CONCACAF. I Believe! I'm Here For RSL!

2. BusStopRatBag
Layton, UT,
April 23, 2013

Quoting Henry re: the inequities and problems of MLS salaries? Seriously? He's the highest paid player in the league. Between himself and Cahill, New York is paying $9.225 million a year for two players. Those two players alone are paid over three times the salary cap for entire teams. Salt Lake's two highest paid players combine for less than 10% of that. The designated player rule should be renamed the Red Bulls and Galaxy rule. Nobody else can afford to compete and even European stars in decline don't want to play in Houston and Chicago never mind Kansas City and Salt Lake. So the rich get richer but somehow it doesn't quite translate into absolute dominance. I love it every time the league doesn't get its NY v. LA final and a team other than one of those two wins the Cup. Despite LA's success, which hurts to acknowledge, NY still hasn't lifted the silverware.

Taylorsville, UT,
April 23, 2013

Actually, one of my favorite things about MLS is the relatively low salaries. It disgusts me seeing athletes - grown men playing a GAME - earning $30 million per year. For some reason, it's easier for me to cheer for a bunch of guys who are making salaries much closer to mine. Most superstar players make about as much as doctors, which seems reasonable to me. The day MLS abandons the salary cap and goes on a crazy spending spree will be a sad day indeed.

4. BryceDeMann
Murray, UT,
April 24, 2013

MLS is a better league than those in Holland and France? Having connections to the champions league, UEFA cup, and relegation/promotion battles must not have come into the equation? Lower league promotion ties communities without a team in the top tier to the league and gives every team no matter the level different goals for their season. Clubs in other parts of the world have youth development programs and deep community bonds we will probably never be able to compete with. But maybe we can still try.

5. MinutemanII
April 24, 2013

Really, Theirry Henry? Didn't you used to play for Arsenal, a very good team, but one that lets their best players go in order to earn big money and balance the books?