The 2014 Major League Soccer season is upon us, and unfortunately, its 19th year of existence is being overshadowed by future events.
Internally, planned expansion to Orlando and New York City in 2015 has stolen some of this year’s drama. Walking headline David Beckham has also proved to be a distraction as he continues to pursue his own franchise in Miami. Throw in a healthy array of approaching United States Men’s National team fixtures, a juicy Champions League finale, and the World Cup in Brazil less than three months away, MLS fans will have to redirect their attention to presiding entertainment.
“With the World Cup this year, I think that the MLS is going to take a back seat in the soccer world,” Ramapo junior Greg Mascola said.
Professional soccer in America may not be ready to compete with international competition, but it still deserves our attention. It’s an exciting time to be an MLS supporter and an even more exciting time to become one. Casual fans who typically watch the national team can feel more comfortable transitioning to MLS as big name American signings have added familiarity.
The Seattle Sounders bringing in Clint Dempsey midway through last years season and Toronto FC signing Michael Bradley give the fans the ability to watch two of the most prominent players on a weekly basis. Philadelphia Union acquiring Maurice Edu, as well as Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles Galaxy resigning top American talent like Graham Zusi and Omar Gonzalez, proves that MLS is slowly becoming a destination league.
“It’s good to see that some of the world’s top players are choosing to come to America and play in the MLS,” Mascola said. “It shows that the league is growing and attracting more talent.”
Toronto continued its off-season spending spree recruiting England international Jermaine DeFoe and Brazilian international Julio Cesar. DC United were able to bolster their attack by adding United States forward Eddie Johnson and Argentine Fabian Espindola. Last years MLS Cup winners, Sporting KC, lost their star goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen but still have enough talent to be considered a cup favorite.
Locally, this is a big year for the New York Red Bulls. After winning the Supporters Shield in 2013, they begin this season with legend Thierry Henry entering the final year of his contract and New York City FC ready to infiltrate their territory. Second year head coach Mike Petke finds himself in a win now situation as Henry has started the season looking like he has lost a step or two. Australian international Tim Cahill and Costa Rican international Roy Miller will likely be the only two members of the team missing action to play in the World Cup. The Red Bulls are commonly known for overhauling their entire roster each season but continuity has been the theme this year as nine starters have returned. With the experience and talent they have at their disposal, anything less than a trip to the finals should be considered a massive failure.
The 19th MLS season will not be this year’s main attraction for American soccer fans. The casual fan will likely overlook it as they become accustomed to top quality World Cup competition. However, this season marks the end of an era. Sustainability and popularity are no longer fears for MLS executives. Expansion and ambition is the mindset. The MLS is here to stay and hopefully 2014 reflects the hard work it has taken to get to this point.