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Thursday June 25 2015
MLS increasingly tempting

With Andrea Pirlo increasingly likely to join New York City FC, Marco D'Onofrio looks at what makes Major League Soccer so appealing. 

Major League Soccer has never been known for the quality of its on-field product, but the league remains an attractive place for anyone to ply their trade nonetheless. From the state-of-the-art stadiums being built around the league, to players not having to worry about whether their paycheque will clear every week, there are a plethora of reasons why someone would elect to join MLS.

Marco Di Vaio was one of the first Italians to make the move across the pond, but has since been joined by a number of Serie A veterans, including the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Ricky Kaka, Marco Donadel, Innocent Emeghara and Obafemi Martins. Parma midfielder Daniele Galloppa is also now on trial with Toronto FC.

While the aforementioned players' salaries vary quite vastly, there are a number of reasons each one of them decided to come over. Although many are past their prime and would find it difficult to earn the same wages playing in Europe, that is not the case for all them.

Galloppa may not be as big of a name as Kaka or Giovinco, but he is still only 30 years old and proved with Parma that he is more than capable of playing in the Italian top flight. However, he has not been paid all season and had to deal with numerous issues off the pitch. This would simply not happen in MLS… ever.

When Chivas USA was in financial trouble and could not find a stable ownership group, the league took matters into their own hands. Currently the club are on a hiatus and are scheduled to re-enter the league in 2018 with a new name, image and stadium in Los Angeles, with an ownership group that includes the likes of Mia Hamm, Magic Johnson, Vincent Tan, and Nomar Garciaparra.

When Football Italia met Giovinco after Toronto's most recent match, we asked what Serie A could glean from the MLS. "It is still early for me, but the atmosphere in and around the stadium here is something they can learn from in Italy." 

Ultras culture is an epidemic rotting at the core of Italian football, but one that does not exist in MLS. While every team in the league has their set of passionate supporters' groups, the violence that we've seen erupt inside and outside of football stadiums across the peninsula does not occur in North America.

Toronto FC fans had decided to protest the fact that they would have to share their newly renovated and expanded stadium with an American football team next season, by posting a banner behind the goal during their home opener which was broadcasted on international television.

However, when the club's management had approached them about the importance of the match to the team's reputation, they decided to take it down and resurrect it during the next game instead. This type of reason and rationale is rarely shown from Ultras in Italy. A simple look back at this season's banner about Ciro Esposito's mother being held up by Roma supporters and the fallout that occurred afterwards is evidence of that.

"People are very polite and respectful," Giovinco said during a recent autograph session open to the public. "In Italy, it's impossible to do something like this."

Indeed, MLS has a lot to offer players, even if the football being played has a long way to go before being able to match the quality of Europe's biggest leagues.

"The level of football here is not comparable to the European one," Giovinco told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"But I'm convinced it can turn into an increasingly important championship over the years."

Attracting the likes of Kaka, Giovinco, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, David Villa, and Andrea Pirlo in one season is a pretty good signal of intent for a league that has grown leaps and bounds in its 20 years of existence.

MLS deserves much of the criticism it receives for its on-field product, but it also needs to be given a lot of credit for the way it is positively changing the football landscape in North America.

Have your say...
@Anonymous: Care to name any of these 40 year-old "semi-pro" players from England? The only team that likes to sign mediocre British players is Toronto FC, which coincidentally has never made the playoffs in eight years of existence...
on the 3rd July, 2015 at 12:38pm
Can't understand why pirlo would leave juve early with 12 month left on his contract and one final hurrah with the azzurri at Euro 2016.
If he leaves now he's a fool because A) the league is poor and pirlo won't be up to the standard of the rest of the azzurri players by euro 2016. He could even be dropped and forced to retire early from the national team. B) he still has much to give even though he's 36 one more season of competitive football won't hurt him.
on the 29th June, 2015 at 11:18am
its basically a Sunday league with extortionate wages! I know 40 year old semi-pro players from England that have gone there and are treated like super stars and paid like super stars, if you can kick a ball the USA is the place for you!
on the 29th June, 2015 at 11:01am
Never follow MLS before, until my idol goes there. SEBASTIAN GIOVINCO, i watch all Juventus match, waiting the coach will put him in field, but always ends as "only hope" (except coppa italia vs Verona).

The league is strange, all teams uniform is Adidas with same model, just different in color :)), the rule is strange, and how they manage the match is also strange. But how they documenting the match is nice, and the atmosphere on field also seems okay (beer on supporter bench was the best).
on the 29th June, 2015 at 1:14am
@Anonymous What respect it that? It's a bad league sorry but thats the truth.
on the 28th June, 2015 at 2:18pm
Edit: Streamers. Lol. Would be amazing if the fans could actually throw streams. I might respect them then.
on the 26th June, 2015 at 1:46pm
MLS is awful, and the fans are just as bad. I tried watching when Beckham was playing and I couldn't stand it. One example: while Beckham was trying to take a corner, TFC fans were throwing streams and debris down on top of him so he couldn't play. It took wasted minutes to clear him and the corner, and then they started again. The clock ticks for both teams. Idiots.
on the 26th June, 2015 at 12:19pm
I don't see why Pirlo should go to the U.S at this point. He can still play at the top level even if his form is declining. I would love it if Pirlo would give it one more year and move to the U.S after the next Euros- allowing him to try get that next champions league and a European Championship. Why go now, when he can still play at the top level? it would be a waste and its not the same scenario as Gerard or Lampard. who were clearly on the wane strugglgling to start for their respective club
on the 26th June, 2015 at 12:13pm
It will come down to these semi retired players & families wanting to try out the lifestyle offered in the states. Italy is a beautiful country but its bereft of stable economy, welfare & politics. USA for a wealthy person offers a lot & less press attention too. As for Giovinco who knows what goes on in that boys head, absolutely he should have remained in Europe in a team competing in the Champions League, to abandon top European competition for USA football at such a stage in his career, mad!
on the 26th June, 2015 at 8:42am
Americans should focus on their FUTball than Football
on the 26th June, 2015 at 7:27am
A "competitive" league where there is no relegation? No thanks.
on the 25th June, 2015 at 10:41pm
Well to me he got to decide to go or not,and his decision must be respected even though his departure will be a bitter
on the 25th June, 2015 at 9:05pm
Great article! MLS doesn't get the respect it deserves.
on the 25th June, 2015 at 8:57pm

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