Putting a number on how domestic soccer leagues rank is always an entertaining – and somewhat nebulous – undertaking.
For fans of MLS, how its current growth stacks up against some of the world’s top leagues is a prevalent discussion topic. Dave Clark at the blog Sounderatheart.com decided to break down that discussion with actual numbers.
Using national team players during World Cup years as a guide, he found that MLS is indeed moving up the ranks of quality worldwide soccer leagues, from 24th in 2010 to 12th this year.
But the study doesn’t merely rank leagues by the number of players on World Cup teams – considering there are a number of quality teams not going to next week’s tournament based on the strength of their qualification routes.
Keeping that in mind, players used in World Cup qualifiers for all international teams are counted, as well.
What national team a player plays for is accounted for, also, with Brazil’s ELO rating carrying more weight than, for example, Azerbaijan.
Taking all that into account, MLS has made significant strides, notably jumping ahead of the Swiss, Greek and Belgian leagues. The report also notes that staying ahead of oil-powered Arab leagues – which use high-dollar amounts to attract players – is a significant achievement.
One of the notable areas of improvement is the breadth of international players the league has been able to sign, moving from a destination for aging stars and CONCACAF internationals to now attracting players from hotbeds such as Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, England and Spain.
As for how much further MLS has to go to reach premier status, as Commissioner Don Garber regularly states as a goal, well, there’s still a ways to go. MLS received 1,092 rating points, whereas the English Premier League, ranked No. 1, not surprisingly, received 8,493. The Bundesliga, which came in at No. 2, received 5,164 points and No. 3 Serie A 4,901 points.
MLS’ closest competition is the Netherlands, which received 1,428 points.