Major League Soccer is probably the only top-flight football league in the world that has the term "soccer" in its name. It's no wonder football enthusiasts don't take it seriously.
But there is indication that the tide has turned for the Beautiful Game in the Land of the Free. The MLS may not rival the likes of NFL or the NBA anytime soon, but the general consensus is that it's at least heading in the right direction.
And here are five reasons for this newfound optimism:
1. Influx Of Five Major Stars
Previously, the MLS was considered lucky if it snagged a big name player every few years. This time though, the budding league has captured five World Class players in a single window. With Kaka, Sebastian Giovinco and David Villa having already started their MLS careers and English midfielders Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard set to join them later this year, football in the States is getting a whole lot exciting.
2. MLS More Than Just A Retirement Home For Ageing Big Names
The four superstars the MLS has secured could all have played at the highest level for at least the foreseeable future, but they still chose to come to America. Even if money played a part in convincing them, the fact remains that these footballers can get paid in any league. However, they are coming to the MLS, and it's encouraging.
3. Quality Of Football Is Going Up
With a glut of stars coming in, the overall quality of the game in the MLS has improved too. Just take a look at the brilliantly worked out goal by the Seattle Sounders on the opening day of the new season:
4. Expansion Clubs
With the addition of expansion clubs New York City FC and Orlando City FC to the mix, the MLS is now a 20-team league. This is the most number of teams it has had since its inception in 1996. In 2017, two more franchises – in Atlanta and Los Angeles – are expected to join the budding league. These indeed are exciting times.
5. Owen Coyle's Arrival
It wasn't long ago that Owen Coyle was one of the brightest young British managers in the game. His stock has dipped a bit in recent seasons, but he is still a Premier League-level coach. With him in charge of the Houston Dynamos, the MLS has broken another barrier. His is also a major coup. It will be interesting to see how he fares here and whether he can help the Dynamo add to their two MLS Cup triumphs of 2006 and 2007.