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"Super Clubs" Are A Good Thing For The MLS

Super Clubs Are Essential For Soccer To Thrive In The US

Getty Images for the New York Re

With the arrival of Thierry Henry in New York, the MLS is finally beginning to see "super clubs". With Henry, Juan Pablo Angel and another designated player on the way, New York is clearly the super club from the East. From the West it's none other than Landon Donovan, David Beckham and a vicious rumor that Ronaldinho is on his way to Hollywood. But even if Ronaldinho never makes it to LA, the Galaxy have enough good players to be referred to as the "super club" rising from the West, because if it isn't Ronaldinho it will be someone else.

With two very clear cut -- and very talented -- teams coming from both sides of the MLS, one might think that this would be a bad thing for the league. To have the same two teams vying for the league title every year? Come on, that's boring.

But with a closer look, that's actually how soccer thrives. Let's take a peek at the English Premier League, probably the best soccer league on the planet. Between the 2001-2002 and the 2009-2010 season, there was only one year when Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea weren't in one of the top four spots in the League Table. You need to go all the way back to the 1994-1995 season before you found a team atop the Premier League that wasn't named Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal. In those 15 years Manchester United won the league nine times, and both Chelsea and Arsenal won it three times each. That's just about as dominant as it gets.

And yet that is exactly why the Premier League thrives. Other teams that aren't Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal become the lovable underdogs, and their entire season becomes focused on how well they can do against the top three, and how far up the table they can finish. And if they can finish in 4th, as Tottenham did for the first time in a long time this past season, they can earn a berth in the Champions League (of course MLS teams don't qualify for the Champions League).

This also helps with the talent pool. Players who are still very good -- in some cases even elite -- go to the other good teams in the league to try and tackle the bigger boys. Mainly because they will see much more time on a team not named Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United; and at the end of the day wouldn't you want to be a superstar on a good team rather than a bench player on a great team? Just ask Carlos Teves, who left Manchester United's bench to find his way into Manchester City's spotlight. Soccer player's primes are only so long, and they want to be stars while they can.  

Even look at Spain's top soccer league, the Premier División. You would have to go all the way back to the 1999-2000 season before you found a team not named Barcelona, Real Madrid or Valencia crowned as champion. And if you really want to talk about dominance, in the history of the Premier División Real Madrid has won the league 31 times and Barcelona has won the league 20 times; compare that to the next closest team, Atlético Madrid, who has won the title nine times.

As a result, bitter and violent rivalries have erupted all over the leagues. Let's make one thing clear here: Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea all hate each other, there is a huge rivalry between those three. The rest of the league hates Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, but the feeling is much less than mutual going the other way. If you aren't a top dog then you aren't worth their time, and that just continues to stoke the flames of hatred with the lesser teams in regards to the top dogs. The Premier División works the same way. Fans come to games because of that, fans take a true love of the sport because of that. Other teams strive to become as good, they live to become as good. And that's how soccer is in other countries. It isn't a game it's a lifestyle.

So back to the MLS, where super clubs are beginning to take form before our very own eyes, and at the end of the day it is the nature of the sport. The MLS brass knows, and understands, that if they want to succeed as a league the path is pretty simple. High-end talent draws more fans, more fans bring in more money and more money makes the world go round.

"Super clubs" help this, too.  New York and LA will now be the envy of the league and I can guarantee you that other clubs will begin gaining more interest in order to root against "the Yankees of soccer." And at the end of the day, the MLS doesn't care how they are getting fans so long as they are getting fans.  

"Super clubs" is another way to achieve this, so hate not on New York or LA; because it's nice having guys like Henry on the pitch. Oh, you're not from LA or New York? Well, who do you have?