It’s been said that a rising tide lifts all ships. And while it’s still very early days in the 2014 World Cup, it does not take a massive leap to see that one of the many reasons for CONCACAF’s success so far at the tournament is down to Major League Soccer and its regional impact.
The U.S. top flight has sent a total of 21 players to Brazil this summer, which puts it in the top 10 of all world leagues. And while some big names adorn that list, like the USA’s Clint Dempsey, Tim Cahill of Australia and Julio Cesar of Brazil, it’s the workmanlike core of teams like the U.S., Costa Rica and Honduras that have benefited most from the young American league.
In truth, it’s a small contingent when looking at the big picture, but the long-term effects are most intriguing. MLS has only been in existence since 1996, but it has provided a valuable option for many CONCACAF nations in terms of player development and exposure.
Outside of Mexico, MLS has steadily grown to the point that its club system has surpassed those of all the Central American and Caribbean nations, with the occasional exception of Costa Rica. But even there, the drop-off in quality from the top teams in the league to the minnows is massive – and not just in sporting terms, either. Small stadiums, horrible pitches and pitiful wages make the U.S. a tempting proposition indeed.