It’s MLS versus the world
Enjoy this July
You can tell it’s July when you starting hearing about top European soccer clubs playing matches in America. Most foreign leagues start up in August so this is the time when teams in those league are having their pre-season tune-ups. The US has been a destination of choice in recent years for these clubs because of the improved quality of MLS sides, and of course, the money factor: top European sides can sell out stadiums over here. American soccer teams will face three of the top four English teams, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Arsenal, as well as Spanish runners up Real Madrid. It all culminates at the end of the month when the MLS All-Stars try their luck again against Man U. after getting dominated last year.
Of course, the British invasion is reminder that the MLS season is rapidly approaching it’s halfway point, with some teams having already played more than half of their games. With so many games, The Power Rank is getting a good measure of each team’s relative quality. The rankings demonstrate that the West is yet again the dominant conference as it occupies the top four spots. That means you can expect another ranting blog post about the foolishness of the seeding process for the playoffs in a few months. However, the league has quite a bit more parity this year with no team having as high a value as Real Salt Lake ended last season with (to see what a league with less parity looks like, check out the top of the MLB rankings).
One of the most interesting things to note at the top is that teams 2 through 4 have each suffered a long-term injury to a key player. Now that LA will be without goalkeeper Donovan Rickets for the next month or so, we’ll see if they can cope as well. Of all these injuries, Real Salt Lake have suffered the most. They ended last year’s rank as clearly the best side and started this season just the same, but after suffering a tough defeat in the Champions’ League finals followed by a devastating injury to midfielder Javier Morales, they have fallen to third in The Power Rank. It will be interesting to see how well they continue to contend through the rest of the season in a loaded Western Conference.
Looking east, Philly is giving hope to this year’s expansion teams (both ranked in the bottom four) by moving into the top third. New York has had a bit of bad luck in that they have the second most number of ties. A break here or there and they would be comfortably in charge of the lesser conference. Also keep an eye on Kansas City who had to start the season with 10 consecutive road games while construction was completed on their new Livestrong Stadium. They are ranked number 7, but have a whole lot of home games in front of them. This year, the last four playoff spots will be based on standings in a unified table, and if the season ended today the West would claim three of them with Sporting KC squeaking in for the fourth.