Can Major League Soccer help save South American football?

Recently the Major League Soccer (MLS) has been picking up the pace in order to bring on board great names of the beautiful game majorly from South America and Europe. Names like Kaká, Frank Lampard, David Villa, among others are recent acquisitions of the MLS. In the case of the players mentioned above they will be serving other teams on loan (Kaká acquired by Orlando City SC but on loan at São Paulo FC, Frank Lampard acquired by New York City FC but on loan at Manchester City and David Villa also acquired by New York City FC but on loan at Melbourne City) until the MLS pre-season starts next January.

The recently increased appetite for foreign stars to fuel the MLS is a result of a long time attempt to introduce football (or soccer) to the USA. The first attempt is dated back to the early 70’s when the New York Cosmos team brought Pelé onboard to promote the beautiful game in the North America. The second landmark came in 1994 when the USA hosted the biggest football event of all, the World Cup. The third landmark was the “Beckham project”, bringing the English star to play for the L.A. Galaxy in 2007. Since then the MLS has been growing on a steady pace with investments in the structural organization of the league consistently made year after year. The United Sates Soccer Federation, which organizes the MLS, nowadays have a head coach certification system that resembles or even copies the one at the English FA. Another aspect that has been helping the notoriety and promotion of the football game in the USA is the good performances that the American national team have showcased in the recent World Cups.

Considering all these aspects it is correct to say that the MLS is expanding rapidly and solidly. Momentum is just building up.

In this meanwhile, down south the same American continent we have countries like Brazil and Argentina, not to mention Colombia, Uruguay, Chile and many others, home of some of the greatest footballers of all time struggling with financial and corruption problems. These countries continue to produce the raw material, the players, but it has been a long time that they fail to produce leagues strong enough or interesting enough to get the attention even of the local viewers.

It is becoming more and more common to find young kids from South America rooting for teams like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Manchester United and many others instead of their local home teams. The debacle of the South American football had its symptoms shown in full colors when the five times world champions Brazil lost the game against Germany by 1 x 7.

It is time for the South American federations and teams to look up to the neighbors of the North America (USA, Canada and Mexico) and start including them officially (and not just as honorary guests) in competitions like Copa América and Copa Libertadores. This would ignite a much bigger exchange between the South and North American markets. Benefits such as North American players coming to play in South America and the other way around, leagues from South and North Americas being broadcasted on each other territories, franchises of South American Clubs in the North America and the other way around are just a few benefits that can be built if the Americas literally unite.

Looking from this perspective the united Americas may have the potential to equalize and even surpass the European market in the near future. On the other hand, if nothing is done, the decaying state of South American football will reach a rock bottom level in which even the production of world-class footballers can be extinguished.

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