It wasn’t the result that Portland Timbers fans, including myself, wanted. The 2-0 scoreline was a disappointment to all Timbers fans around the world, but MLS Cup 2018 has revolutionized the way the that the world looks at MLS and its output of young stars. The Anfield Talk’s Logan (@kidddlogan) takes a look as to why MLS Cup 2018 was so important for American football and how it is revolutionizing the game around the world.
“Are you ready?”, “Are you ready?”, “Are you ready?” rings out from the 73,000 plus crowd full of Atlanta United supporters at the world-class Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia after the opening kickoff. Indeed, Atlanta United was ready for the Portland Timbers in search for their very first MLS Cup since joining the league just last season. The pressure that Tata Martino’s Atlanta United put on Giovanni Savarese’s men was too much to handle when Jeremy Ebobisse, Portland’s up-and-coming striker, was forced into a giveaway by the Atlanta United defender, which led to *another* Josef Martinez goal. It brought his tally to 37 goals in all competitions this season. The Timbers scratched and clawed their way into the break without conceding another goal.
Unfortunately, Atlanta United’s pressure would cause the Timbers into some silly fouls in dangerous areas and it eventually led to a Franco Escobar side-netting finish after Larrys Mabiala, Portland’s centre-half, was whistled for a high boot. The scoreline would not change and it saw the Five Stripes raise MLS Cup for the very first time in their two-year tenure in MLS.
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Yes, the spectacle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was down-right stunning. However, it’s what’s happening behind the scenes that is changing the world’s view of football in America. Don Garber, the longtime MLS commissioner, recently announced last week that MLS will more than likely be expanding to 28 teams by 2021. You’re probably questioning why this seems important to world football. Well, with Inter Miami and their owner, David Beckham, becoming a recognized MLS franchise that will officially start their first campaign in the 2020 season. Because the creation of more teams with massive European footballing icons at the helm is becoming more common in MLS, some of the biggest stars in the world are looking to take their talents to MLS.
Over the last two seasons, attendance and ticket sales have had a massive increase nationwide, mostly due to the fact that MLS is recruiting some of the best talents in the world along with some of the best youth footballers in the world. Former Vancouver Whitecaps teenage midfielder, Alphonso Davies, made a permanent transfer to Bayern Munich at the end of the season. Davies first broke into the league back in the 2016 MLS campaign. His explosiveness which allowed him to be scouted by some of the best clubs in Europe has put eyes on the MLS. The league is a place that allows for young teenage superstars to shine and to make their mark on the game before they make that all important move to Europe to play for some of the best clubs in the world.
The best example of such is the rumoured sale of Miguel Almiron, Atlanta United midfielder, to Newcastle in January. The Argentinian did not have the platform that he needed to excel his career back in his native country. When he made the switch to Atlanta United, he had that platform to showcase his ridiculous talent to the world because MLS is becoming a regular on TV around the world.
Nothing can stop these young players that are full of talent from making it to the top clubs in the world. If anything, MLS will be producing some of the best young talents that the world has to offer because it is finally becoming recognized as a respected league and not “full of former world greats on the cusps of retirement.” The TV viewership from around the world hit an all-time high for an MLS match and it all comes down to the amount of talent that the league has.
Watch out Europe, MLS Cup 2018 and really the 2018 MLS season has finally shone the spotlight on what the MLS has to offer in young superstars that will be making their way to Europe to mark their place among some of the greatest to have ever played.