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By nature I’m a realist. Now whether or not that makes me overly cynical or pessimistic I’m not sure, but I do try to be reasonable when considering my options.

In this case, I’m torn over the comments made by Los Angeles Galaxy president, and former U.S. national team stalwart, Alexi Lalas this week. With the arrival of David Beckham to Major League Soccer becoming imminent, and Beckham’s resurgent play for Real Madrid’s title-run, some European journalists and pundits are coming out of the woodwork to do a little MLS bashing.

In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Lalas defended MLS and fought back at any naysayer claiming Beckham will be entering a second-class league as only a marketing tool.

“The fact that a segment of the world worships an inferior product in the Premiership is their business,” Lalas said in The Guardian published Tuesday.

“In England, our league is considered second class, but I honestly believe if you took a helicopter and grabbed a bunch of MLS players and took them to the perceived best league in the world they wouldn’t miss a beat and the fans wouldn’t notice any drop in quality.”

Now while it appears Lalas is just bashing the English Premier League, he is also doing his part to defend MLS, as he should as a leader of a team, and one of the biggest reasons Beckham is coming to America.

But here is the realist in me. I can’t trick myself into thinking the Premiership and MLS are anywhere in the same realm. I also don’t want to come away looking like a European soccer snob, which too many MLS-haters on this side of the pond are.

The Premiership’s success not only comes from what it puts on the pitch, but also because it is a marketing juggernaut and has seemingly reached every corner of the globe. Maybe that has helped the league inflate its value, players and level of play, but not many players around the world would argue with its quality as one of the top leagues on the globe.

A lot of the Premiership’s success can be attributed to the Big Four (Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool) and their seemingly limitless spending and star-drawing power. No one would argue any MLS team is anywhere near those teams’ levels, and I don’t think that’s the point Lalas was trying to make.

This however was lost when some British newspapers were on hand to watch Los Angeles take on Real Salt Lake on Sunday. The papers came away unimpressed and derisive of the play, while taking the opportunity to tear open the league as a whole while watching two teams that are a combined 2-9-9, and sit at the bottom of the Western standings together.

Looking at the dregs of a league is no way to judge it. Here I give Lalas credit because I believe fans would have trouble discerning the level of play between the bottom of MLS and the Watford’s and Charlton’s of the Premiership, or even the English League Championship (the league just below the Premiership).

But the problem here is that every league has its bottom-feeders who only show flashes of what a league is really made of. While MLS has made great strides in attracting better players and increasing its level of play each season, it is still years behind the top leagues in Europe.

The player development, technical skill, tactical approach, depth of players and squads and a better feel for the game are part of the reason European teams and leagues are the best in the world. Even Aston Villa castoff Juan Pablo Angel has had little trouble setting MLS defenses on fire with nine goals in seven games.

I like Lalas’ tenacity in his support of American soccer, his team and for bringing Beckham to MLS, but until the United States’ level of play is really on par with the rest of the world, let’s be realistic.


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