MLS vs Premier League: Major Similarities and Differences

MLS vs Premier League

Last Updated on October 28, 2021

The MLS vs Premier League debate is getting more popular amongst football fans lately. Therefore, it is imperative to shed more light on the MLS and EPL, highlighting the important similarities and differences.

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The MLS and English Premier League have areas of differences and similarities. The EPL, also known as the English Premier League, was founded in 1992. Before this time, English clubs competed in what was known as the Football League First Division, which started in 1888. In its first season (1992/93), 22 teams competed for the EPL title until 1995, when Premier League reduced the number to 20 teams.

On the other hand, the MLS also referred to as Major League Soccer, was founded in 1993. This was part of the pledge made by the U.S federation to FIFA when it was granted the hosting rights for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Its’ first major season was held in 1996 with just 10 teams.

Now, let’s go in-depth exploring the MLS and Premier League. First, we’ll highlight their similarities before pinpointing their differences.

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MLS vs Premier League: The Similarities

Both the MLS and the EPL went through changes in the last two decades. These changes resulted in some differences and similarities, which we will unravel.

Application of IFAB Rules

The English Premier League and the MLS both follow the International Football Association Board’s rules and standards. However, it is important to state that it took the MLS about 10 years after its inaugural season to adopt the IFAB rules.

As the rules governing football matches are modified, several leagues adopt them, even though some do so earlier than others. For instance, the yellow card and red card rule for managers/officials was introduced in the EPL in the 2018/19 season, but it only came into effect in the MLS in 2020.

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Qualification to Continental Cup Competitions

EPL clubs feature in continental competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. Participation in these competitions is achieved when a club finishes in the top 6 positions in the league and/or wins a domestic cup competition.

Similarly, winners of the MLS regular League season automatically qualify for North America’s continental competition, the CONCACAF Champions League. Also, teams qualify for this competition by winning the MLS CUP, U.S Open Cup, or the Supporter’s Shield.

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The Same Number of Domestic Cup Competitions

Since 1960, EPL teams have competed in two major domestic cup competitions; The FA Cup and the League Cup. The FA cup was played in 1871, seventeen years before the League started. However, it took until 1960 before the League Cup was introduced.

Meanwhile, the MLS has its major domestic cup competitions; The U.S Open Cup and the Canadian Championship. The former has been in existence since 1914, long before the league was established. The latter comprises teams from the Canadian and U.S Leagues.

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Inclusion of Foreign Clubs

The MLS and EPL are similar in terms of the inclusion of clubs not originally based in the country. For instance, Swansea and Cardiff City are clubs from Wales that sometimes compete in the English Premier League.
Similarly, CF Montreal, Toronto FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, originally from Canada, compete in Major League Soccer.

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End of the Season Awards

Like most Leagues in the world, at the end of the season, there are various awards given out. Amongst the awards given at the end of the MLS, the season is MLS Best XI, MLS Golden Boot, MLS Goal of the Year, MLS Young Player of the Year, and The Landon Donovan MVP Award. The latter is given to the best player in the league.

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The EPL also gives out awards at the end of the season. These are The PFA Player of the Year Award, Young Player of the Year, Playmaker Award, Golden Boot, and Golden Glove awards. Also, there is an award for the League’s best manager and the League’s best XI.

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MLS vs. Premier League: The Major Differences

The MLS and the EPL have some fundamental areas of difference. There are differences in setup and organization. Five of these differences are highlighted below.

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League Format

This is probably the most prominent difference in the MLS vs Premier League comparison.

Since 1995, an EPL season consists of 20 teams who play against each other on a home and away basis. The 20 teams are organized in a single-league-table format.

On the other hand, the number of MLS teams competing in a league season changes from time to time. For instance, 16 teams competed in the 2010 League season, but by 2021, it rose to 27. It is proposed that by 2023, the total number of teams competing in the league will rise to 30.

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The MLS format takes a kind of double-league-table format where teams are divided into two groups. Each of these groups is known as the Eastern and Western Conferences. Teams are placed in each conference according to geographical location.

Each team is expected to play against all the teams in their conference on a home and away basis. They also play against most teams in the other conference.

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Different Calendars

Traditionally, the EPL runs from mid-August to the end of May. In-between these 9 months, there is a transfer window that starts and ends in January. The other transfer window starts before the League season in June and ends in August.

On the other hand, the MLS season starts in March and ends in October. The MLS has two major transfer windows in-between the league season. The first and primary transfer window starts in February and ends in May. In comparison, the secondary transfer window starts in July and ends in August.

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Relegation and promotion of Clubs

One major area of difference between the MLS and EPL is whether or not clubs are relegated. The three bottom-placed teams on the EPL table are relegated to the lower division at the end of the season. In the same vein, three teams from the lower division gain promotion to the EPL.

In comparison, the MLS does not make provisions for relegation or promotion of teams. Teams who participate in the MLS cannot be relegated. In the same vein, teams are not promoted to the MLS. However, The MLS may make additions to the number of teams in the League following registration.

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League Champions

In the English Premier League, teams are crowned champions when they have the most points of all 20 teams in a season. When teams are tied on points, goal difference, the goal scored, and other factors are considered to decide who is crowned champion.

On the other hand, the teams that sit top of the two groups (Eastern and Western Conferences) in the MLS will not be crowned champions. Instead, the top 7 teams from both conferences are involved in a post-regular-league competition to determine who is crowned champion. The final match in this competition is known as the MLS Cup.

Worthy of note is that the two teams that top the two conferences qualify to the semi-final of the aforementioned competition.

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Transfer Fees and Salaries

A lot is said of the English club’s finances. Arguably, there is no league as lucrative as the English Premier League. This is reflected in the fees they pay for the transfer of players and salaries paid. In this sense, the EPL pays more in the transfer of players and salaries.

The highest amount of money paid for a player by a club in the MLS is $18million (£13million). This was achieved when Atlanta signed Gonzalo Martinez from River Plate in 2019. As of 2020 in EPL, the average amount paid by clubs for the transfer of players is about £16million.

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Also, the record transfer fee paid by an EPL club is £89million, which Manchester United paid for the transfer of Pogba from Juventus in 2016.

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Furthermore, salaries paid by EPL clubs are much more than those paid by clubs in the MLS. As of 2021, Vela and Javier Hernandez are the two highest-paid players in the MLS, earning about £4.5million per year. Interestingly, they are the only players earning above $6million (£4.5million). On the other hand, players like David De Gea and Kelvin De Bruyne earn about £400,000 per week. That is about £20million annually.

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Final Thought on the MLS vs Premier League Comparison

Football is the most popular and followed sport in England. Also, its popularity in Europe and the world cannot be overstated. Hence, it comes as no surprise to see that it generates so much revenue locally and internationally.

The same, however, cannot be said of the MLS, which started in 1996 and is still trying to gain ground. Soccer is still not the most followed or popular sport in the U.S, even though it has improved its reputation amongst fans in recent years.

The culture in the U.S influences the format which the league takes. Play-offs are embraced in some of the most popular sports in the U.S, but it is not so in England. The league in these countries is a fair reflection of their respective cultures.

In a nutshell, the MLS vs Premier League comparison is an interesting one that reflects the diversity in how teams can play football.

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