The rise of Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League


Will Football ever make its mark in these countries?

It is well known that the USA and China are two of the most important countries in the world economy.   However, Football is far from being a sport with a long tradition in either country.   In the USA, on the one hand, American Football, Nba and Major League Baseball are the leading sports, and are those most practised in schools, universities and even public spaces, where special fields are provided. Nevertheless, Soccer is increasing in popularity and already has more followers than Boxing, Tennis or Golf. In China, sport is growing in popularity with Running the most fashionable, followed by Badminton and Table Tennis. Basketball and Soccer are also popular, and it is estimated that by 2025 there will be 50,000 soccer academies in the country – clear proof that the Chinese are keen to expand this sport.

Nowadays, it can be seen that the two countries are investing as never before in football players, and currently occupy fifth and sixth places in the football league table of average annual salaries, due to the exorbitant amounts that some players receive.

The problem is trying to figure out just what motivates a world class player to join these leagues. Is it just for the money, or is there a genuine wish to help team mates, and also the league, to achieve a better level in the sport? Who knows if one day it could become a traditional and loved sport as it has in South America and in Europe.

Amongst the highest paid players in China (2017 figures), we see some outrageous salaries: topping the list was Carlitos Tevez, earning 37.5 million Euros a year (in Shanghai Shenhua), with Oscar trailing behind at 24.4 Million (Shanghai SIPG), Hulk 20 Million (Shanghai SIPG), Axel Witsel 16 Million (Tianjin Quanjian) and Pellè 15 Million (Shandon Luneng). The top 20 highest salaries in China in 2017 together totalled 245 million Euros – an average of 12.25 million per player.

Although in Major League Soccer there are more players earning an elevated salary than in China, the top salaries fall far behind the Chinese level.  Looking at the list of top MLS salaries – Kaka earning 7.17 Million in Orlando City, Sebastian Giovinco 7.12 Million in Toronto FC, Michael Bradley 6.5 Million in Toronto FC, Andrea Pirlo (already retired) 5.9 Million in New York City F, David Villa 5.6 Million in New York City FC, we see that 28 players have salaries of 1 Million or more, and that in the last collective bargaining agreement the league increased its minimum salary to 53.000.

Both leagues are clearly offering vast sums to players, creating ever greater expectations from the game, but does it necessarily follow that players are interested in promoting football in these countries or are they going abroad merely for the money and to finish their professional careers?

It would certainly be good to see these two powers investing in their young players and nurturing the national interest for participation in the sport.