a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
a widely held but false belief or idea.
During the intermittent battles that spring up over whether promotion/relegation would be an improvement to US Soccer (I’m clearly on the record that it would be) an argument that MLS parity makes for a more competitive product always rears its ugly head. The typical line spouted is that MLS has had “nine different champions” in nineteen years and the EPL has had five. But this is comparing apples and oranges.
First, we actually have to compare the same achievement. Most of the world considers their league champion to be the team that earned the most points throughout the league calendar. In MLS that is the Supporter’s Shield, not the MLS Cup. (Instead, the MLS Champion is the winner of the MLS Cup, a tournament competition between a certain number of teams who make the playoffs and I’ll touch on that below.) In every major league in the world, each team plays a balanced schedule against every other team in their division. MLS doesn’t do this.
For the first three years MLS didn’t even have an award for its regular season champion. Starting in 1999 it began awarding the supporter’s shield. The award was backdated to include the prior year champions. Worse from a sporting perspective, MLS has always had an unbalanced schedule where teams play regional rivals more than teams on the opposite coast. The argument for this has been cost of travel, but it makes teams in a tougher conference play far stiffer competition than teams in a weaker group.
On paper, MLS looks pretty competitive in how many teams have won the Supporter’s Shield. Ten teams have taken the trophy in the last 19 years. (Two of those teams have folded, Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion.) Comparatively, five teams have won the English Premier League. During the same period five teams have won both La Liga and Serie A, six teams have won the Bundesliga and eight teams have won Ligue 1. This would seem to support the argument that MLS is somehow more competitive than the EPL (this weakens when compared to Ligue 1, which has had almost the same number of winners in a far more difficult league).
The argument breaks down once you start looking at actual numbers. Four teams have won almost seventy percent of all the shields (13 of 19). MLS has been dominated by DC United, LA Galaxy, Columbus Crew and San Jose. If you add in two more teams (Chicago Fire and Sporting Kansas City) the same six teams have won the Shield 15 of 19 times (79%) AND have been runner’s up 13 of 19 times (68%). Parity is non-existent.
Meanwhile, MLS crowns its “Champion” with the victor of a limited Cup. “[MLS Cup and Supporter’s Shiled] two separate competitions,” Arena said. “They’re unique in themselves, one has nothing to do with the other.”[i] During the last 19 years there have been nine different winners of the MLS Cup. Again, on paper, MLS looks like a very competitive league. When you look at the details that Myth becomes exposed.
Two teams have won the MLS Cup nine times (47%) and five teams have won 15 of the 19 cups (79%). The rest of the soccer world has their cup competitions too and during the same time frame there have been eight different winners of the FA Cup and 11 different winners of the League (Capitol One) Cup in England. In Germany’s DFB-Pokal there have been 8 different winners. In France there have been 12 winners of the Coupe de France and 12 winners of the Coupe de la Ligue. Italy has had nine different winners of the Copa Italia and Spain has had 11 winners of the Copa del Rey.
MLS parity is a myth. Just like the rest of the world a small number of clubs win most of the time. The difference is here, our soccer is artificially limited by the Byzantine rules of MLS and the lack of promotion/relegation.
[i] Bruce Arena, quoted in SB Nation http://www.lagconfidential.com/2011/10/28/2521737/la-galaxy-manager-bruce-arena-talks-mls-cup