European football fans really are spoilt for choice. The amount of top quality, entertaining football we have to watch during the season really is mind boggling. From the best domestic leagues in the world such as the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A to the Champions League and Europa League, there is almost always a match worth watching on the weekends and evenings. And that’s before we get to the likes of the Championship, FA Cup and other UK divisions and cups.
Not every football fan sticks to the action in Europe though. There is a whole world of football competitions worth watching out there. Those who cannot get enough football to watch and/or are always looking for a way to use their knowledge to beat the bookies would do very well to pay particularly close attention to the A-League and Major League Soccer.
Both of those competition have traditionally been viewed as a long way down the food chain of domestic football leagues and, in truth, they are still a very long way from the top European competitions in terms of class. However, they’ve both made giant steps forward over the last five or 10 years and thanks to the time difference, they both provide some great betting opportunity for savvy punters. What’s more, given the bookies don’t know quite so much about these competitions, there are some serious profits to be had for those in the know.
Fowler Far From the Only Attraction Down Under
It is always interesting to see how a world class footballer manages the transition from player to manager. We’ve had a number of high profile players make that switch over the last season with mixed results. Steven Gerrard has largely won a lot of praise for the improvements he’s made at Rangers, the success or otherwise of Frank Lampard’s first season as Derby County manager is less clear cut, though he certainly hasn’t done too badly, while the less said about Thierry Henry’s disastrous time in charge of Monaco the better.
It took Robbie Fowler a longer time to get into management than those three (his only experience thus far is a short spell in Thailand with Muangthong United, who go a good way past Accrington Stanley in the “who are they?” stakes) but he is hopeful that he can have great success on the touchline having signed a deal to take control of Brisbane Roar.
— Brisbane Roar (@brisbaneroar) 23 April 2019
Fowler and the Roar hierarchy would bristle at any suggestion that his appointment was made with as much an eye on the press it would generate as the former Liverpool and England striker’s abilities as a manager but the A-League has never been shy about grabbing column inches. Central Coast Mariners certainly earned worldwide attention when they signed Usain Bolt on a long term trial and several big name players have made their way to Australia to compete in the A-League.
Australia’s top football league is much more than a retirement home for former greats of the European game though. It is a thriving competition with very well supported clubs who are very serious about the growth of the game Down Under and about enhancing the quality and reputation of the A-League.
The City Football Group saw enough potential in the A-League to add Melbourne City to their roster of clubs in January 2014. They have invested serious money into Melbourne City and Melbourne City Women and although they’ve not quite had the early success that many expected, there is no doubt that the club has helped to raise the bar of the A-League in general.
As befits a country as sports mad as Australia, each of the 10 teams who compete in the A-League have developed their own traditions, customs and rivalries. This is no copycat league which tries desperately just to import the things they’ve seen around the world. Far from it, the A-League is a forward thinking organisation which was one of the first movers in areas such as VAR.
The coaches and players competing in the A-League are also proud professionals who dedicated themselves to raising standards. Managers such as John van ‘t Schip, Graham Arnold and Ange Postecoglou have left a big mark on Australian football and the A-League has produced several quality playing exports including Aaron Mooy, Mile Jedinak and Daniel Arzani.
Excitement is the other key strength of the A-League. It ranks favourably with the major European leagues in terms of the average number of goals scored in each match whilst the playoff system which is used in other major Australian sporting leagues provides great post-season entertainment and ensures that there is something for almost every team to play for right until the end of the regular season.
MLS Really Coming of Age
It’s not that long ago that football (or soccer) in America was most associated with teenage girls looking for extra athletic credits for their college applications. The transformation from a sport that was sniggered at by the mainstream to one which is amassing huge numbers of young, passionate fans is incredible and Major League Soccer is right at the heart of the change in football’s fortunes in America.
Despite the ultra-competitive sporting landscape in the USA which is dominated by established leagues such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, WWE and Nascar you would be forgiven for thinking there was no room for the MLS to thrive.
However, sports business executives in America are always on the lookout for the next big thing and the history of professional football in the country goes way back to the 1920s so it was clear there was an undercurrent of support. Administrators also knew that the large numbers of South American and European immigrants in America would be very interested in watching some local footballing action but nobody could predict that soccer would become such a hit with trendy young people the length and breadth of the country.
Newcastle fans have found out to their delight that there are some incredibly talented players plying their trade in the MLS. The signing of Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United coincided with the Magpies pulling away from the relegation zone but Almiron’s story is surpassed by that of his former employers. Atlanta United were only founded in April 2014 but they already have the highest average attendance in MLS. That has come thanks to their MLS Cup win in 2018 and because of their incredible stadium, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium that they share with the Atlanta Falcons, which cost over $1.2 billion.
Atlanta United are just one example of a club going from nothing to amassing thousands of fans. In recent years Los Angeles FC, Minnesota United and, most recently, FC Cincinnati, have joined the MLS’ swelling ranks with more so-called ‘expansion teams’ planned for the coming years.
In typically American fashion, MLS fans are more often than not given a world class match day experience in a selection of state of the art stadiums. As well as treating the fans well the MLS is also an increasingly impressive product on the pitch. Genuine superstars of the game including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and Bastian Schweinsteiger are sprinkled amongst a collection of talented players from the USA, Central and South America, Europe and even further afield.
Much like the A-League, the format of the MLS follows many of the biggest American leagues with the teams split into Eastern and Western Conferences which decides the 14 teams who go on to contest the MLS Cup Playoffs. This system can take a bit of getting used to for European fans but once you understand the rankings and how the playoffs work it adds a whole new level of interest and excitement.
MLS teams also compete in the CONCACAF Champions League and Campeones Cup which helps to raise the levels of the best American teams. Whilst the MLS is best enjoyed by actually going to a match, it regularly provides excellent entertainment for European fans watching on from afar.
The best UK bookmakers all offer plentiful betting options for the MLS which only adds to the entertainment whilst the changing online gambling landscape in America is also adding to the spectacle. The MLS has certainly come a very long way from the league that was viewed with little more than contempt in the years following its foundation back in 1996.