International Centre for
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Thu. 15 April 2021

CIES Sports Intelligence publishes new report on the evolution and current landscape of MLS

The ‘Spotlight on MLS’ report provides a comprehensive analysis on Major League Soccer as the North American top-tier division gets ready to kick-off its 26th season.

The study combines off-the-pitch and on-the-pitch data and statistics to deliver a detailed snapshot of MLS, both at league and individual club level. The report is structured across six main areas of analysis touching on aspects such as the league’s expansion since 1996, the current club ownership landscape, stadia and average attendances, player recruitment strategies of MLS clubs, player salaries and playing statistics.

Some of the highlights from the report include:

- From an ownership perspective, more than half of the MLS clubs are directly linked to at least another sports property across US major professional leagues. As result of the increasing wave of US investments in European football, 14 MLS teams have at least one investor in common with a club from the UEFA region;

- A total of 16 soccer-specific stadia have been built in the US between 2005 and 2020. An additional five are currently under construction with three of them – in Austin, Cincinnati and Columbus – expected to open doors in 2021;

- The average total wage bill of an MLS club – USD 12 million in 2019 – has nearly tripled over the last ten years. A similar trend is reflected in terms of salary distribution. In 2007, 90% of players throughout the league earned less than USD 187 thousand per year; the same threshold is today set at USD 860 thousand;

- Nearly half of the players that competed in the 2020 MLS regular season were recruited from abroad, whereas 14% were club-trained. Around 60% of the ‘international’ players joined MLS coming from a European club, at an average age of 26.7 years. In comparison, 27% of them were recruited from South America and at significantly younger average age, 23.6 years;

- On-pitch average age across the league confirms that the MLS has been recently getting ‘younger’. Between 2019 and 2020 this value experienced the most significant decrease in the last six years, going from 27.6 years to 27.2. This is the result of a slight reduction in the average age of foreign players and a much more significant decrease in the case of domestic ones – from 27.1 years to 26.4.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Enquiries to be addressed to: [email protected]

With services that focus on spreading new insights and knowledge, CIES Sports Intelligence's objective is to support stakeholders in the promotion of a better governance and management of sport and a more stable sporting environment based on informed decision-making. 

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