Do friendlies make any difference for Major League Soccer teams?


I’m going to start this article off by listing a few of the recent scores between Major League Soccer and European sides as a part of the World Football Challenge as well as other exhibitions that have been hosted.

Manchester United 4 - 1 New England Revolution; Real Madrid 4 - 1 LA Galaxy; Manchester City 2 - 1 Vancouver Whitecaps; Manchester United 7 - 0 Seattle Sounders.

I’m not usually one to point out the obvious, but I think the results speak for themselves. The matches seem to do little for the MLS sides other than embarrass and humiliate. When the Whitecaps have the best result of the MLS squads, and they are the bottom time in the entire MLS league, that’s saying something. Something unfortunate.

Fans don’t take these kinds of results very lightly either. One of the things I’ve written about consistently is how Americans don’t appreciate soccer because the US is not a dominant force, neither in club play or international level. These matches above highlight that fact even more. When one of the top sides in soccer comes over and completely annihilates an MLS side, it’s an eye-opener, and shows the fans just how far apart the two leagues really are.

Exhibition games and tournaments like this benefit MLS sides by allowing them to play some of the better squads in the world, that’s true and is a valid point. However, there isn’t much to learn from a 7-0 loss to Manchester United other than that the Red Devils are the second-best in Europe they aren’t here to mess around. What else is there to say when you lose 7-0? What valuable experiences can you bring back into the locker room? 

It does bring fans to the games as well, but that is one of those “happy now, sad later” type of deals. Clubs will gain a high amount of cash from Europe’s best coming to the States, but once they leave, what fans will want to see sa team that got blown out 4-1? The diehards and the constant viewers  will stay in the stands, but the new fans won’t stick around.

So do friendlies matter for MLS sides? No, they really don’t. 

As a former Salt Lake City resident and a follower of the Cobalt and Crimson, I read an article recently where head coach Jason Kreis explained that the team isn’t looking for friendlies or exhibition games, but rather spearheading towards trophies and gold. RSL pushed themselves pretty far with this goal, going all the way to the CONCACAF Champions League Final, identifying themselves as one of the top sides on this side of the globe.

Success in tournaments like these usually morphs into wins in the league. RSL was on a heavy home winning streak for awhile, all the while competing in the CCL and fresh off an MLS league title. RSL has even spoken of taking the U.S. Open Cup seriously as well. The team wants trophies, it wants pieces that identify the team as legitimate. 

All the while RSL is competing in the CCL and taking tournaments like that seriously, it is not only gaining success in a larger aspect, but it is facing Mexican and other North American sides that are also very talented. RSL is killing two birds with one stone - winning trophies, gaining experiences.

An example like RSL is a better one to follow than simply playing Real Madrid in a one-off game. By competing in the league and battling in regional tournaments it allows the team to be tested with substitutions, strategies, and ultimately more games to play good teams. One game against a top draw will increase the ticket sales for one game, maybe a few more, and it’ll give the team a look at just how bad they really are.

Yet if the MLS sides focus on the Supporters Shield, the Lamar Hunt trophy, or any CCL glory, they might just start to become the Manchester Uniteds and the Real Madrids that they once so craved to defeat.