ESPN Ranked Every Franchise In Sports. They Forgot the MLS. We Got It Covered.
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If you've made your way over to ESPN.com in the past week, you've likely encountered their rankings for all 122 franchises in the "four major pro sports leagues". In the ensuing quarrels concerning how the Cleveland Browns could possibly be ranked above anyone, many readers have questioned ESPN's continued noninvolvement of MLS franchises. Why, after 20 years of sustained growth, haven't they included MLS club rankings?
Here at The18, we've taken it upon ourselves to answer the call. Fret no more, our impartial, authoritative and deeply scientific 2015 MLS Club Rankings have arrived!
Six categories were used in formulating these rankings: title track, coaching, fans, stadium, players and owners
Title track: Clubs are ranked based off of their history in MLS Cups, Supporters' Shield victories, U.S. Open Cups, playoff appearances and overall win percentage. The amount of time a club has been in existence is also factored into this category. Accordingly, Orlando City SC and NYCFC are excused.
Coaching: Managers are ranked according to experience, overall record and titles.
Fans: Determined by average attendance, season ticket sales and supporters groups.
Stadium: Criteria includes the stadium amenities, gameday experience, location and atmosphere.
Players: Quite simply, if this team were visiting your city, how inclined would you be to go?
Owners: How much money are the owners investing in the club (players, stadium, grassroots, connectivity, etc.)?
2015 MLS Club Rankings (in descending order)
20. Colorado Rapids
Title track: 12
Oh, Colorado. This hurts me more than it hurts you. With the lowest attendance in the league, a manager whose days are almost certainly numbered and an isolated, albeit beautiful, stadium, the Rapids come in at dead last in our inaugural rankings.
Key players Drew Moor, Dillon Powers, and Clint Irwin don't exactly get pulses racing, while newly acquired DP Kevin Doyle has shown glimpses of his quality without really setting the league alight. Owner Stan Kroenke, Arsenal fans might recognize the name, doesn't seem interested in loosening the purse strings anytime soon. Things can only get better in 2016.
19. Chicago Fire
Title track: 6
An illustrious history including one MLS Cup, a Supporters' Shield and four U.S. Open Cups can't remedy the current malaise covering Toyota Park. The club is currently in transition, without a permanent manager for the time being.
Rumors have Miguel Herrera taking the position, and while he'd certainly excel in the combative city of Chicago, this is a franchise that needs a fire lit under their collective ass. Staggering attendance and season ticket numbers are cause for concern. While the location of Toyota Park in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview doesn't help, the ownership group of Andell Holdings would do well to match their propensity for brilliant work off of the pitch with a winning formula on it.
Losing Jermaine Jones to New England certainly didn't help, but with Sean Johnson and HGP Harry Shipp the first pieces are already in place.
18. Philadelphia Union
Title track: 16
With a beautiful stadium overlooking the Delaware River, a strong number of season ticket holders and a spectacular supporters section the Union are beset by an utter futility on the pitch.
While reaching the last two U.S. Open Cup finals is an outstanding achievement, their failure to deliver the silverware leaves them near the bottom in terms of on-field success. The failure of owners Keystone Sports & Entertainment to deliver more than a single playoff appearance over six years has resulted in a steady decline of the feel-good factor in Philly.
Maurice Edu and Sebastian Le Toux are consistent performers but an overhaul is needed.
17. Columbus Crew
Title track: 5
Three times Supporters' Shield winners and 2008 MLS Cup Champions, the Columbus Crew are one of the most successful clubs in MLS. Along with their illustrious history of winning, MAPFRE Stadium, formerly Columbus Crew Stadium, is one of the most storied grounds in America.
However, the first soccer-specific ground in the United States is showing its age. With the fifth lowest attendance in MLS, and a low cap expenditure to match, the Crew are in need of some upgrades to go along with their new badge. With Kei Kamara, Ethan Finlay and Waylon Francis, Gregg Berhalter has some of the tools necessary to return Columbus to the upper echelon of MLS.
Owner Anthony Precourt will need to splash the cash if Columbus is to return to their Shield winning days.
16. Montreal Impact
Title track: 18
The Impact seemed to be on a proverbial road to nowhere: low attendance in a solid, but hardly spectacular, stadium, an extremely modest salary cap and an interim head coach. Step forward Didier Drogba and cue pandamonium. Owner Joey Saputo has done wonders for soccer in Quebec and this could certainly be a club on the rise.
Drogba will need teammates Ignacio Piatti, Nigel Reo-Coker, Justin Mapp and Laurent Ciman to play above and beyond their capabilities if he hopes to win an MLS Cup in his seemingly inexhaustable career.
15. New England Revolution
Can the Revolution take the next step? Photo: @TheBentMusket | Twitter[/caption]
Title track: 10
Perennial also-rans, the New England Revolution are desperate to amend for 5 MLS Cup participant medals. While Robert Kraft has answered calls to invest more heavily in the team, having 18,000 fans in a stadium that holds 68,756 just isn't soccer the way Maradona intended.
On the plus side, a team containing Charlie Davies, Teal Bunbury, Jermaine Jones, Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen wins them the FIFA 16 Hipsters Choice award.
14. Real Salt Lake
Title track: 9
After seven straight playoff appearances, Real Salt Lake is in need of a major overhaul after missing out this year. Questions abound regarding an aging roster, the ability of manager Jeff Cassar and ownership that is failing to invest in quality players.
However, the stadium and fans remain some of the best in the league, complete with one of the most badass fan chants in all of MLS.
13. New York Red Bulls
Title track: 11
While the Red Bulls are on course to make the playoffs for the sixth straight year, as well as a possible second Supporters' Shield, it's hard to ignore the splash their noisy neighbors in the Bronx are making. Their stadium, while boasting an incredible design and proximity to the field for supporters, hasn't won any plaudits with regards to location.
Whether it's the rebranding of the team as a fizzy energy drink or the leagues lowest salary cap, Owner Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of Red Bull, has been the subject of much consternation from fans. However, supporters can't hold out much hope for change as, according to the New York Post, Mateschitz has no intention of selling.
12. FC Dallas
Title track: 13
FC Dallas are currently challenging for the Supporters' Shield with one of the most promising coaches in MLS, Oscar Pareja. His results for Dallas have been outstanding, while, in hindsight, his time in Colorado is also looking quite remarkable.
On the other hand, Clark Hunt, son of Lamar Hunt, has the team operating on one of the lowest budgets in MLS. Also, Toyota Stadium is another example of a great stadium in a strange locale.
11. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Title track: 15
The Whitecaps are in the playoffs for the second year running and all signs point up for this franchise. Owners, including Steve Nash, seem to have the clubs best interests at heart, spending more than most on player salaries.
BC Place, while an absolutely gorgeous stadium and a sporting jewel of Canada, frequently comes under fire for having some of the worst artificial turf in MLS. This doesn't detract from Vancouver boasting some of the largest crowds in the league.
10. DC United
Title track: 2
Four MLS Cups, four Supporters' Shields, and three U.S. Open Cups make D.C. United one of the most successful MLS franchises of all time. Ben Olsen is also one of the brightest young coaches in the American game.
What's hurting United more than anything else at this point is old RFK Stadium, which will be a thing of the past in a few years time. Presently, however, the decrepit stadium is holding, on average, just above 16,000 fans per game. With a capacity of 45,595 and incredibly low season ticket sales, the task is completely on the players to generate game day buzz.
Luckily for D.C., Chris Rolfe, Alvaro Saborio, Bill Hamid and Fabian Espindola lead one of the most exciting casts around.
9. New York City FC
Title track: N/A
They've got the players. Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, David Villa and Mix Diskerud will draw a massive crowd wherever they go.
They've got the coaching. Jason Kreis, for all his struggles this year, remains one of the finest managers in American soccer.
They've got, perhaps reprehensibly, limitless amounts of backing from their owners (Sheikh Mansour and the Steinbrenners, what's not to love?). With near 30,000 spectators per game, NYCFC supporters don't seem to mind.
It shouldn't be long until their challenging for silverware with the more established giants of MLS.
8. Orlando City SC
Title track: N/A
This is how you do expansion. With crowds regularly over 30,000, a new stadium in downtown Orlando on the way and a former Ballon d'Or winner pulling the strings, Orlando City SC looks to have bucked the trend for soccer franchises in Florida.
Kaka, Brek Shea, Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas give Orlando a phenomenal core of players. Additionally, Phil Rawlins, owner and head of club operations, made an exceptional hire in experienced manager Adrian Heath.
7. Houston Dynamo
Title track: 8
After 8 years at or near the top of MLS, Houston is missing the playoffs for the second straight year. However, they still have two MLS Cups to their name and Owen Coyle is one of the biggest managerial names to have graced this league.
BBVA Compass Stadium is a perfect example of how to get it right (character and location) and attendance is still near the top of the league. Plus, they've got Oscar De La Hoya on board.
6. Toronto FC
Title track: 17
They've done it! After 8 fruitless seasons, Toronto has finally made the playoffs. Given the amount of effort, money and dedication that's gone into this franchise, it's certainly the stuff of legend.
A large part of problem is simply the turnover at this club, they've had 9 managers in 9 seasons. However, with Sebastian Giovinco (are you for real?), Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore on board, the times are changing. Hell, Greg Vanney might even stay for another season.
BMO field is as raucous as any, attendance is near the top of the league and season ticket sales are massive. With Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment heavily investing in the roster, Toronto has their eyes set on some long overdue silverware.
5. Portland Timbers
Title track: 14
If there's a must-see event in MLS, it's most likely a Portland Timbers home game. The atmosphere is up there with any venue in the world and Providence Park has the kind of charm that's lacking in many of the cookie-cutter stadiums in MLS.
With over 10,000 names on the waiting list for season tickets, the biggest downside may be actually finding a way in. Caleb Porter, the man who was famously snubbed by Pep Guardiola, remains a very promising manager after winning the 2013 MLS Coach of the Year award.
Ownership group Peregrine Sports, LLC. have created an extremely fan-friendly club while also supporting the NWSL's Portland Thorns, a move no other MLS owners attempted.
4. San Jose Earthquakes
Title track: 7
With over 21,000 fans constantly packing the Avaya Stadium (capacity 18,000), the Quakes boast one of the finest new grounds in the league. While the building of the stadium has put a strain on roster expenditure, San Jose should be reaping the rewards of their investment soon enough.
In Dominic Kinnear, San Jose has the third most winningest coach in MLS history. However, some added firepower will certainly be needed on a roster containing Chris Wondolowski, Matias Perez Garcia and Innocent Emeghara.
3. Los Angeles Galaxy
No team has won more, or with greater consistency, than the LA Galaxy. 5 MLS Cups, 4 Supporters' Shields 2 US Open Cups, and 7 straight playoff appearances make them the most successful franchise in MLS history.
Their coach is the greatest American manager in the history of the game and their roster contains the likes of Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes, Juninho and Omar Gonzalez.
While the StubHub Center isn't ideally situated in Carson, California, it still contains some pristine amenities and regularly draws more than 23,000 fans. However, the atmosphere can occasionally be lacking for a team which contains such an embarrassment of riches.
2. Sporting Kansas City
Title track: 3
A plethora of silverware, gorgeous stadium, rabid fan base and star-studded lineup see Sporting KC take the number two spot on our list. Not to mention the fact that their manager, Peter Vermes, is so talented that he's widely touted as the next possible manager for the United States National Team.
Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer are the leading lights for a club that just seems to do things the right way. By investing heavily in a world class training center at Swope Soccer Village, the owners, Sporting Club, have ensured a self-sustainability that's miles ahead of the pack. If there's a blueprint to follow for MLS success, it's surely here.
1. Seattle Sounders
Title track: 4
The numbers don't lie: seven years of MLS existence, seven playoff appearances, four U.S. Open Cups, and one Supporters' Shield.
The Sounders have mirrored their manager, Sigi Schmid, in demonstrating an insatiable hunger for winning. No team has achieved as much success in such a short period of time as Seattle. The only piece that's missing is that elusive MLS Cup triumph.
With Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Nelson Valdez and Brad Evans (not to mention the 12th man of over 40,000 screaming fans), their Holy Grail should be attained shortly. The owners, including Drew Carey, have done a phenomenal job of making this a fans' club.