On one side of the Atlantic Ocean there is the Premier League in England, the famed “home” of soccer, which is the most successful and popular domestic soccer league in the world. On the other side there is the MLS, which has enjoyed exponential growth in recent years, attracting an increasing audience beyond the borders of North America.

Both showcase the beautiful game, although recently, the MLS has possibly found a way to steal a march on the Premier League. Now that Brexit has complicated matters for English clubs, signing players from outside the United Kingdom has become a lot more complicated. Importantly, players from Europe are now treated the same as those from elsewhere around the world.

Since 1 January 2021, European citizens need a visa to work in the United Kingdom. That wasn’t required when Britain was part of the European Union, due to freedom of movement between countries. This allowed English clubs to easily sign staff and players from other European countries, along with non-Europeans who had acquired dual-nationality in European countries.

Now, any non-British soccer imports must meet a strict points-based system, in order to gain a work visa to play in the country. While that doesn’t really affect moves for established international players, who have also played in top European leagues, it does hinder moves for players from countries ranked outside the FIFA top 50.

There are no such limitations imposed upon MLS clubs in the United States and Canada, which could offer an important advantage. In terms of global appeal and financial strength, the MLS is obviously unable to compete directly with the Premier League in England. According to data provided by sportsbook review site WSN.com, salaries and transfer spending in the Premier League remain vastly higher, compared to those in the MLS.

However, while Premier League clubs ponder over how they can adapt to their newfound limitations, MLS clubs have a unique opportunity to take advantage, attracting players and staff who might have previously chosen career paths in the English game. Arguably, the influx of overseas players and coaching staff has made the Premier League what it is today.

Interestingly, the MLS has featured players of more different nationalities over the last two decades, than have featured in the Premier League. They too have undoubtedly contributed to the swift progress made by the MLS; not least when it comes to enhancing the appeal of soccer in North America. This has also generated more interest in the competition itself.

Over the coming years of the post-Brexit era for the Premier League, the number of overseas players could potentially reduce. This affords the MLS with a unique opportunity to strengthen, as they are now able to look at importing players from a more diverse choice of countries, which Premier League clubs will now struggle to sign.

Potentially, the hottest international talents could now be tempted to choose the MLS, especially if they fall short of the points-based system that may hinder movement to the UK Premier League. This affords the MLS with a chance to look at players they might previously have struggled to attract, and the competition itself would be remiss not to seize upon such an opportunity.

Chris Darwen
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