In recent times, the focus of the soccer world has turned to two emerging leagues that, until not long ago, were outside the scope of international spotlight: the Major League Soccer (MLS) of the United States and the Saudi League. What has fueled this new interest? Nothing short of the blockbuster signings of two of the greatest names in the history of the sport: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The natural question that arises is: which of these two leagues is stronger and has the most valuable players? A direct comparison is no simple task, as it involves various factors such as league structure, the number of teams, and, of course, player market values.
When we analyze the total valuation of the leagues, the MLS comes out ahead, with a sum of €1.25 billion, surpassing the €755 million of the Saudi League. However, it’s important to consider that the MLS has 29 teams and 866 players, while the Saudi League has only 18 clubs and 500 athletes. This panorama leads us to an initial understanding that the North American league has a broader and more diversified player base.
The most striking differentiator between these two realities lies in how clubs are financially distributed within the leagues. In the United States, the MLS demonstrates a more balanced financial control among its teams. The disparity between the most valuable squad, Inter Miami, and the more modest one, CF Montréal, is less than threefold. In contrast, in Saudi Arabia, this difference is stark, with an Al-Hilal roster worth 32 times more than that of Al-Riyadh, highlighting a scenario of inequality.
This disparity in individual club values in the Saudi League is a result of a strategy involving state investment to attract international stars. Names that once shone on European pitches now don the colors of Saudi clubs. However, this highly concentrated investment generates a clear disparity among the teams.
On the other hand, the MLS appears to value a stronger and more balanced player base. While it may not boast the same concentration of media-famous stars, the North American league demonstrates a more even distribution of talent, which could contribute to more sustainable long-term development.
The individual valuation of players also paints an intriguing picture. The analysis takes into account a range of factors such as position, age, potential, and contract duration for each player, to estimate a value in potential negotiations. This is where the profiles of the two leagues differentiate again. The MLS may not showcase stars of yesteryear, but it seems to invest in a foundation of players who, collectively, represent a significant value.
The landscape is complex and goes beyond mere numbers. It involves strategies, investments, and long-term visions. While the Saudi League has opted to attract the instant shine of European stars, the MLS appears to be building a solid foundation from a more diverse talent pool. Both have their merits, but the true test of the success of each approach will only become evident over time. The battle for prominence on the global soccer stage is at stake, and Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are just the tip of the iceberg in this emerging clash.