Tour of USA

Sir Alex praises growth of MLS

July 12, 2011
By ESPNsoccernet staff

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson believes soccer in the United States has made giant strides even in the eight years since he first took his squad across the Atlantic for pre-season.

Sir Alex Ferguson looked lost at times
GettyImagesSir Alex Ferguson regularly takes his United squad to the United States pre-season

Major League Soccer, which has expanded to 18 teams for this season and will add another in 2013, is enjoying its highest average attendances ever at 17,297. It means that it terms of fans at games MLS has overtaken Ice Hockey as the fourth most popular sport in the United States.

On that first commercial tour to the States in 2003 not one of United's opponents was from the MLS. Now the league is considered strong enough to offer a test to United.

"I always thought the problem would be the size of the country,'' said Sir Alex ahead of Wednesday's tour match against New England Revolution. "Travelling from Boston to Los Angeles is a long haul. But in Brazil they have two leagues. They could easily do that in the United States if it takes off and they got more clubs involved.

"In fact, you could have four leagues because of the size of the country and the population base. There are unbelievable possibilities for the United States.

"It is different to when I first came here in 1978. I went to see quite a few teams to see if I could bring something to Aberdeen that would have been useful in terms of not just the football side but the commercial side.

"But it was difficult. Teams used to travel to play three away games at a time and it never really worked.

"Now we see the United States in a different light. There is evidence now that they are starting to produce their own players.

"They have advanced their game because of the coaching and their sports science. Their preparation is first class.

"That has put them to a different level in terms of my appreciation of them and also my understanding that you are not going to get an easy game.''