The quality of Major League Soccer is “definitely improving,” according to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson, who was in New York City for the announcement of the schedule for the 2017 International Champions Cup, said he’s been watching the U.S. top flight closely in recent seasons and is encouraged by what he’s seen.
“I’ve been watching very carefully over the last few years,” Ferguson told ESPN FC. “They’ve had some major changes. One, they’ve started some academy systems and that’s very, very important. I think that what they probably need is more professional coaches. I think that’s something for the future.”
The vast size of the U.S. is one problem the league faces, according to the man who won 13 Premier League titles at Old Trafford, because of the challenges it presents to supporters travelling to watch their teams away from home.
“It’s a big country, the United States,” he said. “If you look at Europe, I can go on a flight from Manchester to Berlin in an hour-and-a-half . Maybe at some point, regional leagues will come into it. Because one of the benefits of Europe is that supporters can travel. It’s more difficult in the United States to go six hours to support your team. And supporters are vital to the atmosphere.”
Ferguson also commented on the possibility of promotion and relegation in MLS, an option the league has repeatedly said it’s against for a variety of reasons. And he admitted the system would have its challenges in MLS, where the idea does not have the ingrained history it does in Europe’s top leagues.
“You could be with the smallest club in England, and in 10 years time you could win the trophy of the Premier League,” Ferguson said. “Relegation can bring a pressure on clubs, that’s for sure. And maybe [MLS is] not ready for that. Maybe there aren’t enough clubs to have a second division related to the first division in MLS. That maybe takes time.”
One thing that Ferguson was confident about was the impact new arrival Bastian Schweinsteiger will have on the league after agreeing to a deal to join the Chicago Fire on Monday. Although Ferguson never coached Schweinsteiger at United, he was around to see his impact on the club in the years following his retirement.
“I think there’s plenty left,” he said of the German World Cup winner. “Unfortunately, he had an injury last season and he was out for a while and when he came back we had a new manager and the new manager, Jose [Mourinho], had his own ideas.
“His move will come at the right time for him. He’s a huge figure. He’s very popular with the United players and fans, and he’ll make an impact.”