Three reasons Man Utd need to pull out the stops to beat PL rivals to £26m-rated left-back

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is on the hunt for a new left-back and he needs to do everything he can to ensure the Red Devils beat Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea to the signing of AS Monaco left-back Benjamin Mendy this summer.

The 22-year-old Frenchman has starred for Monaco as they chase a first Ligue 1 title in 17 years this season. He joined the club in a £13 million deal from Marseille last summer but is expected to be on the move again this summer, with an offer of around £26 million expected to be enough to force Monaco’s hand.

Mourinho’s critical comments about Luke Shaw in recent weeks suggest he may not see a long-term future at Old Trafford for the youngster. Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian are also options at the position but none of them are natural left-backs and struggle to get up and down as much as Antonio Valencia on the opposite wing.

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Mendy would give Manchester United a fresh look and another attacking outlet down the left side. He has proven his quality in Ligue 1 and in the Champions League this season so here are three reasons United need to do all they can to sign him in the coming months…

1. Attacking threat from left-back

Mendy would offer United something they don’t currently have – a consistent attacking outlet down the left side. Luke Shaw is an attacking full-back but is clearly not one of Mourinho’s favourites, while Matteo Darmian struggles to offer regular support in the attacking third.

Mendy has eight league and Champions League assists this season – more than any other defender in Europe, including Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Bayern’s David Alaba who are both rated as two of the world’s best in the position.

Antonio Valencia gives United a regular threat from right-back but they become quite one-sided due to the lack of similar support on the left, so the addition of Mendy would add balance as well as some much-needed creativity from deep.

2016/17 League Stats
Games
Assists
Chances
Created Per 90 Mins
Pass
Completion (%)
Tackles
Won Per 90 Mins
Benjamin
Mendy
21
5
1.05
76%
1.9
Luke
Shaw
10
1
1.32
85%
0.92
Matteo
Darmian
12
0
0.21
81%
2.00

Table: Benjamin Mendy’s league statistics compared to Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian this season (stats via: Squawka).

2. Play style perfectly suits the Premier League

The table above shows how Mendy compares to Shaw and Darmian – the two most natural left-backs United have at their disposal at the moment. His stats suggest he is a well-rounded full-back, who is as adept at winning the ball back as he is creating chances. His pass completion could be better but 66% of his passes go forward, further highlighting his direct approach.

Premier League full-backs that can get forward quickly but also defend well in 1v1 situations tend to standout and Mendy fits that billing perfectly. A move to Old Trafford could see him establish himself as one of the club’s best left-sided defenders, as his approach to the game isn’t too dissimilar to that of Patrice Evra’s when he joined the Red Devils in 2006.

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3. Bright future ahead

Mendy is still only 22. That’s easy to forget considering he made his professional debut almost six years ago. But he has established himself as one of Europe’s best full-backs this season as Monaco continue to impress domestically and in the Champions League.

Mendy made his France debut last month, getting an assist in the 3-1 win over Luxembourg and a long and successful career is expected for club and country, no matter where he is plying his trade.

Luke Shaw is a year younger than Mendy but with his future unclear, the Frenchman would be an ideal replacement this summer and would potentially give Manchester United a reliable and improving left-back for many years to come.

Should Man United do everything in their power to sign Benjamin Mendy this summer?

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Do Manchester United actually need this PSG star?

Manchester United have already been busy in the transfer window and the amount of rumours surrounding players in and out is as high as always. According to reports, Blaise Matuidi is a player on their radar but do United actually need the Paris Saint Germain midfield maestro? Lewis Addley explores

Blaise Matuidi has impressed so far during the European Championship and had yet another consistent season for Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint Germain last term.

The 29-year-old midfielder has been linked with a move away from the French capital and Manchester United appear to be frontrunners the Frenchman.

Jose Mourinho is keen to get his business done early in the window and prepare his squad to challenge on all fronts from the first whistle and there are no doubts about the qualities Matuidi could bring to their midfield.

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In Ligue 1 last season Matuidi had a pass completion of 92%, he won 54 tackles, played 20 key passes, made 46 interceptions and 18 clearances.

Used in a predominately holding role, Matuidi also impressively created 26 chances for teammates, while he registered six assists and scored four goals. With all those stats in mind you could be forgiven for referring to him as the ‘complete’ midfielder.

But do Manchester United actually need Matuidi?

Problems and weaknesses across the pitch were well documented last season for United and they looked vulnerable when opposition teams were counter-attacking. A solid midfield is something football fans have become accustomed to from Mourinho and Matuidi’s stats scream out solidity.

To assess whether United actually need Matuidi we have to look at their current players who could and have played in the same holding role. Three players who are suited to playing in that position in the current United squad are Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind.

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At this stage of the window it appears only Carrick’s future is secure, with speculation about Herrera and Blind refusing to go away. If all three are in Mourinho’s plans he would have a healthy selection of players to choose from and the possibility of Matuidi as a fourth option would arguably lead to some selection headaches for the United boss.

So let’s have a look to see how the three players mentioned compare to Matuidi… 
(Statistics provided by Squawka).

Last season, Blind bettered Matuidi’s key passes with 24, while Herrera totalled 19 and Carrick managed ten. The PSG midfielder’s 92% pass completion was highest, although the lowest percentage was still impressive, coming from Blind and Herrera with 84%.

Matuidi scored and assisted more than any of the United midfielders, whose combined goals and assists came in at just seven compared to his ten.

Blind made the most successful tackles with 67, interceptions with 80 and clearances with 127, bettering all three of the other players in question.

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Finally Matuidi created the most chances, managing one more than Blind’s 25, while Herrera came in with 21 and Carrick only managing ten.

With these stats in mind it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest Blind is currently the strongest candidate in the United squad in comparison to Matuidi. It would appear United would benefit from signing the Frenchman and there is no doubting his experience and quality, but whether or not they are in desperate need for him is questionable.

Do United need to sign Matuidi or are their current options good enough? Should Mourinho prioritise strengthening his squad elsewhere?

Getting Stuck In: How good is MLS?

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into just how good Major League Soccer is and how it compares to other divisions around the world…

Sitting in front of my laptop one morning I read a quote from the Don of MLS saying: “I do believe in 10 years’ time or less, people will think of us [MLS] like Serie A, La Liga, and hopefully the way they think about the Premier League.” Then I click on another site and read what Kaka had to say about the league, that it will be “one of the biggest leagues in the world in 5 to 10 years.” Holy crap! Are they high? Do they actually believe that or is it just lip service?

I have had the debate with my mate Eric for a while now: How does MLS stack up against other leagues in the world? We have had this heated discussion over and over again. I have an overinflated view of MLS and he has a deflated view. A few years back we saw publications ranking MLS anywhere from 30th in the world to 50th behind some weird league from an unknown country with too many consonants in its name. What killed me was that Eric nodded his head in agreement saying “that sounds about right.”

Well, Eric has started to come around. He now ranks MLS 12th and he is not the only one to see the light. Bleacher Report put out their rankings in 2014 saying MLS was the tenth best league in the world. Holy crap? MLS is a top ten league in the world? Can that be true? And how did they arrive at this lofty number?

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The four areas Bleacher Report focused on were: Goals per game, red cards per game, continental victories and point differential from first to last.

Say what? They lost me with goals per games played.

The randomness of what people deem important to grading a league is all over the map. I saw one site that used the quality of the food in stadiums as criteria. I am no genius but I can gather that a leathery hot dog at a stadium really shouldn’t be a point reducer.

When a buddy of mine from Southampton weighed in on the state of MLS, he doled out a harsh evaluation when he said that the level of play is that seen in the lower levels of the English Championship or the upper levels of League One. What? After I picked my jaw off the ground I realised I needed to use my own common sense and some loose scientific analysis to find out what level MLS is really at.

Before I dive into major analytics (translation: throwing darts at a board), there are a few disclaimer- type things I need to get off my chest. I am a huge EPL, Liverpool and MLS/Columbus Crew supporter. I have been to Anfield, Stamford Bridge, Highbury, Craven Cottage, many MLS stadiums and Hibernian in the Scottish Premier League. I have watched most of the leagues on television and have even caught a few games in the Bulgarian first division. Don’t ask why.

So here we go. My unbiased take on where MLS stands in the world right now.


 

Level 1

The EPL (England), Bundesliga (Germany), La Liga (Spain) & Serie A (Italy)

My take:

Ok, I would lose all credibility if I told you MLS was better than the established top four leagues in the world. The top teams play in the Champions League, have some of the best players in the world and are technically light years ahead of MLS. The TV money in these leagues, especially in the EPL, is ridiculous, with flocks of away supporters at each game – something MLS could never match with the hugeness of North America (the U.K. has the same square mileage as California). No need to go any further.

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MLS does well in:

Attendance. I found out that MLS is one of the highest-attended leagues in the world. MLS averages just under 22,000 fans per game, with the Seattle Sounders averaging more than my beloved Liverpool on a weekly basis. This makes MLS the seventh-most attended league in the world ahead of well-established and popular divisions like Ligue 1 and the Dutch Eredivisie. And MLS is catching up with Serie A – only 2,000 behind in average attendance. And one quick shot aimed at my Saints pal: The Championship average attendance hovers at a mere 17,000. Badabing!

Where an MLS team would finish:

Relegated.


 

Level 2:

Ligue 1 (France), Eredivisie (Netherlands), Primeira Liga (Portugal), Premier League (Russian), Super Lig (Turkey)

My take:

Ok, we are getting a little closer in class, but still have a way to go. Teams from this group have won the Champions League, whereas no team from MLS has won the much weaker CONCACAF Champions League, with Montreal’s trip to last year’s final the closest the league has come to success in that competition. There are plenty of young stars in the French and Dutch feeder leagues that get gobbled up by the big boys. MLS is starting to develop this reputation of being a development league (see Miazga to Chelsea), but they still need to shed the retirement league stigma.

MLS does well in:

Attacking football. Nobody has ever accused anyone in the Dutch League of deft defending. The same goes for MLS, with most of the money spent on attacking players like Sebastian Giovinco. Watch a Columbus Crew SC game with Kamara, Higuain and Finlay, or an LA Galaxy game with Dos Santos, Gerrard, Keane, Zardes and you will be fully entertained.

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Where an MLS team would finish:

Likely to be relegated but with a chance of staying up.


Group 3:

Brasileiro (Brazil), Primera ( Argentina), Pro League (Belgium), SuperLiga (Serbia), Premier League (Ukraine), Super League (Greece)

My take:

The South American teams are either debt-ridden, corrupt or both. In Brazil players fear for their lives, often don’t see a paychecks and are under constant media scrutiny. And that’s the good news. Players are sold like cattle, being shipped to leagues all over the planet. There are a lot of players from Argentina plying their trade in MLS so that shows how respected the league is down there. In fact, two of the greatest players in Crew history come from Argentina: 2008 MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Federico Higuain. Mega teams like Boca Juniors are still really good, but they have slipped. MLS teams are catching up and would have no problems competing against the teams in the mid and lower end of the table in the smaller European leagues.

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MLS does well in:

Lifestyle. It’s not South America or Eastern Europe. “As soon as I came here, the first two weeks I was training, I didn’t want to go back,” New York Red Bulls Englishman Wright-Phillips once said. “A lot of people, they know that when you come to America you have a good lifestyle.” Enough said on that front.

Where an MLS team would finish:

Definitely staying up with an occasional mid-table finish.


Group 4:

Liga MX (Mexico), J-League (Japan), Scottish Premier League, Allsvenskan (Sweden), Super League (Switzerland)

My take:

This looks like where MLS belongs right now. They might struggle against a side like Celtic (not even sure about this) but they would be fine against the rest of the Scottish Premier League – maybe even dominating them. Plus, the league is a mess financially and averages an embarrassing 10,000 people a game. MLS may be slightly below the Mexican league, although debatable. It would definitely win titles in Japan – a lot. On second thought, not sure the Japanese league belong in this group. Gone!

MLS does well in:

Marketing. They now have nationally televised games on multiple days of the week. Most of the playoffs are televised nationally and all regular season games are available via internet and local broadcasts. The All-Star game is a hit, bringing the likes of Manchester United, Bayern Munich and many other top clubs to play in it. And they know how to market their players with a preseason media day this year that included access to some of the world’s greats: Pirlo, Gerrard, Keane, Villa, Dos Santos, Kaka. Yes, most are old, but not many leagues can boast that lineup of stars.

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Where an MLS team would finish:

Consistently finish in the top four, winning titles too.


A Leagues MLS needs to worry about:

China. MLS can’t compete with the kind of money being thrown around in Asia. China has better attendance right now and are buying top players in their prime (see Teixeira, Jackson and Ramires). The league could steal some of MLS’ thunder. But their model is not necessarily sustainable with so little emphasis on youth development. One to keep an eye on.


Summary:

According to my abacus, MLS is the 16th best league in the world. It’s not top ten or even close to being what Don Garber wants it to be just yet – but it’s climbing. It’s hovering around the Level 3 bracket with an eye toward Level 2. With the salary restrictions, there doesn’t seem to be enough flexibility in place to push for a Level 1 spot in the foreseeable future. But when players like Jordan Morris say no to the Bundesliga and yes to MLS, well, you never know.

Former Liverpool striker could follow Gerrard to MLS – report

Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse has dropped a major hint that he could be heading to the USA after he said “it would be cool” to play in Major League Soccer, according to ESPN.

The ex-France international is currently playing for Ligue 1 side Bastia, but hasn’t started a league game this season and has made just six appearances overall.

Cisse said in January that it was likely he would be retiring at the conclusion of the 2014/15 season because of an ongoing issue with a hip injury. But now it appears he’s changed his mind and would love a chance to continue playing.

“As long as I can play, enjoy it, contribute my experience, help the youngsters and the older players, I’m happy,” the 33-year old said while speaking to France Football.

“Clubs still think of me. There are a lot of offers from the USA. India too. I have two or three things in Poland and some things which are a little funky, but the USA would be cool.”

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Cisse was part of Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League winning team alongside Steven Gerrard, who is arriving at LA Galaxy to play in MLS in July and despite the hip injury, he is remaining positive and even shows a bit of humour when talking about it.

“I don’t want to have to stop or be told I have to stop because of an injury. It’s up to me to decide. I will continue. I love this too much. I’ll only stop if it breaks completely. It would be beautiful if it went when I was hitting a great volley, wouldn’t it? At least it would go spectacularly,” Cisse told Le Figaro.

“The doctors told me my career was over. The X-rays and the scans weren’t good, but it was up to me to judge what was happening in my body. So, I didn’t give up.”

Should Djibril Cisse emulate Gerrard and make the move to MLS?

Manchester United looking to beat Arsenal and Liverpool to French goal-machine

Manchester United have emerged as candidates for the signing of Ligue 1’s top scorer Alexandre Lacazette, according to LeSport10.

Lacazette has been tipped for a summer move after impressing some of Europe’s top clubs with his performances this season.

The Olympique Lyonnais striker has netted 27 goals in 32 appearances, and according to LeSport10, Manchester United are a possible destination, with Premier League rivals Arsenal and Liverpool also linked.

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At 23, Lacazette would be a long-term investment but United will come up against tough competition to secure his services, with Paris Saint Germain another club reportedly interested and Lyon are hoping not to lose their star man.

United have been linked with numerous attacking options for the upcoming summer transfer market, and having already secured the highly rated Memphis Depay, this could be an early indication of a possible deadly duo.

Transfermarkt.co.uk value Lacazette at around £17.6 million but it is reported that his services could cost any potential buyer in the region of £40 million.

Would Alexandre Lacazette be a good signing for Manchester United?

Arsenal receive DOUBLE midfield boost as £17m-rated target hints at move

Arsenal look to have received two boosts ahead of the summer transfer window as Mikel Arteta is on the verge of signing a new contract, while long-term target Yohan Cabaye has hinted he will leave Paris Saint Germain this summer with Arsene Wenger ready to swoop.

Arteta’s current Arsenal contract is set to expire at the end of the season and despite missing five months of action through injury this season, the Spanish midfielder is reportedly set to pen a new one-year extension.

The 33-year-old Spaniard joined the Gunners for £10 million from Everton in 2011 and has gone on to make 136 appearances for the club.

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Arsenal are yet to officially announce the deal but it is expected to be revealed in the next few days as Arteta will remain a Gunner for at least another season.

He could be joined by a new face in the heart of the Arsenal midfield next season as PSG’s Yohan Cabaye has hinted at a summer exit as he wants to play regular football.

Cabaye, who has also been linked with moves to Liverpool and Tottenham, has been a long-term target of Arsene Wenger’s and Arsenal had a £10 million bid rejected for the Frenchman in August 2013 while he was still with Newcastle.

He went on to join PSG in January 2014 but has made just 35 league appearances in the past 18 months and could be set for a Premier League return.

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“It is a distinct moment in my career,” Cabaye said with regard to his future. “I have never been through this before.

“One has to accept it but also try to change it. It is super important for me, I want to play Euro 2016.

“I need to speak to the boss and my representatives to see what is best for me.”

Would Yohan Cabaye be a good signing for Arsenal this summer? Does Mikel Arteta deserve a new contract?

£35m-rated goal machine deals HUGE blow to Arsenal and Liverpool

Arsenal and Liverpool’s pursuit of Lyon’s goal machine, Alexandre Lacazette, has been dealt a huge blow as the 23-year-old striker says he will be with the French club next season, the Express has reported.

The Lyon forward is Ligue 1’s top scorer with 26 goals in 30 appearances and his form has attracted interest from clubs across Europe but any chances of a move away from the club is unlikely, despite the reported interest from the Premier League duo surrounding a £35 million move.

“I do not know what will happen, but at the moment I can say that I will play in Lyon next year,” Lacazette told Footmercato.net.

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Arsene Wenger’s side could have mounted a stronger title charge had they had an out-and-out goalscorer this season. Olivier Giroud’s absence through injury certainly affected their chances of winning the Premier League as they have lacked depth in their frontline.

While Liverpool’s injury woes have probably cost them any chance of playing in the Champions League next season. Daniel Sturridge has barely featured this campaign, making just 12 Premier League appearances.

Brendan Rodgers’ gamble on signing Mario Balotelli looks as if it has backfired as the Italian has scored just once in the league and looks likely to move on this summer.

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The Merseyside club have failed to replace Luis Suarez and Lacazette could have been an ideal acquisition, but Lyon are pushing Paris Saint Germain all the way for the Ligue 1 title and he will want to be playing in Europe’s top competition next season.

Lacazette appears to be settled for now, so it would appear both Premier League clubs will have to venture elsewhere in their search for a top striker this summer.

Would Alexandre Lacazette have been an ideal signing for Arsenal or Liverpool?

Spurs looking to beat Chelsea to £12m-rated ‘young Ribery’ – report

Tottenham are lining up a fresh approach for Marseille attacker Florian Thauvin with the Ligue 1 side willing to listen to offers for their exciting youngster, according to the Daily Mail.

The 22-year-old French winger is also being monitored by Chelsea and Valencia and has previously been compared to fellow Frenchman Franck Ribery by Toulouse coach Alain Casanova.

He has been with Marseille for the past two seasons and despite the fact he still has three years remaining on his current deal, the French club are willing to listen to offers for their youngster who is rated at £12.3 million by transfermarkt.co.uk.

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Spurs have previously enquired about the availability of Thauvin and Mauricio Pochettino could make an official attempt to sign him in the coming months.

He has made 32 league appearances with Marseille this season, scoring five goals with seven assists, but could be ready for a new challenge in the Premier League.

Another season without Champions League qualification looks on the cards for Spurs and that will mean a summer of change again, with the attack likely to be remoulded by Pochettino over the course of preseason.

Would Florian Thauvin be a good signing for Tottenham? Is he the sort of player they need?

Is this French star set to replace Hugo Lloris at Spurs?

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is again being linked with a move away from the club, with the latest reports suggesting Paris Saint-Germain are ready to step up their interests in the France captain.

Lloris is one of Europe’s best goalkeepers and if Spurs fail to make the Champions League again this season, he may look to move on after three years in North London.

Spurs fan will hope that is not the case, but if the worst happens then fellow French stopper Steve Mandanda could be brought in as his replacement, after revealing he would like to follow in Lloris’ footsteps.

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“My ambition is to play at a big European club,” Mandanda told France Football. “I also have the desire to experience something else abroad. But if I have to leave for different reasons, I won’t go just anywhere, nor at any price.

“Like a lot of players, it’s a destination that attracts me – the Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world. It’s also the one that’s most in the media spotlight, but I am not fixed on one choice in particular.”

Mandanda has been with Ligue 1 side Marseille for the past eight years, winning the division’s Goalkeeper of the Year award twice. Lloris won the same award three times himself while with Lyon and the French ‘keepers have battled for the starting role with Les Bleus for their entire careers.

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Mandanda has kept more league clean sheets in France this season (9) than Lloris has managed in the Premier League (7), and while Lloris is the better goalkeeper, Mandanda would surely be a good replacement at White Hart Lane if the Spurs star joins PSG this summer.

Michel Vorm was brought in from Swansea City last year but has struggled to really impress in a Spurs shirt and is likely to remain second choice if a replacement for Lloris is needed.

Would Steve Mandanda be a good replacement for Hugo Lloris at Spurs?

MLS TV views up 53% in the UK this weekend, more than top European games

Major League Soccer is growing here in the UK at an alarming rate and the Sky Sports television deal is clearly helping that. This weekend saw a 53% rise in the number of people watching the live 9PM game between New York City FC and New England Revolution on Sunday night.

Over 55,000 people tuned in to watch NYCFC record their first ever win as an MLS franchise in their historic home opener as they beat the Revs 2-0. 36,000 fans watched NYCFC’s game with Orlando City last Sunday at the same time so 19,000 more fans tuned in in what is an impressive increase.

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One downside was the number of Brits who stayed up late to watch the 11PM game between the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy. Only 13,000 stayed up for that 2-2 draw at Providence Park – almost half of the 25,000 people who stayed awake for last weekend’s late game.

The Sky deal is clearly boosting MLS across the pond though and this weekend saw more British supporters watching NYCFC vs New England than those who tuned in to see Lionel Messi’s Barcelona against Eibar (35,000) on Saturday.

That Liga BBVA game was live on Sky at the same time as the Premier League clash between Burnley and Manchester City though and that obviously had an effect.

The key for Major League Soccer this weekend was that both games were aired on Sky Sports’ primary channel, Sky Sports 1, whereas last week saw the games shown on Sky Sports 3.

Sky Sports Logo Pitchside

The 55k Brits who watched the 9PM match were more than those who watched games from some of Europe’s top leagues this weekend, including the Bundesliga clash between Borussia Dortmund and Cologne (21,000), French league action between Bordeaux and PGG (25,000) and a considerable amount more than those who watched the Serie A clash between Cagliari and Empoli (6,000).

These are evidently great signs for MLS and an ever-increasing support base from the UK will only help the league grow into an elite league even faster.

Next weekend’s live coverage on Sky will see NYCFC in action for the third week running as they travel to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening at 8PM before showing the Eastern Conference clash between New York Red Bulls and DC United at 9PM on Sunday night.

Both games are on Sky Sports 5 this weekend and it will be intriguing to see if the number of UK fans tuning in rises for a third consecutive week.

How important do you think a strong UK fanbase is for the growth of MLS?