Of all those leagues, MLS is currently the lowest scoring, with a measly goals-per-game average through Week 7 of 2.17. That means you can expect a goal only every 41 minutes. At the current rate, expect a scoreless tie every seven games.
It wasn’t always like this in MLS. In fact, after its 1996 launch, the league averaged more than three goals per game in five of its first six seasons. But it hasn’t broken the 3.0 mark since 2002. It’s all-time low came with a 2.46 average in 2010. Last season, it hit its highest mark since 2008 with a 2.86 average, but this season’s start is making 2014 look like an aberration. Only eight of 20 MLS teams have been scoring more than one goal per game on average.
In the worst-case scenario, cautious soccer leading to low-scoring games is becoming an MLS trait -- as was the case years ago in Italy, where in the 1970s and '80s scoring often averaged less than two goals per game. Catenaccio finally waned. Over the last five seasons, Serie A’s average has been 2.60.
The Bundesliga has long been known as a high-scoring league and averaged 3.05 last season. The EPL averaged 2.77 last season and is currently at 2.57. Spain's La Liga year after year comes near the 2.80 mark.
Alarm bells should be ringing at the MLS offices. The league is, after all, in the entertainment business – a highly competitive one as American fans have so many choices of what soccer to watch. Being the world’s lowest-scoring league can’t be good for business.
And the one area where MLS bosses can have an influence is on how the rules, which in so many facets favor the defense, are enforced.
We have heard, over the years, foreign players coming to MLS and explaining how they’ve had to adjust to a more physical league with more lenient refereeing.
The latest comes from Philadelphia Union striker Fernando Aristeguieta, who arrived from French Ligue 1 Nantes.
"The most difficult thing has been the contact that referees allow,” he told the CBS Philly. "It's hard, because in Venezuela and France the same contact wins you a foul.”
Whether it’s the refereeing or coaching, MLS should be concerned. No matter how fancy their new stadiums or how big the selection of craft beer, the owners who have invested millions in the league can’t afford to deliver boring soccer.