How MLS and the Scottish Premiership became unexpected frenemies


Both leagues are unable to compete in financial terms against the European elite, and a mutually exploitative relationship is developing

Matt Polster either made the best or the worst decision of his career in January. Not long ago he was seen as a future star of MLS but the midfielder’s career had stagnated at the Chicago Fire, so his departure from the club last month came as no surprise. His destination was more of a point of discussion, though. Depending on who you listen to, Rangers is either the perfect place, or the worst place, for Polster to make the next step.

It’s not that American fans hold any great opinion of Rangers. Instead, many see Scotland as a football backwater, a declining league where young talents are kicked into submission (see Gedion Zelalem a few years ago). Andrew Gutman and Timothy Weah’s January moves to Celtic, like Polster’s to Rangers, were seen as backwards steps by many fans in the US.

Of course, all this chatter – a debate kicked off on Twitter last month about whether Scottish teams would “dominate” MLS – has its basis in little more than stereotype, but it is true that a peculiar relationship is starting to form between MLS, and US football in general, and the Scottish Premiership. It’s been evident in the deals done of late.

As already mentioned, Polster signed with Rangers in January, while Gutman and Weah (via Paris St-Germain rather than MLS) joined Celtic. There was also speculation that Brendan Rodgers would move for Alberth Elis of the Houston Dynamo and US international Wil Trapp.

In the opposition direction, New York City FC tabled an offer for Aberdeen winger Gary Mackay-Steven, while it’s believed Minnesota United and Sporting KC registered an interest in Scott Brown before the former Scotland captain decided to extend his contract at Celtic. Both teams have a track record of scouring the Scottish game for talent, with Sam Nicholson making the move from Hearts to Minnesota two years ago and Sporting KC signing Johnny Russell. The Colorado Rapids also signed Danny Wilson from Rangers last year.

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