American passion growing along with rivalries, says Edu
By Richard Pignatelli
(Reuters) - Having several times experienced the red-hot atmosphere of an 'Old Firm' derby with Scottish club Rangers, life back in the MLS could perhaps be a little tame for Maurice Edu.
But the 29-year-old Philadelphia Union midfielder believes the same rivalries that are so deeply-ingrained in Europe can evolve in North America, even if it will take some time.
Edu, who spent four years with Rangers, winning three Scottish titles and playing in the Champions League, before a forgettable spell with Premier League Stoke City, returned across the Atlantic to a changed soccer landscape.
With more franchises, better stadiums, TV deals and youngsters clamoring to get into Academies, the sport is beginning to make serious inroads into the usual diet of NFL, baseball and basketball, especially in the metropolises.
Players including former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard and Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard will be playing in the MLS next season and the national team is thriving.
"A lot has changed, not only has the standard of play increased but also from an infrastructure stand point as well, you see a lot more soccer specific stadiums that have been built around the league," Edu told Reuters.
"Every team now has an academy system which is very important, not only for developing our youth team players for the MLS but also to give them exposure to professional soccer and help their development as a professional player wherever that may be.
"We can also see the fan base developing and each team having different rivalries with distinct supporters groups within each club." Continued...