This past week has been an absolute disaster for European football. The idea of the European Super League (ESL) had fans, players, and sponsors so angry that its founders had to scrap the idea less than 48 hours after its announcement.
While the European Super League will not (and should not) happen in the manner it was conceived, I wish to propose a similar style tournament, with a slight tweak.
Presenting: The Earth Super League (ESL). They wouldn’t even have to change the initials.
The idea takes the European Super League and adds a touch of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” globetrotting. Rather than just taking the giants of Europe and pitting them against each other (which we already do – see Champions League, UEFA), let’s arbitrarily give the best and the richest teams all over the world an automatic spot in a revenue-generating, completely unnecessary tournament.
But here’s the caveat – every country is allowed to send only one team, in perpetuity, to the Earth Super League.
So who earns the spot in this bold new venture? Well, if we are playing by the same rules as the designers of the European Super League (teams that already win a bunch and make a ton of money), here are the teams from each country most likely to be selected.
United States: LA Galaxy
The Galaxy are second in value among MLS teams only to Atlanta United FC. Even with their 2018 MLS Cup title, Atlanta is still too new to be considered for the ESL, so advantage Galaxy.
One of the founding members of MLS, the Galaxy have been to the finals nine times, nearly double that of D.C. United and the New England Revolution. They have won five titles, most recently in 2014, and have attracted international talent that will help them match up against the other top clubs in the world.
Runners Up: D.C. United, Seattle Sounders
Canada: Toronto FC
The fifth most valuable MLS team, and the only Canadian team to appear in an MLS Cup final, Toronto FC is the only real choice from the Great White North.
The Reds were valued at $395 million in 2019, while Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact were both among the bottom four teams on Forbes’ list of MLS clubs. Founded in 2005, Toronto FC has a little bit longer pedigree than its two Canadian competitors as well.
Runners Up: None
Spain: Real Madrid
This was a difficult choice to make, as I spent several years as a hardcore Barca fan, but Los Merengues had the slight edge thanks to their 34 La Liga titles, eight more than their Clasico rivals.
The current Forbes rankings has them nearly identical in value, both right around $4.7 billion, but Real Madrid was the most valuable club in the world for four straight years between 2013 and 2016, and then again in 2019.
Runners Up: FC Barcelona
Germany: Bayern Munich
The no-brainer of no-brainers. Bayern has won the Bundesliga 29 times. That’s one more time than ALL OTHER TEAMS COMBINED! They are currently on an eight-year winning streak of Bundesliga titles, and have six Champions League victories, making them the only German Club to win Europe more than once.
From a financial standpoint, Bayern trails only the two Spanish giants in current value, just edging Manchester United with a $4.215 billion valuation. Borussia Dortmund ($1.9B) is the only other German club in the top 20, undoubtedly aided by their Bundesliga second place showings in 2018 and 2019.
Runners Up: None
Mexico: Club America
The two bitter rivals were the only logical choices but it turns out that despite their overwhelming success, they are not the most valuable clubs in Liga MX. That title, as of May 2020, belonged to CF Monterrey. Club America came in at third place, with a value of $61.77 million, while Guadalajara was fifth, at just under 60 mil.
On the pitch, America has a 13-12 edge in titles in league play, and has done much better in the Copa MX, with seven titles and six runner up performances. Guadalajara has won the Copa four times, though they do have eight runner-up showings.
Runners Up: Guadalajara
England: Manchester United
The most successful and valuable team of England’s “Big Six,” Manchester United is worth more than 4 billion dollars currently and was the most valuable team in the world from 2007-2012 and again from 2017-2018.
The Red Devils have won the FA Cup 12 times and have made 20 finals appearances, both second behind Arsenal. Though they have not won the Premier League since 2013, ManU has 20 PL titles and 16 runner-up finishes. They have one more Premier League title than Liverpool, but don’t look likely to be caught by the Reds this year. It’s also likely that ManU won’t add to their own tally by catching their cross-town rivals, as City looks poised for another title.
Runners Up: Liverpool, Arsenal
This was a bigger runaway than I expected, as Juventus was overwhelmingly the most deserving Italian side to join the ESL. With 36 titles in Serie A, Juve has doubled the championship output of both Inter and AC Milan. Roma, the other major cash cow in Italian football, has just three titles and has come up one spot short 14 times.
It has been in Europe where Juventus has struggled and AC Milan has shined. The Rossoneri have won the UEFA Champions League 7 times in 11 appearances in the final. Juventus has been to the championship game nine times but has come up short in all but two of them.
Juventus is the team with the money and the pedigree, but the pressure will be on to get results and prove they are the correct team to come out of Italy.
Runners Up: Internazionale, AC Milan
The two strongest teams in Brazil are Corinthians and Palmeiras, and not surprisingly they are the most valuable. According to reports by Fox Sports and Forbes Mexico in 2018, Corinthians was worth $462 million to Palmeiras’s $424 million. In the 2016 edition of those rankings, Corinthians was valued at over $530 million.
Corinthians has won the Campeonato Paulista, the top-flight league in Sao Paulo, 30 times, including 2017, 2018, and 2019. They have also been runners up 21 times in that league. In the 20-team Brazilian Campeonato, which includes the entire country, Corinthians is third with seven titles, behind Palmeiras (10) and Santos (8). They have also won South America’s Copa Libertadores once, in 2012.
Runners Up: Palmeiras
After being just outside the top 20 in Forbes’ list of the richest football clubs in 2019, Ajax slid into the last spot on the 2021 list, giving the Eredivisie its only representative. The Dutch club is valued at $413 million, and is back on the Top 20 list for the first time since 2007.
They are six-time finalists and four-time champions of UEFA Champions League and have 34 Eredivisie titles, ten more than second-placed PSV Eindhoven. They have finished top two in the table 57 times, and also were 1992 Europa League champions and 2017 Europa League runners-up.
Runners Up: None
A 2020 KPMG analysis of the 30 richest football clubs in Europe put Benfica as the richest team in Portugal by nearly 100 million over rival Porto. The Eagles also have the most titles in Primeira Liga history, with 37 titles and 29 runner up showings. Porto (29 wins, 27 runner ups) and Sporting CP (18 wins, 21 runner ups) have been the only teams to win more than one Portuguese league title.
Both Benfica and Porto have won the Champions League twice, though Benfica has been to the final seven times, while Porto won in their only two appearances. Porto is 2-0 in finals in the Europa League as well, while Benfica has three Europa League finals appearances, all runner ups.
Runners Up: Porto
Argentina: River Plate
River Plate or Boca Juniors? Those are the only two choices from Argentina.
Plate has won the Argentinian Primera Division 36 times and finished in the top two on 70 occasions. Boca Juniors has 34 titles and 22 runner ups. They each have won the Copa Argentina three times.
In South American tournaments, against teams like Corinthians, the two have also held their own. Boca Juniors has 6 wins and 5 runners up in the Copa Libertadores, where River Plate has four wins and five second place finishes. Boca has won the Copa Sudamericana twice, and River Plate has won once and been runner up another time.
Even the value of the clubs is razor-close. In 2018’s rankings of American soccer clubs, River Plate edged Boca Juniors by just a $6 million difference. But between the slight advantage in value and a small edge in domestic titles, River Plate takes Argentina’s spot in ESL by a hair.
Runners Up: Boca Juniors
France: Paris Saint-Germain
The 2020 UEFA Champions League runners up will get the nod to represent France in the ESL. PSG has won 9 Ligue 1 titles, tied with Marseille and just one behind Saint’Etienne, who was dominant in the ’60s and ’70s but hasn’t won a title since 1981.
From a value standpoint, no other French team comes close to matching Paris St. Germain’s $2.5 billion worth. Not since 2013 has any other team from Ligue 1 been in the top 20 wealthiest clubs, according to Forbes. That year Lyon and Marseille were both more valuable than PSG, but PSG leap-frogged both of them in 2015, valued at $415 million, and hasn’t stopped climbing since.
Runners Up: Marseille
So there you have it! The 12 teams that make up the Earth Super League (ESL).
If you wanted, you could break them into two continental pools of six for the opening rounds of play, though one European team would have to cross over to play with the Americas.
Since it’s the Earth Super League, and in this hypothetical, travel is not an issue, I prefer to mix them up, or better yet, have everyone play everyone else in a round robin with 11 matchdays.
You could also expand the tournament to 16 or 20 teams, leaving open spots for a rotation of teams from other leagues around the globe.
Either way, it’s a better alternative to the European Super League. And just like the real ESL, it’s not likely to actually happen.
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