In most seasons MLS Golden Boot winners only scrape into the teens. Why can't the league's marksmen pass the 20-goal threshold consistently?During a conversation in preseason, Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury pondered about an interesting topic in Major League Soccer: What's with the lack of 20-goal-a-year scorers in the MLS?
"In leagues around the world, you have guys leading their leagues with 20, 30, or even 40 goals a season," Bunbury told Goal.com. "It is puzzling that in MLS, there aren't guys who put up big numbers scoring."
Last season, Dewayne De Rosario and Chris Wondolowski led MLS in scoring with 16 goals. Compared to leagues in Europe or South America, that is generally a low tally for a Golden Boot winner.
The last player to score 20 goals in a season was Landon Donovan in 2008 and prior to that there have been only eight players to match that feat in the league's 16 years. Luciano Emilio, Carlos Ruiz, Taylor Twellman, Mamadou Diallo, Stern John, Roy Lassiter, Raul Diaz Arce and Eduardo Hurtado proceeded Donovan in the feat. Lassiter's 27 goals scored in MLS's inaugural season is still the highest goal output in the league's history.
Searching for an answer, I approached Seattle Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer about the subject. Initially, he pointed to the parity of MLS's teams as his reason for the paucity of prolific scoring numbers in the league. His argument was that, in Europe, it is more common to find 4-1 or 7-0 results which would allow a striker on a top team to bloat his tally with hat tricks against weaker opposition.
"We led the league in scoring last season with 56 goals," Hanauer said to Goal.com. "Compare that to clubs in Europe that are scoring 80-plus goals a season."
A front office executive who enjoys evaluating the statistical side of the game, he compared MLS to leagues in Europe. Hanauer specifically compared the top scorers of France's Ligue 1 to the North American top flight. He also factored in that MLS plays less games, with the schedule having 34 games last season.
"In France, over the past seven years: 2005/Frei/19 gls, 2006/Pauletta 21 gls, 2007/Pauletta/15 goals, 2008/Benzema/20 gls, 2009/Gignac/24 gls, 2010/Niang/18 gls, 2011 Sow/25 and Gameiro/22 gls. All of these were scored in 38 games," Hanauer wrote in the email.
"If you look at the corresponding MLS years: 2005/Twellman/17 in 32 games, 2006/Cunningham/16 gls in 32 games, 2007/Emilio/20 gls in 30 games, 2008/Landon/20 gls in 30 games, 2009/Cunningham/17 gls in 30 games, 2010/Wondolowski/18 gls in 30 games, 2011/Wondolowski and De Rosario/16 gls in 30 games."
He concluded, "Long story short . . . if you converted MLS to 38 games . . . in the past seven years, the goal scoring totals would have been: 20, 19, 25, 25, 21, 23, and 18. This would be actually higher than the top goal scorers in France."