Ultimate Standings of professional sports franchises by ESPN the Magazine should be considered as an outstanding measurement for the superiority of North American sports teams. It appears to be the most thorough modern survey of its type conducted, covering topics such as how fans view their respective team's players/coaches/owners, the chances to play for a championship and seeing the team perform live. The polling for ESPN's Ultimate Standings has been going on now for 14 years.
Using the results from these 'Standings' as a reference point, all North American sports fans can make their arguments for best overall teams when arguing with each other or talking heads can do the same on sports talk shows. This is what ESPN has tried to do with these Standings, settle the argument to some degree. And, they have broken things down by including all the teams in one poll and by sport in another poll.
ESPN is heavily invested in MLS. In fact, ESPN continues its coverage and broadcasts of the MLS Playoffs throughout November. It could be argued that no other network has been a bigger partner to MLS throughout its history than ESPN. But, with all that said, MLS was not included in the 'Ultimate Standings.' What a travesty for MLS to have its league be treated in this way.
To make matters worse, an NHL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, received the overall #1 sports franchise team ranking. Granted, the NHL has a longer place in the American sporting landscape than MLS, however, soccer is generally known as the much more popular sport compared to hockey in the U.S. Conventionally speaking, MLS has gained significant ground on the NHL over recent years and can be foreseen to be the more popular league of the two in the near future. Only the amount of teams, 30 in the NHL with Las Vegas making 31, presently shows a more pervasive league over MLS' 23 teams in 2017.
MLS doesn't appear to be lagging too far behind the NHL in overall popularity with sports fans. This is the next poll that needs to be done by ESPN.
Should the NHL even be part of the 'Ultimate Standings?' There has been a theme in North American team sports of 'four major sports' for several decades, yet, many sports pundits don't consider the NHL to be a 'major' sport, but, rather a niche sport throughout the U.S.
For ESPN to push the NHL over MLS, especially without any loyalty involved (there is no current Tv contract between ESPN and the NHL), proves that MLS has a ways to go in convincing mainstream media and the public about the virtues of their product.
The assertion of there being 'four major team sports' in North America will linger on. The whole idea that there are 'five major team sports', rather than four, may not become a reality until ESPN includes MLS in the 'Ultimate Standings': The Best Franchises in Sports.