In the United Kingdom, EMRSA-15 and EMRSA-16 account for the majority ( approximately 90%) of nosocomial methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. Currently, the standard typing technique, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), is laborious and insufficient for discriminating between closely related subtypes of EMRSA-15 and -16. The objective of the present study was to compare the usefulness of multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat fingerprinting (MLVF) and multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) with PFGE for subtyping these highly clonal MRSA lineages. A panel of 85 MRSA isolates (41 EMRSA-15, 20 EMRSA-16, and 24 MRSA isolates with diverse PFGE patterns) was investigated. In addition, a further 29 EMRSA-15s with identical PFGE patterns from two geographically linked but epidemiologically distinct outbreaks and several sporadic cases were analyzed. PFGE, MLVF, and MLVA resolved 66 (Simpson's index of diversity [SID] = 0.984), 51 (SID = 0.95), and 42 (SID = 0.881) types, respectively, among the 85 MRSA isolates. MLVF was more discriminatory than MLVA for EMRSA-15 and -16 strains, but both methods had comparable discriminatory powers for distinguishing isolates in the group containing diverse PFGE types. MLVF was comparable to PFGE for resolving the EMRSA-15s but had a lower discriminatory power for the EMRSA-16s. MLVF and MLVA resolved the 29 isolates with identical PFGE patterns into seven and six subtypes, respectively. Importantly, both assays indicated that the two geographically related outbreaks were caused by distinct subtypes of EMRSA-15. Taken together, the data suggest that both methods are suitable for identifying and tracking specific subtypes of otherwise-indistinguishable MRSA. However, due to its greater discriminatory power, MLVF would be the most suitable alternative to PFGE for hospital outbreak investigations.