A day after amazing achievements for USL-1 sides in CONCACAF Champions League action Major League Soccer continued its pattern of showing that they don’t get it by rejecting New York’s $200,000 bid for Macoumba Kandji according to Ives Galarcep of Soccer by Ives. The apparent stumbling block: MLS does not believe any player in USL could possibly be worth $200,000. Even after seeing the Puerto Rico Islanders, a USL side accomplish a feat that no MLS team has been able to in eight tries (getting a result against one of the big two Costa Rican clubs in Central America) Major League Soccer will not allow one of its franchises to spend transfer money on a player from the second division in its own country. Can you imagine if the Premier League forbade its clubs from buying players from Championship clubs? Or how about Serie A not buying from Serie B? The policy would rightly be ripped and quite frankly the gap between USL-1 and MLS is much smaller than between the Premier League and Championship. It’s no small wonder why so many fans domestic and abroad view the MLS not only a poor footballing league but more importantly as a somewhat strange and shady business.
The Hubris in MLS HQ is a subject I’ve been exploring the Superliga debacle. This incident however even surprises someone like me who tends to think the worst possible of the league. However, I must state I support MLS and hope they shape up rather than permanently lose a generation of football fans in this nation.
The fact is back in the day USL-1 (then the A-League) and MLS used to have a working partnership. Now they compete. USL is obviously an inferior league but its not as wide a gap as typically you have between first and second divisions. MLS seems determined to kill USL, while at the same time not allowing its franchises to grow. I’ve actually spoken off the record to a few players who have been in both leagues and while they acknowledge MLS is the top league some prefer playing in USL and actually signing with a team and not being subject to the constant rearranging of the deck chairs that occurs in MLS since player contracts are owned by the league and not by certain clubs.
What MLS needs to do is learn from USL’s success in certain markets and also understand why USL sides tend to perform well relative to their talent level in knock out competitions like the Open Cup and now the CONCACAF CL. USL-1 sides typically get players that are MLS rejects not because they weren’t good enough to play but because they fell in the salary range of 30k-50k where cap space becomes tight. Many USL-1 players are actually better than the low end MLS players. In other cases it is easier for foriegn players, particularly from the Caribbean and Africa to sign with USL-1 and USL-2 sides. Often times the foreign players that end up in USL have a better long term outlook than the overpayed and over the hill type foreign players MLS likes to sign. Mac Kandji is an example of this type of foreign player.
For a league in the last year who has signed foreign players such a Franco Neil, Mathias Cordoba, Franco Carracio, Celestine Babyaro, Abel Xavier, Laurent Robert and others based on reputation not on their ability to excel in the unique footballing climate of the United States, the decision of MLS to reject a transfer fee for Kandji shows that once again MLS operates in a vacuum with regards to the world of football and deserves all of the scorn it has rightfully earned.