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MLS Profits in Light of Ownerships’ Claims, Portland’s Filing

Screen shot 2010 03 17 at 1.54.54 PM MLS Profits in Light of Ownerships Claims, Portlands Filing

AEG CEO and President Tim Leiweke claims only a couple of MLS clubs will make money. (Photo: Getty Images)

Thanks to Dave Clark at SounderAtHeart, we have a better idea if MLS owners are actually losing money, a key part of a recent public relations effort (see Leiweke and Wolf) to take the labor debate to the fans.

The idea that MLS is losing money is one of the key (if not the only) ideas that have some MLS fans on the owners’ side (though as we found out here, there aren’t as many as the most vocal commenters might have you believe).

As Tim Leiweke told the Los Angeles Times yesterday, “There are only a couple of [MLS] teams that will make money this year.”

Such claims, as well as claims about free agency inherently increasing labor costs, deserve discussion, criticism.

According to Clark, who took information from a Portland Timbers’ public disclosure to update the 2007 Forbes study, we can be confident two teams made money (Seattle, Toronto). There are five other clubs who are within his margin for error (Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, San Jose, Los Angeles, Houston).

There are a couple of caveats to Dave’s work. First, as he readily admits, it’s based off of incomplete information. The Portland disclosure was detailed but not the bottom line, and his work is dependent on it.

Screen shot 2010 03 17 at 1.59.47 PM MLS Profits in Light of Ownerships Claims, Portlands Filing

Soccer United Marketing is expected to pay $1.6 million to Portland in each of the next five years, according to public documents.

Second, the numbers don’t count the money clubs get from Soccer United Marketing. Dave points out that they are technically separate entities. In the interest of not confounding the data, he keeps the SUM disbursement out. If the $1.6 million was included, Chivas USA and New England may have also made money last year.

Finally, the numbers do not include disbursements from expansion fees. Seattle paid $30 million to come into the league. Each team in the league should have received $2 million from it. Merritt Paulson has said that the Portland fee was $40 million. Perhaps that fee and not Seattle’s should be counted on last year’s books.

Regardless, things look much better for MLS clubs if you consider these fees. With them and the SUM number, the potentially profitable clubs expands to include Colorado and Kansas City – 11 of the 15 clubs that played last season.

This is also within the context of an economic downturn, the premise of Dave’s column. If you buy into that premise, the 2009 numbers could be considered near the bottom of the range of outcomes for an otherwise growing league.

Dave’s work is not exhaustive, and the viability of including SUM and expansion fee revenues may not be strong. However, thanks to the Portland release, Dave’s legwork, and the foundation provided by the 2007 Forbes research, blind trust of the owner’s claims may be more naive than we had previously thought.

There are a few other concepts that need to be further explored.

After looking at the numbers, how many clubs do you think made money last season?

(polls)

Through the years I have been very skeptical of owners in professional sports claiming they’re losing money, particularly in the context of labor negotiations or bargaining for public stadia. There has always been a disturbing lack of transparency. Owners are not required to open their books – I don’t begrudge them for that. But when asking for public financing or posturing for fan support, there is a need to be transparent , if for no other reason than to establish trust.

Particularly in baseball and football, we’ve hear numerous “this market is not viable unless” arguments made as stadium initiatives approach ballots. It’s all part of the game. You can’t fault owners for doing what’s best for their business. However, we need to keep these motivations and the tricky world of corporate accounting in mind.

Until the owners can be more transparent, their claims of losses deserve a more critical discussion.

In the bigger picture, this profit argument has become a bit of a red herring. Sports franchises are as much about accruing equity as they are turning a profit. Two years ago, the Los Angeles Galaxy were valued by Forbes at $100 million, but a snap shot of a single-season’s balance sheet would make it seem the club is a bad investment. Yet, were AEG to sell the Galaxy at the end of 2008, they would have received a huge windfall. How do you reconcile that profitability except to see single-season balance sheets inadequately describing the viability of franchise ownership?

Like the SUM and expansion fee monies, the accrual of equity has to be mentioned in this conversation.

Screen shot 2010 03 17 at 2.01.16 PM 300x233 MLS Profits in Light of Ownerships Claims, Portlands Filing

Shown here during last season's Western Conference final, Home Depot Center factors into Los Angeles Galaxy's high franchise value. (Photo: Getty Images)

In the short team, it is in a franchise’s best interest to take losses in order to accrue this equity, or increase the franchise’s value. If you look at a single season’s ledger, you miss this effect. Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, bought the team in 1999 for an estimated $800 million. It is now worth $1.1 billion. FedEx Field had a lot to do with that, just as Home Depot Center has a lot to do with Los Angeles being MLS’s most valuable franchise.

These benefits matter, particularly when an ownership group seeks to borrow against the club to get financing for stadia and other infrastructure improvements.

Even if we cease looking deeper into these losses, there seem to be very few people asking why some teams are making money and some are not. Between two and 11 teams (depending on which numbers you want to look at, above) are close to or exceeding break even. Yet all franchises are playing by the same rules. How have some been able to make their situations work while others have not? It is possible that there are just some bad markets, inviable teams, or maybe some management groups that are not doing enough to compete (be it at the turnstile or in the points column)?

There is another, more esoteric debate: A sports teams even designed to make money? Are they possibly turning into the toys of the Mark Cubans, Paul Allens … Roman Abramovichs of the world? And if so, what does profitability matter if there are people willing to pay the price of ownership? All those owners do is threaten the owners who, for whatever reason, are not capable of similar levels of support.

Were the players asking for substantial increases in wages, we could perhaps overlook all the confusion regarding losses and profitability. But the players and owners had agreed to a 17.4 percent increase in the salary cap. Increased expenditures on wages was not the issue, no matter how much the owners now want to make the players out to be so off-base.

Screen shot 2010 03 17 at 2.02.59 PM 300x212 MLS Profits in Light of Ownerships Claims, Portlands Filing

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and his clubs have been able pushing their lack of profitability as a key component in their public relations battle. (Photo: Newscom)

Owners have been intimating that free agency will increase costs. Common sense tells you that’s a difficult argument to make, given a salary cap. It will change how rosters are managed, and it might drive more mid-level talent to the NASL or Europe. But it won’t increase costs.

As part of their public face for this battle, Major League Soccer seems to be confounding increased costs with free agency in an attempt to keep control of the players. They want to be able to have the control to say “Well, Landon, we have this two year option we can exercise, or you can sign this longer contract and make more money. Either way, we have you.”

They want to be able to tell players, “Well, you can play at the first level of soccer in this country, but since you can only can only play for this team, you’ll have to take what their budget allows.”

They don’t want a player saying “but these other teams have money, so why can’t I go there.”

As teams compete with each other for player services, the price for that single player will increase, but overall costs won’t, thanks to the salary cap.

If the owner’s suggestion is true and free agency will send costs out-of-control, why bother with other cost-control measures like a salary cap?

It’s a hole in the owner’s public stance, a public stance that seems short on answers and transparency. Until the owners can reconcile some of these issues, it would be too trusting to believe their public face.

This is not to say the owners are misleading the fans, but just because they say something – be it about profits or the effects of free agency – does not mean its true.

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38 Responses to MLS Profits in Light of Ownerships’ Claims, Portland’s Filing

  1. Rex says:

    “If a salary cap is not going to control costs, why even have it?” You have it to maintain competitive balance. In a league thats less than 20 years you cant have perennial losers because you are trying to build a fan base.

    The players union are like some loser who cant get his way in life so he brings down his company with him. The sad part is the owners will just move on to bigger, better, and more profitable things and the fans will be left out in the cold.

    Onstad and the player reps are all knocking on retirements door so they will just get their AARP card and move on… all the 20something year old players will be screwed and be getting a real job that also only plays the same 30k a year and then they will wish they didnt ‘stick to their guns’.

    • Doorworker says:

      @Rex–
      sphinctersez “The players union are like some loser who cant get his way in life so he brings down his company with him.”

      Set aside that the analogy makes zero sense…the point yr trying to make is also dead wrong. The players union is like a collection of highly skilled tradesmen–not ‘world class’, we all know, but extraordinarily high caliber, dedicated, and improving–who’ve got the sense and collective dignity to ‘hang together’ for a pay structure THEY can live with as minimally fair and reasonable, rather than ‘hang separately,’ asses in the wind, for whatever shit terms the owners see fit to toss their way.

      Players standing up, showing a little dignity, insisting on a fair bargain is ‘part of the process’ of league-building too. you’d figure a fan to see that, but then there’s bound to be a bunch of bootlicking weasels in a 300-million strong country.

      I have yet to hear what part of the players’ demands are unreasonable. A less-than-elite league is demanding less-than-elite treatment, that includes fair wages (incredibly modest by US professional athlete standards), and the freedom to have their talents assessed on more open-market terms.

      Hey, you know, if the league is an unsustainable bullshit factory, supplying a product there’s no demand for, then it’s THE LEAGUE, and not the players’ sense of dignity, that should disappear.

      The issue is about what the PLAYERS themselves decide, collectively, is worth & not worth the hassles and opportunity costs of being an MLS performer. THAT’s the bottom line here. The idea that the system works if only the players would be willing to eat some open-ended platefuls of owner-shoveled shit is a deeply stupid premise.

      They know better than you the point beneath which it starts to make no sense to make the sacrifices of professional ballplaying, and they know better than the likes of you what ‘the market can bear’. And no one, bar none, has more to lose than the rank-and-file players themselves.

      You owner apologists are pathetic…crying for the poor abused management, pissing on what might well be the single lowest-paying ‘division 1? professional sports league in the world’s richest nation, and almost certainly the lowest-paying men’s soccer league in the industrialized world.

      Unless, again, someone wants to open my eyes as to what it is these people are asking for that’s so over the moon. I don’t see it:
      http://www.mlsplayers.org/files/september_15_2009_salary_information__by_club.pdf

      • CoconutMonkey says:

        Unsustainable bullshit factory?

        ..
        .
        BWA HA HA HA! That’s awesome!

      • Rex says:

        The league has met every demand from the players short of things like free agency and other things that undercut the foundations of the league. If the players were simply asking for more money, I would be cool with that. They want to change the fundamental structure of the league and that’s unreasonable.
        MLS has one advantage over almost every other sports league in the world… It’s new and had a 100 years of sports leagues to learn from. Look at the financial issues associated with the EPL. Even if you think the MLS structure is wrong, how naive are the players to think the MLS is going to be willing to change its fundamental foundations.
        I am not apologizing for the owners, I just think they’ve got a good thing going and i don’t want it screwed up. I am out there for all the fans because we are the ones that are going to be screwed in this whole deal.

  2. Yorkie says:

    I feel that the Owners are using a bit of stagecraft, this is the typical book cooking that takes place in any business that makes them reflect whatever they feel is in their best interests (ie. keep the cheap labor as long as possible). As many players have mentioned the MLS won’t open their books and show anyone their finances. Sure not every team is making money but I feel the majority are, and those that are not, are probably within shouting distance. This doesn’t mean I feel the players need to be given the sky, but there is nothing wrong with perhaps a 2.75 million cap, with some sort of restricted free agency, maybe do as many have suggested a scaled level free agency.

  3. Bill says:

    Actually, the way the MLS will lose money through free agency is in the loss of the so-called single entity status that keeps them insulated from sherman act anti-trust litigation. Look into it. There is a reason they want to retain all the fittings of single entity, and it is about avoiding anti-trust.

    If the author is as bright as he portrays, maybe he can take a look at American Aperal V. NFL currently being reviewed by the US supreme court. The lawsuit is not about free agency per se, but it is about single entity. You can bet your bippy that the Don is watching bc the factors of single entity status may hinge on free agency. Oh, BTW, did you see what the NFL just did regarding free agency. Doesn’t anyone else see something similar going on?

    • Bobby says:

      You mean American Needle.

      http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/michael_mccann/01/12/americanneedlev.nfl/index.html Here’s an SI article on the case for those interested. The potential impacts are pretty huge.

    • Clayton says:

      That’s exactly what I think the owners are trying to do. If I understand correctly, the players tried to sue the MLS in the early 2000s saying that the single entity status was invalid because the teams were operating as if they were separate entities. MLS won the lawsuit back then, but if they give the players anything resembling free agency, the players could take them back to court and have a better case this time. Therefore, any form of free agency really could destroy the single entity system and that seems to be the owners’ worst nightmare.

      That being said, I think they should put an end to single entity because it would take the perennially mediocre teams off welfare and force them to actually try to run a first-class organization. Also, I think there are finally enough good owners that the league could thrive without single entity even if it meant that the poorly run teams failed. Would the MLS really be a worse league if you got rid of the Hunt Sports Group and their half-empty stadiums, especially if you replace them with packed houses in Portland, Vancouver, Philly and Montreal?

      • doorworker says:

        “they should put an end to single entity because it would take the perennially mediocre teams off welfare and force them to actually try to run a first-class organization…”

        Footage I saw last season of a number of some Kansas City and Dallas home games–really alarmingly sparse crowds–sure supports that take.

        Hard to figure how long, recurring stretches of anemic, depressing home games do anybody any real favors.

        Sort of a question pointing to that incredibly annoying phrase “economic gardening”…which cases are best for patiently ‘cultivating,’ which are best treated with pruning shears.

        • Stephen says:

          The problem with taking underperforming teams off the single-entity system is that those teams are in some of the larger US markets.

          As a Canadian, as much as I’d love to see a league centred around Toronto, Montreal, the three PNW teams and a few other cities that actually give a damn about the sport, we all know that would drive ESPN away from the table as fast as lightning. They can get more viewers for a Siena / Gonzaga preseason basketball game than Toronto / Portland.

          And TV dollars are going to make or break the league outside of, again, the aforementioned markets.

          [Although I question how much ESPN is going to care about the next TV contract anyway with their golden boy injured and likely headed into retirement, and their focus on the Champions' League as one of their featured properties, as well as the billions they're investing in Europe.]

    • Bob says:

      You can have a salary cap without single entity.

      MLS isn’t single entity. If it is, why do some team make money and others don’t? A true single entity (with all team being equal or part of one large “team”, as MLS wants us to believe) would mean all teams should have the same profit and loss. They don’t. It isn’t.

      • Mark says:

        Plenty businesses are at the point where different departments/regions/stores etc. have separate profit/loss figures (sorry, I don’t know the accounting world’s terminology here) even though ultimately all the numbers are totalled for the company.

        I don’t know how analogous MLS’s structure is with these other businesses, but it’s not difficult to see how one can talk of teams being profitable or not while still being part of a single entity.

      • Charles says:

        Bob,
        Well, you just summed up the American Needle arguement as the sue the NFL saying it isn’t a single entity.

        • Stephen says:

          I’ve been saying for a while that the NFL needs to re-focus its argument around franchise-based arguments, rather than the one they’re using.

          That said, they’re going to win the case simply because of the way the current USSC is structured. There’s a reason they brought the case forward after winning at the appeals court level; they want a strong precedent, and they’re confident that they’ve pretty much won the case even without arguing it.

    • Richard Farley says:

      Bill:

      We’ve covered American Needle before, and given the length and scope of this piece, it’s more germane to this discussion than the actual piece. Perhaps I should have expanded the article to 1,800 words, but I couldn’t see the keyboard for my brightness.

  4. Michael says:

    Richard, I think you’ll find that MLST’s own Kartik previously ran numbers himself and came to the conclusion that MLS may have actually overstated its health.

    But in one sense you’re right – with things like SSS dollars off the team books, we don’t know how much owners make from soccer, even if we can be relatively sure how much they make from their teams.

    • Richard Farley says:

      Michael:

      I do seem to remember that. I suppose there are a number of points to discuss when comparing Kartik’s conclusions with Dave’s.

      • My numbers were based on eliminating SUM funds and simply looking at concerts and other extra events held at MLS club owned Stadiums, in addition to MLS/US Open Cup matches itself. When you apply put SUM finances and Expansion fees, the picture changes and Dave has done an excellent job of breaking that down.

        • Stephen says:

          Of course, relying on expansion fees as a way to prop up teams is dangerous in and of itself – that business model nearly crippled the NHL at the turn of the century and led directly to the season-cancelling lockout.

          Best to keep them out of any profit / loss discussion.

  5. Don says:

    Richard, thank you for the interesting and analytical essay on MLS finances. We need more attempts to understand and fewer focusing on choosing sides. Which side you support, labor or ownership, will inevitably reflect our own political, ideological and social views. Let us, at least, try to get our facts correct, even if we choose to disagree about who we support.

  6. blah says:

    I love how the players union people suddenly are experts on MLS finances based on imaginative theorizing. Why can’t I use these kinds of arguments with my boss? “Give me a raise and allow me to refuse any kind of job reassignment without losing my job because I think you are making money even though I have no evidence to support my claims, just wishful thinking”. Yeah, that will go over well.

    You really think a couple of clubs making a small profit plus a few more breaking even is going to make up for the clubs that are still losing money? How about the hundreds of millions of dollars that have already been lost? How about the hundreds of millions being invested in new infrastructure: new SSS being built, new youth academies, etc? Even if every single MLS club were to turn profitable this year, it would take a long time to pay off that kind of investment. Who is going to make this investment, if not the owners? The players union? Please.

    And the SUM argument is idiotic. Even if SUM somehow made MLS profitable, it is beside the point: what MLS players are paid to do, has nothing to do with SUM. It would be like you going to your boss and saying “yeah, I know my department loses you guys a ton of cash, but you’ve got this side business over here, in another department, doing something else, which I have absolutely nothing to do with, that makes you money; so maybe you are making money in spite of the fact that my department is a disaster; so give me a raise, and oh by the way, I want you to change your business plan, on my say so, just because I’m an employee and I have rights so I get to stay wherever I want in the company and you can’t fire me if I refuse to move”. Huh? You really think that’s logical? That’s what the SUM argument boils down to: SUM is subsidizing the money losing MLS operations that the players are paid for, so the players should get what they want because SUM subsides their money losing operations in MLS. WTF?

    Nice fantasyland logic, no? Why does this kind of “logic” only apply in the world of sports union negotiations?

    SUM is beside the point. MLS players have nothing to do with SUM. In the real world, departments that lose money are shut down or sold off, while departments that make money get the raises and the bonuses. MLS loses money for the owners – the players union can’t point to SUM and somehow claim that SUM gives them the right to make more demands. Let MLS players start making money for MLS before we talk about profitability; right now SUM is carrying MLS; without SUM, MLS would have probably been shut down in 2002 as a hopeless cause.

    But no, the “I want a pony” crowd know business better than people who actually have hundreds of millions of dollars to blow away on American pro soccer. They are ferreting out those hidden cash cows they just know MLS is hiding! Never mind the poor TV ratings, never mind the small crowds and unsold tickets, MLS is a financial dynamo! Some poster on a soccer forum said so. Thus it is so. Hand over the cash!

    So what if MLS is nearly invisible in the US sports media, and is decades away from becoming a serious major league in the USA – let’s pretend that this is the 1890′s and the working classes are fighting the robber barons! Yes! Who cares what damage this does to pro soccer in the USA. All that matter’s are some pimply teenager’s fantasies about “how soccer should be run in the USA according to how it’s run in Europe” or some such fantasy.

    Are there any grownups in the MLS Union camp? It’s time for a reality check.

    • Flex Buffchest says:

      That was a really good read blah. I have to agree. I don’t think many people know what really goes on behind the scenes. I’m not going to pretend to. I hope more than anything that this league does not go on strike, and that they figure something out that will really help the future of MLS grow. I think choosing sides doesn’t solve anything. We need the correct facts and base decisions of off that. Instead of basing it off of accusations and false information.

    • Peter C says:

      blah,

      Where to begin. To say that the players have nothing to do with any of SUM’s activities ignores the facts.

      SuperLiga, like it or not, was a SUM product. Any monies generated over the prize money(only the winner got money) and productions costs were kept by SUM. Money to the three losing MLS teams and players…zip.

      SUM is the marketing agent for the CONCACAF Champions League. As every MLS investor/operator also has a piece of SUM, fees received for services rendered are shared by MLS investor/operators and not shared with club revenues.

      MLS investor/operators know that when they obtain their franchise operator status, they will share in SUM revenues from all of its ventures. So, no MLS team means no interest in SUM, and although there are several non operator investors, that doesn’t change the fact that the MLS i/o’s have revenue coming in that owe its existence to the MLS team and since there is no team without players. Well, you get the point.

      As to the massive investment that’s been made by the owners, that was their choice, and they recouped some by the sale of the TV rights to the 02-06 World Cups(the beginning of SUM) in addition to the over $185m in new franchise fees since 2005 and all of the intervening activities of SUM.

      That includes the double digit matches MLS teams participated in during last year’s ‘Summer of Soccer’, some of which were SUM productions.

      Now I completely understand the huge investments being made by MLS operator/investors and would be the last to say that MLS players should give in to all of the players’ demands in the current labor dispute. But to say the the owners are the only voice in these discussions worth listening to is, well, ridiculous. And to believe the ‘oh woe is us’ cry of smart business executives who have mastered the art of the ‘money shell game’ is naive at best.

  7. Jammer says:

    It seems you’ve misinterpreted Dave’s data. How do you interpret, for example, Houston’s “-3M to 0″ to mean that it’s within the margin for error of turning a profit? I would interpret it to mean that they certainly lost money. The non-range estimates DO include SUM money, according to the post.

    Blah makes a good point — if you count the disbursements from the new owners (for selling stakes in MLS and SUM), then you should also count, say, the $100M that the Wizards are spending on a stadium.

    In response to Peter C, if MLS disappeared, and the teams were gone, all the investors would still be making the same money from SUM. Champions League is not listed in the SUM contracts, and Superliga is over.

    The last point of the article is correct, that the increase in value of the asset may offset operating losses. That is where the new franchise payments should count, as selling part of the league (and SUM). But for the great majority of franchises, I don’t think they are in a position to sell for enough to cover their operating losses from the last decade. I would also bet most of the team sales up to now have been for losses.

    So Lieweke’s point stands, that the owners’ investments are still very much at risk. So they are not in a comfortable position to make that risk greater with changes to the CBA.

    And they are resisting the changes for reasons, even if they are not directly raising the salary cap. For instance, guaranteed contracts would prevent teams from cutting the fat, and make it harder for them to field a quality team for the same price. It is something the players will get some day, for sure, but this may not be the year.

    • Richard Farley says:

      Jammer:

      In Dave’s first table, he has Houston with a $258,397 profit that he then rounds down in the second table.

    • Peter C says:

      Jammer,

      just to clarify, SUM was(and i believe still is) the marketing agent for CONCACAF in the US, hence the connection to the CCL.
      And yes Superliga is over, but it wasn’t during the expired CBA and there’s nothing to prevent SUM from concocting something similar that would involve MLS teams(nee: players).

    • Stephen says:

      if you count the disbursements from the new owners (for selling stakes in MLS and SUM), then you should also count, say, the $100M that the Wizards are spending on a stadium. ‘

      Generally, these type of expenses would be amortized over the operating life of the infrastructure investment. It probably wouldn’t tweak the figures much if at all as a result.

  8. Matthew N says:

    I couldn’t care less if MLS makes money or not. Single entity is bullshit. It is bad for our league and bad for American players. The more I hear about the drama surrounding MLS and the strong desire of the owners to do exactly opposite of what every other league in the world does, the less I want to like it.

  9. Charles says:

    First of all Sounder at Heart rocks. Read him all the time. He just seems like a great guy in his posts.

    The problem with the arguements of going to a free enterprise is this.
    Keep in mind I am a open market/free trade economist, not usually for MLS type of structures.
    IT WON’T WORK.
    Maybe is sort of works in Europe, where they don’t care that the same team wins it every year.
    Maybe you can argue Americans will learn that part of soccer too…I doubt it, but maybe.

    But you can’t argue that a majority of the people think that 3-7 teams out of 15 are profitable.
    They should have broken it down more because I was closer to 3 and I am sure many others were too. So now you have Seattle, LA and Toronto duking it out in the 3 team MLS, with a bunch of hopefuls like Philly and Portland. They are only building stadiums for 18-20k fans, but yeah they are going to be the next Seattle. Just doesn’t add up in my book.

    I am not chosing sides in the debate.
    More money/freedom for players means better quality for my season tickets,
    no league means no season tickets….

    BUT, and there is always a big but, I think many are being unrealistic when they think the solution is just do what they do in Europe, it works there.

  10. Stephen says:

    ‘Maybe is sort of works in Europe, where they don’t care that the same team wins it every year. Maybe you can argue Americans will learn that part of soccer too…I doubt it, but maybe.’

    it’ll never happen. Not with four other leagues out there selling ‘maybe this will be that magical season [Twins 91, Pens 91, Knicks 99, Pats 01-02, Saints this year] where your franchise shakes off the doldrums and wins it all.’ Even Yankee fans will agree – once you get a few beers in them – that this year’s WS, after a decade of failure, was more special than when they were winning 125 games in a season and not being challenged. Soccer fans in Europe buy into that insanity, but that’s something that doesn’t translate at all over here.

    And since TFC would find a way to finish third every year in a three-team league… I don’t want to see that, either.

  11. david says:

    How do you know the owners are full of it? Because they won’t open up their books. If they were really losing money, they’d be happy to allow the players union or a third party representative review their finances.

    Some folks on here are really, really gullible.

  12. f4denz says:

    I can tell you one thing based on an interview with RSL president Bill Manning, RSL didn’t make a profit in 2009, they don’t expect to in 2010 (they hope to break even), they do expect to start making money in 2011. It will be nice, then they can start paying off the $65 million dollars in debt for their stadium.

    David, the mediator has access to those records, or at least he is supposed to. So do you also think the players should open their personal finances to the owners? How much do they get from Nike, or other people they do advertisements for? They wouldn’t make that money if they weren’t playing in MLS now would they. Full open transparency it you make one side do it, both sides should

    • David says:

      The mediator does not have access to MLS owners’ books. Mediation is non binding.

      Players’ endorsements, etc. are not collectively bargained for and are thus irrelevant to CBA negotiations.

      The heart of the owners’ position is that they are not making profits and thus are not in a position to change work rules under the CBA. But they won’t let anyone verify this by actually reviewing their books. Weird huh?

      Under MLS rules, they hold an out-of-contract player’s registration, thus preventing him from going to another MLS team or any other team in the entire world, despite the fact that he has been released by his MLS team. This is obviously contrary to the established FIFA player rights.

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  14. James Taylor says:

    I never got a response to this registered letter I sent to Don Garber, on May 20, 2010:

    Mr. Don Garber
    Commissioner, Major League Soccer
    420 Fifth Avenue, Seventh Floor
    New York, NY 10018

    Commissioner Garber,

    I have been a fan of the MLS from day one: I attended the inaugural MLS game in San Jose. I had season tickets with the San Jose Clash/Earthquakes for many years. As soon as it became available, I subscribed to MLS DirectKick on DirecTV; and I maintained that subscription until I moved to Japan in 2006. I have attended an MLS cup game. I own more MLS gear than I like to think about.

    As soon as your Internet on-line MLS TV service became available (two years ago), I subscribed and maintained a subscription. In March 2010, as the new season was approaching, I asked about the annual renewal. As directed, I went to the new MSLsoccer.com website.

    As a decade-plus MLS fan, I ask you to imagine my disappointment when I discovered that your new, “improved” Internet on-line TV service is available only within the U.S. and Canada!

    There are no TV stations here in Japan which are licensed to carry any MLS telecasts.

    I emailed your MLS web site, asking — why — after two years of getting it here in Japan — suddenly, I can’t get a subscription for Internet MLS TV. The answer I got from my email inquiry was that your new “license agreements” prohibited offering your TV streaming outside the U.S. and Canada.

    It seems inconceivable to me that you made a conscious decision to reduce your fan base!

    In Japan, I can get internet TV subscriptions to the NFL (the “other” football), Major League Baseball; and to the CBS and several alternative NCAA (U.S. collegiate) sports packages.

    What’s the “new” problem with providing internet MLS TV to overseas fans who are ready and willing to pay for it?

    All I can say to you after all these years is, “thanks” for turning your back on me and all your other overseas fans.

    James F. Taylor
    Inzai, Japan

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