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Edson Buddle Signing with FC Ingolstadt a Disgrace for MLS

Breaking this weekend was the surprising news that 2010 MLS MVP candidate Edson Buddle was poised to make his long-discussed move overseas.  What made it surprising was that the move was not to Birmingham City, which is where he had long been rumored to go, but to FC Ingolstadt, a Bundesliga 2 club that is currently in danger of being relegated to the third German soccer division.  Fox Sports, which broke the story, reports that the major reason why Buddle chose the German club was his work permit fell through in England and the club was offering him double his MLS salary.  Ingolstadt may sound familiar to American soccer fans – American national Amaechi Igwe is currently on the roster while Freddy Adu held a try-out with the club recently.

For the Los Angeles Galaxy, the moves leaves them in quite a bind.  Their leading scorer is gone, and the player they selected in the re-entry draft (Juan Pablo Angel) to compliment him has not yet signed a contract, leaving the club with a huge void up front.  Expect Angel now to have a huge boost in his negotiations and be able to obtain the designated player slot he is seeking.  But even if Angel does sign, the Galaxy can no longer be considered the overwhelming pre-season favorites for the 2011 MLS Cup.  Their only signed forward is Jovan Kirovski and while Angel is quite good, he is also older than Buddle.  More importantly, it is a big hit to their depth up front.

But there is a larger issue here, and it is the failure of MLS to secure American internationals for the league. Regardless of how highly you view the league (and I personally regard it very highly), some Americans are better served playing overseas than in MLS.  Not just the best national team players like Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey, but even players who have played in the U.S. and need to see if they are as good as everyone thinks they are (Stuart Holden) or are up-and-comers that need to be tested in an international system (Jozy Altidore).  But Buddle is the kind of player that not only benefits from MLS but also benefits the league.  He grew up in the U.S. system and achieved his big break through this year playing for an MLS club.  He is the kind of player that, if he continues to succeed in the U.S. and on Bob Bradley’s team, becomes more of a name in the American soccer world and makes MLS a more legitimate league for having quality players like him.

That’s not to say that Buddle does not deserve a shot overseas; maybe MLS is holding him back and he needs to see just how quality of a player he is.  But when that opportunity falls through due to a permit problem, he moves to a side that will not allow him to play against the world’s best.  Ingolstadt is not a top-flight club; in fact the club in its current incarnation has only been around seven years and has never played in the Bundesliga.  This is not a move up; it’s a move down in terms of league quality.

The Fox Sports article nails the issue – Ingolstadt offered Buddle twice his salary after Galaxy would not give Buddle a designated player contract.  Now with two designated players already, LA had some choices to make but on any other club Buddle would be considered DP-status.  And he should be – as I said, he raises both MLS’s and the national team’s profile, as well as any club on which he would play (as well as being a really good player).  But again an American goes overseas because MLS will not fork over the money to keep them in the U.S.  In this way, Buddle is very similar to his possible teammate Freddy Adu – Adu’s career is stuck in neutral but he is not going back to MLS, a logical place to jumpstart his career, because he is making more overseas playing for second division clubs.

MLS has made good progress in keeping talented players in the U.S., both experienced and star players (designated player rule) as well as young college stars (Generation adidas).  But now MLS needs to consider how it can keep the Buddle-type players (who are successful) and the Adu-players (who could be successful) in the United States.  I would recommend a new designated player category for American players, which similar to other designated players would only have part of their salary count against the cap.  This would allow teams financial flexibility to bring these players home and not only give them exposure to U.S. audiences, but allow them to compete against good competition.  Ultimately, the answer may be a system like in Europe of free agency and academies, but until MLS is as lucrative as those leagues an American DP slot is the best way to keep American stars in the most beneficial place – here.

33 Responses to Edson Buddle Signing with FC Ingolstadt a Disgrace for MLS

  1. AdamEdg says:

    I agree that there should be additional DP spots for American (& Canadian?) internationals. Maybe allow three domestic DPs and three regular DPs. Sure it would give the bigger clubs more star power, but is there anything inherently wrong with that? It would give MLS the ability to secure domestic stars, which is vital to the continued growth & success of the league and it would still allow big name foreign players to come over. Besides, we’re still only talking about half the players on the pitch being any sort of DP.
    If I understand the rule correctly, the Australian League has a set up like this already.

    • Ossington Mental Youth says:

      i like this idea alot and think itd work. itd also allow for these teams to keep the players they are developing a bit longer. Im willing to bet we will see this instigated in a few years.

  2. RBNY says:

    Not providing working video links is a disgrace.

  3. montana lucky says:

    I agree it is a big disappointment for Buddle to leave, but I think its apparent Buddle had no interest in signing a contract with an MLS team. If DP status is what he wanted, he could have pursued that option with another team within MLS. He was clear he wanted to play in Europe. Everyone blames the money. The league doesnt have the money to compete withing European teams for every player. The last line in the article sums that up. I know it, Don Garber knows it, the owners know it, the players know it, everyone knows it. Repeatedly belaboring that point every time a player leaves for Europe is beating a dead horse. As the league becomes more lucrative, salaries will improve. Money set aside, there is a human element to this that is frequently overlooked, or underestimated. As long there are people playing soccer in America, American players are going to dream of playing overseas. I really don’t think Buddle is following money and this a a failure of MLS, Buddle is following that dream. If his best opportunity happens to be a team in tailspin, good luck to him. I hope he goes there, scores a bunch of goals, makes the difference for the team in the campaign to avoid regulation, and lands a bigger contract.

    • The league appears to have the money to pay Angel? and sorry, Angel is NO Buddle. Buddle was one of my favorite players. Like a young Ruiz Buddle WAS the Galaxys offense last year. He deserves to be paid much more than Angel and now as a longtime Galaxy fan, we are going to suffer with amazingly poor player personnel decisions. Angel made the perfect compliment to Buddle, but Angel alone leaves the Galaxy in a worse position then when they began.

  4. Dave C says:

    he moves to a side that will not allow him to play against the world’s best

    Technically, a move to Birmingham wouldn’t have allowed him to play against the world’s best either, just some of the best (i.e. they’re not in the champions league). But the key thing is, it would allow him to play at a higher level than where he is currently(and for more money). And this is where the next part is debateable:

    This is not a move up; it’s a move down in terms of league quality. Why do you think that? I mean it’s subjective, so it might not be settled one way or another, but I’d be interested in knowing what leads you to that view.

  5. Charles says:

    Not sure that Buddle wanted to be here, but lets say he did and MLS didn’t keep him.

    I agree with you that MLS failed. Signing NKufo/JPA types while letting Buddle go to Germany is just dumb. World Cup bumps will not happen when the star players play for a team noone heard of and noone cares about.
    (By noone I don’t really mean noone, just those with a life outside of watching soccer.)

    • Joe says:

      Why is this an MLS fail? Did anyone claim that the EPL failed when Cristiano Ronaldo went to Real Madrid? How about Mascherano going from Liverpool to Barcelona – is EPL failing by losing players to La Liga? A young man made a choice to continue his career elsewhere. Bundesliga 2. right now is a better football league than MLS, and yes, the money is better. But one man’s decision does not make or break an entire league.

      • shnope says:

        Bundesliga 2 is not better than MLS, especially not a relegation threatened bundes2 side.

        • Joe says:

          I think you can argue that it’s at least equal with MLS, and the pay raise he’ll get by going there makes it almost a no brainer for him.

      • Charles says:

        Joe,

        Agree 100% one man doesn’t or break MLS….but
        the general trend of not getting US national team capped players is dumb and/or unfortunate for MLS.
        Having all of those players play overseas just makes the league look like it doesn’t have the talent that is does. Image is everything.

        Part of that is unfortunate. MLS overall doesn’t have a lot of money. It is easy for players to see what Holden is doing and think I can do that and make a million dollars instead of hundreds of thousands.

        But they should NOT be using the DP spots for washed up ex-EuroHeros to appease a handful of fans that know who they are.

        It causes MLS to have no name (to the masses) NKufo playing in place of Buddle.
        When Buddle is playing on the US Nat team AND better than NKufo.

  6. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    i love the MLS but i think youre being quite delusional if you think its a step down in league quality, id be willing to bet that quite a few of those teams, at least the top half, would have no problems competing with the majority of the MLS. I do however believe the MLS needs to pay its players more, whihc we are seeing slowly until then we will continue to be a feeder league, sad truth but one we’ve been accustomed to for a while.

  7. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    this is not to mention the prestige of playing in europe (sadly sometimes regardless of the country and level)

  8. John W says:

    I believe u are absolutely right when u say it is disgrace for the MLS. They lost Buddle, top scorer on team and overall great player to a european division two team because they would not pony up the money. Lets face it if they can pay Donovan and Beckham 7 figure salaries they obviously have the funds. They will now sign Angel a washed up forward who is more hype than anything adn Galaxy will def move down in ranks. Buddle did right by signing with this team. His payday was long overdue. I dont even see him staying here long before he is picked up by another team.

  9. Logan says:

    Nobody’s made note of Buddle’s age. He’ll be 30 in a few months. That’s the getting-old time for soccer players. He needs to cash in right now while he still can. Good for him. Especially since he’ll be 33 for the next World Cup, so there’s no guarantee he’s making the squad at that time. Though I of course hope he will.

  10. Tom says:

    Nobody’s faulting Buddle. Our domestic league should put a greater emphasis on keeping our national team players. That is not to say we can keep all of them, but Buddle is an affordable name that people recognize (including my 7 year-old son), and the league needs recognizable names.

    I’d allow that extra DP spot for any CONCACAF player. A well known Jamaican, Hondoran, or Canadien, for example, may be just as valuable in some circumstances.

  11. Jay Cole says:

    Here’s how MLS works.
    DeRo – $400,000. 2010 another season with more than 10 goals. 15 goals with an anemic dysfucntional midfield all year long.

    Buddle – $188,000.00 – 17 goals in 2010

    LeToux – $122,000 14 goals, 11 assist in 2010

    Remember Stu Holden, $38,000.00 when he left the Dynamo

    and now onto to aging European has Beens who dont give a f**k about the MLS and have not put any butts in the seats or spiked TV ratings at all!
    OH YEAH! They dont score goals, don’t show up for half the games and seem to be to fragile to play with Americans and Canadiens.

    And for this contribution, they receive paychecks for things they did for other teams most of us will never see!
    Beckham – $5.78 Million
    Rafa “Scumbag” Marquez – $5.5 M
    Mista – $900k – no goals, paid twice what DeRo gets
    DeGuzman – $1.8M 5 times what DeRo gets paid.

    How ? Oh How, Cruel Fate? How did we lose Buddle? …And Holden? And Dempsey? How ! oh HOW?

    • Charles says:

      I agree with you, but they offered Holden a LOT more than 38k.
      Maybe he was ticked for being first team 11 at that level, but MLS cannot pay every up and comer on the edge of DP salaries.

      How could you leave off Ljungberg ? That guy was stopped by every >”and seem to be to fragile to play with Americans and Canadiens.”
      AMEN. I think that is actually Ljungberg’s middle name. He even mistyped Canadians too. ;-)

    • Bob says:

      That pretty much sums it up. We give the has been European players 5x what they deserve based on performance and stiff our people how American is that.

    • ExtraMedium says:

      Jay, you’re on to something. When it comes to overpaying for soccer talent Americans over pay for foreigners. Our teams under pay Americans.

      The rational behind the salary-cap was to prevent overpaying for talent and the league collapsing. So why does the cap apply to Americans? WE DON’T OVER PAY FOR THEM! If Garber/Kraft/AEG/Chang/Hunt family etc were as smart as they what you to think they are then the salary-cap would only apply to non-US/Canadian (maybe CONCACAF) players.

      Teams are charged $355K for DP #2 and 3, with an extra $250K “tax” on DP 3…So why not just dump the cap and charge a tax on foreign players?

  12. GI Joe says:

    Great Galaxy I hope you are proud with this move!
    It’s always nice to be beatten by a poorly 2. Bundesliga team!

  13. Doorworker says:

    Idly wondering what Freddy Adu would do with the opportunity created here.

  14. Rabble Rouser says:

    Robert Hay Writing for MLS Talk Is a Disgrace for Soccer

    See, I can do it too.

  15. Peter says:

    League 2 in Germany still has more prestige and respect than MLS. Sad but true. Americans can hardly name one MLS team besides maybe NY and LA. And i guarantee that Bundesliga 2 players are very strong players. Soccer is serious business over there. Its about time Buddle making some money. His time is almost up

  16. LAG says:

    I agree that MLS needs to devise their own “Larry Bird rule” so clubs can retain their talent.

    Motzkin reps all three of those players at Ingolstadt, so it isn’t surprising that Buddle’s plan B was to go to Ingolstadt, especially since his new contract allows him to leave the club if his British work permit can be sorted out.

    According to Motzkin, LAG were not willing to offer Buddle a DP contract, as they were still in pursuit of Ronaldinho at the time.

    Having spoken to someone extremely close to Buddle, there were a couple of things at play. (1) salary – Edson wants as much money as possible now that he is 30, and felt England was the place to go for it. (2) Edson was not keen on going through the re-entry draft process, where he felt he would end up with Portland or Vancouver playing on turf and shorting his career due to the pounding his joints would take – something he experienced in Toronto.

    I like Edson, and hope that he is selected for the Gold Cup, so that his work permit issues get sorted.

    • Robert Hay says:

      Great info LAG, I would never dismiss a player for wanting to make a little money and give Europe a shot if they had a chance, and I am glad he would have a chance at the EPL.

      But his leaving does expose a problem with MLS, its inability to financially compete to keep Americans in the league.

    • BobbyB says:

      The note about the turf is a small but important fact. I realize the turf lovers will tell us that it’s all fine and that playing on plastic is better than playing on bad grass (notice the turf lovers always use worst-case grass as the comparison to “great turf”), but players don’t enjoy the plastic stuff. Given a choice, they’ll choose real grass. And it is an important factor with older players. If you’ve ever played on a synthetic field, even supposedly “great field turf”, you know that you still take a pounding on it.

  17. Derrick says:

    “Pay me my mo-ney!!!” -Fender Roads

  18. ExtraMedium says:

    “Ultimately, the answer may be a system like in Europe of free agency and academies, but until MLS is as lucrative as those leagues an American DP slot is the best way to keep American stars in the most beneficial place – here.”

    BS. Other soccer leagues adopted their formats decades ago when they were poorer.

    • Logan says:

      Just to point out the obvious while not trying to start an argument, few other countries with soccer leagues have to compete with MLB, NBA, NHL and the almighty NFL.

      One thing no one seems to consider when thinking about the popularity of the beautiful game in the USA– MOST of the world only has the beautiful game, and then some other sports that might *try* to compete with it for popularity. Rugy, for instance. Cricket, too. But NOTHING that is happening sports-wise in the rest of the world really compares to the amount of competition any sport has against any other sport than in does in North America. That’s really all there is to it.

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