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Leagues: MLS

Hubris Part II

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.

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  1. Soccer Guru

    August 30, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Lawrence you are working at MLS HQ obviously.

    Otherwise you lack a rational thought in that tiny brain of yours.

    So USL is not worth watching simply because they treat the sport as its treated in every other nation around the world?

    What gives you the idea that USL is a semi-pro league? Can I not make the same claim about MLS when about 1/4 of the players make under 20k a year?

    For your information a lengthy list exists of guys who have left USL and gone to first divisions outside the US skipping MLS altogether. Another list is of former MLS players who then go to USL and since they can settle in without fear of being traded or reassigned constantly actually excel and then move abroad.

    Both leagues have their role. It’s time they started working together. MLS must see the success of USL teams in the CONCACAF CL and realize that’s not due to talent: MLS has the money and talent: it’s due to continuity. Teams can keep the same players and often do for a long long time in USL- in MLS its only the really big stars that aren’t shuffled around like deck chairs.

  2. Phillip

    August 29, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Go away Lawrence.

    The sooner this single-entity bullshit is gone away, the sooner the sport can flourish.

  3. Lawrence

    August 29, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    MLS is denying the story. But I hope it is true because this is a GREAT move by MLS.

    Anyone who takes USL seriously knows zilch about soccer.

    The truth is that league is unstable and the quicker it disappears and those teams are replaced with MLS clubs the better. USL’s structure is a big mistake. It lets clubs succeed and fail and this many clubs fail and the same teams are at the top every year. That is not conducive to building fan loyalty except in the place where the teams are successful.

    The single entity structure is needed in soccer in the US. The sport still does not have enough paying customers week in and week out for spending to be out of control and for a club in the league to ask to spend 200k for essentially a semi-pro player in a semi-pro league is how teams will go bankrupt. When you allow a foreign ownership group unfamiliar with American practices and the sport in this country to come in like Red Bull this is what you get.

  4. Javier

    August 29, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    MLS is difficult to take seriously because of numerous things like this.

    That’s why while hoping it is successful actually advocating the league in arguments with people is never a smart thing to do!

  5. Joseph T.

    August 29, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Garber needs to step aside in all honesty.

    Believe it or not I sense the league is about to lose fans due to all the foreign soccer on TV and the fact that fans outside MLS markets are beginning to discover that USL-1 as a product is not much worse than MLS. Truth be told both leagues are difficult to watch but at least USL teams control their own destiny so to speak.

    Garber and Gazidis control freak nature are killing the league. Out of control expansion is not helping either.

  6. Lee

    August 29, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    MLS’ behavior has been nothing short of embarrassing. Keep in mind they are the ones who touted the Champions League as the be all and end all for the league saying a competition coming in season would show good the league was.

    Now as you correctly point out Garber and Gazidis are shown up by little Francisco Marcos and USL by virtue of the Islanders amazing match down in Costa Rica and then turn around and do this.

    Ives says he stands by his sources and I believe MLS is simply trying to deny it happened for purposes of fleecing the players in the CBA upcoming.

    The Superliga debacle is still fresh in most minds and the lack of faith in MLS managment isn’t going away anytime soon from many fans like myself who care about soccer in this country. Truthfully I think USL is a better run and dare I say more “proper” league.

  7. Brian

    August 29, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Time for Garber to stop modeling himself after Selig, Stern, Goodall, et al.

  8. bandeeto

    August 29, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Garber doesn’t know what to do with a league that people actually care about.

  9. Phillip

    August 28, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Ives says he stands by his story and his sources.

  10. Ric

    August 28, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Brian Lewis, doing said digging, has sources in both the League and the Red Bulls saying the original report is wrong.

    Also says his sources say Kandji and the other two RBNY targets are “still in play”.

  11. Ric

    August 28, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Brian Lewis, who’s recently been doing more coverage of the Red Bulls (and better coverage, I might add) than Ives is saying he’s hearing conflicting reports. He says the deal is dead, but not sure as to why. He says he’s still digging.

    I’m not trying to defend MLS here, and as a RBNY fan we can use the extra help, but hyperventilating about this right now as some MLS conspiracy seems a bit premature.

  12. Kartik

    August 28, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I think Ives got the story right and with all the backlash they are spinning trying to back off of what he correctly reported. This is typical MLS behavior and honestly the league isn’t to be trusted.

  13. Ric

    August 28, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Slow your roll, Turbo; MLS is denying they blocked any deal and Brian Lewis of the NY Post is saying he’s also heard that MLS hasn’t blocked the deal.

  14. JOHN ROE

    August 28, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    MLS is becoming a total disgrace. A complete farce and a joke thanks to Garber and Gazidis. The single entity structure is about the most asinine thing on the planet.

  15. Phillip

    August 28, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I’m seriously getting fed up with Don Garber.

    I think you need to start the ball rolling…


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