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Leagues: MLS

Looking At The Concerns Over Our Leagues.

It’s time to stop with the finger pointing. It’s time to stop with the name calling and we have to stop bickering with each other. And you know what this message also goes out to both Commissioners of our professional leagues in Don Garber of MLS & Francisco Marcos of USL. It’s way too late to peel thru the layers and see who started this first.

Yes I read the recent article written by my colleague Karti Krishnaiyer and to be honest I have had those same concerns as well. Even though I do understand why MLS has made up these certain rules and kept their budget’s low as possible so they don’t go into the ground and end their business, but as I say this maybe it’s time that the league starts to relax or erase some of these rules to bring in better players and continuing to develop our own.

The Discovery player rule in my mind should be the first thing to discuss since I find it completely ridiculous that a club in MLS has to have the rights of a player for the entire year that they found, but can’t sign to a deal. The best example from last year was the Lidier Marmol situation after Juan Carlos Osorio left the Fire to coach the Red Bulls and he wanted to bring Marmol to NY, his rights were already taken by Chicago a day before NY got him. There was so much bickering between the two sides no deal was struck and Marmol was forced to leave NY to play for a club he didn’t want. Even though he was signed to a deal, Marmol never played in a single match and he went back to his native Paraguay. It’s time to end this silly discovery player rule or if the league still keeps it, then reduce the amount of time from a full year to one or two months. If that club can’t sign the player then he is free to train and be on trial with another club within MLS.

The rules for developing young American talent also have to end as well. One player graduating from your youth academy and you can’t bring another for another three years is absolutely ridiculous. We have to stop looking for approval from the Europeans and just continue building this league for ourselves & for our American players to get better. Look at Josy Altidore’s situation right now. $10 Million dollar transfer to Villarreal & even though he is on loan at Xerez of Spain’s second division he hasn’t played a single minute. Their coach is using the excuse of bad training habits when it’s really something else. Altidore could’ve been here in MLS and back at Red Bull NY getting better and playing for the US National Team on a regular basis.

We all know that the salary cap in MLS has to be raised alot higher and allocation money has to end as well as the silly rules about travel within the country to play a league game and you can only fly charter one way or a round trip will leave you with two more chances to go across the country. We all remember what happened when Red Bull NY wanted to have chartered flights and the league said no because of fair play, while they allowed David Beckham & the Galaxy to go charter almost every single time.

What about the USL? Kartik gave the correct answer. They are allowing their pro clubs to run their own business, but there hasn’t been any financial help from the headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Yes the Montreal Impact & the Puerto Rico Islanders have carried the flag of the USL in International Club Competition within CONCACAF, but for how much longer can they do this? At the same time I am happy to see a Tampa Bay club making a return to a professional level as well as the recent announcement of a New York City club that will start in Long Island while making rounds at Icahn Stadium & Colombia’s Baker Field.

Ignoring our past from the days of the NASL was also negative, but to be fair it’s also a bit of a positive. Especially when you talk about the New York Cosmos that was the most popular club back in those days. Sometimes you can feel that shadow hovering over the city as many have called for the name to return, but I can honestly tell you it won’t. I know the man who has the rights to the name and he isn’t going to sell it at a cheap price. Those wonderful days should be cherished and remembered every single day, but the big fear I have if the Cosmos name does return to the NYC area & under the current rules MLS plays under, all that hype & hoopla could end just as fast as it started. It is true that the MetroStars were a club that never had stability, got as far as the MLS Cup semi-finals and lost in the 2003 US Open Cup final, but ever since Red Bull Energy Drink bought the club and changed it’s name in 2006. Within three years they made the playoffs and of course last season got to their first MLS Cup Final and qualified for their first CONCACAF Champions League. Building their new stadium next to a working train line right across the street that also enters lower Manhattan.

The American football supporter is fed up with all the double edge sworded talk from the front office of MLS. Always saying that the league only has a set of rules for one club, while the rest have another. That’s been the common comment from a frustrated fan of the league. To be fair I have been fed up with all this stuff as well & now is the time when the league has to remove their own handcuffs and start to grow up. The Designated Player Rule has become a start, more has to continue. Of course at the present time we are in an economic crisis & the asking price of a $40 Million expansion entrance fee might be a bit steep. You would think Don Garber would lower that fee for some of the former expansion candidates that wanted to come into our league.

Is it easier to support a European side than an MLS Side? Of course it is. Why do you think ESPN got the UEFA Champions League rights & the past European Cup rights. We all know that everyone will watch these events as well as the Premiership from England. ESPN has been showing scores from Europe on their bottom lines on all their channels & hunting down the viewing rights to the Premiership. Has ESPN done more in promoting our league? To be fair not enough. The occasional commercial, Alan Hopkins has his own segment during ESPN News on Tuesdays, no extra time show or MLS 2night show. Fox Soccer Channel does advertise the games they broadcast, but once again no weekly show unless you count the highlights on the Fox Soccer Report every Sunday night. There is cause for concern & once again I have to say it, certain people want to see MLS fail. It’s the haters of the sport in this country, it’s certain people who will only watch the leagues in Europe and give up on their own & it’s that certain radio person that has split the pro football supporters on purpose.

It’s time for all of us to come together, take a deep breath and talk to the people who are running everything from USL, to MLS, to US Soccer and tell them to stop messing around. Check your damned egos at the door & re-start all over again. Let’s all get a big table, order some good food, have Garber & Marcos sitting next to each other. With a clean slate re-work all the rules and regulations to get what we all want. Both leagues on the rise working together, show some respect and making the American player better than before. All of us have to come together, that includes me as well.

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  1. Daniel Feuerstein

    March 19, 2009 at 12:13 am

    I honestly believe that there needs to be more than just Pro/Rel coming into the pro leagues of US Soccer. If we install Pro/Rel right now, I honestly believe we will lose our clubs in the Pro leagues of the USL. The High Schools, the Athletic Complexes like Mitchell Field on Long Island in Uniondale, NY, the College stadiums that allow these pro sides to play on their fields could raise the rent and if there is relegation by the USL clubs, that rent will never go down because they landloards know they can get promoted back up.

    The Salary cap must be raised by a good amount, nothing insane but a good amount. These restriction rules for bringing in talent from MLS Clubs youth academies should be removed. These leagues in MLS & USL needs their own stadiums, both front offices must work together and when everything is in the black and all the profits are positive, then we can go to pro/rel.

    There must be a certain amount of years where both leagues are FINANCIALLY SOUND! If that happens, then we can bring pro/rel into the discussion. There is still so much work ahead of these people. Don’t forget folks, there are still people in this country that the World’s Favorite Sport shouldn’t be here in the USA. We have to prove them wrong.

  2. marcos

    March 18, 2009 at 3:45 am

    Roger you are, in my view, totally correct.
    The problem goes beyond the issues that the MLS has.
    How can the US be so mediocre (at best) in international play? How can a country, with such a big population and great cities, be struggling to keep its leauge afloat..? The numbers never lie and, in this case, US international soccer has not improved much scince the beginning of the MLS. The format that this leauge has, does not promote talent.
    By adopting the pro/rel system, soccer would spread like a wildfire in the country and also promote young american talent because smaller markets would have to invest in their own “kids” to compete against bigger markets. This is ,of course, without a salary cap.
    Money will not necesarily make a team a champion on a consistent basis but can definitely raise the standarts of the level of play.
    Why can’t NY, LA, CHI have a scuad to the level of other big cities in the world with great teams?
    Small markets can compete by promoting talent. Imagine the next great US soccer star coming out of a small market… by the 100’s…
    Did the MLS executives really think that they were going to do something positive for this leauge by bringing D. Beckham..?
    Pro/rel is not an overnight fix. But in three to five years the US can not only have quite a competitive leauge, but became a soccer giant in the world.

  3. Roger

    March 17, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Ok Daniel.I feel now we dont have such a strong disagrement on the issue.
    I think your stadiums issue is a valid one.However I still think is an easy problem to solve.
    Lets do the math.In my view we need a top league of at least 16 clubs; any number inferior to that does not goes with such a giant country as america is.There are allready 15 teams on MLS,with the next expansion it will be 17.Ideally we should have an even number of teams on a 1st division; but the thing is there are enoug 1st division posible teams allready.
    The 2nd division should be USL-1.There should be a rule instating that in order for a USL-1 team been promoted,their stadiums have to meet certain criteria,if they dont ; the place would be taken by the following team on the table.I think we are very close ,if not ready to do it.
    AC Milan and Inter both play on the same field.On markets like NW,LA or Chicago that could be a good idea; with the extra benefit of having cities “derbies”.
    I think our USL-1 stadiums are not that far from lots of europeans 2nd divisions standars.
    Another pro/rel benefit that is never considered,is that it is a self adjustable system.The “weak” markets will go down inevitably, and the “good” ones will go up.
    If MLS and USL sit down for the good of the game, they could work it out if they have the will.
    We dont need to match the top world leagues levels in terms of stadiums, but if we match their formats, the rest will follow.Build from the buttom is the right aproach in my opinion.We have been doing it the other way around. I believe that if we give pro/rel the try it deserves,US would be a soccer giant in no time.

  4. Daniel Feuerstein

    March 17, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Roger. It’s not that I don’t think pro/rel is not the way to go. You have to look at the current situation of MLS & the Pro leagues of the USL. To blindly say pro/rel must come a.s.a.p. is not the answer. If you stop looking at MLS by its self with their own stadiums and those clubs that are building their own, in the USL only Charleston, Minnesota, Rochester & Portland who looks like will remain in the USL till they get called as the 2nd expansion side for 2011 have their own stadiums.

    Look at Miami FC Roger. They play currently at Tropical Park and hopefully their rally was successful they will continue to play, but they need their own stadium as well. It’s so much different here as the clubs don’t own the grounds they play on. They pay rent. Tell me if all the clubs in Europe from the top division all the way down pays rent in the stadiums they play their football in. If the answer is zero, then you are correct. More has to be done here in the states to get to that level. Right now it’s not available, but it doesn’t mean I’m against it. If you would have read some of my articles in the past couple of weeks & a month or two, you would see I’m not against Pro/Rel, but we can’t blindly say do it now.

  5. Roger

    March 17, 2009 at 3:13 am

    Daniel. I do want soccer on the US to suceed. I do think that pro/rel is the logicall way to go. The strategy of trying to model the “top” US soccer league after “american sports” is wrong.
    We have been sold the idea, that soccer on the US should be modified somehow, in order to succed in north america because the american fans got a different taste. Trying to mount a “show” that could compete with the 4 mayor US sports is the wrong aproach.
    In reality, american soil is up for grabs for soccer.The top american sports teams are concentrated on the most populated areas; thats is for marketing reasons of course.
    On a pro/rel system,by making it affordable for any small,average or big city to have a team and the chance of been promoted, soccer could be the most popular US sport in no time!!
    Dream with me Daniel.Imagine the day the Impact;the Timbers;the Islanders;White Caps;the Sounders and Rochester get the chance of playing for a promotion; or maybe get in a relegation dog fight.
    That, of course, is not going to happen with the people on charge of MLS now.
    Pro/rel will also put us on the same page with the soccer world.We should had given pro/rel a chance before we tried “shoot outs”.We have been following a twisted logic.
    Sorry if Im too hard on MLS.It is a love-hate relationship between me and this league.

  6. Daniel Feuerstein

    March 17, 2009 at 12:53 am

    That’s it Roger. Bring out the blame of no Pro/Rel once again. If you seriously looked at our leagues right now. Count the ammount of stadiums and look at the lease deals of using these high school fields, Athletic Complexes, College stadiums and so on. You need to build the infastructure and the necessary STADIUMS to keep this league going & at the same time you have people in this country that still calls this sport names and haters who are in the media write articles to continue to give their reasons why this sport should leave.

    And guess what Roger, Football has changed dramatically. Those glory days about the game being for the people has disappeared. It’s all about the money & Monopolizing in Europe. If you want to believe in that bunch of crap you spewed on your comment, then you are the one that needs to disappear.

    Sponsers on the front of the shirts. Footwear signing deals with football leagues to use their brand of footballs. Why is Nike the official match ball of the Premiership before they bought Umbro. Adidas the official match ball of the UEFA Champions League. The sponsers on the shirts also is painted on the seats in the stadiums. You’re logic is flawed Roger. Stop typing stuff you don’t know about anymore. It’s a different game. It’s all about the money than the good old glory days.

  7. Lars

    March 16, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Yeah because European football isn’t monopolized.

    European football is the most profitable football in the world, and the EPL has routinely produced the same top 4 since its inception. Yeah, they are so not a monopoly.

  8. Roger

    March 16, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    The best thing for US soccer is for MLS to desapear and start from scratch.
    This league has never been about the game;the people on top does not come from a soccer background.It is managed by agroup of lawyers that used their influence and kidnaped our game in order to make money.
    They come from an “American sports” background; thats why this league name resembles more other games than ours.thats why this league format doesnt feel like a credible soccer league.There are no clubs; there are franchises instead.
    I love the game not only for the beauty on the pitch.The promotion/relegation system on the club level has a lot to do with it. The idea that every city (not only a few) is given a chance to win their way up on the pitch is not only beautyfull, it is one of the reasons why our game is so BIG around the world.
    Football,soccer ,whowever you want to call it, is the game of the people,the fans. Monopolising it in order to keep profits in a reduced number of hands goes against the very core principle of the game.
    With no promotion/relegation this league is just a lie to fans.It is a waste of time. Soccer will suceed in the US,Im sure about that.These Lawywe will eventually have to find another “enterprise” to play with.

  9. Chris B

    March 16, 2009 at 12:17 am

    It sounds like sour grapes when you talk about a certain radio personality. This radio personality has talked highly about some of the coaches, many of the players, and the teams. He really only disses the structure of MLS. Things like low salary caps, roster sizes, discovery rule, academies, preferences to a certain team, marketing, ect ect….. Really he criticizes the same things everyone else does, and many fans agree with him. I do think he wants to see MLS succeed, but MLS will never improve if we continue to give them a pass. SO I say keep calling out MLS, they will get more fans when the product gets better. Simple as that.

    Great article Daniel:

    I do not want to start a fight but Daniel is mostly right about WSD. I love that show and listen everyday but it has only has begrudgingly been kinder to MLS. I do believe that it is more negative, not just for the deserved reasons (and there are many) but for the fact it is simply not England. The part that bothers me the most is that most of the time they relay false information about the league then take calls from AMERICANS who parrot their beliefs. If you don’t think I right, watch on FFF or listen to WSD and listen to the grief an MLS supporter gets. I love watching Cohen’s face when some guest who he likes defend MLS and he starts sounding like Bob Newhart.
    I understand that they talk to MLS personel more lately and right they should because… this is America, but they always say they do this so people will stop complaining that THEY have an anti-MLS rep.

    Again great article Daniel, I agree that lines are being drawn about supporting MLS or not and that is the dumbest effing thing in the world. I thought we were fans of the game…period!

  10. mark

    March 15, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Love it that others, besides myself, want to see some cooperation between the US soccer leagues. Yes, Yes, Yes there are so many things that the Don and Marcos can and should be doing to grow soccer in the US.

    I love how the MLS is pulling from the USL in expansion (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver) because they do have established organizations and a strong ravid fan base that is infectous, but not at the expense of the USL. Why doesn’t MLS take all expansion teams from the USL and tell any aspiring market that if they want to be MLS they must first become apart of the USL. Ottawa, St. Louis, Orlando, and Phoenix must first start in the USL. Maybe, the USL could charge 10 million for its entry and the MLS 30 million for its entry. Whatever the situation, I believe that it would be in the best interest of American soccer as a whole if the leauges could sit down at the “round table” and unite somehow.

  11. Justin R

    March 15, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    It sounds like sour grapes when you talk about a certain radio personality. This radio personality has talked highly about some of the coaches, many of the players, and the teams. He really only disses the structure of MLS. Things like low salary caps, roster sizes, discovery rule, academies, preferences to a certain team, marketing, ect ect….. Really he criticizes the same things everyone else does, and many fans agree with him. I do think he wants to see MLS succeed, but MLS will never improve if we continue to give them a pass. SO I say keep calling out MLS, they will get more fans when the product gets better. Simple as that.

  12. Lawerence

    March 15, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Look passing the peace pipe is NEVER going to happen.

    MLS is a business. USL and USSF while businesses are more soccer friendly.

    MLS’ attitude is a problem.

    I don’t really care for MLS. I watch it and support our clubs but MLS’ top brass can go fly a kite as far as I am concerned.

  13. BoriQa

    March 15, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Very good article Daniel. Thanks.

  14. sockernut

    March 15, 2009 at 10:51 am

    much better article than the other, thank you

  15. Ian

    March 15, 2009 at 9:04 am

    A great piece. Good work Daniel

    I had forgotten about MLS 2Nite and Extra Time. Both shows were cancelled and now ESPN hardly acknowledges MLS existence except during the telecasts.

    Remember ESPN actually put out an MLS Playstation game in 2000 and 2001 called Extra Time.

    Those who love MLS need to wake up.

    The Academy situation is a disgrace. The Red Bulls not being able to sign their own developed player is one of the key reasons I swore off MLS. The Marmol situation also was in a word a disgrace. You know Marmol has now left the league.

    RE: Jozy, MLS has to be willing to take American players not getting playing time in Europe on loan. But this gets back to MLS not really caring about the national team or the health of the sport in the US. Do you think clubs in Argentina would let their start young player rot away on a Spanish bench? NO. It’s happened before- same scenario and those clubs and the league have made an effort to bring the native kid home for a half season or full season.

    MLS has made no effort with the likes of Altidore, Adu, Johnson, Convey, Feilhaber, etc to take care of them.

    I think Kartik’s view of USL not helping clubs was a little extreme but his points and your points about MLS are spot on. In fact they may have both been too diplomatic towards a league which has become very distasteful.

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