MLS is now a league of have and have nots; By Steve Davis


For those you who wanted Major League Soccer to be more of a free-spending, big-money, champagne room kind of league, congratulations!

Some of you have long coveted big names. The bigger the better – and more them! Another ballyhooed Euro wants his swipe at the suddenly flush MLS ATM? Sign ‘em up!

For those of you who have turned your nose up at Major League Soccer because it didn’t have enough of that intoxicating affluence of leagues from lands afar, congrats! You got your wish.

Because today MLS looks a lot more like EPL, La Liga, Serie A and other money leagues of note in one important way:

Today MLS is a two-tiered league. There really is no other way to see it. Whether that’s a good thing … well, we’ll see.

I’m not saying this is necessarily a terrible thing. Personally, I cannot wait for another chance to watch Andrea Pirlo do his majestic work from inside Yankee Stadium. And I won’t miss a chance right now to see Toronto’s outrageously in-form Sebastian Giovinco flummox yet another MLS defense; he is almost everybody’s no-brainer mid-season choice as MVP.

They are among the Designated Player money men of MLS, and I’m on board. So, yes, shooting money into the player pool like souvenir T-shirts into the stands has its advantages.

Still, growth means change, and MLS has just altered its essential DNA.  It’s worth asking if league leaders have paid enough attention to the prickly laws of unintended consequence? Did they properly consider this lurking danger: what happens to a brand when you significantly change it?

For those who always advocated a policy of “remove the training wheels and go, go, go!” … well, let’s just hope this doesn’t become a lesson in “be careful what you ask for.”

As the league prepares to celebrate its 2015 All-Star event outside of Denver, it is a different league than today. The latest salary machination, one that paves ways for clubs to sign a fourth Designated Player, pushed it past the tipping point to this new, two-tier status of Big Spenders and Hard Triers.

MLS has long been a league of parity. Since Eric Wynalda curled in the league’s first goal 20 years ago, the operation was built on the foundation of equal footing. Ostensibly, anyway. We all know a couple of teams were given a leg up in player signings back in the day, but the pretense of parity served as guidewires, at least.

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