MLS on the charge

Major League Soccer of the United States is often titled by fans as “The European Retirement League” and lots of Americans refuse to tune in to the weekly matches. I for one, on the other hand, am one of the biggest supporters of Major League Soccer. The MLS is a budding sports giant that is only…
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Tommy Muhl

July 12, 2015

Major League Soccer of the United States is often titled by fans as “The European Retirement League” and lots of Americans refuse to tune in to the weekly matches. I for one, on the other hand, am one of the biggest supporters of Major League Soccer. The MLS is a budding sports giant that is only coming to realize its potential.

This past week, the MLS announced the introduction of Targeted Allocation Money. These funds consist of $100,000/year for every MLS club for the next 5 years (totaling $500k).

Before you write this off as a useless sum, understand how it is to be used.

When David Beckham came to the MLS to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, he paved the way for a new breed of talent: the “Designated Players.” A Designated Player, or DP, gets paid higher than the league maximum salary yearly. Each team is allowed to supersede this maximum salary when paying three players.  Due to the Designated Player rule, the likes of David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Thierry Henry, Ricardo Kaká, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Franck Lampard have come to play in MLS.

For those of you unfamiliar with these names, these are some of soccer’s greatest superstars over the last decade.

Designated players are a huge stimulus to team and city economy. The introduction of top stars (former and current) bolsters the squad on the field, and the community with ticket sales and influence off of it. This new Targeted Allocation Money allows for additional top-tier talent to be signed.

This fund given to each team has some specific guidelines to it, but its main purpose is to either buy down an incoming player with Designated Player type salary to be a player under the normal salary cap, or it could be use to buy down a current Designated Player as long as the incoming DP is of greater or equal value.

While some great players such as Darlington Nagbe of the Portland Timbers, Juninho of the LA Galaxy and Mix Diskerud of NYCFC are not designated players, they contribute largely to their teams’ success while under the maximum salary. So could you imagine what it would be like to have elite players from Europe play in the MLS and NOT count as a designated player? The league will be littered with talent.

This new rule is viewed by some fans as unfair because they feel that it favors fan-favorite, big market clubs like Orlando City FC, LA Galaxy, and the Seattle Sounders. Some have even named it the “Bring Giovani Dos Santos to LA Rule” in light of recent transfer rumors to bring the Mexican super-star striker to California.  These top-of-the-table clubs have large amounts of depth and star power, where as smaller cities such as Columbus don’t have that kind of influence.

Fear not Columbus Crew fans and Co. In my opinion, this move is not to favor the powerhouses, but rather improve the average skill level of each team. When the tourist-heavy cities run out of space, and top European talent see the attraction of American soccer, they will come.  This fund allocated to each team can also be traded. To reference the wonderful baseball flick “Field of Dreams”, if your teams build it (something desirable), THEY WILL COME! If you really want to talk about financial inequality, review FIFA corruption or realize that the likes of Leicester City and Southhampton have to compete with MLS type budgets against economic powerhouses such as Chelsea FC and Manchester United in England who deal in nine figures.

MLS is also in the process of creating more landing spots for teams. In the past few years, the Sounders, NYCFC, and Orlando City have been created… And very soon after, they have found success.

Now, the MLS is looking to further this initiative with new clubs Los Angeles Football Club, Atlanta United, and another expansion team in Minnesota. It is also in grass-root talks to create a Miami franchise run by former soccer star David Beckham. Designated Player spots will fill fast, but taking “talent to South Beach” seems to have been done before. Cough* Lebron Cough.*

America slowly but surely is starting to take soccer seriously. If you are a fan of a smaller club and are still worried, relate this to any other pro sport in America… if you can’t sign top talent, DEVELOP IT. Teams are finally creating schools for their academy team players, thus centralizing their youth talent’s development as students, and stronger players.

The USMNT is making bounding improvements. With victories over top-ranked countries like Germany, and the Netherlands, where can the teams potential be halted? We have yet to fully commit to being a world soccer power and yet we are succeeding. Funny to think that if we actually focus in on it, we could develop the next Messi or Ronaldo in an MLS academy system…

Overtaking the Barclays Premier League and Bündesliga still looks to be very far away, but the MLS is still attempting to thin the gap. We have yet to come anywhere close to the financial status of clubs like Manchester United or Real Madrid that consistently throw massive amounts of money around to secure world-class talent, but the best thing that we can do, is to help!  Being a fan of an MLS club is a hidden treasure. I certainly LOVE, and live for attending MLS games. The loud chanting, the beating of drums, the flying of flags, and a really enjoyable sport being played.

If the USA houses the most elite leagues in every sport minus soccer, why not attempt to capture it? The MLS is certainly trying, with efforts such as the building of LAFC’s new $250-million stadium in Exposition Park. Isn’t it just comical to think that a dedicated group is creating a foreign “football” stadium in the heart of our city, and yet we can’t seem to bring an American football stadium to the city?

MLS is on the charge, and I suggest that you support it sooner rather than later!

Have any opinions about the MLS or soccer in general? I’m incredibly knowledgeable about the sport worldwide, so feel free to chat me up on Twitter: @LATimesTommy