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Posted by on Nov 14, 2012 in MLS, Recent | 8 comments

Grand King Emperor of MLS

Good news! I’ve just been named Grand King Emperor of MLS. I am now the rule of law in American (and Canadian) soccer. So here are the things that I’m going to do to help make MLS one of the top leagues in the world:

  • Infrastructure Upgrades – The debacle at Red Bull Arena last Wednesday where the match had to be postponed due to snow is absolutely inexcusable. Why doesn’t Red Bull Arena and other stadia where snow is not uncommon have undersoil heating like stadia in Europe? Teams located in areas that get snow would be required during the offseason to install undersoil heating. If a club could not afford it, MLS would pay for it and the club would be forced to reimburse MLS over time. This is both a player safety issue and a fan safety issue. The fact that a busload of DC United fans was spun out on the New Jersey Turnpike could have been tragic and was completely avoidable if 1.) someone had bothered to check the weather forecast days in advance and 2.) if they had played the match on schedule and allowed the New Jersey Department of Transportation to clear the Turnpike of snow before the DC fans left RBA. As a Philadelphia Union fan, the first thing I thought was that could have been me and my friends. Inexcusable, and as Grand King Emperor of MLS, I would not want the blood of a busload of fans on my hands. Timetable – Immediately
  • Referees – I don’t know if much can be done about the quality of referees.  I would work with FIFA to improve the quality of refereeing here in the US. I would accept any help they could offer, however I don’t know if much could be done in the very near term. I like that MLS currently reviews referee performances and works with officials to make them better. That definitely stays. Timetable – Immediately
  • Stop putting so much emphasis on the SuperDraft – MLS has tried to hype the SuperDraft, however let’s face it – most good young talent in the US is identified early and brought to foreign academies to play elsewhere (namely Mexico). What’s left are guys who play through college and while there is certainly talent that takes that route, most draftees find themselves not on the Starting XI on opening day. Let’s stop hyping up the draft and treat it exactly as it is – a supplemental draft. Bring these guys in with less pressure, stop throwing gobs of Generation Adidas money at them, and let them develop a taste for the game. Timetable – 2013
  • Single Table – The idea of east versus west in MLS just rubs me the wrong way, and since I’m Grand King Emperor of MLS, we’ll get rid of it and go to a single table format. I like the playoffs, so those can stay. Timetable – 2013
  • Apertura/Clausura schedule – If it’s good enough for most of the rest of the hemisphere it should be good enough for us. Let’s go with a variation on the Mexican schedule  – August through December and January through May. This would allow us to take advantage of aligning with the International Transfer Windows as well as allowing players to play all year round. Unlike Mexico, there would be only one set of playoffs which would be held in April and May. The 2013-14 season will begin in August 2013, and prior to this teams will be encouraged to play friendlies against international clubs as well as Cup Tournaments with local rivals. What if there really was an I-95 Cup? What if the Cascadia Cup was a tournament instead of spread out over a season? Think of the possibilities here. Timetable – 2013
  • Goal-line technology – This is a no-brainer. This  technology goes in before first kick in 2013 and all goals as well as instances where the ball may have crossed the line are reviewed by the fourth official. Just like in the NFL, the replay has to be conclusive evidence to overturn the ruling on the field. Timetable – 2013
  • Reserves Leagues- Reserves matches should be given greater importance and thought. I would require reserves matches to be played either the morning before an evening match or the evening before an afternoon match, and all players who play in the regular match would be ineligible for reserves matches (and vice-versa). Matches will be played at a suitable site and will be open to the public for free. Canceling a reserves league match is unacceptable, and clubs will be docked 5 league (MLS, not Reserves League) points for every cancellation not approved by the league. This allows wiggle room in the event there are circumstances beyond control that prohibits a match being played (think a hurricane hits the east coast, earthquake on the west coast, etc.). These matches are vital to developing talent by giving them competitive match experience that is invaluable in their growth as players. Timetable – 2013
  • Remove the limit on the amount of players a squad can have – I get that salary constraints are the main reason to limit squad size, however at this point I think it hinders the amount of talent a team can have. I like the structure of the salary scale, the only thing I would do would be extend the salary regulations for roster spots 25-30 to as many players as the team has. It will allow teams to have more players without necessarily breaking the bank. This would also require salary cap adjustments, which could be done on a sliding scale – for instance every player over spot 30 would increase the total cap by $25,000 (roughly 75% of the minimum salary for players on those roster spots). This would allow teams to add players without totally ruining the franchise (think late 70′s NASL). Timetable – 2013, possibly 2014
  • Improve Team Academies in the US – I like the overall academy structure that MLS has set up. I would invest money into these academies to help identify young talent earlier and across a broader region. I would also remove the pay to play barrier for kids who are good enough to play in the top levels of the academies. Why we allow talented kids to fall by the wayside because their parents can’t afford tuition in an exclusive academy is beyond me. This country (and our league) will never be competitive if only kids from well-to-do families can afford to nurture their talent and pursue their dreams. Timetable – 2013
  • MLS Academies in Foreign Countries - I would set up MLS Academies for children initially in Mexico, Germany, Argentina, and perhaps Costa Rica. They would be free to all children who are eligible to be American citizens and other local children could pay for play. The idea here is that the MLS should seek out American expatriate communities around the world, identify talent there, train them, and then bring them to the US to play. This would not only get kids into a pipeline for MLS as well as for the USMNT, but also give MLS recognition in countries outside of traditional markets. Kids would be signed to MLS contracts as soon as local law allowed, and would train at the academies. Their parents would be given the option to work at the academy, be given assistance relocating and finding employment near the academy, or be given the option to remain wherever they currently live. The children would learn the fundamentals of soccer as well as being educated and taught how to speak English. As the children grew older and (hopefully) more skilled, they would be eligible at 16 to come to the US to live (again, with MLS assisting parents who wanted to relocate with their children) and play for an MLS club and (if eligible) the USMNT. These kids would then be drafted according to the current draft system. Timetable – 2014 or 2015 to begin construction on the Acadamies
  • Team Academies in Foreign Countries – I would encourage individual teams to do the same. For instance, it would make sense for Chivas USA to set up an academy in Mexico where the Chivas brand is already recognized. The team would be responsible for the infrastructure and personnel, and MLS would help with things like relocation expenses for families, and supplemental staff such as teachers. The contracts would still be with MLS, however the rights to the prospects would belong solely to the team (who could then sell or trade a prospect to another MLS club, etc.). Timetable – 2014 or 2015 to begin construction on the Academies
  • Chivas - Chivas can’t stay a viable team in MLS with them constantly taking second place in the city they play in to the Galaxy. I would move Chivas to San Diego, San Antonio, Phoenix, or Las Vegas, where they would be the number one team in the city. Moving to Phoenix or Las Vegas would also help fill a geographic gap between the teams on the West Coast (LA, San Jose, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver) and the teams in the Mountain West (Salt Lake, Colorado). Moving them to San Antonio would put them in the second-largest Mexican-American community outside of their current home in Los Angeles, and would create instant rivalry with Both FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo. Timetable – No later than 2015
  • Team #20 - Time to do this already. New York Cosmos would be an obvious first choice, but if can’t get their stuff straight then I’ll look into getting another team in the league no later than 2015. I doubt I would put it in the Southeast for the simple fact that there are no other teams in the area. Travel will be a nightmare with only one team in the Southeast, and there will be no natural rivalries (which are pretty important in getting people into a sport and into seats). The only scenario I would entertain would be if Chivas moved to Miami, Tampa, or Atlanta, and then Orlando City would be a prime candidate to become Team #20. That being said, that’s a lot of “what if’s” to be something to hedge bets on. Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Cincinnati are markets that I would look at to put Team #20. Timetable – Dependent upon Chivas relocation
  • NASL Acquisition - This is something for the long term future, however it would be my intention to acquire NASL and initially use it as a developmental league. Teams would not be like minor league teams in hockey and baseball where the teams are all affiliated with big league clubs, but instead be their own separate entities. All existing contracts would be bought by MLS, and from then on all contracts would be held by MLS (just as MLS contracts are now). MLS teams would then be able to purchase contracts during transfer windows. During this time, NASL clubs would be required to (with MLS help if necessary) upgrade their infrastructure. The end goal would be all clubs owned by MLS to have their own Soccer Specific Stadium. Once all teams have this in place, it will be time to make plans for a promotion and relegation system. This would be doable since all contracts would be through MLS, and all teams would have the infrastructure to host MLS matches. Then the bottom 4 teams in MLS would go down and the top two teams in NASL would go up.  This would return MLS to 18 teams, which allows for a balanced schedule. From then on, it would be the bottom 2 teams that go down and top 2 in NASL that come up. The timetable on this is at the earliest 2035. There has to be a  lot of groundwork done first. Capital has to be raised to acquire the league, acquire the players, upgrade infrastructure, and the process can not be rushed. If it take until 2050, so be it. If we’re going to do this, we need to do it the right way. Timetable – 2035 to 2050

 


8 Comments

  1. Single Table, MLS Academies in Foreign Countries, NASL Acquisition, Stop putting so much emphasis on the SuperDraft.

    Everything else is just a bonus to me. All great points though.

  2. “Apertura/Clausura schedule – If it’s good enough for most of the rest of the hemisphere it should be good enough for us.”

    I’m assuming you mean Western, not Northern. Would you sit outside in January for a game in Montreal, TFC, Chicago, NE, hell, half the league? This idea will never be implemented. The Scandinavian leagues have a similar alignment to MLS for scheduling.

    I’m on board with single table, 20th team. Not sure about the reserve league importance, since to your point about the “Super”Draft, those players tend to come from the draft and the supplemental rounds. I think it would be difficult to set up academies overseas, not only from a cost perspective, but a FO one as well. The Union for example only have Hack, Rob and Brendan as a technical staff. Larger Euro and other big money clubs have that club infrastructure but operate at a much higher level of revenue than MLS. So 2014 may be very early for all 20 teams to be able to operate a global footprint. Think 2034.

  3. Ok, Grand Emperor, now tell us how all of this stuff gets paid for. Almost every point you make involves an increased amount of funding. Heated pitches? Money. Overseas academies? Money. Expanded rosters and salaries? Money. The whole reason we don’t have these things already is because we can’t financially support them yet. We need to understand that the way certain things are done here is because we have to foster the growth of the league in an economically stable manner. Unless, of course, you think a Tampa Bay Mutiny or Miami Fusion business plan is a better alternative.

  4. Greetings your highness!

    - I called for a one day match postponement the morning (8am) of the match. And I live in Chicago. Why the hell MLS waited so long to call the match is beyond me. Seriously, who’s in charge over there?

    - Refs. Here’s what’s going down: http://www.ussoccer.com/news/referee-programs/2012/03/pro-quote-sheet.aspx

    - Super Draft. Another example of MLS trying to mimic other N. American pro sports. At this point, it’s time to take off the training wheels. Nobody cares.

    - Single Table, yes. Playoffs, no – unless the format and scheduling changes.

    - Ap/Claus. Brilliant.

    - Goal line tech. Oh yes.

    - Reserve League. Will the league be competent enough “approve” cancellations on time? So far, they’re not. Why not let folks on the ground make the call?

    - Roster size. Any move to increase the independence of individual clubs is okay in my book.

    - Academies need schools attached to them, along with corporate sponsors.

    - Foreign academies. Interesting idea, but not worth the cost at this point.

    - Team academies in foreign countries. More practical and worthy of investment – especially if there’s another club (in country) involved in a partnership.

    - Chivas should move to San Diego and re-brand.

    - Without question, Team #20 will be the New York Cosmos. Get ready.

    - NASL Acquisition. At this point, the less control MLS has over things, the better. So I’ve got to disagree with you here.

    Awesome article! Thank you!

    - Scott

  5. Also, the argument that the fall-to-spring schedule is necessary since it’s good enough for the rest of the world ignores the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t have to compete with college football and the NFL on weekends. The rest of the world doesn’t have to deal with sports that are given higher broadcast and advertisement priorities. We’ll switch when the time is right, but that time is not now.

  6. I think it’s about time to do away with the MLS owned contracts. It was great for getting started and initially helping clubs out, but now the league is stable and it’s just restricting clubs in the transfer market. Ideally, i’d like to reach the point where clubs are their own separate entities instead of franchises of MLS, but that seems unlikely to happen. It’s at least a long way off because not every club is currently stable enough to operate in it’s own. I do think yhey should own their own contracts though, it’s time for MLS to stop babying them- maybe after a season or 2 with a full 20 team league.

  7. I’m confused. You say move Chivas because two teams in the same city don’t work, then you want the 20th team in NY? I don’t get how or why it works, but obviously it can (Yankees-Mets, Lakers-Clippers, Giants-Jets).

    • I agree it can work but Chivas isnt working under the current conditions. I would love to see them in their own stadium in the city of LA, but I don’t think moving them is a terrible answer either. Its hard to delve into the nuance of every argument in a broad piece like this.