Major League Problem- My MLS Journey Gets Back On Course


My Major League Soccer break is officially over. Admittedly I have been away longer than intended and I must apologise that my absence might have irked some of my readers. I have not abandoned the league and my mission remains the same: to understand and appreciate Major League Soccer. Perhaps I should have discussed the finale of the competition but in truth the game left me feeling rather disillusioned and I decided it was a good time to take a break. The Beckham biased build up left me feeling like I had been watching a Hollywood blockbuster rather than a season deciding game. Somewhere in there the football was lost in the storyline that seemed more important to one or two. However Garber and Galaxy got what they wanted and the “iconic image” will I’m sure help the league. That said I would strongly suggest Major League Soccer’s best team deservedly won the MLS Cup, something that I’m sure is not always such a formality. Sadly I’m afraid my first MLS preseason has also left me rather frustrated and uninspired….

Football is so popular all around the world because it is incredibly easy to follow. Trying to keep up should never be a chore and the minute the sport gets too complicated we have a problem. Major League Soccer is right on the brink of having a major league problem. I’m going to be honest, the only draft I have been following closely is the one that’s squeezing through my bedroom window and leaving me with frostbitten toes.  I can get to grips with the play-offs, I can handle no relegation, at a push I could even accept John Harkes but the Drafts are beyond me. Perhaps living in America they are easier to follow but for an MLS fan living in Europe it is near impossible. Some of the bigger transfers have certainly caught my eye, and I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed the Le Toux saga. I’m sure Vancouver fans will be looking forward to him playing for the club even if Le Toux himself seemingly isn’t.

It goes without saying there have been some transfers involving MLS players that have been very easy for me to follow during my break. Many have suggested that the loan moves of Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane are embarrassing for Major League Soccer. My opinion is quite the opposite. It is extremely easy and perhaps even fashionable to mock and disparage MLS and of course we all know that it is not the Premier League. The loan moves show that Major League Soccer plays hosts to footballers who are more than capable of playing at the very top while also managing to be a competitive league in its own right. That is an achievement. Perhaps an even better example of the leagues progress is centre back Tim Ream’s £2.5m move to the Premier League. Ream has been bought as a replacement for the highly thought of Gary Cahill and sources I have spoken to suggest Bolton were not the only club interested in acquiring the centre back. Although understandably fans will be disappointed to see players leaving MLS it is important we see the bigger picture. English football is starting to take Major League Soccer seriously perhaps for the first time. The migrations of Ream, John and Rogers are all indications that Major League Soccer is perhaps stronger than ever before.

I have of course kept a special eye on Toronto FC’s ins and outs ahead of their ridiculously scheduled Champions League quarter final. We have discussed it before but the nonsensical gap between Toronto FC’s last knock out game and the next is bizarre. However the good news is Toronto have maintained the momentum of their decent league finish and kept most of their squad together. The last thing the club needed was a return to the revolving door policy that has been so unsuccessful in the past. I think most fans would agree the club does need another attacking player who will take the goal scoring responsibility away from 33 year old Danny Koevermans. It certainly seems Winter is taking the club in the right direction.

One player who I will be watching very closely this season is Portland Timbers new striker Kris Boyd. Boyd’s career has come to a bit of a standstill but this is a striker who could end up with the MLS golden boot. After scoring hundreds of goals in Scotland he has suffered from a lack of confidence during difficult spells in England and Turkey.  However at 28 he should be in his prime. If Boyd settles, knuckles down and starts well there is every chance he will take MLS by storm. He will certainly need service and an arm around his shoulder now and again but Boyd looks like one of the shrewdest bits of business in this window so far.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Major League Problem- My MLS Journey Gets Back On Course

  1. prizby

    the biggest knock on the mls loan moves back to the epl is so many epl fans were calling (and in the guardian on a poll) the mls was a retirement league…so now that these players are coming back on loan, does this now make the epl a retirement league as well?

  2. Will definately be keeping more up to date with the MLS this year, helped on with my twitter friends I’m sure! I didn’t see much on the draft but as I love American sports, I do lovet he principles behind the draft, worst teams get the best chance to get the “potentially” best player!

    As for the loans, I think it only shows the growing standard of the league that the better players can come across and make an impact in the Prem!

    Pains me to see how badForest are up front this year, maybe they should have kept onto Boyd!!

  3. tallwhiteninja

    In the other US sports the college system is where most young players are developed, and the draft is the most equitable way to allocate them. In soccer, between having your own in-house academy, the wealth of players across the globe, and the fact that most college soccer players are…sub-par, it’s not the most effective way to re-stock your squad. That’s not to say the draft and the college system are completely devoid of talent (Clint Dempsey’s by far the biggest success story along those lines), but it’s something I think may very well be phased out as the sport grows and teams get their academies up to a higher standard.

  4. simon B

    you can see the draft beginning to lose relevance with some teams over others. With Toronto FC putting so much into their academy and word leaking out they plan to sign 2 players this year from their academy while dumping 4 of their draft picks in the first cut, it’s clear they’re moving on from it.

  5. Beto

    The draft is becoming less of a priority for all clubs now. This year most teams selected 1-2 players where in years past it was more like 3-4 players. Most teams are putting more $ towards academies and signing college players that were part of their academies. In the future the draft will still be in use as alot of top college players have no connection to clubs but the clear emphasis will be finding players the same way other clubs do around the world

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  8. Leonardo

    as a foreigner trying to get into mls myself, i gotta say i share jimmy’s pain. It’s already hard to try and follow a league with playoffs, no relegation, a salary cap and teams partly owned by the league, but the offseason is even more frustrating. i don’t like drafts and i don’t understand why they exist besides artificially trying to level all teams, but i understand the system, i think. but some things are ever worse.

    sebatien le toux being traded to another team without him agreeing with the move is bizarre. how does a player end up in a team he don’t want to sign a contract with!? does it have to do with the fact that for some reason the players are signed with the league itself instead of the clubs they play in? and things get even more weird.

    apparently, there is something called ‘allocation money’ that the teams seem to receive from someone and that players can be traded for. what the hell does that mean? does it have anything to do with ‘designated players’ that doesn’t count in the payroll? and more important than anything else, what are the benefits of this super complicated system and why does it only exists in the united states?

    • Hernan Escobar

      MLS is built with creating parity in mind, meaning no duo like Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga or the same 4 or 5 at the top of the EPL. It’s complex and probably no one really fully understands it, but allocation money is money received from the league that increases that particular clubs spending money, which is capped by however much money you’ve accumulated. Clubs get more extra allocation money for winning the Cup or the Supporters Shield or qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League, etc etc. You are correct in surmising that players are signed by the league and not the individual clubs. Designated Players count a certain amount from your allocation money, and anything you pay that player above and beyond is up to the ownership of the club to pay. If your really curious you might want to read http://sbn.to/wZHBGi and http://sbn.to/xSpXfp as well as http://sbn.to/x3MB6s. Good luck and enjoy Major League Soccer : )

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