Congratulations Orlando and MLS. But what about quality football?

November 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Major League Soccer, Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Whitecaps In MLS | 3 Comments
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Yesterday Orlando City SC was announced as Major League Soccer’s 21st franchise.  Orlando has been very successfully working away in the USL, the third tier of North American football.  It is reported they enjoy 9,000 or so fans every match even at that level.  This is good news because it shows that people in the State of Florida are desperate for football and want to support a team.  Ten years or so ago, MLS was forced to contract two Florida teams, those being the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Miami Fusion.  Now, Florida entrepreneurs obviously feel that they can run an MLS franchise and make it profitable in the years to come.

My only fear is that under the current salary cap system, which caps spending on players at 2.8 million or so, expansion will mean a dilution of talent in MLS overall.

As things stand, you don’t have to scratch very far below the surface of any MLS team’s starting 11 (including my own team the Vancouver Whitecaps) before you get to some very mediocre footballers who are not really worth paying to watch.   Whenever the MLS schedule clashes with international fixtures, meaning star players are absent from MLS matches, the quality of players on the pitch often takes a distinct dive to the point where we may as well be watching a second tier NASL game.

If MLS is to have 24 teams in the future, as is stated, how will this benefit the fans of already existing teams?  What is the plan to address the often poor level of quality of the squad players in the league?

One solution is to dramatically raise the salary cap in the next collective bargaining round in order to allow MLS to recruit and retain quality players.  This will stop good young American and Canadian players from going over to Europe to play in lower leagues for more money because their payday in MLS is so poor.   Raising the salary cap must be done in such a way that it attracts quality new players rather than giving the already existing mediocre players a pay raise, however.

One thing I do not want as a fan is for MLS to mimic the huge and bloated MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL.  The dilution of talent that has resulted in those leagues from too many teams makes the great majority of games in those leagues not worth watching.  Putting excellence on the pitch is what will make people keep on paying to see MLS games.

Don Garber has been very smart in learning the lessons and avoiding the mistakes of the old NASL, (which folded in 1984), but surely he must recall the fact that the old NASL folded, in large part, because of over-aggressive expansion which led to a dilution of talent and poor quality football which people did not want to watch.  In effect, expansion led to boredom for the fans of the old NASL.

While MLS is growing rapidly, my belief is that under-performing franchises such as Chivas USA, whose marketing plan has been a complete and massive failure, should be folded, in order to keep the quality of players, and franchises, at a high level.  The attendance figures last year at Chivas USA home games were an embarrassment to MLS.

Don Garber surely must have plan to improve the quality of players in MLS team’s squads.  If he does not, the expansion of MLS from the current 19 teams playing to the planned 24 could be the bubble that bursts the league.

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3 Comments »

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  1. I sincerely hope that Mr. Garber reads your blog, understands it, and does something toward improving the standard of play in MLS. College players drafted into the league are fast and athletic but too few have the basic football skills necessary to play at a high level, such as the important first touch and positional acuity. They are not what I would call Footballers. Adding more teams is courting disaster unless changes such as you suggest are carried out.

    Dunc

  2. Ironically when you peel away the top layer you often get sub-NASL level players since players can/do actually make more in the NASL then they can in the need-a-degree-in-calculus-to-understand MLS salary structure (eg Kyle Porter chose the NASL over MLS offer for a few years until finally he was no longer in the low pay level). I agree two simple things can improve quality.

    1) Almost Double the salary cap to 5 million. The ownership groups now are typically worth 2-4 billion (eg whitecaps 3.8b) they can handle it.

    2) Pay the refs more so they do not have to moonlight. Other than Toledo and a few others with guaranteed 50k salaries the average wage is 18k usd per season (googled). That is less than 1/3 a cfl official. Then people complain about officiating.

    You get what you pay for in life

    ps as for Chivas it just proves a racist race-based marketing plan “hey latinos we think you are one dimensional and stupid so you will drop any team you follow and come see the latino-only team” fails in 2013 usa..which is a positive for football and yes they should fold

  3. Quality of MLS football should not be an issue even worth considering, considering all the benefits and the very limited reasons to even fear of “talent dilution”: http://soccernewsday.com/usa/a/1462/nycfc-an-example-of-mls-expansion-potential


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