A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model

I won’t go into much detail over the whole promotion/relegation debate. It’s been done elsewhere. Generally, the strongest arguments supporting pro/rel are (1) Historical examples – it has worked in Europe for several decades; (2) Financial – it will lead to more investment in 2nd division teams as investors try to achieve promotion; and (3) Philosophical – it will be more “meritocratic.” The current loser gets a dope draft pick aspect to North American sports smells of socialism to some.

But any attempt to impose pro/rel on a North American landscape will encounter a muddy terrain; I speak of the loathsome “franchise” system. And luckily there’s an example South of the border for what happens when pro/rel meets the “franchise” model. Continue reading “A Possible Flaw with Promotion & Relegation in MLS: the Franchise Model” »

Compromising Pictures of Billy Haisley Explain his Distaste for MLS

Our award-wanking coverage of Deadspin’s MLS coverage has reached a new low. For those with memory problems, MLS season was about to kick off when, boom, Deadspin dropped a kinda long-ish article about why fans should not bother caring. I wrote a point-by-point response and, of course, the soft-skinned, over-internetted MLS clique responded with rage. What hurt most was not the core thesis of Billy’s argument, that MLS is a clear notch below La Liga, but the conclusion that it was therefore unwatchtable.

Still, Billy kept hammering away. MLS got all excited and announced another Southeast expansion team without a soccer-specific stadium (read: Atlanta). Bam, Billy hit the keyboards to churn out an ATL franchise take down. Again, the arguments had solid bases, but the tone…well, the tone was a bit over the top. Folks wondered – why does somebody have an axe to grind with little old MLS? What’s Billy’s deal? Did his mother attend Miami Fusion matches instead of holding him as a baby?

Then, some pictures surfaced. And now everything makes sense. Continue reading “Compromising Pictures of Billy Haisley Explain his Distaste for MLS” »

American Soccer’s Very Own Recognitions

Lo and behold, the NYTimes relocated/rebranded the Goal Blog but soccer popped up in the Style Section. The general theme was this: the young and hip urban class of New York has embraced soccer (albeit not MLS). This group of childless rapscallions flocks to bars or “pubs” on Saturday mornings to don scarves, drink overpriced imported beer, eat a warm British breakfast, and/or maybe watch grown men kick a ball on TV. Predictably, the super super trendy have backlashed. Why?

Because nobody hates hipsters more than other hipsters. Sadly, the same is probably true of soccer fans in the states. Still, what most intrigues me about this debate is the reality vs. perception of New York City. Luckily, the second part of William Gaddis’ novel The Recognitions also grapples with this slippery concept. And provides some guideposts. Continue reading “American Soccer’s Very Own Recognitions” »

The Brave New World of MLS 3.0

Sigh. I can’t be bothered to start a “MLS Does Not Suck” column to respond to Deadspin’s coverage. The first article reeked of somebody who didn’t actually watch the league, but the second column made a lot more solid points about the Atlanta expansion situation. Take a deep breath and realize that, big picture, media coverage is a good thing. Deadspin prides itself on dumping in all major sports leagues from the NFL to the NBA – MLS is now on the radar. That’s a good thing. Deadspin will not coddle MLS. It’s your baby, not Deadpin’s.

The bottom line is that the truth hurts. While MLS is not quite two decades old, the league’s history can be categorized into three phases. And the 3.0 version looks suspiciously familiar. Continue reading “The Brave New World of MLS 3.0” »

MLS Salaries: Starting at the Rock-Bottom

One of the key things for any employee entering the workforce is starting salary: it normally sets the baseline for future earnings and possible raises. That’s why it’s so sad that management has played professional sports player unions for fools, pitting veterans against rookies in negotiations (at least in North America). Owners hand veterans with a bigger role in the union larger salaries today, in exchange for keeping the salaries for rookies nice and low. Here’s the problem: if rookies started off at a higher salary, then they’d be able to get even more in free agency. It’s common sense: starting higher up the ladder earlier is better.

MLS is no different from any other sports league in that regards. Yes, NFL players have a higher salary for rookies (entry-level employees), but it’s still well below the median and what a veteran earns. Yes, MLS salaries have gone up. DPs also make made bank. However, I took a survey of the Top 10 picks from the MLS Super Draft and then looked at their starting salaries. Then I found some other professions with equivalent salaries. The results were forehead-slapping.  Continue reading “MLS Salaries: Starting at the Rock-Bottom” »

The Number One Reason Why MLS Should Expand to Topeka, KS

So, MLS is expanding all over the place. Sometimes, they occupy and share an NFL stadium. Other times, expansion cities scurry to build lovely soccer-specific stadiums. In their haste, though, they sometimes, ahem, have to clear out still-in-use churches. In Orlando City, the municipality balked at a local church’s initial asking price (tens of millions) and jumped straight to eminent-domain and litigation. Now, in Atlanta, rumors swirl that a stadium proposal will lead to the demolition of the City’s first black Baptist Church (and super-gentrification of the neighborhood Martin Luther King Jr. called home).

As someone who went to college in A-town (The term “ATL” is sooooooo 2004), I can understand why Arthur Blank wants to leave the aging (built in 1992) Georgia Dome, all tucked away down there (a mere 3-5 miles from downtown Atlanta). But, in all seriousness, if MLS teams are going to be destroying churches to build homes, I have a sweet idea for a location. Continue reading “The Number One Reason Why MLS Should Expand to Topeka, KS” »

US Players: The Winding Path Backwards & Ahead

Remember all the buzz when Jozy Altidore first signed for Sunderland? He’d just scored a plethora of goals in the Eredivisie and was ready to return to the EPL and take it by storm! Yes, the manager at the time was a bit crazy, but the team had survived relegation. Surely Jozy could knock in ten goals and guide the Black Cats to mid-table security? Right?

Then, this season happened. Continue reading “US Players: The Winding Path Backwards & Ahead” »

A Guardian Defends MLS and US Soccer

Just before MLS “first kick,” Deadspin dumped on the league. I then responded in kind. Here’s the odd part: I’d already filed a piece with the Guardian on the state of US soccer. The big problem with the league as per Deadspin was not the financial state, but the quality of play as compared to Europe. Admittedly, there are still clubs and leagues with better players. Continue reading “A Guardian Defends MLS and US Soccer” »

Important MLS Scab Update!

MLS had millions to spend to sign star players from abroad this summer, but when it comes to refs? Nope. Sadly, the MLS and the referee union are at loggerheads, a dangerous sign giving the looming player/management CBA session. From the owner’s perspective, they want to keep costs down and hope the league can turn a corner towards profitability. From their point of view, expansion alone is enough for the players and refs: each new team creates new jobs for players and more games for refs to work. A lot of the owners have eaten a lot of money for decades, and would like to see a return on their investment.

From the refs and players’ perspectives, all pro sports leagues are only profitable to a degree. As MLS revenue expands with TV deals, they want a similar if not bigger share of the expanding pie. After all, the players are the ones kicking the ball and the refs are blowing the whistle. Why should management get all the perks? I wrote in 2009 about the very real prospect of a player’s strike and the possibility of scabs. This year, the regular refs aren’t reffing and……their union has released info on the scabs.

Here’s my take on the dirt (and the Union). Continue reading “Important MLS Scab Update!” »