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After Eddie Johnson’s $3 million move to Fulham this week, I got to wondering.  Where does the MLS go from here, and more importantly, how do they hold onto their biggest stars?  Regrettably, the answer is not simple, but I do believe it is possible for the MLS to actually become a league where players want to play during the prime of their career and not a league for a player to come out of retirement for.

First things first, let me just say that I believe whole-heartedly that the MLS is moving in the right direction with its continuous expansion and now its creation of its own little version of the Champions League.  More can be done though.  So, because its my new favorite thing, I have come up with a short list that I believe will enable the MLS to become a respected and fruitful league.

1. It is time to bring Relegation into the picture, and this means bringing the United Soccer League (USL) into the big picture.  With no threat of relegation, the MLS lacks that fighting spirit and passion of a struggling club, and the giant-killing demeanor of a recently promoted club.  With the threat of relegation, and the promise of promotion, there will be a new found sense of urgency in the MLS, and who knows, maybe we will actually see players play to their entire skillful potential.

2. Please, please, please do away with the MLS Draft.  I know that in America we are all about equality and the draft is the best way to make the weaker teams better, but it does not work for soccer.  Lets instead institute an Academy system and allow teams to sign players as young as 10 years old.  They would have schooling provided for them as they continued to develop their skills, and when it came time for college, the team would maintain their rights unless they are traded or sold to another team.

3. Pay the players more.  That is a lot easier said than done, especially with average attendance usually less than 20,000 people per game, but it has to be done.  The league needs to be made more attractive to larger investors who can afford to pay larger contracts to keep the stars in the league as well as bring in some of the top stars.  New York and LA are doing a fantastic job, but we need the entire league’s cooperation.

Its an uphill battle for sure but the MLS is moving in the right direction and the future is bright.



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One Comment

  1. I like the second and third suggestions, but I believe the first point, as much as I support it, is an impossible task. Soccer (ok, football) in the U.S. is not like it is in Europe where clubs have been established for generations and passed down in families and started as clubs. In America we have franchises and franchises want to make money. Nobody wants to be in a second-tier league and getting American business to buy into that notion will be an impossible concept. Even the USL would balk at the idea because it would come in as a second-rate division to begin with. Relegation is nothing new in the European mindset. For the U.S. an investor would never consider getting into something if there was the possibility of it becoming devalued through relegation. The history of European clubs and leagues allows them to understand relegation. In the U.S. it would never fly.