Sunday, December 18, 2016

MLS Managers - Company Men

A very strange and unusual thing happened once the final whistle blew on the 2016 MLS season. Did you notice? None of the coaches were fired. Nor were any fired at the end of the regular season. In fact, there were only three coaching changes all year.

MLS is a unique animal. The ins and outs of the rules just about make it necessary to have a company guy in charge and the insular nature of the league makes being a team player a job requirement. Digging into the professional histories of the each coach, there is nothing that tells us any different.

The only current coach to not have any experience with the league before being put in charge is Patrick Vieira. This, in and of itself, might not be terribly atypical of other leagues, but it does highlight something else. He, along with Gregg Berhalter and Veljko Paunovic are the only three to have any coaching experience outside MLS at all.

Totaled up, it's 166 years of coaching in MLS vs. just 8 years experience out of it.

There are three characteristics that define an MLS coach.

1. Former MLS player (15/20)
2. Born in the United States (14/20)
3. Be a former USMNT player (10/20)

These three things add up to what you call "Team Players." They are guys that will work within the system and play nice with corporate leadership.

It is striking that so many coaches have long time ties to the league, but is it that different to other leagues? Looking for answers it's better to turn to Liga MX than, say, the English Premier League (which might as well be from another planet than MLS). Do they meet the three criteria mentioned above?

1. Former Liga MX player (12/18)
2. Born in Mexico (7/18)
3. Former Mexican National Team Player (3/18)

Number one matches up but the others are different. Particularly, the national team experience. Interesting there because MLS and US Soccer Federation are so close.

There are a few other difference as well. The biggest being the range of ages and management experience. 13 of the 18 in Liga MX have been managing for over ten years, while only three in MLS have. All together it's Liga MX 256 years of management experience and MLS 140. Almost double.

Incredible differences between the two leagues. "MLS is young," you might say. First. It's not. And second, soccer has been played in this country for over 100 years. MLS is just picking MLS people.

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