Friday, August 17, 2018

MLS is Using My Blueprint (I Want Compensation)

MLS is Following My Blueprint
(I want compensation)
By: Vidda Grubin

This will be short. Enjoy! (i lied it is not short)

I have written on a number of occasions about the need for both an August to June soccer season and promotion/relegation. I have also stated what would need to happen for both to be successful.

This post isn’t about promotion and relegation. (the sentence prior to this is a tiny lie)

Simply put. An August to June schedule is easily achievable in North America (and Major League Soccer is quickly moving that direction) if…

Half the franchises in the league are located in the Southern half of the United States and half the franchises are located in the Northern half of the United States and Canada.

Reasons August to June works under the half and half scenario:

1. The first few games can be played at the home fields of the franchises located in the Northern half of the United States and Canada. Hot games, but not as hot as August games in Texas and Florida.

2. The fall portion of the season would run until the weekend prior to Christmas. Allowing franchises to comfortably play at all venues after August.

3. Allows for a holiday break (Christmas thru Mid January).

4. A league wide winter league/winter training can be run in places like Southern California, Florida, Las Vegas, Arizona and South Texas (much like the NBA summer league in Las Vegas) for two weeks at the end of January.

5. The restart of the league season can begin February 1st, and first few games can be played at the home fields of the franchises located in the Southern half of the United States.

6. Season/Playoffs end June 1st.

7. This schedule consists of approximately 38 calendar weeks, in regards to the actual league season, and does not include the approximately three weeks of holiday break and two weeks of winter league/winter training.

8. Teams would be aligned in three divisions of 12. Western—Central—Eastern. Each division split evenly (six franchises in the north and six franchises in the south).

Current/Near Future MLS alignment: 

Northwest Conference: Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake, Colorado, Boise?

Southwest Conference: LA, LA, San Jose, San Diego, Las Vegas?, Arizona?

North Central: Minnesota, Kansas City, Chicago, Columbus, Nashville, Cincinnati

South Central: Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, New Orleans?, Birmingham?

North East: Toronto, Montreal, New England, New York, New York, D.C.

South East: Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Tampa?, Jacksonville?, Charlotte?

8a. Play all teams in your division home and away for 22 games. Play six to eight teams from each of the other divisions for a total of 12-16 more games (depends on how many league games the MLS decides it wants). Total games in season: 34-38.

9. Playoffs would be down and dirty and follow a bracket format. Top four in each division auto-qualify. Next four best records qualify. 16 team bracket format ensues with won/loss records being the criteria for placing each franchise on the bracket. 1 v 16, 2 v 15, 3 v 14, etc. Games always played at home of team with best record. Single game first round on a Saturday. Single game quarter-final on Wednesday. Single game semi-finals on Sunday. Championship final on following Sunday. Two weeks total for playoffs.

Finally, why I believe MLS is quickly moving this direction.

1. They want more locally viable rivalries.

2. The franchises they are moving/adding achieves what I’m writing about.

3. (I know I said this wasn’t about pro/rel, but I can’t help myself. Just this one bullet point) MLS structured as above allows for two lower league clubs to earn their way into each six club northern and southern conference, making for eight club top league conferences. These two clubs would only move up after top league finishes filling out the twelve team divisions and a viable 16 club lower league is established in each conference’s geographical region.

3a. (cheating here and splitting up the bullet point) After expanding to 8 clubs per conference, top league regular season play would remain the same; divisional home and away (30 games), remaining games split between other division clubs (pick your poison, my choice would be year to year rotation with conferences playing all eight teams from another conference).

3b. (still cheating here) USSF/Players Association/Consortium of Professional Club Owners could then institute pro/rel on regional conference basis. Relegation from the top league would be based solely on games between clubs in the same conference (14 games). Bottom club auto relegated, next to bottom club plays home and away with second place club from regional league below.

Some advantageous things about this model: 

1. There is room for growth, up to 36 teams and even 48 teams in the top league (this is an expansive country).

1a. Comes much closer to mirroring the small-nation, short travel, club culture seen around the world.

1b. Many more geographic rivals.

2. August to June season is easily achievable/doable.

3. (cheating) Promotion/Relegation would see all lower leagues sharing the same geographic boundaries as the top league’s conference boundaries (so a total of six regional leagues in each tier). 16 clubs per regional league would have a typical year see half the teams in each lower regional league fighting a promotion or relegation battle. Plus, with only 30 games to play, the lower regional leagues can start the spring half of the season later (Mid-March), thereby not having to worry about the worst of the winter weather.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

MLS Winnings Since 2015

Per the info given out by the last CBA, MLS winnings based on performance, by team, since 2015 (includes this season) is below. It's not much money.

Here's the top 10 teams, by season, by winnings:

Total : Year : Team
$660,000 : 2017 : Toronto FC
$512,500 : 2016 : FC Dallas
$475,000 : 2016 : Seattle Sounders FC
$447,500 : 2015 : Portland Timbers
$355,000 : 2015 : Sporting Kansas City
$340,000 : 2017 : Sporting Kansas City
$245,000 : 2015 : New York Red Bulls
$220,000 : 2017 : New York Red Bulls
$215,000 : 2016 : Toronto FC
$190,000 : 2015 : FC Dallas

Average winnings for a player per year is about $5,000 extra. Players from top teams for the season range from about 8k to 25k (the monster TFC season last year, way out of the ordinary when you consider the top starts at 660k and number 10 is 190k).

MLS pays out about $1 million in winnings a year to players.


Here is the $ breakdown:

MLS Cup champion: $275,000, per team

MLS Cup runner-up: $80,000, per team

Supporters’ Shield winner: $55,000, per team — increases to $130,000, per team (2017-19)

Regular season conference champion: $35,000, per team

Other playoff qualifiers: $20,000, per team

Regular season matches: $7,500 win bonus, per team (distributed monthly)



CCL champion: $50,000

CCL runner-up: $45,000

CCL losing semifinalist: $40,000

CCL losing quarterfinalist: $35,000

Group stage qualification: $40,000

Group stage win: $4,000



Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner: $250,000, per team (payable by U.S. Soccer)

Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup runner-up: $60,000, per team (payable by U.S. Soccer)

Canadian Championship winner: $50,000, per team (payable by Canadian Soccer Association)

Sunday, August 5, 2018

RANK: Which games matter, MLS

[1] CONCACAF Champions League - The games matter, it's difficult to gain entry and the upside to getting results is big for MLS teams.

[2] US Open Cup games - it's a straight up knock out tournament and the only thing linking together both US soccer history and the fractured pyramid.

[3] Pre-Season Tournaments - I regularly attend these. Orlando, Charleston. They are some of the most competitive games I have seen. Also, they get lower league and foreign teams involved, making it more exciting.

[4] Summer Friendlies - these games are usually good and feature most of the MLS starters. Contrary to popular belief, the players from MLS do try hard in these games.


[5] MLS Cup, Conference Finals - getting here is a slog in MLS, but doing so puts you on the map. Both legs important, the second leg most important.

[6] Regular season games, Sept-October - last push to finish the year strong. Usually get a better effort from players.

[7] MLS Cup Final - it's a well-earned match for the teams that make it, but by the time it comes - after a Swiss cheese playoff format, coaches and the media are ready for the season to end. Cup finals across the world can sometimes be dull, this MLS version usually hit's that mark.

[8] Playing ESPN MLS extra time on the PS2 - only league specific video game made. It's fun and features Crew Stadium and tarped off stadiums in the rest of the league.

[9] Regular season, March-May

[10] Regular season, June-August - dog days of MLS. You have oppressive heat as well as various international tournaments pulling the better players away. Older stars often just take time off.

[11] Games involving New England Revs, Houston Dynamo and the Colorado Rapids.

[12] When a team from the eastern time zone plays out west late at night. I looked at this a couple years ago. It's basically the away side starting a goal down. East teams win about 1 in 10. It's a ridiculous advantage and players just want to hear the final whistle.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

MLS in the English Football Pyramid

A frequent conversation you see on social media between strangers is where MLS teams would fall were they to take part in the mighty English football league system.

Where you fall in this argument essentially depends on your affection for MLS. So let's start there, the definition of who a fan of the league is.

MLS fans, to this day, are recycled fans of other US sports. It is unusual to find a lifelong, soccer 1st fan making MLS their league of choice for any long period of time. Contrary to popular belief, soccer 1st folks, whether they came to the sport later in life or were born with a ball at their feet, do watch MLS. It's just that they have a better understanding of its place, globally. This isn't a knock, same goes for folks that have traveled extensively have a more rounded global perspective.

As with anything, there is a bias built in. Like MLS? Well, you probably think it would have a few teams popping up into the top level of English football. Luke-warm on MLS, "hey, they'd compete pretty well in the Championship," and so on down the line.

Me, personally? I'm a lifelong fan of the sport that was excited when MLS launched - forgot about the league in the mid-2000s - rediscovered it in 2008 - got excited when Garber talked about Promotion and Relegation in 2010 and decided to cover the local MLS team, which I did continuously for eight years (I challenge you to find any blogger covering it longer).

Now, with my MLS credentials laid out there - where do I think MLS teams would fall in England and their 11 tiers and 7,000 odd teams?

League 1, mostly. Then split between League 2 and lower.

You may have a couple "Championship quality" teams, but they would not survive an actual competitive system.


What do I mean by that? Well, league competition in England at the pro level is a meat grinder. Teams play over 10 more matches than MLS a year in their league alone. Add in cup matches and you quickly find out that MLS teams would just fall apart. They are not built for that. If they would have a star DP miss a few weeks or longer, or have a nasty contract dispute, the team would fall to the bottom half of the table alone.

Regardless, I do believe there are a couple of things at play when this conversation comes up. 

First is the "super bowl" effect. What that means is that MLS fans look at it as a one-game type thing. Like, LAFC could hold her own in a single game against Stoke, per say. And that's kinda true. But that's not what a league competition is. Hell, that's not what THE SPORT OF SOCCER IS. It's about who navigates a 40+ game season the best.

Second (and settle in here, I have a lot to say): Video games. 


Load up the latest EA Sports FIFA and take your favorite MLS team online and you'll see that you can beat someone playing with the best in the world. I've been here. I remember my best online seasons were controlling 2010 Columbus Crew teams for hours on end. It gets you thinking "Hey, I'm winning! MLS teams are great!"

There's more to the video game impact. Compare and contrast player ratings and you'll see that the folks in Vancouver who decide such things have a player like Justin Meram or Patrick Mullins rated just the same as some Premier league players. Reason would have you thinking; well, MLS is just as good. Again, this just isn't the case. Setting the inflated rating argument aside for a moment, MLS teams only have a couple players per team like that, whereas teams like Everton have 20+. It's a wall have talented players, not just a few.

Another impact games have is when you play the game on a difficulty level that does not challenge you as a player. You see it all the time on Twitter, hell, I've done it. "So-and-so MLS player had six goals vs Real Madrid last night!" MLS is great!


As a long time soccer gamer with a collection of games dating back to the Atari 2600 in my possession, I can safely tell you that I am confident in my video game understanding and analysis. I can also tell you that it was a video game that, in part, drove me to become a proponent for reform within the USSF.

It's something I've thought about often over the years. How on earth did it happen?

Somewhere a decade ago, around the same time I was rediscovering MLS, I discovered how fun it was to create your own tournament within EA games. What I would do is swap out all the MLS teams for English League 2 teams, pick the Crew and climb the ladder. It was incredibly fun to see how far MLS teams would go along with my own journey. 

By the year 2024 (or whatever) FIFA had MLS teams rising to the Championship along with me and eventually to the Prem. That said, the unintended nightmare side effect of this was when I would check to see how things were in the ol' MLS - and see how the swapped out League 2 teams were doing...

This is where things changed. 

There they were, fake-EA years advanced where I, myself and the Columbus Crew, had climbed to the highest levels of European football - Northampton Town, Bury, Chesterfield, Shrewsbury Town and on - just sitting there. Stuck in a virtual MLS prison. Playing each other for eternity over and over. Nothing to climb, nothing to fall too. Just... there.

Not long after I experienced a similar emotional event playing Sega's Football Manager.

With this game, I found myself officially reviewing it for a site for another MLS outlet. Of course, I had to play as an MLS team, in MLS. It was a straight-laced, out of the box, play. Which was fine.

At the start, I had no problems. In fact, the experience helped in my understanding of the quirky league rules (salary caps, DPs, international slots, etc) and improved my writing. 

It was fun, that first season or two. However, a few virtual seasons on is where I ran into problems. Not with the game, mind you. It was MLS. 100% MLS. It became groundhog day. Same teams, battling it out, season after season. No real reward. No real failure. Things just clicked along. 

A familiar nightmare type feeling came over me. Just like when I sent history soaked League 2 sides to MLS with EA, I now felt like I was in an MLS prison. To put it another way, I felt like I was riding a never-ending merry-go-round when all the other kids were riding every other roller coaster in the amusement park.

After I finished the review of the game I decided to look for another job in the virtual world of Football Manager. Which I found. In the Vanarama Conference North.

I've never looked back.