Wednesday, October 14, 2020

MLS still lost in Development Woods

15 or so years ago MLS embarked on a journey to develop players itself instead of relying on college or ever-increasing expensive transfers for foreign lands. First with a Reserve League in the mid-aughts that got shuttered a few years later to - only rise again around 2011, before getting shut down yet again. 

I thought the 2011 version of the reserve league worked well for the Columbus Crew. It provided a needed competitive environment for a handful of players that helped take the team to the MLS finals in 2015.

After the 2nd fall of the MLS reserve league, the brain trust up in NY decided that every MLS should have a team playing in the USL. Be it a "II" or via affiliation. MLS boasted about how well this would work and required teams to participate. After a couple years most teams did have something. Others, like the Crew, not so much.

With the recent formation of "MLS Next," the league is now altering the plan yet again. It doesn't appear MLS is requiring its members to set up a reserve team (which is already morphing into a U23 team), but it is paving the road. Looks like they'll plop it in the 3rd tier on the busted up US Soccer pyramid.


MLS sees all other soccer in the US and abroad as competition. They will use the other domestic leagues when they have to, but ultimately, MLS wants them gone. With transfer demand for US-based players at a high, MLS is doing everything they can to make sure none of that money slips through their hands.

Imagine, if you will... a player in the USL with no affiliation to MLS transferring for a Pulisic or Davies type fee. This means a windfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, all at once. It would and could change the landscape of soccer in the United States in a matter of just a few years. Fees are one of the major (if not THE major) sources of revenue in the rest of the world.

On the whole, MLS teams DO NOT MAKE MONEY. The missing ingredient in the financial success of MLS is transfer fees and TV deals. They have neither. Gate, merch, sponsorships, and property are just enough for teams to scratch by. 

MLS needs transfer money and they sure as hell don't want to pay transfer money to the USL or any other league in the US.

Anyway, that is why they are doing this. 

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