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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

An open letter to the MLS:

Over the past few years, I have become more and more of a soccer fan. I can admit, it was because I bought an old FIFA Street video game from the clearance section in GameStop, before I moved on to the official video game of FIFA. Since then, my love for the game of soccer has grown exponentially.

Growing up, I went to some New England Revolution games because my Dad worked for Adidas, and it was not very often that people would take the company tickets. What else would a dad with four kids do? It is free entertainment! However, I am more a fan of the Revolution now than I ever was when I actually went to games, and I am very excited about the addition of La Liga veteran, Carles Gil, to the roster.

I quickly latched on to Borussia Dortmund of the Bundesliga in Germany, because of young American phenom Christian Pulisic, even though he has now been transferred to Chelsea. I also gained a liking for Manchester United because of the flash and fun that Paul Pogba brings to the pitch. Who really caught my eye was Zlatan Ibrahimović. Can you blame me? The man compared himself to God while he was simultaneously being a world class forward playing next to Cavani at PSG.

When some more all-time greats started to come to the United States, it was only right for my love for Major League Soccer (MLS) to grow. Zlatan was in LA, following the likes of English legends David Beckham and Steven Gerrard. Bastian Schweinsteiger moved from Munich to Chicago, Tim Howard returned state side, and players like David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco came to North America in order to get a taste of North American soccer.

The MLS has been growing rapidly, and is becoming a major stepping stone in the world of soccer. Teams are getting more veterans to play here, as well as developing a lot more talent than they ever have before. I applaud the MLS, who just extended league Commissioner Don Garber’s contract through 2023.

Yet, there is a part of me on the inside that is screaming in frustration at the fact we are not keeping our best young players in the league. Tyler Adams was bought by Leipzig, Weston McKennie was bought by Schalke, Alphonso Davies has been playing at Bayern, and the best American goal keeper, 23-year old Zack Steffen, is on his way to Manchester City. How is it that the league is not holding on to any of these players?

In my opinion, there are two major issues at hand. The first is that MLS owners refuse to pay the top dollar that other leagues are willing to. These young stars deserve to be paid what they would overseas, and why wouldn’t they leave if they could be making three to five, or even ten times more playing in a better league?

The runner up for MLS MVP was Atlanta United attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron, who made about $37,000 per week in the MLS. As nice as that sounds to you and me, it would never be enough to keep Almiron in Major League Soccer. He was bought by Premier League side

Newcastle United, for an MLS record $27,000,000. He is making over $20,000 more per week, while getting moved to the best league in the world.

If we cannot pay the young stars, then the star power in the league will not be as big as it could potentially be. The other problem that I cannot get over in the MLS is the designated player rule. This only allows each team to have three designated player contracts which essentially says that each team can have three big contracts.

Now, another reason that Almiron made his move was that Atlanta signed Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez, reigning South American footballer of the year. This left Atlanta with four designated player contracts. A similar situation happened with the LA Galaxy, who recently had to cut Giovanni Dos Santos, because they have four designated player contracts.

This continues to leave me confused. My guess is that limiting the top players that each team can have is potentially supposed to start spreading the talent around in the MLS. Yet, there are 15-20 players on each of the top clubs in the world that would be the best player on different MLS clubs. Why is the MLS limiting its own growth, when none of the top five or six leagues in the world have rules like this?

Why would the league not let four very good players play on the same team in Atlanta or in Los Angeles? Why would the MLS not want Atlanta or LA to become the Real Madrid or Juventus of North America? It seems nothing more than foolish to me to not allow the teams to be the best that they can be.

I want nothing more than for the MLS to flourish, as the league is growing rapidly. There have been three new expansion teams in the past three years, and there are two more getting ready to launch in Nashville, TN and in Austin, TX over the next two years.

At the same time, there is not enough being done to make soccer one of the feature sports in the United States. It is sitting pretty behind football, basketball, baseball, and ice hockey. As the United States continually gets more and more diverse, the love for soccer grows, because it is and will continue to be the world-wide sport.

I want to personally challenge Don Garber and the rest of the MLS to eliminate the designated player contract rule, as well as encourage owners and team management to pay these players what they deserve to be paid. Let this league grow to its full potential, like it is desperately trying to.

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  • J

    Joe CamilleriMar 20, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Thank-you for this interesting article! It’s good to know I’m not the only soccer/MLS fan at WSU, though the team I support is Toronto FC. I agree with your points, and would like to add that MLS has been careful in not growing too quickly because overspending without enough revenue is what failed the previous professional league (NASL). MLS has been running a deficit since they started, and only recently are teams making money, particularly those who own their stadiums.

    My understanding is that there is a split among MLS team owners – those who want to spend more on quality players, and those who want to maintain the salary cap to ensure greater equality across teams. I truly believe MLS has the potential to be a top soccer league, and there are enough knowledgeable soccer fans in this country to get a very good following, but only if the quality on the pitch is also good. Your point, that spending on quality players, is the only way to achieve this. At the very least, MLS is moving in the right direction. Thanks again for the MLS content!

    • C

      Chandler HutchisonMar 22, 2019 at 11:02 am

      Love to hear from another MLS fan! And I do understand their strategy about not growing fast and overspending, but I think the league is at the point, where it is time to move away from that. Atlanta sells out 60,000 seats, DC sells out 20,000 and the list goes on. I think the US is ready to become a soccer country, and I wish that it was happening quicker.

      Thanks for the comment! Maybe you would like to write about Toronto post-Giovinco?