Commissioner for a Day in Major League Soccer

Part of being an analyst includes asking questions…. it’s not just all about statistics.  With the advent of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement I felt this a worthy topic for your consideration.

Before doing so I first want to caveat everything offered with these sentiments.

There is NO question that the efforts, up to this point within Major League Soccer, have led to more folks better recognizing this beautiful sport.

The owners of Major League Soccer took a chance, a big chance, in investing their hard-earned money.

And, as time has passed, they “are” taking steps to further the advancement of soccer in this country.

But it is time for change.  In no particular order here are some questions I would offer, as Commissioner today, if I were sitting at the head of the table with all the current MLS owners in front of me.

  • Do we need to institutionalize Free Agency?  Be it after seven, five or even three years of service, players within this League NEED to have the right to competitively bargain their skills within Major League Soccer.  How do we manage that?  If we don’t do this is there a risk that the players will strike?  And given that no other sporting franchise, anywhere in the United States, limits player movement like we do isn’t it likely the fans will support that strike?  Isn’t it time we created a Free Agency clause for players?
  • How can we better appreciate the activities on what the North American Soccer League can bring to the United States of America, and our product/service, when it comes to promoting and advancing this sport and, in-turn, what we provide our supporters?  Tell me why do we have such a conflict oriented relationship with NASL and can we fix that?
  • How can we seek out new ways to integrate all salient ownership bodies (inside and outside of NASL) so that Major League Soccer reaches an ideal membership of 40 teams; 20 East of the Mississippi, and 20 West of the Mississippi?
  • When we convert to 40, 1st Division teams, that gives us two Conferences, with 20 teams each that play a complete, symetrical schedule of 38 games.  Don’t you feel or think that the real value of a televised Playoff system emerges where one team is crowned as a ‘symetrical champion’ of a league that has 40 clubs?
  • How high should we raise the Salary Cap?  Don’t we need to increase the Salary Cap by a substantial margin in order for clubs to build a competitive ‘team’ that doesn’t have to rely on just 2-3 players to be successful?  At the end of the day – Soccer is a team sport – the best team sport in the World – and while success can come from having one or two stars do we really want to try and convince our customers that we are doing our best to create the right conditions to field the best possible ‘teams’ to ensure competent competiveness?
  • Do we need to institutionalize that all profits a team generates through their own Academy systems are the profits of those teams and those teams only?  Isn’t it reasonable to assume that the greatest opportunity to generate the best profit margin is through the development of players that can 1) lead to championships or, 2) be loaned or traded/sold to another team?  Wouldn’t that really open the gates for advancement of soccer in this country while also helping us sustain and manage expenses?
  • Don’t we need to lift the lid on the number of International Players a team may own?  Doesn’t a lower limit of International Players hamstring our ability to compete with other Professional Soccer Leagues across the World?

Of course, I’m not imagining that all of these questions would ever be asked, but in order for an organization to improve, the intent and determination to ask tough questions is critical.  I think those questions are reasonable – what do you think?

In Closing:

If I were an owner, who had invested a considerable sum of money to create a sports franchise, that not only speaks to my own love of the sport but to that of others across this great country, then I think questions, tough questions, need to be asked on a regular basis in order to sustain improvement as this league matures.

By the way – would I, as an owner, really want to see potential owners, outside of MLS, purchase clubs overseas or would I want to see those same investors purchase clubs in MLS in this country?

Indeed, another example — Steve Ballmer just bought the Clippers for $2B – as an owner I have to ask myself this question – why didn’t Steve Ballmer consider purchasing a soccer club in MLS (at far less of a cost) than a franchise in the NBA?

Best, Chris

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