Thursday, February 23, 2017

An all important first step

This week USSF Board Members and USASA President John Motta was a guest on the always great Flakoglost Podcast ...

Why is this a big deal?

This is the first time ever a sitting USSF Board of Directors member and national sanctioning body President has spoken up about actively working to create an Open Pyramid structure featuring #ProRelForUSA in any form.

This is a seminal moment for the movement.

Let this interview's contents sink in for a moment... a USSF Board member... the President of all sanctioned amateur soccer in the United States...  actively working on creating a structured Division 4, Division 5, and Division 6 in the United States that will feature Promotion and Relegation and going on record about it.

Today is a big day.

I feel more hopeful about the future of soccer in the United States than I have at any point in the last few years.

It may not be exactly the plan you want to hear...  but at least we know the conversations are being had and the subsequent steps are being taken to build the base of a true national pyramid.

Thank you John ... American soccer fans hope you succeed with this all important first step. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What happens when they stand up for themselves?

The MLSPU did not do a good job standing up to MLS for its players... we all know this.

What happens when MLS players finally get fed up with the system and its machinations? What happens when USL and NASL players get fed up with the fact that they cant advance to the top levels of the game in the United States the same way players in the rest of the world can?

What happens when the players decide enough is enough... and walk out. At every level. At once.

The next level of the American Soccer Wars begins... 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Why can't we sign this player again?

This wonderfully constructed flowchart by Sports Illustrated's Alexander Abnos of MLS player acquisition rules has been quite the talk of the soccer social media-sphere the last couple of days.

Stu Holden brought up a great question... why can't MLS teams just sign the players they want?

Well, it is a pretty simple answer really. Because MLS teams are not separate free market entities when it comes to players contracts. All player contracts are owned by the league.

These two objectives—free market competition and single-entity—are basically diametrically opposed. Single-entity status allows MLS to fix salaries league-wide by centralizing all contracts. When an MLS player signs a deal, it's between the league and the player, rather than between the player and a team. This means there is no real intra-league competition between teams in signing players, since all MLS teams are actually shared arms of a larger body. You sign your original contract with MLS, and then you play where MLS tells you, or else leave the league. That has been the extent of player movement.

Billy Haisley has done a great job explaining why true Free Agency and open player acquisition rules can not exist within the MLS Single Entity Structure.

Why would the league want to do that? is the next logical question.

Pretty simple answer here too... to keep domestic player salaries as low as possible for profit maximization purposes. If there is no competition for players between the teams then the player has no leverage when it comes time to negotiate a new contract.

Is this legal?

Many say that this single entity structure exists on shaky ground. Including Elizabeth Cotignola (Follow her on Twitter HERE) in her great pre-MLS CBA ratification article.

Evidence that the entities have engaged in any sort of competition indicates that there is more than a single entity involved, capable of an agreement or conspiracy for the purposes of Section 1. If the defendants can be deemed to be competitors, their action cannot be guided by a common conscience, and the single-entity exemption is inapplicable.

In modern-day MLS, the league’s investor-operators do indeed have divergent interests. Their teams are separate entities of independent economic value. This was true even when Fraser was decided, of course, but the disparities are noticeably more prevalent now than they were then. This difference in value is the result of many different factors – marketing, broadcast rights, corporate sponsors, stadia, the ever-important results, and so on and so forth but few would argue that the Designated Player is not paramount among these.

 You can also read more about the MLS Single Entity structure in this great primer HERE.

We also still have not had clarification on whether MLS's single entity structure violates the new FIFA 3rd Party Ownership rules. 

So this is where we as a soccer nation stand today. The US Soccer Federation allowing MLS owners to conspire with each other to keep domestic players salaries as low as possible and likely breaking anti-trust laws while doing so.

Speak up and speak out for change at the USSF level ... use the #ProRelForUSA hashtag on social media and let others know you are ready for change!

Does U.S. Soccer’s League Set-up Violate FIFA Rules?

A very balanced must read piece by Terence D. Brennan (give him a well deserved follow on Twitter HERE) on the legal issues surrounding the current set up of the professional league system in the United States.

The vast majority of countries operate their soccer leagues through promotion and relegation. This means that the leagues are stratified, and clubs can rise to higher leagues or fall to lower ones based on their results. Each spring, it makes for an exciting scene, as teams at the bottom of the standings fight to avoid the drop and teams at the top fight for passage into a higher division.

This system is not a mere gimmick. Indeed, FIFA has enshrined promotion and relegation in its rules. That is, FIFA statutes mandate that “entitlement to take part in a domestic championship shall” be determined by promotion or relegation based on “sporting merit.” And soccer’s world body has defended the concept with vigor, lauding it as the “very essence of football.”


Monday, February 6, 2017

Did Garber lie to the media?

This quote from MLS Commissioner Don Garber in Vancouver today has been quite the topic of conversation on social media.

On its face that is a pretty damning statement without any other context. Don Garber admitting to favoritism for some teams at the expense of others. Pair this with two decades of MLS saying that it did not do this...

In context it seems to get even worse... LISTEN TO ENTIRE INTERVIEW HERE

Because according to ESPNFC as recently as LAST season this would be a lie...

As we discussed in THIS ARTICLE the MLS has (against their own published rules) subsidized at least Steven Gerrards 2015/16 Designated Player contract at the expense of signing the best young talent in the US to MLS contracts.

I know I find it worrisome that a USSF Board member would show favoritism to some teams over others in his capacity as Commissioner of MLS and to double down with what on its face appears to be a lie to the media about the continuation of this practice... is even more of an issue.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Beware of promises that can not be kept

This past week we saw MLS expansion applications submitted by 12 investment groups. Investors and politicians are now engaging in negotiations about city/county/state funds being used for infrastructure, upgrades to stadiums, and new stadiums daily.

Obviously these elected officials are doing their due diligence and researching the viability of all of the proposals being put forth to them. There is one very major item they must take in to account... MLS can not in any way shape or form guarantee that this club will always be a 1st Division club.

MLS does not posses the final say whether the pyramid of American soccer remains closed and what its structure will look like in the future.

As the national and world regulatory bodies behind soccer, at any point in time the USSF or FIFA can step in and mandate structural change to the American soccer landscape.

If our community leaders are being promised permanency for the current system by these investors, MLS, or USSF... we have larger problems in US soccer than too many investors wanting in MLS.