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Soccer

The Middle Class Player?

He starts by saying that "Those are the players MLS needs to keep or go out and get, the players who might be great stars one day, but right now are simply solid role players who increase the team competence on the field."  No one can argue with that statement, clearly any sports league needs a healthy mix of rookies, solid supporting players, and stars.  But then, he makes a statement that I just can’t process, and if you look closely, contradicts itself quite obviously.

MLS doesn’t need to pay them more money, but they do need to pay them just enough to keep them here, something they have yet to do as a corporate directive.

OK, so players are leaving because they can make more money overseas.  MLS needs to keep these players, presumably because they don’t pay them enough.  But to keep them the league "doesn’t need to pay them more money"?  Unless the league convinces the players to use some new sort of math where the difference between what they make here and what they could make elsewhere, which is negative, actually means they make more money – why should a player stay with MLS?  For the prestige and honor of playing in the Champions Cup, Interliga, and maybe the Copa Sudamericana?

It’s easy to spend other people’s money, particularly when they are billionaires who own sports teams.  What we are seeing this off-seasonare the effects of tensions that have been in the league putting the squeeze on the "Middle Class" player.  Because it IS happening more and also because the league is covered more in depth than it was just a few years ago.

Can we conclude that the MLS business plan is predicated on building a team based on a few star players, a sprinkling of supporting players, and a higher-than-most-of-us-would-like reliance on raw, young players?  I think so.  With the labor agreement in place through 2010 (Soccer Insider), the owners have little incentive to raise their labor costs across the board.  Of course, more money is coming into the league thanks to team operated stadiums, and TV rights fees. Come 2010, this could setup a tense negotiation of the next labor agreement, players will look to get a bigger share of, hopefully, a much bigger pie.  Until then, we’ll keep watching some players leave (Dempsey), others return (Reyna), and why some go play in the USL (Mctavish).