Growing Pains

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Growing Pains

Brian Ames, Editor

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“Soccer: America’s sport of the future,” is the motto for The Men In Blazers. While said partly as a joke, it is actually true. The popularity of the sport has been and is rising in the United States. The MLS, Major League Soccer, has been around since 1996 after the US hosted the World Cup in 1994.  It wasn’t until the last decade when the league finally started to grab time on TV. The MLS is in a good spot right now but isn’t considered a top league. There are several rules and regulations in place that hold the MLS back from becoming more competitive in teams and in television rights.

Soccer: America’s sport of the future””

— Men In Blazers

The first two problems with the MLS are the salary cap and DP, designated player, rule.  The two go hand in hand in holding the league back from progressing. The salary cap holds teams from being able to offer competitive wages to foreign players who might cross the Atlantic and increase the level of soccer being played.  The designated player rule is a part of the salary cap.  It allows teams to acquire players they would have to break the salary cap for or have to pay a transfer fee.  A transfer is how a player changes clubs.  Unlike other sports where a team trades a player for a player, in soccer if a team wants a player they offer money.

You often hear of teams in Europe “producing” their own players.  All successful European clubs have an academy to recruit kids and train them until they are ready to become professionals.  Academies not only have rules in place to protect players but also provide an education and everything a player needs. Players coming from an academy isn’t exactly rare either. Manchester United has fielded a player from their academy in every game since 1992.  Lionel Messi has a god given talent but he was aided by La Masia, Barcelona’s academy.  

I could go on forever with different examples but the point is is that all of these successful clubs have academies that are always improving and always pushing the level of play up.  Most MLS teams lack a real academy.  FC Dallas is the exception.  With sites all around Texas, FC Dallas has been able to consolidate and produce competitive squads season after season where other teams have fallen after a good season.  

The salary cap and designated player rule hurt the MLS in so many ways.  Foreign players who would help raise the level of soccer being played in the United States find football clubs elsewhere.  Even though there are a lot of Americans playing in the MLS, they aren’t good enough. Clubs are forced to keep playing them and are content with their skills.  

A natural born player quota, which is in place in all leagues in the world, protects American players from being locked out of the league.  It also promotes teams to develop academies that will make better players.  The MLS is in a good place and in the last 20 years has made incredible progress, but with some of the current rules, MLS won’t be able to compete with foreign opponents and soccer will be nothing more than a sport for the future.