Catch 22 For MLS

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The topic of today's blog came from Vinicius Dos Santos who is the author of our Brazilian Box Midfield book and DVD.

Vinicius makes the point that if the MLS is to get stronger, it needs to sign higher quality players.  But the only high quality players it can find are overseas players.  Which begs the question, "Is this good for American Soccer in general?"

Let's examine this.

First, there is no doubt the MLS is getting stronger.  The level of play and players is higher than 10 years ago and five years ago. A few yeas ago the league brought in the "Beckham Rule" where a team can sign a high salaried player that doesn't count again the salary cap.  The New York Red Bulls are setting the bar higher with the signings of players like Angel and just recently, Thierry Henry.  So, although there is still a long way to go, it's hard to argue that the MLS is not getting stronger.

But to continue that growth and to continue to get stronger, more high level players need to be brought into the league.  It's a hard fact to swallow for most Americans but, there just aren't more high level home grown players around to fill the league.  Yes, there are some players like Dempsey, who play overseas, but not enough of them.  So the only way the league can go, is to sign higher quality overseas players.

This brings in a number of issues.

First, these higher quality players will want to be paid their market value.  Can the MLS afford this?  Will this push the MLS the way of the NASL...into bankruptcy?  I doubt it will ever get to that point.  The MLS is scared to death of making the same mistakes as the NASL and is much more fiscally responsible.

Second, if more roster spots are taken by overseas players, that means less opportunity for young American players.  It is argued that the England National team has been negatively impacted by all the overseas players in the EPL taking away opportunities from England's young players and the same could happen here.

Third, will higher quality overseas players even come to the MLS?  Let's face it, most of the top overseas players in the MLS have come here to end their careers.  Beckham and Henry are good examples.  Would a good player who was say...26 years old, come to the MLS?  My guess is that if that any player that is involved with his country's national team, would not come to the MLS.  Why?  The MLS isn't a strong enough league for that player to get the intense competition he needs.  Beckham is a good example.  He was told, if he wanted to compete for a spot on the England team, he would need to play in Europe.  And this is why he spent time on loan from LA Galaxy to AC Milan.

So, for a number of reasons, it looks like a catch 22 situation for the MLS.  Just food for thought.

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