As many of his teams are fighting for a playoff berth back in the colonies, MLS Commissioner Don Garber is preaching the single-entity gospel to an assembly of world soccer's most notable leaders in London this week.
Garber traveled across the pond to share the successes of MLS with others in the hopes that European clubs will adopt cost-control measures (read: salary budget) on a wide scale. UEFA has already attempted to introduce a measure to limit spending to the amount of money generated by soccer-related activities by the 2012-13 season, but that is expected to somehow apply only to Champions League and Europa League play without affecting domestic competitions, according to English reports.
Considering the outlandish level of spending in the European game, leagues across Europe would be wise to heed Garber's message and adopt some measure to peg spending to turnover domestically. Ask Leeds United and Bradford City how a financial gamble to play on par with the big boys measures up over the long haul. In smaller leagues than the Premiership, clubs are teetering on the edge of insolvency due to crushing debt burdens and increasing financial commitments.
Although Garber's message deserves serious consideration, don't expect his clarion call to suddenly make the world's largest soccer clubs decide that cost-control and parity-seeking measures make sense for them. The biggest clubs may spend ridiculous sums of money, but they also tend to win more trophies. For many clubs, those championships matter far more than a black-filled ledger when money can be found by injecting capital or adding new revenue streams. Since the largest clubs also hold the largest sway, they would certainly find a way to emasculate any cost-control measure. If they couldn't, their lawyers could certainly raise persnickety and perhaps insurmountable questions of European law prior to a unilateral imposition of any wage ceiling or budget.
The biggest question surrounding the trip doesn't pertain to how Garber will be received (graciously) or how the European clubs will approach his message (curiously). Instead, the focus should be on what those European executives will impress upon Garber as MLS seeks to increase its footprint in the American consciousness.
In an ideal world, those executives will indicate to Garber that cost-control measures can only go so far without impacting the quality of play. While Garber and the MLS investor/operators made the concession to swap quality of play for cost control long ago to ensure the league's sustainability, that isn't a compromise most European clubs would embrace willingly. The most snide and frank of those evaluators would also note that many American soccer fans prefer European leagues because they haven't made those concessions and they deliver top-end matches and players.
With the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement looming at the end of the calendar year, there is no time like the present for Garber and MLS to reassess what sort of cost-control measures need to remain in place and what additional spending measures must be undertaken to improve the growth of the game domestically.
An objective look at MLS by external evaluators would reveal that rosters and foreign player slots almost certainly need to be expanded in order to avoid the downturn in match quality shown in the summer and fall months as the squads start to stretch to their breaking point. Expanding the rosters and the foreign player slots would make little sense without increasing the salary budget substantially for both high- and low-end players, though certainly not anywhere close to the precipice of financial disaster. Finding a way to make the Designated Player model work more smoothly within the current salary budget system might not be a bad idea either.
These ideas aren't novel ones to those in charge at MLS. Most of them will come to fruition in some manner as time progresses. Between now and then, Garber and MLS will continue to search for that happy medium between the cost-control measures it espouses to others and the developments it needs to continue to improve the standard of play on the field.
Chances are Garber won't find the middle ground in London, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't go and tout the league anyways.
Around The League
- FC Dallas and San Jose will square off tonight at Buck Shaw Stadium as each team tries to obtain the win it needs to keep its slender playoff hopes alive.
Andre Rocha | Reserve FCD midfielder will miss trip to San Jose through suspension
- FCD will go in search of its second win on the trot without Atiba Harris (yellow card accumulation) and Andre Rocha (red card in last Wednesday's 1-0 win over New England). Both players will serve a one-match ban against the Earthquakes.
- San Jose wishes it only had to deal with a pair of absences. Arturo Alvarez and Ramon Sanchez are off with El Salvador, Simon Elliott is with New Zealand for its playoff against Bahrain and Andre Luiz is out with a left knee sprain. Cornell Glen (right knee sprain) and Jason Hernandez (left hamstring strain) are listed as questionable, though Hernandez is expected to play.
- To underline the shortage of players available to Frank Yallop for Wednesday night's game, the former Canadian national team coach had 13 players (plus two spectators) on the field for training on Monday, according to Center Line Soccer
- Two statistical notes: the two teams have played to three consecutive draws and FCD hasn't won in San Jose since July 4, 2004 (or defeated them anywhere in the nine matches since).
- Because of the international fixture date this weekend, many players around MLS have left their clubs to link up with their national sides. With only three matches this weekend in addition to tonight's tilt, most clubs won't feel a thing. For the six clubs involved at the weekend, I'll deal with those absences in the Friday MLS Forecast.
- Toronto FC is expected to confirm today that Carl Robinson will miss the rest of the season due to a fractured cheekbone suffered in a collision with a trialist in Tuesday's training session, according to Kristian Jack of The Score.
- D.C. United goalkeeper Josh Wicks earned an additional four-match ban for his stomp on Seattle's Fredy Montero in United's 2-1 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final defeat to Sounders FC. Wicks will miss the next five Open Cup matches and cannot play in the 2010 competition proper. Wicks will be eligible to play in play-in matches because those matches are under MLS jurisdiction.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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