MLS

MLS 2.0 takes a big step toward 3.0

Major League Soccer changed last week in a big way.

Three major developments in just a few days represent the next major step in the progression of the league from 1996 novelty to 2020 major sports entity. Everyone is talking about them, but there are some key points still hovering beneath the surface.

MLS finally opens the floodgates for U.S. internationals

If teams want to sign a U.S. national team player and are willing to pay a high enough salary, they can now skip the allocation order.

Yes, for a first-year salary of $368,751 — or just $200,001 for a player under age 23 — you too can acquire a USMNT player without having to deal with that pesky allocation process.*

Don’t want to pay that much every year? That’s OK! Just front-load the contract with a designated player-level salary that first year, and then have the salary taper off to a more affordable level as the contract progresses. (Example: $370,000 for year 1, $270,000 for year 2, etc.)

Until Clint Dempsey’s signing, it was never clear that teams could avoid the allocation process for returning USMNT players by offering a DP-level contract. MLS cited the precedent of Claudio Reyna, the only American player to previously join the league as a designated player. (Freddy Adu joined Philadelphia through the allocation process and was not a DP upon signing, and Landon Donovan predated the DP rule.) But Reyna looked like a one-off case of a player with a pregnant wife wanting to return to his hometown, much like Jeff Parke did prior to this season when the Union acquired him from Seattle at a cut-rate price. Then again, Reyna’s one-off case also looked like a make-it-up-as-you-go rule, and in MLS, that’s another term for “precedent,” much like the DP rule was when David Beckham signed.

If any team should feel wronged, it is the Portland Timbers. Not only did they have the first spot in the allocation order this time around, but they lost the earlier chance to sign Mix Diskerud before this season in part because Diskerud did not feel comfortable with league rules.

Portland had to quietly trade to acquire Diskerud’s rights within MLS. Was he worth the $200,000 salary for a young DP? Definitely.

So why did Portland have to trade for his rights to begin with?

Did they know the Reyna precedent existed? Probably not. Nobody else knew. It’s certainly not in the published league roster rules. It looks like the league office had to figure out a precedent to justify Dempsey going to Seattle outside the allocation process, and Reyna was it.

Then again, the allocation process for returning USMNT players should be eliminated anyway. Top American players should be allowed to play where they want upon joining MLS. It makes them more likely to come home.

Thanks to the Reyna-Dempsey precedent, it should now be open season in MLS on U.S. national team players.

If Tim Howard wants to return stateside and play close to his hometown of North Brunswick, N.J., Philadelphia or the Red Bulls should feel comfortable knowing they can drop the cash to get him without having to bother with the allocation order.

Oguchi Onyewu? Maybe he is no longer DP level, but he could be for at least his first season for D.C. United, who possess one of the league’s worst back lines and would love to have the hometown guy. Cut the base salary and build in some performance and playing time incentives for his subsequent seasons, and you have the perfect acquisition.

Or if you really want to get excited, how about Terrence Boyd? A healthy Josh Gatt? Joe Corona? Diskerud?

Now, any team willing to drop the cash could theoretically get these young guys ready to make the leap. Not that they would necessarily sign. But each of these players would be worth the young DP price tag of $200,000-plus for their short-term impact and long-term value.

Unfortunately, this wouldn’t apply to Herculez Gomez, who would be a dream signing for Houston, Chivas USA, and most teams in the league. Too bad. That might have brought him home, and he has made clear he wants to come back to MLS for the right price if only Kansas City would surrender his rights.

Bottom line: The market for U.S. national team players has just drastically changed — provided this Reyna-Dempsey precedent truly is a fairly applied precedent.

Team values are increasing

The Columbus Crew just sold for $68 million. Yes, one of the league’s economically weakest clubs, with its bare bones stadium, weak brand name, and small market, fetched $68 million.

To put that sale in perspective, Sporting Kansas City sold for about $20 million in 2006, and the Chicago Fire sold for somewhere above $35 million in 2007. (The rights to New York City FC went for $100 million, and stadium construction costs will probably increase the new owners’ investment.) This clearly bodes well for the league.

What will Houston fetch when AEG finally sells it? Possibly $100 million, with its superior stadium, larger (and more Latino) market, and better team. What would Seattle be worth if sold today? How about the Los Angeles Galaxy?

MLS clubs are not yet on par with the other four major sports in terms of actual team worth. Every NFL, MLB and NBA team is worth more than $200 million. In the NHL, 19 of 30 clubs are worth more than $200 million. The lesser number of games in MLS likely has something to do with them still lagging behind the NBA and NHL, in which clubs play twice the home games that MLS teams do and therefore have increased ticket revenue.

Unlike those leagues, however, there is far bigger growth potential compared to where the league is now, as Anthony Precourt cited when he explained his purchase of Columbus. The league’s television exposure is growing slowly but surely thanks to NBC’s fantastic coverage, and the network’s new contract with the English Premier League could keep that ball rolling.

There is a market demand for good American soccer. If certain MLS ownership groups aren’t capable or willing to spend money to make money, then someone out there can eventually buy the team and do it instead. Yes, we’re looking at you, Philadelphia Union.

The next wave of MLS clubs

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Wednesday that the league will expand to 24 teams by 2020. That’s great news. Critics may question going over the 20-team limit that is standard in other nations’ soccer leagues, but this isn’t Europe or South America. It’s the United States (and Canada), and the geography, population and wealth are such that 24 — but no higher — is a good target number.*

If you’re going to peg that announcement to a 2020 deadline, you better already have at least two or three new cities in the bag.

Here are the favorites:

  1. Orlando looks like a sure thing.
  2. David Beckham is getting a club somewhere, probably Miami (though he ought to consider San Diego too, even with nearby Tijuana’s success).
  3. San Antonio should be right there with them. It is now the nation’s seventh largest city, half its population is Latino, it has just one major league sports club (the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs), and the second tier San Antonio Scorpions have been very successful and already have a stadium designed to expand to 18,000.
  4. St. Louis, Atlanta, the Twin Cities, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Detroit, Charlotte, Ottawa, Sacramento, and Raleigh/Durham should fight it out for the last spot. Each has drawbacks. St. Louis has yet to find an impressive enough ownership group. Atlanta doesn’t adequately support most of its other professional teams, much like Miami. Sacramento is too close to San Jose. The summer heat in Las Vegas and Phoenix is brutal, and the gambling ties should disqualify Vegas. Raleigh/Durham seems like a dark horse to like, with a good local soccer scene and only a hockey team with which to compete.*

A 24-team league works out perfectly for a 34-game schedule. Split the league into two 12-team conferences. Each team plays twice against teams within their conference and once against teams in the other conference.

Alternately, you could go with three divisions, in which each team plays their division rivals twice and all other teams once. That makes a 30-game schedule. But with MLS clubs relying so much on ticket revenue, they are unlikely to give up two home games per year. Finally, a four-division breakdown is also possible, but it doesn’t work out as neatly with scheduling and could be little more than a game of semantics if those four divisions are within two conferences.

Now, about the Union’s latest signing …

The Union’s recent acquisition of Gilberto Souza has been viewed by many Union observers as decidedly underwhelming. It should be.

The team and league have billed him as having “most recently played for Clube Atlético Sorocaba in the Campeonato Paulista, São Paolo’s highest division of professional soccer.”

São Paolo is a state (and city). This is not the national second or third division. Rather, it is basically like playing in the hypothetical Pennsylvania state tournament if it included Philadelphia Union, the Harrisburg City Islanders, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Reading United, Lehigh Valley United Sonic, and whoever else could play their way in. (That’s right, Casa Soccer League players, you too could play against the Union.)

Sure, these tournaments are a bigger deal in Brazil, but they’re still not close to the top level. They typically run from January through April, while the national league runs from May through December, which means you can get guys out of contract from a second division club (like Souza) to play for a lesser team. In the state tourneys, you can have a team like Santos (Neymar’s former team) playing an unknown club like Atlético Sorocaba.

In the end, whether Souza can play will be determined on an MLS field, not based on what his last club was. After all, Felipe was playing in Switzerland’s second division before showing he was a very good midfielder upon joining Montreal. Souza previously played for Atlético Mineiro, which just won the Copa Libertadores, and America Mineiro, who former Union midfielder Fred once played for (and who are, by the way, my favorite club outside the United States, even though they have been weak for decades).

But when you talk about signing a box-to-box midfielder instead of bringing back your popular, capable former captain to add depth at a position for which you have no true depth, then yeah, a guy from Brazil’s backwater likely making the league minimum salary is just a tad bit underwhelming. In fact, I bet some Union fans would find it flat out insulting.

Souza better bring some game.

57 Comments

  1. Hey, speaking of bypassing the allocation process for USMNT guys, and fixing our center-back depth, can we now bring back Michael Orozco Fiscal?

  2. WilkersonMcLaser says:

    Great piece. But this whole thing (and Souza is a part of this) goes back to my comment on being a marquee club. Philly is rapidly becoming a second-tier side in this new MLS. We’re rapidly arriving to a point — much like the Crew a few years ago — where the club’s reputation is running on the fumes of its mythical founding and a gem of a stadium in PPL Park.
    .
    To be sure, we’re not in Columbus Crew territory yet — or even Chicago Fire territory — but we’re drifting there as the bar keeps getting higher and higher. By 2010 standards, Philly is a top club: great park, strong supporters groups, regular sell-out games, Hugh Jackman, etc. But by 2013 standards, we’re slipping.
    .
    Our team may be able to grind out points, but it’s possibly one of the ugliest-playing teams in the league. We get decent turnout at games, but our songs and chants are stale and feeble compared to clubs from Cascadia, SKC, Montreal, and LA. Our PA announcer could be calling a little league baseball game. And perhaps worst of all, the U really have failed to catch on in the city the way it seems to be elsewhere. I see DCU shirts and jerseys ALL THE TIME in DC/NVA/SMD — I’m happy if I even see a Union hat on Walnut street during a warm spring day.
    .
    It’s not exactly dire yet, but we shouldn’t want it to get to that point. By the time NYC2 comes online, Philly risks looking very outdated unless some real changes are made. Am I alone in thinking this?

    • I respectfully disagree. The Union have been a second-tier club since 2010. NY and LA are first tier. Now Seattle have joined them.

      • I don’t think so. It seemed like early on the the MLS took a shine to the Union. We got the All Star game, it worked its magic to get us Freddy Adu, we were getting prime TV slots ect ect ect.
        Not it seems the MLS is moving on and leaving the Union behind.

      • In 2010, the Union was an *expansion* team, playing attractive football with a bright future to be a top club in the league — *now* we are the verge of becoming a second-tier side…

    • Dead on!

    • Ha actually I have a lot to say about this but I don’t feel like typing it out.

      But long story short is when your organization consciously or unconsciously drains all the enthusiasm out of your team and then tries to fill the hole with a juggling team, dollar hotdogs and the lottery, your ownership is shit.

      • Hey now, don’t bring dollar dogs into this. I was pleasantly surprised to see them on Saturday.

      • Look we all love dollar dogs, and i’m nit blaming the dollar dogs per se. I am just saying they make a poor substitute for a good culure.

        If we had the culture and dollar dogs everything would be great!

      • there was that one time with the dollar dogs, sieve, where i believe they ran out of unfrozen buns before halftime and told you they couldn’t sell you any…

      • I can never appreciate dollar dogs again, now that I learned Columbus has “Buck-a-Brat” and $1 Bud draft (ew, but still) on their dollar nights.

      • Oh I remember… Motherfuckers!

    • Was Hugh Jackman even thought to be associated with the team in any way back in 2010? I feel like I’ve only been hearing his name, and seeing him at PPL Park, for the past year or so.
      .
      Speaking of ownership, I posted this on BigSoccer and feel like I could share it here … questions were on Twitter about fans seeing Ed Snyder down at Seaport Drive a lot recently, and whether there could be a possibility of he/Comcast Spectacor buying (into) the team.

      • Hmmm… that would be interesting. I’d certainly love to see Comcast chase the jersey sponsorship if nothing else.
        .
        On the one hand, Ed Snyder has a solid, “Whatever the GM thinks it will take” approach to handling the Flyers. Trade your two superstars and sign a flake-job goalie? Go for it! Go all in and acquire the rights to a player who doesn’t want to play in Quebec? Go for it! The moves haven’t worked, but they’ve certainly made them.
        .
        On the other hand, though, we have the Sixers. I know the NBA is a way different game from the NHL, given the bizarre salary cap rules, “expiring contracts” being an asset, etc. But Eddie didn’t do a whole lot to fix the Sixers. You can argue drafting Iverson was a great move, and signing Larry Brown to coach was a solid move. Beyond that, they did nothing, and have been wallowing ever since.
        .
        So while I’m pretty sure I would welcome Comcast or Ed buying – or buying into – the team, it might be a “be careful what you wish for” sort of scenario.

      • It seems to be the only way out of the mess that the Sugarman’s have created.

        They wern’t true players in any meaningful sense of the word. And while they had a full scumbag developer bag of tricks to juice through the building a team every subsequent action shows pretty much how small time they really are. (I mean who builds a 126 million dollar stadium and doesn’t pave the parking lot.Who fields a team without a full coaching staff)
        So now they are stuck with a stadium in the burbs that is breaking even, that won’t be profitable unless they expand. But they can’t afford to expand on their own and they can’t afford to field a team that would make expansion worth while.
        BTW I would love to be in the room when they ask Chester for public funds to expand their 5 year old stadium.
        Comcast would seem like a logical way out especially if the Sugarmans are looking to cut their losses and leave.

      • I think Comcast would be great for the Union. This team must clean house Starting with the owners down to the coach. We need real soccer people running this organization. Could we start a writing campaign? At least it would get the attention of the current ownership and let them know we mean business.

      • Comcast money would be great, of course. But it would still be dependent on finding quality front office people. Ed Snyder seems to hire good GMs for the Flyers, but he hired crappy GMs for the Sixers. So I can’t really say what his track record is when it comes to putting the right execs in charge.
        .
        Still, I’ll take it and take my chances. Allow me to be the first to welcome our new Comcast overlords to PPL Park…

    • Just wanted to throw in that DC United fans/support have 15 years on the Union. Not a fair comparison in hoping to see Union gear everywhere. It will come.

      • WilkersonMcLaser says:

        Would you have felt better if I had brought up the expansion sides in Cascadia or Canada instead? And DC, though one of the sick men of the league right now, appears on the verge of revitalization with their stronger play and stadium plans. Sorry, but while having more time in the league certainly helps, it’s nowhere near an excuse.

      • How about the DCU fans that jumped ship for the Union back in 2008? 😉

    • Ian Conklin says:

      I completely agree with Wilkerson that since 2010 the Union have drastically fell behind. Looking at what Novak was able to destroy because he was given the freedom to do whatever he wanted points to the real issue with the club. The #1 issue with the Union is the Ownership group.

      Keystone Sports and Entertainment is a group of bored wealthy business people who were strong-armed (by the MLS) into becoming the entity that will fund the Philadelphia Union. The Ownership Group didn’t find the MLS\Union, the MLS found them.

      These owners do not know their asshole from the ear-hole when it comes to anything related to football (soocer). Hence, they bring on Nick Sakiewicz so he can “steer” the ship and bring an onus to their endeavor of owning an MLS franchise. This fact sheds light onto so many issues that the Union fans have:

      Q: Why build a stadium in Chester, where public transportation is non-existent, the area is a demilitarized zone, and the best income generator is a casino and a prison?

      A: It was Cheap!!! The land was bought for pennies on the dollar from PECO compared to building the stadium in the Navy Yard or North East Philly, which fetches a premium due to all the amenities (public transportation, Restaurants, Hotels, a casino, all the other sports complexes and facilities).

      A huge missed opportunity was not building the stadium in the city whether in the North East or in South Philly. But that is what small minded “bean counting” mentality gets you. Sure you have a great looking stadium in what is the “Dresden” of South East Pennsylvania. Has anyone learned anything by looking at NY REDBULL? Lets build a great soccer specific stadium in HARRISON, NJ where most fans would need between 2-4 train changes just to get to it, and if you ever drove it, you already know you’d rather take a bullet than drive it again. But the Union Ownership “Know Better” and took the “if you build it, they will come” stance. Yea it has “worked” so far because the team isn’t even 5yrs old yet, and still a novelty.

      Moreover, The “Board” that runs this sinking ship also believes the club do not need marquee DP signings, and it’s better to trade your best players away, then in a year, try and get transfers for them back. (Cough:: LeToux and Califf)

      How to fix the Union?

      1.) Give people a real reason to come to Chester cause there is NO REASON TO COME TO CHESTER other than the Union. So if the Union begin to turn into ChivasUSA, guess what will be empty?
      2.) New Ownership NEEDS TO HAPPEN. Take the next 3-5 years to find those people and Do Damage Control until then.
      3.) MOVE THE STADIUM INTO THE CITY LIMITS by 2020 and use PPL Park as the Training Facility for the Union (Why Not? The new Ownership Group you strategically set after should have deep pockets) [COUGH:: Yankees + ManCity] Think Big, I am sure there are people that would love to own a Philadelphia Sports Team IN PHILADELPHIA
      4.) Sign a True Marquee Player that can be the FACE of the Franchise
      5.) Sons of Ben need to re-organize and not be the Vet 700 Level goons they currently are. Take a look at the Timbers Army (They are what you should want to be and Out-Do) It’s Time for the SoBs to NUT UP or SHUT UP

    • I almost completely agree, but please take Kansas City out of the creative fan culture list. SKC is completely overrated. Every game that I watch of theirs, I hear the same ol’ chants and songs that most everyone else sings, plus team anthems lifted from specific clubs (Take ‘Em All comes to mind). Respect to the 3,000 who showed up for Wiz games. Everyone else in KC comes for the idiotic European nickname and the snazzy light blue uniforms. They ARE sharp, I must say.

  3. The Pennsylvania Tournament sounds like a winner. When does it start?

  4. Great work by Dan. Always one of the better writers to cover the U and MLS. Keep up the great work.

  5. I have my doubts about the expansion. And reminds me somewhat of the NHL’s recent bout of over extending its self? But it seems the league who as much as 6 months ago was promising to take a breather after they got a New York team is charging headlong into creating new teams.

    Will this dilute the talent pool? remember the meat and potatoes of the league will be American payers.

    Will this kill parity? The Dempsey signing gave parity a sucking chest wound, expansion might shoot it in the head.

    Can Florida sustain a MLS franchise? 2 franchises? really?

    San Diego has a horrible track record with franchises and the community actually shows some backbone when owners asking for public financing for stadiums.

    Will they go back to putting franchises where there is an actual groundswell of support? (Orlando)

    Or where some rich dude wants to make his summer home? (New York, Miami)

    How long can the league keep smaller market owners happy while it moves heaven and earth to help its favorite markets?

    It seems like the league might be a bit addicted to the large infusions of cash franchise fees bring and there may be a reckoning in store for headlong expansion.

    • if the goal is “putting franchises where there is actual groundswell of support,” they should put the next four teams in Vancouver, Portland, and two in Seattle

    • I have some of those same questions. I actually cut them from this piece because it was getting too long and unwieldy. What I cut was this:

      While I think 24 is a good target number, I’m not sure it was a good idea to set a deadline for it. What happens if you don’t hit 24 in time? Will you force it and end up with a bad expansion situation?

      I get why Garber did it. It sends a message to the players union that there will be more jobs coming, and the CBA expires next year. It also sends a message to TV stations that the league’s national footprint will get bigger and push into more media markets.

      The thing is, I only see two markets I think are very likely successes: Orlando and San Antonio. No other markets really inspire confidence right now that they will consistently draw 20,000 fans a game, which is what you want at this point.

      But Beckham has his guarantee, and most presume he will go for a glamor city like Miami. (I add San Diego because I think it also fits.) While it has a huge Latino population and could be a soccer boom town if things are done exactly right, I don’t think Miami is good for pro sports — period. (It would fare better in a August-May season, without games in high summer heat.) San Diego would have been great 5 years ago, but Tijuana has gotten really popular and will cut into that soccer fan populace.

  6. I really believe that this will be a make it or break it off season for the Union. The FO needs to prove to the fans that they will do what it takes to put a team that can win it all on the field. If it’s more cut rate “trust us” kinds of signings they could really lose whatever fans they haven’t driven off already

  7. PhillyandBCEagles says:

    Quick note–Raleigh does have a major league team, the Hurricanes (unless you’re not counting the NHL as “major league”, but in that case Columbus is bigger than Raleigh and also doesn’t have a major league team). I live in NC and was there for a midweek game last year, maybe 12k in attendance at least half of whom were Flyers fans.

    That said, with regards to expansion, I think there are actually 5 spots available given the good possibility Chivas will move. IMO San Diego would make a lot of sense as a place to move/rebrand Chivas but for an actual expansion team there are several better options.

    IMO you need at least one team in Florida–Tampa is the best pro sports town in the state (not saying a lot), Orlando has the USL factor, and Miami has the Beckham factor, so any of the three would work–one in the south (either Atlanta or my personal favorite dark horse, Nashville–Florida/Texas/DC don’t count and a NC team would barely count), and one in St. Louis. The last 1-2 are wild cards.

    • Oversight on the Hurricanes. Corrected. Thanks!

      Good point, re: Chivas. Garber says they’re not moving anyone, but I think they should.

    • For the last 1-2 spots, why not just make the NASL teams play for it? I know we’ll never have promotion/relegation in the MLS, but why not a one-time, one-shot promotion?

  8. How do I know the Union and their fans have a “small market” mentality? Because hardly anyone raised a peep about the Dempsey signing. We can’t even imagine our cheapskate owners paying legit $ for a legit star player. Instead, we are bargain bin shoppers, which sometimes works (Casey), but usually doesn’t (every other signing in the last two years).

    I’m still waiting for someone to shed some light on Sugarman, the rest of the owners, and wtf are they doing to make the Union a winning team?

    • I complained about it right away and even mentioned it to a few people at the game in suits with green tags around their necks. none of them said boo. I do agree that the answer everyone around me gave was we don’t have that dough. I mentioned that it appears the 9 million is being covered by mls and he will pay for himself with shirts and sponsors etc.

  9. This post been updated. I added +1 to each dollar figure in the 4th paragraph. (This was mere semantics, but it was distracting from the larger point, as brought up in a Twitter conversation, so I figured I’d eliminate the semantics.)

  10. I think everyone that says that MLS should expand here or go there because there is a lot of support/fanbase etc are missing the point. The first thing that is needed are rich, committed owners (did I say rich). The first thing a rich owner (probably got that way because they can do sums) will look at is their return on investment. Where is that going to occur? Where there are supporters and a fan base. So if you have a city with a large fanbase and no rich guys, MLS is not going to gift you a MLS team. Just not going to happen.

  11. Can you have a salary that would be DP year one and taper into not DP numbers? I thought in MLS player’s salaries went up at least 5% every year. The only cases that I’ve heard where someone was listed as a DP and then a non DP is where a transfer fee counted towards the players salary, or when a player reworks/extends his contract like Shalrie Joseph did.

    • It’s a hypothetical. Throughout N. American pro sports, teams structure contracts in all sorts of creative ways.

  12. Great article. The biggest problem is the Hercules Gomez situation. The guy has been out of the league for about 5 years and KC still owns his rights?? That is far more ridiculous than what’s going on with Dempsey because it is PREVENTING a talented USMNT player from joining the league. Mix Diskerud had issues with league rules as well.
    .
    These are two guys who could potentially be a part of next year’s World Cup squad. Having them in MLS would be a great asset, especially if one of them makes an impact at the World Cup.
    .
    As the USMNT has a higher profile in the sporting landscape, it’s going to be important for MLS to make sure at least a handful of these players are in the league. It’s going to be difficult to do so with the current rules.

    • WilkersonMcLaser says:

      Wait, doesn’t that mean that after 5 years Herc’s rights with SKC will have expired?

    • Jim Presti says:

      I’m pretty patient with most of MLS’s rules and regulations regarding the cap, allocation process, transfers, etc. BUT a single team holding rights to a player is mind boggling to me. It just keeps players out of the league [Herc] or turns into a 3 ring circus [Rogers]. A player signs with the league but his rights shouldn’t be a tradeable asset, especially when there are processes in place for players returning to the MLS.

  13. Glad i’m not the only one with one eye on the FO. Our current FO will never sign someone of that stature. I made a joke to a friend about someone should buy Roony and Bradley in 3 years. They’d solve some of the U’s problems for sure, but we’re stuck with the sad reality that those kinds of players will never play for our club unless a new ownership comes in.

    I’m not advocating jumping ship, i’m fully committed to this club, but the supporters and this area deserve much better. This club already has a great history and great supporters, now it needs great owners. I’ll gladly thank the guys who worked to get us here, but thier time is almost up. They need to man up and start doing this right or move on and let someone who is ready and wants to.

    We either fade into obscurity like Chivas or rise into prominence like SKC and portland. Here’s to hoping we’re a top 10 club in 2020.

    • From a pure investment standpoint, I sometimes try to work out what the best case scenario is for the Union FO to sell. Do you hold on until the league is at 24 teams and the value of existing teams goes up in the eyes of prospective buyers. Probably doesn’t do Philly any good from a value standpoint that there are teams that could purchased for less money. I’m looking at you Chiva/NE or even you Colorado/Dallas. Though both Chivas and NE would require investment in a new stadium. Do you sell nearer term for less than the 100 million NYFC just paid, but probably more than the Crew just sold for. Would that be adequate compensation? Probably not considering you got an expensive stadium to pay for. Or do you ask for more than NYFC paid knowing you have a stadium to offer. Who knows what NYFC is going to spend to get a stadium in NY proper. Why do I do these what ifs? Because I get the feeling that the Union FO is just looking at the team as a startup investment and they will look to cash out sooner rather than later.

  14. Great piece as always, Dan. I have been frustrated about the obscure loopholes, hidden terms and veil of secrecy behind the league, however, I do see the reason for it.
    .
    MLS is clearly doing a good job of creating parity in league while still allowing star power to play a role. By tinkering behind the scenes, they have effectively grown the league slow and steady and avoided a repeat of the Cosmos NASL debacle of the late 70s.
    .
    MLS is one of, if not the most competitive league in the world in terms of parity-and this is not by accident. As much as I hate the arbitrary nature of their dealings, I much prefer the result to the alternative we’re witnessing in Europe where cash is king.
    .
    If you put the Union into that type of a system, we would be bottom of the table within a few short years as the NY’s, LA’s (and Seattles) spend their way to an unreachable class.

  15. I thought this was a really great article, particularly the point about DPs. One quibble. Using the list of cities by population from wikipedia to rank potential markets is kind of problematic. In that list, populations are only considered within those city boundaries. So suburbs, surrounding areas, etc. don’t get listed. This leads to some strange results, like San Antonio being considered larger than Boston, Atlanta, Dallas and Washington DC to name a few. It also puts a few cities like El Paso way higher than they should be. I tend to like the core-based statistical rankings:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Core_Based_Statistical_Areas

    In these, San Antonio is still pretty high up there (and growing super-fast!), but it’s not one of the top ten markets in the United States.

    • That’s true! I absolutely cherry-picked that stat over yours to make my case stronger. 😉

      In truth, the city size is important, but you’re right, the overall metro market size is slightly more important. San Antonio is the 25th biggest metro market in the U.S., slotted between Portland at 24 and Orlando at 26. It’s the largest metro market with just one major league team (unless I’ve missed one, which is possible, since I just did a quick skim).

      As you can probably tell, I see lots of potential for markets like these, which are growing cities but don’t have many major league teams. I think it can be tough (but not impossible) to break into crowded sports marketplaces like Chicago, Dallas, Denver, New York, and Philadelphia. But look at Salt Lake and Portland. And neither is as demographically Latino as San Antonio or Orlando.

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