November 20, 2011 - "You are probably wondering why Mark Cuban would get involved in a soccer league. You should probably be wondering why I haven't got involved before. I actually started researching MLS expansion teams independently of Donald Trump. There is a list of about ten players who have a realistic chance at leading a team to the NBA trophy every year and every year Dirk Nowitzki falls farther down on that list. My chances of getting another player like that are slim and you could argue that the Mavericks and I have been deluding ourselves that Dirk was ever one of those players in the first place. This whole time we were the Reggie Miller and Patrick Ewing to Michael Jordan's Kobe Byrant. Once Dirk retires, well, just look at the Knicks and the Pacers right now. It's absolutely frightening, a nightmare if you will. At least Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki give their teams hope and a lot of fun during the regular season even if they are destined to never win anything. Imagine being a team lead by Danny Granger.
Since I like to win and I like to make money, I turned to the MLS. Let me emphasize that I walked in clueless. Once I saw that the MLS is a single company that has the most bizarre rules for acquiring players and for the sale of merchandising, I didn't just walk away, I ran away. I'm still a little shaky but I believe even team general managers consult the league manual before approaching a player.
Take Jay DeMerit. I saw him play in the World Cup in 2010. He looks like a great player to my amateur eye. He was a free agent for the longest time and had interest from several MLS teams. He ended up signing with an English team in the January transfer window because of (L) in Section II - Methods of Player Acquisition and I quote:
In the event a U.S. National Team pool player playing abroad returns to the U.S. and there is interest from multiple MLS teams, preference will be given first to a team prepared to use an allocation. If there is more than one team prepared to use an allocation on a particular player, the current season's allocation rankings as determined by the MLS Competition Committee would be used. In the event no team is willing to use an allocation, the player will be assigned via waivers.
Does that even make sense? Why are there separate rules for players good enough to play on our United States National team? Shouldn't we be encouraging them to return to our country instead of setting up hurdles? Can you believe that is part L? There are rules A-M just for acquiring players. By the way, gotta love the header at the top of their list:
* The 2010 roster regulations are still being finalized by the MLS Competition Committee. The following information pertains to 2009 only and will be updated as soon as possible.
It's the end of the 2011 season people! The rules for 2010 haven't even been finalized? Poor website updates are another reason the MLS is highly vulnerable. Don't even get me started on their stats page. Enough from me, who has questions?"
"Bruce McGuire, du Nord - Can you expand on the player rules a little more? It seems like you have a lot of anger toward these rules."
"I'm a little hesitant to turn this into a rant... but then again there is no way I can get fined and most of you are shaking your heads like you want me to continue... all right here we go!
Each team is allotted eight (8) International slots, with the exception of Toronto FC who is allotted 13 International slots, five (5) of which may be used on domestic U.S. players. All International player slots are tradable, therefore a team may have more than or less than eight (8) International players on its roster.
Why 8 international slots? Why limit the slots at all? Some players make $40,000 a year. Are we really worried about an influx of international players will take those roster spots? The economy is bad, but it's not that bad. American talent has shown again and again that it can compete and out play many international players. That's not something MLS should even be worried about. The APL will look to provide the best team on the field - period. No other major sports league in America operates this way.
(B) DEVELOPMENTAL ROSTER
MLS teams shall not have more than four (4) Developmental players on their Developmental Roster at any time (unless a player is added as a disabled list replacement or season-ending injury replacement). Developmental players can be either Domestic or International and must be 25 years of age or younger during the calendar year of competition. These players do not count against a team's salary budget. They are signed to non-guaranteed contracts, and thus can be waived at any time. Teams are permitted an unlimited number of Developmental player signings during a given season to ensure all four Developmental Roster spots are occupied at any one time.
Generation adidas players and Domestic and International underclassmen form part of a team's Developmental Roster. They are acquired by MLS teams through the SuperDraft, Lottery, Discovery or waiver system (see below) if they join the League after the SuperDraft.
For 2009, if a team has more than four (4) Generation adidas players on its Developmental Roster, then the additional Generation adidas players would be grandfathered and count against a team's 20-player Senior Roster (with no budget charge).
How about if my developmental players are good and fans want to pay to see them play, I can play as many as I want? After some research I figured out what Generation adidas players are but they are never defined on that document. I guess that's what happens when you own the whole shop and there's no competition or any team looking to take advantage of incomplete rules. What owner would put millions of dollars into a team and then handcuff themselves like that? Read the whole list. Here are my thoughts.
(A) ALLOCATIONS - I promise you it won't make any sense and I dare you to explain it to me.
(B) DESIGNATED PLAYER - the APL will let you sign who you want for whatever you want.
(C) SUPERDRAFT - no other soccer league in the world has a draft. The APL certainly won't. If I want to sign a kid from Dallas and they want to stay home for their entire career, we can make it happen. No losing him to some team he doesn't want to play for making him more likely to leave for another country.
(D) TRADES - let me quote this one "Players, rights to sign players, SuperDraft picks, allocation money, allocation ranking, Designated Player slots and International player slots may all be acquired and exchanged in trades approved by the MLS League Office". Players and cash can be traded in the APL. Simplification is beautiful.
(E) DISCOVERY SIGNINGS - you discover player and you sign him. Why is this an entire paragraph that limits teams overall?
(F) DEVELOPMENTAL ROSTER SIGNINGS - these are unlimited. This might be the best one of the list.
(G) WAIVERS - should not exist. Will not exist in the APL.
(H) LOTTERY - no draft, we won't be needing this.
(I) EXTREME HARDSHIP CALL-UPS - "Teams may add players to their roster in cases of "extreme hardship" as follows: (1) a team has less than two available goalkeepers or (2) a team has less than 15 available players. Extreme hardship call-ups are made on a game-by-game basis" When would that ever happen? Have a complete team. Done. Don't have a stupid rule.
(J) SEASON-ENDING INJURY REPLACEMENTS - horribly written.
(K) SHORT-TERM INJURY REPLACEMENTS - overall these two are needed but they could be clarified. 6 game, 15 game, and 30 game disabled lists would work better under one clause.
(L) RETURNING U.S. NATIONAL TEAM POOL PLAYERS - already touched on. Might be the worst player acquisition rule in the world.
(M) HOME GROWN PLAYERS - are you in a team's academy? Yes? Than the APL team has your rights.
If I'm looking to start a brand with a soccer team, there is no way I'm going with the MLS. The limits they put on creating your own team is absolutely maddening."
"Martin Shatzer, Black and Red United - You talk about United States soccer players like they are falling from trees. If you want the best talent, shouldn't you attempt to work with the MLS instead of against it? Many critics will be quick to suggest that you are diluting the talent pool and both the MLS and the APL will suffer."
Let me tell you something, I go out and scout kids all the time for basketball. It's not that we can sign high school kids to a contract but I track high school prospects so I can understand which ones are really special. I also talk with scouts for Major League Baseball. After putting those two worlds together with soccer, I am amazed that Major League Soccer has done such a poor job of marketing soccer playing to more people - don't get me wrong. It's not about marketing soccer games, it's about marketing playing the game itself. College basketball is full of players that will never even get a whiff of the D-League let alone significant playing time at the NBA level. College baseball and minor league baseball have even more athletes that will never play professionally. The sad thing is a lot of it is determined by their height and weight. Most basketball and baseball scouts dismiss anyone that isn't at least 6'0 and 175. Even if some talented individuals that don't meet those specifications and are given the chance to excel, they do face the fact that the vast majority of successful players are that way.
On the other hand, many soccer players are under 6'0. Lionel Messi is 5'7 and considered to be the best player in the world. How many undersized point guards could have been great forwards in soccer? How many shortstops and center fielders had the speed and footwork but not the arm speed to hit a 90 mph fastball? Right now, no, there aren't enough soccer players. We at the APL think there are enough athletes out there in America to fill out a league. Right now the MLS is failing America quite frankly by not reaching out to these individuals enough. It's time for a new chapter in American soccer.
"Denz, RSL Soapbox - That is an interesting take on athletes in the United States of America. I can't say the Olympic medal totals disagree with you on the potential being there. On the other hand, can you explain how the MLS is failing America? That sounds like a very unfair complaint considering the fact that the USMNT has done exceedingly well with the MLS in place versus the past where the USMNT was not even a lock to make the final 32 World Cup teams."
"Solid points. Major League Soccer is doing a great job at stabilizing the system but it needs to realize that the car is ready to move into third gear while the league is coasting in second gear with no thought of shifting. Individual teams should be making the decisions on selling or buying players, not MLS itself. It is too limiting to the league's future and it is limiting its attractiveness to potential owners. Few sports owners would handcuff themselves so willingly even if it means less risk. I want more control over players and there should be a league wide effort to sell soccer to athletes as much as it is sold to potential audience. The slate should be wiped clean and a new league is forming. While on the topic of deep pockets, I'd like to introduce another APL owner, Warren Buffett."
Part 4 coming soon....