MLS Continues to Spend Millions to Bring in New Stars

Major League Soccer has celebrated its 20th year of existence by signing some its biggest stars. The 2015 campaign has brought in the likes of Spain’s David Villa, Brazil’s Kaka, Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco, and England’s Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Most recently, MLS has signed Italy’s Andrea Pirlo and Spanish defenders Andoni Iraola and Angelino to expansion NYCFC. The latest rumors have MLS signing Mexican internationals Giovani dos Santos and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.chicharitoh

Dos Santos, 26, and Chicharito, 27, have been linked to the LA Galaxy and expansion Orlando City, respectively. Many serious futbol fans squawk at Dos Santos and Chicharito leaving Europe in the prime of their careers to sign with a “retirement league” as MLS is often referred due to their history of signing international stars at the end of their careers.

At the time of Giovinco’s signing, I wrote that the 28 year old was the first international star signed to MLS in his prime and hoped that would pave the way for more signings of players still in the prime of their careers. Giovinco had fallen out of favor with Italian club Juventus and was signed to a record seven million contract with MLS and assigned to Toronto FC. His salary has since been surpassed by Pirlo who signed for 8 million.

Chicharito and his agent are seeking a contract making 10 million per season. He played the 2014-2015 season with Real Madrid on loan from Manchester United where he was the first Mexican player ever to play for the Red Devils. Chicharito had fallen out of favor with United and hoped Real Madrid would revive his career as the loan gave Madrid the option of making the loan permanent after the season. Things did not go as planned for Chicharito with Real Madrid as he scored 9 goals in 33 appearances mostly off the bench. Hence, at the conclusion of the season, Real Madrid returned Hernandez to United where he has not received any offers during the summer transfer window.

MLS is now willing to pay Chicharito his 10 million dollar request in hopes of luring him to become the new face of the league. Not having any other offers, Chicharito and his agent will be meeting soon with MLS representatives and Orlando City to see if he will bring his talent to the states.

I love the moves MLS is making bringing in so many international stars, but I also see two issues. One, MLS should not allow teams to sign too many stars whose salaries do not count against the cap. For example, MLS really seems to be giving NYCFC a huge push by allowing them to have Villa, Pirlo, Lampard, Angelino, and Iraola not to mention U.S. international Mix Diskerud who came to the league this season. There doesn’t seem to be equity in players who do not count against the cap. Is MLS trying to have NYCFC become the New York Cosmos of the old NASL? When was the last time you heard a huge star assigned to Colorado, Columbus, Chicago, or even D.C. United?

Secondly, MLS must stop expansion for a few years. I know the expansion fee to join MLS was 100 million this season which is a huge reason so many international stars are being signed. However, there are just too many teams in the league to fill each roster with six to seven international stars making in excess of 6 million per season. MLS is comprised of 20 teams and is expanding to 24 within the next few years although that number can easily rise. With more teams comes more players needed to suit up.

Ideally, I would like to see MLS with 18 strong teams and combine with the new NASL to create a Premier and First Division. MLS would be the Premier League with the NASL serving as the First Division. The bottom three teams in MLS would get relegated while the top two teams in the NASL would be promoted. The next four teams in the NASL would have a playoff with the winner moving into the third spot in MLS as is done in England. This would create a vested interest for teams in both leagues to remain competitive. The USL Pro could also become a second division league with relegation and promotion working the same as it does between premier and first division.

The NASL only has 11 teams so teams who join through expansion would start in their league and not MLS. The USL is currently at 24 teams so at least five of those teams could move up to the NASL if a true promotion/relegation system were to be instituted by the professional soccer leagues in the United States.

And that’s as I see it!

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