Well Caps fans, our long nightmare is over. No longer do we have to endure good things happening to both Seattle and Toronto at once. Indeed, Seattle Sounders’ 3-1 trouncing Toronto FC (despite being the lesser team for long chunks of the match) probably made some certain TSN commentators rather sad and also brought the end of another MLS Cup season so we can all devote our energy and focus to Whitecaps silly season—how fun!
This time of the year also brings the annual ritual of Don Garber saying wildly optimistic things about the state of MLS. He did not disappoint this year”
“[MLS] has transformed from a league on the rise to a league that has arrived as one of the great major leagues in our country, existing as one of the top leagues in the world,” he said during his annual state of the league address prior to MLS Cup.
I mean I get it, its not like Garber can waltz up there and say “yeah, I mean I know we want to continue bringing in expansion interest but really this league is no better off than the Eredivisie.” Or, more accurately, “not that much changed this season.”
Am I the only one to feel like this past season was a rather stagnant one for the league as a whole? Maybe its existential ennui at the state of the Caps but after a couple season which promised entry into “MLS 5.0” (or is it 6.0, I lose track these days), this year just kind of fell flat.
Sure, we saw what may be the most dominant team in league history, an epic playoffs fueled by the transition to single-game elimination model and the entry of players like Christian Pavon, Brian Rodriguez and Alejandro Pozuelo without anyone really batting an eye. FC Cincinnati, despite its on the pitch struggled, were immensely popular in their debut season and a new soccer-specific-stadium opened in Minnesota to buttress that team’s successful season.
But on the converse, TV ratings continue to suck, only rebounding for the latter stages of the playoffs, franchises like Houston, FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids continue to struggle in getting people in their shiny stadiums and we’re stuck in what is seemingly round 445 of MLS expansion talk—despite the fact that Garber and Co. can’t even fix the franchises they already have.
Now, real change could be prompted this offseason, with MLS players saying they are prepared to go on strike if the demands of the Players’ Association are not met. Those include a higher minimum salary, such that players are paid a livable wages in cities like Vancouver or LA, which rank among the most expensive in the world. It would likely include an end to the charter flight policy, relaxing the rules with respect to free agency and (most ambitiously) eliminating the Designated Player rule, along with TAM, GAM and, probably, WHAM!
Whether all these things will come to fruition or not remains to be seen. But it is deeply ironic that the PA is showing more initiative for MLS becoming a “league that has arrived” than the MLS league brass are. No top league in the world pays its players well under $100,000 a year. Similarly, no one has as draconian of travel policies. And it is the PA which is pushing for the step of eliminating the roster rules that are probably holding the league back from competing with better European leagues, even if it would nuke parity in MLS.
“Again, if I’m an owner I’m into that. Why wouldn’t I want my players compensated so that they can perform at their best and travel the way they should, and why wouldn’t I want the ability to sign as many good players as I can in an open market?” Atlanta United midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told reporters.
If MLS can find a way to keep the peace with the players union and achieve those goals I think this column will be a bit more optimistic next season.
Oh and before the links: Today is Veterans’ Day here in the U.S. and Remembrance Day around the globe. A thank you to all who have served or are serving our country around the world—hopefully today can be taken as a small token of appreciation.
And despite whatever Don Cherry says, immigrants are patriotic, as are those who choose not to wear a poppy or wave flags.
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