First, go read Grant Wahl’s piece on how the Clint Dempsey to Seattle deal got done?
Good. Here’s the massive problem that the Clint Dempsey transfer has created.
In the Wahl piece, it says that MLS will pay for Dempsey’s transfer fee.
It would appear that based on that fact, MLS is now willing to pay the transfer fees for returning US national team players. Okay, that is something that, if reasonably well-executed, I could support.
But here’s the problem, the rule only appears to apply to those players big enough to demand DP-sized salaries - the kind that have to get approved by the league (really, the other owners). The other returning USMNT guys, the kinds of players that might not require DP-sized salaries, still have to go through allocation and, if required, would have their transfer fees paid by the teams themselves.
So if a less wealthy team like, say, Columbus wanted to go get a USMNT player that wasn’t a big-money, TV-needle-moving type like Jozy Altidore or Michael Bradley, it would have to both, deal assets to get atop the allocation order, and pay the transfer fee out of its own funds.
In essence, MLS is now willing to subsidize the transfer fees of its richest clubs, and explicitly deny that privilege to its less-rich clubs.
But really, it’s MLS saying “We’ll subsidize the guys who we want to put on national TV, but if you just want to sign a USMNT player to improve your team, you’re on your own.”
That, my friends, is a massively unfair advantage that the biggest clubs now have. Transfer fees (rather than wages) are the real delineator between haves and have-nots in soccer, and now MLS has made it clear, that with its national TV packages coming up for expiration, that it is willing to make the big clubs even bigger in the hopes that these increasingly “super” clubs can move some eyeballs away from the European leagues and towards MLS.
To we fans of the other teams in the league, I think the league has made its message clear.
We’re all the Washington Generals now.