Friday, February 26, 2010

Fake Sigi: Paranoider Than I Thought

Fake Sigi has a new post detailing his own theories about why Canadians want MLS' single-entity to be loosened.  For a guy (or gal) who writes fairly frequently about paranoid conspiracy theories, Sig's post sounded...a little paranoid.

First of all, Fake Sigi points out the USA has a bigger talent pool (in part from a markedly better development scheme, but also in part because of a 10-1 difference in population):
The reality is that the USA has developed a deep enough talent pool to be able to stock a rapidly expanding MLS even when a number of high quality players are plying their trade overseas. Canada has the players, but its resident teams must expend much more capital to bring them back into the fold. Their domestic development model has resulted in too few players of varying quality mostly being dispatched to Europe, while being somewhat incompatible with the larger, stable development model and top level soccer structure of the United States. Like we've seen with Toronto FC, the Canadian MLS teams will get stocked with Americans and other internationals, and without sound management, will struggle to be successful on the field.
This paragraph doesn't make much sense.  Currently, TFC enjoys an exception to the international rule to make up for a lack of top flight-ready Canadian talent. Sigi quotes the exception and says it's a form of subsidization.  But "international" really means "American."  We are allotted 13 international slots as opposed to the rest of MLS which gets 8.  Yet five of those have to be American, so we're stuck with the same 8 "internationals" as well.

"But you get five Americans!  You don't have to rely on Canadian players!  It's not fair!"  Welcome to the world of Canadian professional sports. Just like we don't force the Americans to fill their NHL teams with domestic players, the MLB doesn't force the Blue Jays to buy Canadians.  It's been that way for some time. 

It comes down to money.  TFC pays the same amount for players as any other MLS club, we live under the same cap, we get the same allocations and DPs.  We used a DP for Rosario and De Guzman, but that was up to Mo Johnston.  There were less expensive options to fill the five Canadian slots, but he got a two-time MLS MVP and a former Deportivo La Coruna player instead.    

In any case, FS' conspiratorial view—that Canadian bloggers want the single-entity rules changed and the cap loosened is so we can buy back expensive Canadian footballers in Europe to fill the domestic rosters—is one I've never heard before. If the other clubs get the domestic roster exception, the total number of Canadian players required to fill three Canadian MLS rosters is twenty-one.  Is the only way for Canadian MLS teams to compete with their twenty-one Canadians in MLS and not "struggle for success on the field" is if we buy one of these guys?  Is that really why Duane wants single-entity to change?  I somehow doubt it.

TFC might have sucked, but RSL finished one point ahead of TFC in the league standings this year and won the MLS Cup, so I'm not really sure where this "struggling to be successful" comes in.  In any case, MLS can only be good for Canadian soccer in that it will encourage us to develop better players to fill the domestic rosters.  But league parity in MLS is such that it's not the case that we have to break the bank on Canadians playing in Europe to compete.  And the sort of changes Duane is advocating would take some of that competitive parity away.

Honestly, Sig, Dan, Bill, whoever: the reason I suspect many prominent Canadian soccer fans want changes to the MLS single-entity is because they think the quality of play could be better if the league spent more.  Why are they so obsessed with getting better players in MLS?  Probably because while MLS was born, became the status quo, and slowly and carefully grew, Canadians were watching international club soccer on basic cable for the last fifteen years and kind of got used to the standard.  Perhaps they suspect lots more people would watch soccer if it were a whole lot better.

Maybe they're naive.  Maybe Kenn Tomasch is right, and the sort of money we'd need to spend to see a qualitative difference in play would bankrupt the league.  I don't know.  But I know it's not because we want our European soccer-playing Canadians back.  If anything we want them to stay there so our national team might beat Honduras one of these days.   

Update:  Upon completing this, I read this comment from a familiar twitter pal on FS's post.  It bears re-posting here:

I want soccer to be a success in North America for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to become successful in the business of the game as a coach (civic pride, love of the forgotten game, pent up anger that I was never identified as a soccer head in my youth, are others), however, I see a big problem looming. The greatness of the biggest leagues in the world, which, to me, is always going to be the biggest source of domestic (North American) fandom is in the order of things. A multiple layered system of leagues which rewards consistency and demotes indifference will eventually cause MLS to crack on some level. The very insistence of commentators to stay on top of the USL, NASL saga is the boldest example of this desire. The people mentioned in this article are far more informed than I about these subjects and so I apologize for "sheep"ishly coming here to comment, but, I can say this MLS is not the answer, nor are seperate US and Canadian leagues, nor is just selling out the franchise owners who've brought soccer this far since 94.

Maybe instead of goonishly bitching back and forth at one another (Hi Duane!, Hi Soucie!) it would be of benefit to admit that it is far more important to continue to attract new soccer heads to the plight of the game in North America and hope that someone out there, with the gumption, can rise above all of the bullshit to truly lead us forward despite all of the roadblocks, pitfalls of our systems, geographical near-impossibilites, and cultural rants we insist on allowing to defer progress at this most basic level. Blind Love of the Game.



Fake Sigi said...


I'm not sure how you read my post as paranoid. I'm simply trying to put the issues with the Whitecaps residency program into the larger discussion Canadian bloggers have been having about MLS, and see if I can make some sense of it.

And certainly, buying back expensive Canadians is not the only way to success. But there've very few non-expensive Canadians, and I think it increases competitive pressure on TFC. Which I believe in turn fuels the desire for less restrictive rosters. Which will only get worse once Vancouver enters the league.

Also, I commented on Ben Knight's blog (and should probably comment on my own post) that MLS is notorious for tilting the playing field anyway toward certain teams. Outrage at LA and NY has been routine among other fans. So it's not like TFC is all that unique in getting special treatment.


Kenn Tomasch said...

I, for one, welcome our new Canadian overlords.

That said, this made me chuckle:

"The very insistence of commentators to stay on top of the USL, NASL saga is the boldest example of this desire."

(This desire, apparently, being the open pyramid, pro/rel nonsense that isn't being held down by The Man so much as SIMPLE FREAKING ECONOMICS.)

But, no. The "commentators" who have stayed on top of the USL/NASL saga number, as I see it, about two:

1 - Kartik Krishnaiyer, who was in the pocket (and later, on the payroll) of one of the two entities.
2 - His buddy Brian from Minnesota.

That's it. That's the list. Pretty much.

It's safe to say that the USL/NASL/USSF2 sturm und drang over the winter was written about more this winter than almost anything that's ever gone on at the second division level since the days of "If you're not going to let Rochester in, why even HAVE an MLS?"

But that's largely because of the drama, the uncertainty, the systemic boredom of the MLS off-season and the need for bloggers to fill a vacuum.

It's certainly NOT because there's this grassroots movement (like that bullshit moron) afoot to have a system with true movement up and down the pyramid like In The Rest Of The World (TM).

Fake Sigi said...

Don't forget about Tom Timmerman and Jeff Di Veronica. But that's about it.


Brad said...

No, there is no grassroots movement to have there be a traditional pro/rel system in North America. It's being floated by the people who are most vocal, and passionate, about the game at all levels, not just in their backyard.

Pro/Reg will make the league less financially stable from top to bottom because there will be multiple entities in multiple organizations based on their performance. Simple numbers mean there's more risk. Teams all over the country will be able to aspire to greatness in the top flight not simply by wining and dining Don Garber and paying a fee, but, by assembling a team befitting a championship run at their current level to hoist them into the top flight.

These are not bad things unless you live in a city where there is currently an MLS team which underachieves and/or has less than perfect footie business practices.

And, also... when the hell is there going to be a meaningful Cup competition in North America unless the lower divisions do get the kind of coverage that having a Kartik or "friend Brian" to muse on the future of leagues equally as important to the future of soccer in NA as MLS.

Voyageurs Cup, as flawed as it is, at least pays homage to the lineage of the game which MLS does so much to negate. said...

Just because you can't accept that there is a grassroots movement don't make it so.

Heard a rumor that was being bashed in here - but I guess it's just being discounted.

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