Skip to content

Major League Soccer IS a seller’s league … and that’s OK

Mar 1, 2013, 8:30 AM EDT

Beyond Sport United Hosts "Sports Teams For Social Change" Getty Images

As soon as the words left MLS commissioner Don Garber’s mouth, I could feel the temperature rising in some domestic soccer supporter corners.

Meanwhile, his words were a soothing balm to others. It all helps demonstrate an ongoing conflict in the minds of some supporters: is Major League Soccer as a so-called “seller’s league” acceptable?

During his Google+ Hangout address on Wednesday, Garber said he wanted Major League Soccer to be a “destination” league. That is, he wants players landing in MLS to settle in, cozy with the knowledge that they have arrived at the promised land of a soccer career.

But we know better. Money is still better in Mexico, Europe and elsewhere, decidedly and measurably so in some cases.

So my question is this: Why isn’t that OK? Why is that anathema in some corners of the U.S. soccer supporters collective? Is being a “feeder” league to associations that have a 100-year head start, where soccer is so faithfully entwined in the culture, such a repulsive thing?

In the case of an MLS executive, I can see where it might be considered impolitic to say otherwise. But supporters? The Dutch Eredivisie is a technically strong, mid-level European league; aren’t we all excited to see Jozy Altidore excel there? The Eredivisie is certainly a seller’s league.

The real rock and hard place here is that supporters are divided – sometimes even within themselves. In some corners, we want MLS to mature, to evolve out of this position as a holding ground until something better comes along. (That’s hard to accept in a land where ambition was always a bedrock virtue.)

But in some corners, we get all twisted in an angry knot if MLS deciders don’t let the best young American stars go find their betters selves abroad.

“We don’t MLS to be a seller’s league!”

“But, uh … hurry up and sell that guy to the English club!”

What Garber (pictured above) said:

I’ve said this since I’ve became commissioner. If it were up to me, if this was a perfect world where everything was under my control, and no commissioner ever controls everything, we would never sell a player.

Part of our goal is to be that league of destination, so that the issue is how to manage all the players who want to come in. But that’s not the reality, players do come and go. The movement of players is part of any sport.”

Garber is a smart man. So, again, perhaps he is just saying what he must. Problem is, fans hear the words from on high and get on board.

Garber and MLS must accept the reality: until TV money arrives at a point where it becomes competitive with Mexico and the leader leagues in Europe, salaries will be similarly skewed. And until the domestic titles and trophies find the same level of reverence and relevance as UEFA Champions League and the championship targets of England, Spain, Germany, Italy, etc., it is the way it is.

And that’s OK. Major League Soccer now exists in the middle of the food chain, a place of destination for players from some countries and a feeder league for the world’s marquee associations.

It won’t always be that way – and the ambition to seek more is OK, too. But for now, it is what it is.

Latest Posts
  1. Mark Hughes signs contract extension with Stoke City through 2018

    Mar 27, 2015, 12:18 PM EDT

    Mark Hughes, Stoke City FC Getty Images

    Stoke City are on the verge of their first-ever top-10 finish in the Premier League, and Mark Hughes has been rewarded for his success.

  2. Juventus MF Claudio Marchisio tears ACL, will miss Champions League QF, 6-8 months

    Mar 27, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    Claudio Marchisio, Juventus FC Claudio Marchisio, Juventus FC

    Another bitter injury blow for Juventus, who now have just one fit, first-team central midfielder.

  3. Frank Lampard is in New York City to watch NYCFC play this weekend

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    Frank Lampard, Manchester City FC Getty Images

    Lampard is in the Big Apple, where he’ll spend time with his future teammates and watch them play Sporting KC.

  4. Eden Hazard says Chelsea’s Champions League exit was a “blessing in disguise”

    Mar 27, 2015, 8:25 AM EDT

    Eden Hazard, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    With a six-point lead in the league (and a game in hand), do Chelsea really need a “blessing in disguise” to win this year’s Premier League title?

  5. MLS preview: FC Dallas vs. Sounders, Whitecaps vs. Timbers headline Week 4

    Mar 27, 2015, 8:03 AM EDT

    Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders FC Getty Images

    A star-depleted (international duty) Week 4 of MLS should still provide lots of entertainment and quality.

  6. Scholes: Gareth Bale is a “perfect fit,” could lead Manchester United back to titles

    Mar 26, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur FC Getty Images

    If punditry doesn’t work for Scholes, sign him up as Man United’s top player recruiter. At least he aims high.

  7. WATCH: Time-lapse video of San Jose Earthquakes’ Avaya Stadium construction

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v San Jose Earthquakes Getty Images

    Watch in 90 seconds the construction of Avaya Stadium, from Day 1 to Game 1.

  8. International roundup: Neymar, Willian star as Brazil thump France, 3-1, in Paris

    Mar 26, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT

    Neymar, Brazil Neymar, Brazil

    Neymar is 23 years old, and he’s already scored 43 goals for Brazil. If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is.

  9. Report: Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge to miss a month with hip injury

    Mar 26, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool FC Getty Images

    Another month out for Sturridge, just when Liverpool’s top-four dreams rest on his shoulders the most.

  10. UEFA fines Malmo $110,000 for “poor pitch” in Champions League, but racism still only worth $11,000

    Mar 26, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT

    Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF

    You couldn’t get this one anymore wrong, UEFA. 10-times worse than racism? Not OK.

  11. Hope Solo says she entered therapy during 30-day suspension from USWNT

    Mar 26, 2015, 5:54 PM EDT

    Hope Solo, USWNT Hope Solo, USWNT

    Solo said her 30-day suspension was full of therapy, apologies to her teammates and getting herself right for this summer’s World Cup.

  12. EURO 2016 preview: Qualifying resumes for England, Spain, Germany, Italy

    Mar 26, 2015, 5:04 PM EDT

    EURO 2016 EURO 2016

    This weekend’s EURO 2016 qualifiers marks the halfway point of the group stage, which means it’s do-or-die time for a few hopefuls, and some giants.

  13. Soccer’s rich list: Jose Mourinho best paid coach, here’s the top 20

    Mar 26, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The “Special One” received a rather special amount of cash in 2014.

  14. Barcelona’s Xavi set to sign deal in Qatar; will not join New York City FC, MLS

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:42 PM EDT

    Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez ce Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez ce

    Xavi is heading to Qatar on a three-year deal, will get paid $11 million per season.

  15. Soccer’s rich list: Who are the top 20 highest earning players?

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Neymar Lionel Messi, Neymar

    Here’s a look at the players with the highest revenue in 2014.

  16. VIDEO: Watch Alexis Sanchez play the piano to John Legend song

    Mar 26, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    Sanchez piano

    When he’s not ripping apart Premier League defenses, Sanchez loves to unwind by tickling the ivory.

  17. Report: Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano interesting Liverpool, Arsenal

    Mar 26, 2015, 11:28 AM EDT

    Turkey v Brazil International friendly match Turkey v Brazil International friendly match

    Shakhtar’s star striker set to leave in December when his contract runs out.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment