Skip to content

Free Robbie Rogers! Why MLS roster policies discourage returning U.S. internationals from signing up

May 1, 2013, 10:45 AM EDT

FILE: Footballer Robbie Rogers Reveals He Is Gay As He Announces Retirement MK Dons v Stevenage - npower League One Getty Images

Assuming Robbie Rogers can get his soccer performance sorted out, how great would it be to have this guy back in MLS? Not just for reasons of establishing greater inclusiveness, but because the league needs all the quality it can get, and American-born quality is a ginormous bonus.

How about Herculez Gomez? He’s a proven goal scorer and a U.S. national team leader. Every MLS club could use more of that.

There are about a dozen well-known former MLS men in Europe or Mexico who might, now or later, favor a second go-round in U.S. Soccer’s top tier league. But a big obstacle stands in the way, and that’s a shame.

Yesterday’s news of Rogers potential return to soccer might – and really should – shine a new light on some restrictive MLS player policies, especially as they pertain to U.S. internationals.

Rogers is training with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Good on him. He’s presumably got plenty of good soccer in him, and the league needs as many high-quality Americans as possible. Throw in the broader message of MLS embracing cultural diversity and this is a “win, win, win.”

But there’s a problem: Chicago holds Rogers’ rights. And Fire manager Frank Klopas has reiterated his desire to make the former U.S. international be part of his roster; Goal.com’s Kyle McCarthy writes extensively on that one here. That makes Rogers hostage to the Fire and the league’s player acquisition quirks.

In this case, Rogers is not subject to Major League Soccer’s allocation rules – but the effect is the same.

Returning U.S. internationals have a tougher time getting back into MLS due to the league’s roster rules.  Herculez Gomez is going through something just like this: He is making noise about returning to MLS, and says it might be sooner rather than later. But Sporting Kansas City still holds his right.

Want Gomez? Call Peter Vermes and start the wheeling and dealing.

But Gomez and Rogers may have more control over their MLS destination than guys like Brad Friedel or Carlos Boganegra, whose MLS rights are currently not held. A potential MLS return means moving through the allocation system. So they have no idea where they might land; depends on who is up on Major League Soccer’s allocation ranking.

The allocation rules are there for a reason: they help distribute the top talent, theoretically ensuring that every man worthy of the U.S. national team pool doesn’t decide to play for New York, Los Angeles, Seattle or one of the next clubs along the list of desirables.

But the law of unintended consequences kicks in, and the net-out here is that a Tim Howard (some day), a Bocanegra, a Gomez or even a Rogers has a harder time convincing himself to get back into the league.

Given the lack of choices and greater control, they may just “punt,” which means signing up for another overseas hitch (or another contract in Mexico.)

And then Major League Soccer loses.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS All Stars 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Kaka powers MLS to win

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:15 PM EDT

    2015 AT&T Major League Soccer All-Star game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 29, 2015 in Commerce City, Colorado. Getty Images

    Kaka and David Villa scored for the All Stars, which built on last year’s 2-1 win against Bayern Munich.

  2. Manchester United 0-2 PSG: Early goals lead French champs past Red Devils

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:09 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - JULY 29:  Phil Jones and Bastian Schweinsteiger of Manchester United in action with  Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint Germain during the International Champions Cup 2015 match between Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain at Soldier Field on July 29, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Halftime substitutions including Andreas Pereira gave some life to United, but the Red Devils still couldn’t find the back of the net.

  3. WATCH: Carli Lloyd with another screamer, this time in NWSL play

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT

    LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 236 -- Pictured: Carlie Lloyd of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Champion U.S. Women's National Team, during an interview on July 27, 2015 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images) Getty Images

    The 86th minute tally came moments after FCKC had drawn level at 2-2.

  4. Jaime Penedo and L.A. Galaxy surprisingly decide to call it quits

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo #18 of the Los Angeles Galaxy makes a save in the second half of regulation time during 2014 MLS Cup at StubHub Center on December 7, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Galaxy defeated the Revolution 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Could this be on account of overseas interest, or is he just ready to go closer to home?

  5. UEFA Champions League wrap: Celtic escapes through Boyata; Ajax draws

    Jul 29, 2015, 7:14 PM EDT

    GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 29:  Dedryck  Boyata of Celtic scores against FK Qarabag during the UEFA Champions League Third Qualifying Round 1st Leg match between Celtic and FK Qarabag at Celtic Park on July 29, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Azerbaijani champions nearly walked out of Celtic Park with a deadlock, but Boyata’s second goal in as many games did the trick.

  6. Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea’s John Terry joins Rog and Davo

    Jul 29, 2015, 6:18 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo pod from Chelsea vs. Barcelona at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. Chelsea captain John Terry guests.

  7. Swiss star Barnetta moves to MLS; Orlando City signs a pair of Europeans

    Jul 29, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT

    philadelphiaunion.com philadelphiaunion.com

    Tranquillo Barnetta is set to join Maurice Edu in the Philadelphia Union’s engine room, as the 30-year-old Bundesliga veteran makes his move on a free transfer.

  8. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Manchester City

    Jul 29, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT

    manchester-city-fc-logo

    How different will City’s lineup look at the end of August? It’s hard to project anything without that knowledge, but we’ll make an attempt.

  9. Hull City loses a pair of valuable players to the Premier League

    Jul 29, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Hull City v Norwich City - Premier League Getty Images

    Robbie Brady and James Chester are leaving the Championship side for new homes back in England’s top flight.

  10. VIDEO: PST Extra – What should we expect from the Premier League’s promoted three?

    Jul 29, 2015, 2:16 PM EDT

    NorwichCity Getty Images

    JPW discusses the chances that Norwich City, Bournemouth, and Watford have of staying up next season.

  11. Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny officially off to Roma on season-long loan

    Jul 29, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT

    Szczesny Getty Images

    After losing his place at The Emirates last year, the 25-year-old will take a crack at proving himself again in Italy.

  12. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Liverpool

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

    LiverpoolLogo

    Can Rodgers and the Reds bounce back to finish in the top four and win some silverware this season? His job might depend on it.

  13. Jose Mourinho hits back at Rafael Benitez’s wife; he “destroyed” Inter Milan, needs new diet

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v Chelsea Getty Images

    Mr. Mourinho and Mrs. Benitez are having a verbal battle via the press. This will not end well.

  14. Chelsea issue injury update on Gary Cahill and Diego Costa

    Jul 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    FBL-USA-ICCUP-CHELSEA-BARCELONA FBL-USA-ICCUP-CHELSEA-BARCELONA

    Mourinho suffers two injuries to key players in Chelsea’s final game of U.S. tour.

  15. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Leicester City

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT

    Leicester City logo

    Ranieri has a big job on his hands to keep the Foxes out of the relegation zone. Can he succeed at the KP?

  16. Michel Platini announces he will run for FIFA presidency

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT

    Legendary French midfielder is red-hot favorite to replace Blatter.

  17. Chelsea 2-2 Barcelona: Good-looking goals to spare in Maryland (video)

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT

    LANDOVER, MD - JULY 28: Luis Suarez #9 of Barcelona battles with Kurt Zouma #5 of Chelsea in the first half during the International Champions Cup North America at FedExField on July 28, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Close to 80,000 saw Barcelona move to 1-2 in three ICC matches. Barca finishes off its tourney vs. Fiorentina in Florence on Aug. 2.

Featured video

Analyzing PL clubs in the transfer window