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The Dempsey Route: Allocation in focus, but another “rule change” a bigger issue for MLS

Aug 5, 2013, 9:40 PM EDT

Seattle Sounders Introduce Clint Dempsey Getty Images

People keep hitting their heads against the wall regarding Major League Soccer’s allocation order, insisting new  Sounder Clint Dempsey should have entered the league through that process, but as Seattle General Manager Adrian Hanauer reminded everybody at today’s press conference, there are a number of ways players can come into the league. You can be a Designated Player, allocated, discovered, drafted, homegrown, etc., but you can only enter through one avenue. That explanation is unlikely to win over those of a conspiratorial bent, but nothing ever does.

The funny part is: There is reason to be skeptical about how Dempsey landed in Seattle, and it has nothing to do with allocation or the applicability of the Claudio Reyna precedent. As reported this morning, Major League Soccer paid Dempsey’s transfer fee. All $9 million of it (though an MLS source disputed that characterization). Since when does the league do that?

In the abstract, it’s not a terrible idea. The league is a collective entity, after all, and if they decide there’s a certain class of player they want to, on a league level, facilitate bringing to Major League Soccer, that could help MLS meet its goals. You’d need mechanisms in place to make sure there’s a certain amount of equitableness to the process, but when a Dempsey-like player says he wants to come, it doesn’t seem like a bad thing to make that happen.

[MORE: How Dempsey’s deal came together.]

The problems come when you consider where. And why. And for how much. And at what cost to competitive balance. Do players just get to pick their team? Hanauer did mention the reality that top caliber players are going to want say in where they go, so perhaps that’s a formality. But what happens if the league office balks at a price a team thinks is reasonable? And if a player’s willing to go to a number of places, how does MLS decide which club to steer him toward? And what happens when other teams start speaking out, implicitly saying they disagree with taking money out of the coffers for a particular player?

Perhaps you could trust the league office to try to make those decisions from an objective, unbiased perspective — to decide when a best of game decision is worth making — but then you remember what happened with Mix Diskerud this winter, where reportedly there was a difference of opinion between the league office and the Portland Timbers about Diskerud as a Designated Player. The disagreement implicitly forced the Timbers to choose between the young U.S. international and Diego Valeri, Portland owner Merritt Paulson eventually said. The league’s objective, unbiased view differed with a club’s.

Two paragraphs ago, this sounded good in theory – a mechanism that could land more Dempsey-level players in North American shores. Practically, it’s a mess. That’s not to say a series of clear, objective guidelines couldn’t be laid out, criteria which would give general managers some idea of how the mechanism’s used. But as it was applied to the Dempsey situation, MLS’s decision to pay for a player is problematic.

[MORE: Dempsey introduced, but picture still cloudy around acquisition.]

That said, there’s only so much we can draw from this example. Dempsey’s circumstances are distinct. At most, you can have one U.S. Men’s National Team captain at a time, let alone somebody still in his prime, extremely popular, who is the country’s most accomplished player at club-level, can still command a mid-to-high seven-digit fee, and wants to come back. Throw out the captain detail, and you could see a Michael Bradley or Jozy Altidore qualifying for this Dempsey Route, but all you’d still need all the stars to align.

That doesn’t mean this Dempsey situation isn’t a problem. More than a few prominent people around Major League Soccer are unhappy with how this went down. Either Seattle can afford Dempsey on their own or they can’t, the thinking goes. While everybody agrees getting Dempsey back is great for the league, there are a lot of things that would be great that clubs just can’t afford. How did Dempsey-to-Seattle reach the point where this new precedent needed to be established? And if another team impact player identifies an MLS team he wants to join, will that club get the same consideration?

Of course not. That’s why the Dempsey deal will leave a bad taste in a lot of mouths. And that’s why, when the years go by and this Dempsey Route doesn’t get utilized again, teams won’t feel any better. That will only feed the perception that Seattle’s received some rare, unfair benefit.

It is important to maintain perspective here, though. Dempsey is a great player, but he’s just one guy. There are teams still capable of beating the Sounders. Seattle’s no lock to even make the playoffs. They’ve gained a competitive advantage here, but not an overwhelming one.

The bigger issue is the mechanism. It’s the decision-making process. It’s Major League Soccer reaching into the bank and buying something that’s going to disproportionately benefit one team. Focusing on allocation being bypassed (no true) or some other conflict in MLS’s rules misses the point, after today’s report. The issue is the Dempsey Route – something that can only improve one team at a time, and only when MLS decides to do it.

Yes, the whole league is better off today than it was on Friday, but it’s not unreasonable to ask why Seattle is getting something special; something they didn’t fully pay for.

  1. donjuego - Aug 5, 2013 at 10:38 PM

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Though I value integrity very highly. For that reason I don’t agree that the league is better off now. Not with Seattle’s, Garber’s and the league’s integrity in tatters.

    The price was not worth it. I, as a person who spend’s a lot of money on my team, am now subsidizing Seattle. That is just putrid management of the league and it disgusts me.

    • kirielson - Aug 5, 2013 at 10:42 PM

      I disagree. At the end of the day, if MLS does not get aggressive in trying to get talent, it’s going to be a waste.

      Literally, Beckham and getting his own team is probably worst than this. At the end of the day I applaud the league for getting him back. Trust me, the CBA, which is expiring in 2014, is probably going to get a major overhaul from the players.

      • freestateskc - Aug 5, 2013 at 10:56 PM

        Are they going to be aggressive to get talent for everybody or just a few teams?

      • donjuego - Aug 5, 2013 at 10:57 PM

        You miss the point. The issue is the league paying for CD’s transfer. Not all the crap your rambling about.

    • kirielson - Aug 5, 2013 at 11:14 PM

      @donjuego Yeah the league is paying for it because A) Dempsey will put more people in the seats B) Will start to assert that they are trying to go for greater and better talent. That and the fact that Omar is finally going to become a DP (one of the few times a player in MLS actually becomes a DP starting from scratch) shows that MLS wants to get better players.
      @freestateskc I think they will. I think however it will be a longer time than most people will say. Already we’ve been seeing multiple teams go after players and have expressed trying to get better CONCACAF players. The problem is the Discovery player issue which has hurt Houston when trying to get another player.

      That and the league owned contracts with players rights.

      • basedrum777 - Aug 6, 2013 at 10:37 AM

        To be fair wouldn’t it have made more sense if the league was paying the transfer fee to put CD on the worst team in the league?

    • americanarabist - Aug 7, 2013 at 1:08 AM

      Actually, Seattle has been subsidizing the other teams of the league since it entered MLS, as one of only a few teams that actually makes a profit. But supposing Dempsey is made available via MLS’ allocation order. Who is going to pay his salary demands? Not Portland, not Houston, not Dallas, not Chivas. Maybe LA, maybe NYRB (except Dempsey didn’t want to go to NY), but I think those teams have already reaped the benefits of their owners’ relationship with the MLS FO.

  2. kirielson - Aug 5, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    I’m actually okay with this as long as it means that we’re going to see the CBA change where allocation if off the table. As far as I’m concern, that’s the biggest issue with this whole mess. At the end of the day, Dempsey wanted to go to Houston, AEG (like the parent who only cares about their only son) didn’t want to pay for Dempsey for Houston or arguably LA, and NYRB didn’t get the chance to before Seattle.

    Portland was gunning for Mix and now that this scenario has occurred, I can now see them getting Mix and DP’ing him as long as the higher ups are okay, and after his stint with the Gold Cup, I’m pretty sure MLS are not gong to do a damn thing in terms of his conditions like last time.

  3. soccerinillinois - Aug 5, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    I’m afraid MLS has created two classes of teams (or maybe three), and as a fan of one in the lowest tier (Dallas), I cannot imagine a scenario in which the team I follow gets anything approaching this level of support from the league.
    I understand that you have fan bases and ownership in some cities ready to move up a rung or two on the world ladder and that you can’t hold everyone back because Dallas (or Columbus, Colorado, …) isn’t able to keep up. But this move amounts to tossing more dirt into the hole in which teams like Dallas exist _ not only are they at a competitive disadvantage, but the league is willing to put more money into one move to improve the Sounders than all of Dallas’ payroll.

    Related but not directly: I’d love to see one of you _ maybe Farley or Davis _ do some kind of serious analysis of why Dallas has fallen apart this season and how you think the team might find its way out of the wilderness. At this point, the championship appearance seems like nothing but a fluke. I’d say the same for the early run away from the pack this season. And there doesn’t appear to be much reason to believe the situation of the field improves under the current head coach and, perhaps, owner.

    • kirielson - Aug 5, 2013 at 11:26 PM

      To be fair on the second part, the West and East have been highly competitive this year. I mean Chicago and Revs are actually doing decent. I was thinking that all 3 Cascadia teams, and RSL were probably going to be locks with a toss up between LA, Rapids, and Dallas.

    • jbart65 - Aug 6, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      The MLS cannot create two different classes UNLESS a majority of owners agree. Remember, Garber does not own the league. He is subject to the control of the league’s owners. Clearly a majority favored the Dempsey deal and there must be some sort of understanding among them.

    • americanarabist - Aug 7, 2013 at 1:11 AM

      I would argue that your fan base and your owners have created two classes of teams. The owners for not being willing to invest in their teams, and the fans for not supporting them with butts in seats/merchandise sells. Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house.

      Regardless, MLS Cup has been won by plenty of teams that one might consider lower tier. Three DPs does not a team make.

  4. tylerbetts - Aug 5, 2013 at 11:12 PM

    You know who has to love this whining about Dempsey?

    L.A. Galaxy fans.

    Finally, the league is pulling strings, and bending rules, and creating new rules for a club. And it’s not their club. At least, that’s public perception.

    But, and I think this is the point buried but mentioned here, one player does not a team make. Getting Clint Dempsey, however they got him, does not make the Sounders unbeatable. It might not even make them the favorites, though I’ve already argued that Deuce better help them lift at least one MLS Cup.

    Smart team executives will find ways to compete even without the Dempseys of the world. Real Salt Lake has more trophies than Red Bull New York. Columbus, with Guillermo Barros Schelotto, one could argue (and I would) was more successful than L.A. Galaxy with David Beckham.

    Of course, the other point here … if you’re a fan outraged at how the league helped Seattle get Dempsey, or even an executive of another team angry at how the league helped Seattle get Dempsey, ask yourself this. Would you rather have a league where they pass on getting a Dempsey because they don’t want to shell out the money, or have a league where the single-entity structure means they invest league funds to bring that player on board?

    • kirielson - Aug 5, 2013 at 11:22 PM

      Thank you, I agree fully.

  5. mlsconvert88888 - Aug 6, 2013 at 12:35 AM

    Once I got over my jealousy that Clint Dempsey wasn’t on my team, I was actually kind of stoked on it. It’s good for the league and I am excited for the competition and the chance to beat Clint Dempsey.
    But the deal with the league paying the transfer fee just doesn’t sit right. Sure they’re raising the profile of the whole league, but this really mainly benefits a single franchise brand. What, if any, are the rules for this type of discretionary spending? It just feels like there’s no accountability, so maybe the cash will get spent around the league or maybe it won’t. I’m not gonna hold my breath.

  6. wfjackson3 - Aug 6, 2013 at 12:38 AM

    What about the notion that having Dempsey in the league could significantly impact TV ratings, which could up the amount that EVERY team takes home during the next TV contract negotiation? Sure, Dempsey has to go somewhere, but if they expect to make up the ROI across the entire league, then I am not totally pissed about it.

  7. reformed2012 - Aug 6, 2013 at 1:01 AM

    Until you see taxpayer-funded transfer like it is done in many other countries, stop whining and enjoy the show.

  8. reformed2012 - Aug 6, 2013 at 1:03 AM

    Also, expect to see more MLS-funded deal like this. Clint is just the appetizer. Something big is probably coming soon.

  9. P1s For Soccer Talk - Aug 6, 2013 at 1:21 AM

    If MLS is going to pay one team’s transfer fee, MLS should pay every team’s transfer fee. It’s only fair. Do it for everyone or don’t do it for anyone.

  10. player169 - Aug 6, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    Wfjackson +1.

    I’m sure there are some hidden legals that aren’t known or being reported correctly. You would think that the league would take a percentage of ticket sales/merchandise from Seattle until the 9 million is reimbursed…and then letting their league fees go back to pre-Dempsey levels.

    Overall , I’m glad it’s not LA and I think the league as a whole is going to benefit greatly from this move. If there is any fanbase that deserves a “treat”, it’s Seattle (coming from a KC fan). I hope this move will help attract more talent to come to MLS. All teams will benefit monetarily from this in the long run…

    • wfjackson3 - Aug 6, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      I hadn’t even considered that. Good point.

  11. saldivision - Aug 6, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    I’m fine with the league paying transfer fees but shouldn’t there be some sort of bidding system after that? Like each team names a price for the player who is eligible to sign a player?

  12. renhoekk2 - Aug 6, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    This is wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. If this happened in any other US sport where the league payed the bill for a star player to go to a certain team fans would be outraged. But for some reason since it’s MLS it’s OK. This would be like the NFL paying for Aaron Rodgers to move from Green Bay to Dallas because Jerry Jones was over the salary cap or didn’t have the $80M lying around. And saying it’s OK because Dallas hasn’t been to the super bowl in a long time and the league is better as a whole when the Cowboys are relevant and playing for super bowls.

    If the league wants pay for “Star” players to come into MLS and up it’s global image then it needs to be on a lottery/draft basis so everyone has the option of getting that player. Something like the NBA draft lottery where a teams chances are weighted based on record. If the players don’t like not knowing where they are going then too bad don’t come to MLS. If the league is footing the bill and not a particular team that’s the only fair way to do it.

    I just watched my last MLS game. Union losing to Fire. I can’t support a league that would do something like this. The league officials can’t play favorites and give one team a competitive advantage. That’s like the exact opposite of what league officials are entrusted to do. Isn’t that why they have a salary cap so everyone gets to spend the same amount? The whole MLS model is based on a level and even playing field so it would not turn into a LaLiga or Budesliga or EPL where there are 2-5 teams with a shot at winning the league then the rest of the teams playing for nothing. At least those leagues have relegation so the bottom teams have that to play for.

    Good riddance MLS. You weren’t very entertaining football to begin with but this move just jumped the shark. You are so desperate for star players you let fair play walk right out the door.

    • jbart65 - Aug 6, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      Again, way off base. The league officials do no own the league, the owners do. Clearly a majority of owners acceded to this deal and expect similar treatment in the future if such a situation arises.

      In any case, how many teams would have been willing to pay the salary Dempsey sought? Seattle, LA, NY, maybe Toronto or Chicago. That’s probably it.

      Every team is free to go after a big-name international star. They were free to do so before the CD signing and they are free to do so after.

      • rhamje - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:27 PM

        That would be nice, if it was true. The reality is, MLS turned down two team’s DP offers this season alone. Toronto was denied a DP because it was for a defender (“not marquee”) and Portland was denied Diskerud for reasons never explained. And the league has certainly not paid transfer fees for other DP’s.

        Other teams are NOT free to sign anyone they want, only certain favored teams in major markets. Does anyone believe that the other owner’s agreed to the CD deal? Did they have a conference call and everyone else passed on him? None of the other owners cared about bypassing allocation? About Seattle’s manipulation of the salary cap?

        To me, this reeks of Seattle whining for years and finally getting what LAG and NYRB have always had – entry into the MLS “old boys” club of predetermined winners. As a Portland season ticket holder, it burns to realize that I will get to personally pay a $30 “tax” so that Seattle can have Dempsey. Why shouldn’t Seattle’s STH’s be footing the entire bill when they are getting all the benefit? I would cheerfully pay another $30 to send Dempsey to Fenerbahce tonight.

  13. wyrm1 - Aug 6, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    So MLS favors teams in big markets or teams they want to be successful. Nothing new here, but you would think that at some point they would realize that they are going to lose fans in smaller markets or markets with owners .who can’t or won’t spend millions per year on a DP.

    MLS paying the transfer fee just tilts the playing field further towards the haves, and at some point fans of the have nots are going to stop caring when they see that their team is handicapped by decisions that consistantly favor teams with lots of cash. It won’t happen overnight, but you can clearly see attendance dropping in several markets because their teams aren’t competitive. This will only increase when 5 teams have an effective payroll of $10-20 million and the rest are at $4 million.

  14. kegger206 - Aug 6, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    The MLS only favors 2 teams, L.A. Galaxy, and New York RedBulls….. If Seattle got some help from the MLS in pulling off the Dempsey signing, about time. Remember we are talking about a team that draws on average 2-4 times the amount fans than every other team in the league, it is about time Seattle got a leg up for making the MLS much more visible! Here is hoping Dempsey helps us to the playoffs, then helps us win the MLS Cup! GOOOOOOOOO SOUNDERS!

    • jbart65 - Aug 6, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      The MLS CANNOT favor two teams unless a majority of owners agree.

      What do so many fans continue to ignore this obvious truth. The owners own the league collectively, not Don Garber. They ultimately have final say.

      My guess is, we don’t know a lot of details and the owners have come to their own understanding regarding similar situations in the future involving different teams.

      In any case, the DP rule has existed fore several years. Nothing is really new here except for the possibility that the league might have kicked in cash for the transfer fee. Yet few teams would have been willing to shell out for Dempsey, and any team could go after a similarly attractive player if its willing to pay the salary.

  15. fcdlow - Aug 6, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    The league is in a tough spot, and I understand that. They have a putrid TV deal and only ¼ of the league draws well enough to half-fill their stadiums. Why you’d push probably the most marketable player to a team that already draws well doesn’t make a lot of sense, though…esp if Houston was in play for him.

    The Texas and southern teams continue to be screwed. The summer heat here pushes the best non-latin or Southern born players away as well as the crowds….but the worst thing for these teams and any team based in an NFL city is that the league runs it’s playoffs during the first few months of football season and nearly exactly at the same time as the baseball playoffs. The MLS needs to line up its schedule with the NHL and NBA and take them head on, instead. End the MLS playoffs in June along with Hockey so that the league is done by the WC season (most qualifying and cup games are always in July). I think that attendance and interest goes up around the league with interest peaking at the end of the season, instead of always falling off as it stands now.

    Hockey has killed itself with all the lockouts and basketball will always be a major market only sport where only a couple of major markets are good at any one time. I just have never agreed with the league’s scheduling philosophy and now instead of fixing that huge problem they are trying to raise the levels on just the very top teams in the league?! It makes no sense. The league has grown. Time for it to grow out of the training wheels that is this spring->fall schedule and line up with the rest of world soccer and take a shot at pushing out the NHL and taking a bite out of the NBA. Someone tell me why that isn’t feasible.

  16. DemonJuice - Aug 6, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    “You can be a Designated Player, allocated, discovered, drafted, homegrown, etc., but you can only enter through one avenue.”

    Demonstrably false. Portland had to send Houston a draft pick in order to sign Kris Boyd as a DP because he was on the Dynamo’s Discovery List. Pretty clearly two of the avenues listed.

    • Richard Farley - Aug 6, 2013 at 2:51 PM

      Came in as a discovery player. If he came in as a pure DP, Portland wouldn’t have had to give anything up to get him. His DP status would have usurped the discovery rights. It didn’t.

      • DemonJuice - Aug 6, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        Came into where? He wasn’t a MLS player until he was signed as a DP. By your logic Dempsey came in as a USMNT player and a former MLS player who left for a transfer fee (allocation order) but DP magically trumps that avenue and not discovery? Try again, sir.

      • Richard Farley - Aug 6, 2013 at 3:01 PM

        It is what it is. If you don’t get it/want to get it, I understand, but Boyd was ID’d as a discovery, Dempsey was ID’d as a DP. Just because they also fit other categories doesn’t meant that’s where they get slotted, even though they could. That’s exactly what Hanauer was trying to explain …

        But again, last sentence of the first graph. People looking for UFOs have a strange way of finding them.

      • DemonJuice - Aug 6, 2013 at 3:07 PM

        Oh, I can absolutely believe that is the explanation because it leaves it up to the league to determine how a player was “ID’d” to best suit its purposes. And it’s pretty obvious now what the rules are, which is why so many are all of a sudden experts in them after Saturday.

        Do you not agree that Garber has stated on several occasions that the acquisition rules are in place to prevent internal bidding wars for players? If USMNT DPs aren’t subject to allocation or discovery, what mechanism prevents that bidding war? There is none. Save for the league choosing itself. There’s the problem.

      • Richard Farley - Aug 6, 2013 at 3:22 PM

        Your last two sentences … I agree with that. And I also agree that, although Hanauer’s explanation “clears things up,” what he’s clearing up is an inherently an unnecessarily foggy set of rules.

        It’s becoming like the tax code, as this situation has show. And that just leads to suspicion, ambivalence, and even loopholes.

        In this one case? I don’t think there were many problems. Everybody in the league knew what was going on, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with it.

        The potential lessons, precedents from this could be problematic, though. And while I was glib in my UFO reference above, the next time something like this happens, there may be more to it. The rules/practices are there to be exploited.

      • DemonJuice - Aug 6, 2013 at 3:28 PM

        Can’t find a single sentence to disagree with there.

  17. martinhajovsky - Aug 6, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Dynamo president Chris Canetti told the Houston Chronicle that Dempsey’s camp did not contact the Dynamo or AEG to show their interest in coming here. So where ESPN got the whole “he actually wanted to go to the Dynamo first but they couldn’t afford it” thing is up for question. Whatever the truth is of that whole deal is something that will probably never come out.

    This is a terrible precedent , and throws the whole league’s processes into question. The thing that keeps this from happening in other leagues is that the owners are, you know, actually in competition with one another. In a single entity situation, the league can do anything it wants and frequently does. Just for the sake of fairness and the appearance thereof (not the same thing), there needs to be some objective, impartial process here. If Dempsey or whomever is available via a transfer, and the league does not want to have a competition among teams trying to get him (more on that in a sec), then the need for an objective, transparent process becomes crucial in order to maintain whatever trust people have in the fairness of the competition. Otherwise, you’ve got a cartel-controlled con game.

    Personally, I do not hold to the view that free agency and out-of-control salary competition ruined Ye Olde NASL. That is a gross oversimplification that has been used to justify the single entity, benign dictator system MLS employs. A definite salary floor, requirements to spend a set minimum percentage of revenues on salaries and an equal sharing of league revenues from both local and league-wide sources will produce the sort of economic controls that will prevent teams from going under, even teams as incredibly incompetent as Chivas USA. (Well, they may need a special intervention or two, but the point remains.) Add in special rules such as a Designated Player or two and you’ve got yourself a workable system governed by the league office in full view of the sport’s stakeholders.

    Imagine, if this three-fold-plus structure were in place, what the bidding for Dempsey would have been like once he made his desire to come back to the States known? Many teams could have been involved, restricted only by their imaginations and their budgetary commitments. In Dynamo’s case, it might have necessitated cutting a few people free, and even then, Dempsey may not have come here. (Again, the people at ESPN may have to do a bit of atlas study. Nacogdoches is just about equidistant to both Dallas and Houston and the Dynamo are not necessarily the “closest team to Dempsey’s hometown.” Also, considering that he played his youth club ball at Dallas Texans, he probably has a more sentimental attachment up there in Frisco than here. I don’t think he’s that stupid, but just sayin’, you know.)

    But the point of this piece is that MLS had better get its transparency and objectives together or they’re going to start looking more and more like the rinky-dink outfit so many people already think they are. Funny thing about public confidence, once you lose it, it’s awfully hard to get back.

  18. talgrath - Aug 6, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Here’s something for everyone to chew on, the reason MLS paid the fee is that they pay everyone’s salaries in MLS. You may be confused, but allow me to explain; technically, nobody in the league actually pays their players; the paychecks come directly from the MLS; this is because each team is a franchise, MLS owns each team, owners have just bought the rights to control the franchise (and in exchange receive a cut of the profits and a vote on the league’s owners board), In fact, every major sports league in the US pays the players directly from the league, when a player, from Clint Dempsey to the lowest paid rookie, gets a check it says in the top left MLS, not “Sounders” or any other franchise. Admittedly, the Sounders probably pay the league who then pays Dempsey since he is a DP, or the Sounders don’t get however many millions they were supposed to get because they brought on Dempsey. That is why Tottenham didn’t announce “Dempsey has been transferred to the Sounders”, because he wasn’t, officially. Like every other player, Dempsey works for MLS, owners use a portion of money they have been allocated for talent acquisition to acquire the services of the player. In short, I would expect every future transfer fee to be taken care of this way, the team needs to convince MLS that it is a good idea to pay the transfer fee, the fee is paid and the players enters however they are supposed to. The owners (who hold Garber’s leash, let’s not forget) think Dempsey will put butts in seats and eyeballs on televisions, which increases league revenue, that’s why they paid his transfer fee.

  19. ivannelson - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Here’s a slightly different perspective on the topic: SInce Seattle has the highest Stadium attendance in the MLS, can we conclude it is the richest team in the MLS? If so, doesn’t it make sense for them to sign the highest paid player to help its poorly performing team? Isn’t this a great way to reward Seattle fans for being the most loyal soccer advocates in the US?

    Unless this is a one-off, this action could signal a shift in MLS strategy away from overbearing league oversight and toward a more market balanced approach.

  20. @C_Tobin - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    The league takes 30% of gross ticket receipts to pay player salaries.

    You could argue that if MLS actually paid the $9M transfer fee that the Sounders have paid in at least $9M more into the collective pool over the last five years than whichever team has paid in the second most (LA Galaxy most likely).

    Maybe this was just the league ‘making good’ on how much the Sounders put into the collective pie versus other teams?

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