Freddie talks CBA (a bit) at ESPN

Here's his opening paragraph (read the rest here):

Imagine you work at Burger King and you get sacked. Now, you want to get another job at McDonald's, but you're not allowed to unless McDonald's compensates Burger King. It seems absurd, but that's the way certain things work in MLS at the moment. If your team terminates your contract, it still can demand a trade from another club before you can go and play for that other club.

This, of course, would be absurd in a lot of situations, but there are such things as non-compete clauses, so it's not completely unheard of for an employer to attempt to restrict a former employee's employment options. What is unheard of, though, is for that to last into perpetuity. What this paragraph highlights more than anything, however, is the difference between how sports teams operate here in the US versus the rest of the world.

Here in the US, we talk about owners being awarded franchises, but let's think a bit about what that means. A franchise is privately owned and operated, but licensed by a parent company to use its brands, marketing, and other business tools. The owner of the franchise doesn't have as much freedom as he would have if he were operating a stand-alone business, and the parent company can impose various requirements on the way the business is operated. So Freddie's choice of McDonald's and Burger King is apt, except that in the case of a player for an American sports team, it's like being fired from one McDonald's and trying to get hired by another one. (McDonald's may or may not be able to impose the same kind of rules MLS does on its teams; if there are any labor/employment lawyers who'd like to chime in, please do.)

In contrast, teams in most of the world are independent, stand-alone businesses. Man U and Arsenal are not like McDonald's and Burger King, but more like Alex's Pie Shoppe and Arsene's House of Eclairs (yes, I know Ferguson and Wenger are not the owners). While they are regulated, as all businesses are, they have a lot more freedom than the franchisees.

So what are the implications of this difference? The primary one, and the one that drives all the rest, is the fact that because teams elsewhere are independent businesses, it means that anyone can get into the soccer business if they feel like it. If I wanted to start Carlos FC, I'd just have to go and register my team with my FA and take my spot at the bottom of the hierarchy. That allows a proliferation of teams: basically any place with the mildest interest in a team will have one. I did a count the other day of the professional teams in the state of São Paulo, the most populous in Brazil with about 42 million people (about 13.5% more than California's approximately 37 million). The final tally was 105 professional soccer teams over four levels of competition, or 2.5 teams for every million residents. For perspective, there are 276 baseball clubs for the whole US, with a population of over 308 million, or just about 0.9 teams per million people. If the US had baseball teams at the same rate that São Paulo has soccer teams, it would have 770. Rio de Janeiro's rate is even more impressive: 87 teams for about 16 million residents, for a rate of about 5.4 per million. At the carioca rate, the US would have about 1675 baseball teams.

I know that this isn't a hugely significant comparison, but the underlying point is this plethora of teams allows soccer leagues around the world to operate the way they do. That favorite dream of soccer fans, a promotion and relegation system, is as likely in the US as a unicorn-based taxi service, but it's an obvious step in an environment where there are teams everywhere. Likewise, the impact of a club failing is much reduced. One team out of sixteen going under is a huge blow, but when there are dozens and dozens ready to take its place, it's shrug-worthy, if you're not a fan of that team. Finally, the owners of any given team have no formal connection to any other, and in fact, as independent businesses, the teams have to be careful to avoid improper levels of cooperation, lest they run into problems with anti-collusion regulations.

A situation like what's happening with the CBA is literally impossible in most soccer leagues, so it's understandable that Freddie would be perplexed. Obviously, there's no way that sports leagues in the US will abandon their cartel-like ways for a free enterprise system, but it's useful to think about what it means for us fans that the system works the way it does.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Sounder At Heart

You must be a member of Sounder At Heart to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Sounder At Heart. You should read them.

Join Sounder At Heart

You must be a member of Sounder At Heart to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Sounder At Heart. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9353_tracker