I have already shown that MLS is missing about about two full teams worth of players just from its inability to adequately scout and sign vast swaths of the planet, in this case primarily Brazil, but also Asia and the Arab world.
But the fact is that there is a wealth of talent that would be much easier to find, as they grew up in nations that generally border two of the following three bodies of water - Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea.
We need to have a league of our own, where our own play and succeed. Certainly the majority of MLS players come from the United States (257 in '08) but there are dozens if not hundreds playing overseas and making better money than starters here. But there also only 12 from Canada and 34 from the rest of CONCACAF.
Let's ignore the money, that's for part three of this series, let's now focus on the level of talent that we are about which might be capable of being brought back. Those players that are bench riders for second, third and fourth tier clubs. I won't pretend that MLS is going to convince a player participating in the UEFA Champions League to come back, but relegation bound EPL, Championship, France or Norway-2, or the SPL? There should be a shot, if the money is there.
Its during the winter break for most of Europe, but look at the list of Americans Abroad from Ives. 21 players from this week, most that didn't play, and most leagues not playing. Let's look at some numbers.
How many of those situations are acceptable to you. I did not include any keeper, nor French-2 or Italy-2 players. This is also the time of year when the fewest leagues are in session. We KNOW that Beasley isn't happy. I doubt that many others are. Players want to PLAY.
Now look at CONCACAF Abroad, the situation is very familiar. Here is the same chart for just a smattering of CONCACAF players.
Remember there are 12 Canadians in MLS, but 21 in leagues that Ives follows. There are 39 other players on his list from CONCACAF. Again this is during the lightest time of the season as most leagues pause during the height of winter and the holidays. Bringing half of these players would get the league about 50 more quality players; four per club.
Why do these players sit on the bench rather than play in MLS as starters? Its quite simple, they get decent but not huge money. In a comments thread I noted something that should be much more noticed and amplified in the American soccer world. The fact is that mid-level EPL talent is only making Max Cap wages.
If you were a player and had the choice to make the same amount of money and be a starter in a decent league, or a non-factor in a great one, what would you do?
Its quite simple really. All that needs to be done to get the Americans, Canadians and the rest of CONCACAF to come home is offer paychecks that are close, while raising the quality of play. Oddly that would have to happen at the same time.
With the CBA up after this season, Major League Soccer has the opportunity to increase the cap. Like many fans I'm an advocate of doubling it. I am also a fan of MLS adding 2 more DP slots to every team. For every two DP slots that a team had they would be required to use one of those slots on a player with a nationality that the League represents (USA & Canada for now). Teams would still be allowed to trade the slot, and a team could only acquire up to 6. Certainly they all couldn't afford it, but those that could would help raise the tide for everyone else.
This would cost the league an additional 40 Million dollars with the 16 teams that it is at for 2010. That's a lot of cash, and with teams running up to 6 DPs it would mean that some teams would dramatically expand their roster budget and increase the chances of a SuperClub. In order for the teams with large revenue streams to not entirely dominate the league, there would be luxury tax paid into the league's salary coffers equal to pay over the cap that any DP slot is filled.
Where do I get an extra 40M$ for player salaries in 2010, and 2011 and so on? That's for part three in the series. But for now just think about how adding 50 CONCACAF players back to the MLS pool would help. Think about what adding 20 more Brazilians would do? Adding a handful of Asians and Arabs? What would adding 75-100 players that are at or above the current talent level in MLS do for the league's perception among the Euro-fan? Would we see more people at live matches rather than pubs on Sat/Sun mornings?
Would we find them in pubs again on Sat night?
If the answer is yes, and I can show how the money is there to make it happen, can the league make the right moves?