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There Will Be No Domestic Trebles for MLS

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As we start to see some possible Super Clubs forming in MLS, the idea that these clubs will turn a parity league upside down and it will transition to a league of haves and have nots has started to appear in conversations. Some would like this, others will not. But due to rules structures and the unique nature of the possible domestic trebles these Super Clubs will not dominate in the ways that the big clubs in the EPL do as favorites for the domestic treble there.

Let's look at the possible Super Clubs of MLS, the nature of our domestic trophies and how those things will interact to make a domestic treble nearly impossible in the short term.

Possible Super Clubs
Red Bull New York - Thierry Henry, Juan Pablo Angel, Rafa Marquez
Los Angeles Galaxy - Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Ronaldhino, Donovan Ricketts, Edson Buddle, Omar Gonzalez
Toronto FC - Dwane De Rosario, Julian De Guzman, Mista
Seattle Sounders - Blaise Nkufo, Freddie Ljungberg (for now), Kasey Keller, Fredy Montero

This isn't just DPs, but players who are known to even non-MLS soccer fans. Like the new Miami Heat, these are teams that are top heavy in talent, but likely will lack depth. Only two other teams could make the financial plays necessary to become a Super Club, but have not yet gotten quite to that bar - the Chicago Fire and DC United. Whether you add one of them, or just outright subtract Seattle and Toronto that doesn't change the rest of the post. Two or six Super Clubs won't matter, the fact is none will treble under the current CBA.

Domestic Trophies

Every year each MLS team is in a contest to win one of the following "major" trophies. The winners get into the CONCACAF Champions League, and can claim to have had a successful season, at least to some extent.

US Open Cup - A knockout tournament that has been won by MLS all but one year since the league entered the tournament. It is prone to have a lower division team make a run (Harrisburg City Islanders lost last night to end the USL-2's run in 2010). An MLS team need only win four games to win the tournament, but often they win those games with players that are usually Reserves or Substitutes. Up North in Canada Toronto and soon to be both Vancouver and Montreal will use the Voyageurs Cup in the same way. Notable is that though the Columbus Crew made the Semi-Finals, the other three are all having poor years in league play.

Supporters Shield - This trophy which grew out of MLS supporters' desires to see a significant trophy handed to the team with the best regular season record is the 2nd most important trophy that any team can win in a season. Based off a 30-match season, and with usual unbalanced schedules, this trophy goes to the team that has good depth in the 8-16th best player range, and to one that gets a little luck from the schedule.

MLS Cup - This is the trophy for the Champion, it takes a decent to good regular season, plus a playoff run. It is most often won by a team with a player, or two or three who dominate during the short Playoff season. A team really only needs to win zero games, as they could just advance on Penalty Kicks at the end of three of the four matches.

 

Maybe just from that recap you've noticed something, but the Super Clubs you'll notice have fewer players in the middle of the payscale. They tend to be top and bottom heavy. Their young players, in general, aren't as good as most in the league.

This gives teams in smaller markets without the ability to sign more than a single DP a decent chance at a trophy in any given year. A General Manager could choose how to build a roster in ways that could succeed at a run for a trophies, and appearances in the CCL. Still, a team like San Jose without the financial flexibility will be strained to compete over a full season, and certainly in the Playoffs (due to seeding from the season), but they can win the Open Cup. They can use their Academy and the Draft to get young talent that gets sold on to bigger leagues with more money.

They can then use the Allocation Dollars earned to improve their roster.

But right now, no MLS team is out of it just because there are a few "Haves" and the rest of the teams are generally poor. The parity still exists, even if the name recognition is lumped to a few teams and players.