It's been thought for some time that Xavi Hernadez is going to leave Barcelona. His potential destinations, as is often the case for great players nearing retirement, are various teams in MLS and the Middle East. The MLS track most often connected him to NYCFC. Recently chatter about that potential move to the Man City operated team started to die down, but the connections to MLS strengthened. Only two teams are now rumored to be acquiring one of the greatest midfielders of the current generation - New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders FC.
Yep! That is really exciting, and it helps us learn a few things. It is also almost certain to not be happening.
Why won't it happen?
- Seattle doesn't have a DP slot open and he's not going to take less than 400k$ to play here
- Sounders FC is cruising, this would be a move for a huge leap in talent, but those tend not to work well for a couple months (see Cahill, Tim and Dempsey, Clint and Keane, Robbie)
- Artificial Turf
There are some lessons though. Right now there are a handful of "Haves" in MLS. Teams that can convince a great player from top teams that MLS is getting good enough for their services. The Galaxy began that whole thing when the DP rule started with model/right foot Beckham. Red Bulls signed Henry and Rafa a bit later. There were a lot of decent players since then, but the grandeur and big money slowed a little bit. Ljungberg and Blanco were the tops of the next tier, but both were clearly fading away. LA and New York added two guys above that level with Cahill and Keane.
Over the last year the Haves expanded. Big money, big fame signings exploded and the breadth of teams playing in that space continues to grow.
- Galaxy - Keane, Donovan
- Red Bulls - Henry, Cahill
- Sounders - Martins, Dempsey
- TFC - Bradley, Defoe
- Montreal - Di Vaio
- Orlando* - Kaka
- NYCFC* - Villa, Lampard (probably)
It's not a surprise that Xavi is connected to three of the Haves. Only a third of the 2015 league looks likely to make the kind of play necessary to capture the signature of the Spain and Barcelona great.
There are other teams that have two or more DPs (Rebrand FC, Dallas, and Portland with 3; Houston, Philly, RSL and Vancouver with 2). But they use a mix of international value buys and youth players to get there. One could call them a middle ground between Haves and Nots. Those Nots by this simplistic system would be Chicago, Colorado Columbus, DC, New England and San Jose. There's a trend there, they are all MLS 1.0 clubs. They all have attendance and/or stadium issues. Add in formerly known as Chivas USA and you likely have the bottom of the revenue pile.
None of the expansion teams currently announced looked to play in that space (Atlanta Blank Checks and Beckham FC will spend), nor do the leaders for team 24.
So in the year when the CBA comes to an end and a new one will need to get slapped together. It does so during rapid expansion and less than two years after Keane, Cahill, Martins, Dempsey, Bradley, Defoe, Di Vaio, Kaka, Villa, Lampard and Xavi all join the league.
Nothing is more obvious than the idea that the players will want more money overall, some amount of raise in the minimum, a greater move towards free agency and are likely to push that the overall salary cap/budget be as a percent of league revenue (as is the standard in the major US leagues).
Recent signings would seem to indicate that a third of the league or so would like most of those things as well. Even the Haves will not want much movement towards free agency as that would threaten the base structure of the single-entity system.
To sum up - Xavi is quite likely to be coming to MLS, Sounders FC are a Have and the CBA negotiations will be a three sided discussion.