November 16, 2006
Now that the offseason is under way, the soccer media is having a field day talking about the new Designated Player Rule and what it means for the future of MLS. Of course, there is the usual Beckham and Ronaldo speculation. But, there is also good discussion about whether now is the right time for MLS to make this move and what the impact will ultimately be.
Personally, I think MLS is making this move a little too soon. I'd rather have the league get to the point financially where every team is profitable on it's own and can afford to utilize their Designated Player slot to add a marquee player for the home fans to embrace.
Right now, I see this pushing MLS towards a league of have's and have not's. And while you frequently get large market media members talking up how leagues need teams in markets like NY, LA, and Chicago to be dominant, I've never really bought that logic. Has the NBA fallen apart with the Knicks in disarray for as long as I can remember? Was the fact that the Rangers were back in the playoffs the reason that the NHL came back so strong from their lockout?
The key will be can MLS improve the product and generate a buzz for the game and not merely for the players involved.
Bringing in high profile players, like Beckham, Ronaldo, and Figo, is a gamble. MLS has had a history of big name additions that worked well (Carlos Valderamma, Hristo Stoichkov, Peter Nowak) and those that didn't (Lothar Mattheus and Luis Hernandez). The key will be landing more players that would fall into the former group as opposed to the latter. However, with the money being thrown around, MLS has a much smaller margin of error moving forward.
Ronaldo heading to MLS in 2007?
The Ronaldo to the Red Bulls rumor mill is heating up. And beyond whether it happens or not, I'm wondering if it would even be that great of a thing for the team and MLS.
Sure, Ronaldo would bring buzz. But, given Ronaldo's health issues and the fact that Real Madrid fans have gotten on him for appearing to be overweight, I'd be worried that the Red Bulls' Designated Player could turn in to MLS' version of Randy Moss. Ronaldo certainly has more pure talent than any forward in MLS today. However, does he have the drive and the discipline to put in the work needed to be The Man in MLS?
Red Bull apparently has a ton of money to throw at their new MLS team. I would just offer up a word of caution before they commit huge dollars to bring Ronaldo stateside. And if they do make the commitment, make sure to give him a lifetime supply of Sugar Free Red Bull.
More on Freddy Adu and ManU
The more people talk about Freddy Adu's upcoming trial with Manchester United, the more I think he's getting way ahead of himself. While I admire Freddy's confidence and the fact that he has big dreams, I really believe that a slow, steady approach to building his career abroad would be the better way to go.
So, instead of trying to hook up with a mega-club prior to his 18th birthday, why not take a path that DeMarcus Beasley has traveled, that Michael Bradley is currently on, and that Kyle Martino is trying to start down and head to the Eredivisie?
Whether it's with one of the bigger clubs in Holland such as PSV Eindhoven, AJAX, or Feyenoord Rotterdam or smaller clubs such as Earnie Stewart's NAC Breda or Michael Bradley's SC Heerenveen, Holland would appear to be a much more forgiving next step in Adu's career as opposed to signing with a club like Chelsea or Manchester United and then likely getting loaned out under their watch as opposed to controlling his own destiny.
At the end of the day, it will likely come down to the almighty dollar and the feeling that one in the hand is worth two in the bush. Plus, if a megaclub were to sign Adu, they will likely want him to get some seasoning elsewhere before calling him up to their senior team.
But, I wonder if the weight of a big money deal with a big time club is too much, too soon for Freddy?
I hope it isn't, but only time will tell.
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