The Sweeper: It’s Whigs versus Tories in MLS Wage Parity Debate

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Flying in the face of traditional cross-border political alignments, the debate about MLS salary caps heating up in the soccoblogosphere this weekend seems to have Canadians playing the role of Whiggish free-marketers on the one hand, and Americans playing protectionist, Tory nationalists on the other.

The latest missive (which also provides helpful inks to previous posts in the debate) comes by way of Fake Sigi, countering Toronto scribe Ben Knight’s list of watered down recommendations to help loosen salary restrictions in MLS.  Now before you go running for a glass of water, the debate isn’t just about the economic feasibility of loosening up wage restrictions in Major League Soccer; it is one of several issues pitting soccer nationalists against football globalists.

For the former group—let’s call them MLS Exceptionalists (includes Dan Loney, Fake Sigi and Bill Archer)—MLS should be the embodiment of an exceptional American Soccer identity. MLS has succeeded in creating a uniquely balanced competition unheard of in European or even other North American leagues. Loosening or eradicating MLS wage caps is both infeasible in a single entity franchise system and undesirable because it threatens MLS’ uniqueness as a (North) American soccer entity.  Dan Loney’s recent tongue-in-cheek post sums it up: “There are only so many things left that separate European leagues from MLS now.  The salary cap, the single entity model, promotion and relegation.”

The latter group—let’s call them Northern Internationalists (prominently including but not limited to Duane Rollins and Ben Knight)—believes MLS will not maintain sustainable growth unless something is done to loosen or eliminate wage restrictions in order to attract better players and, in turn, bigger crowds.  Northern Internationalists also believe, in varying degrees, that it is in the best interest of MLS to streamline the league structure with Europe and South American leagues, which might involve anything from introducing a late-summer to early-spring calendar to establishing the more controversial promotion/relegation system.

Right now, simply by virtue of how Major League Soccer has evolved since World Cup 1994, the Exceptionalists have the upper hand.  Most of the Internationalists aspirations are pipe dreams, but some loosening of salary restrictions is certainly within the bounds of the current set-up, hence the recent blogo-bloodletting.  But as more and more franchises enter the fray in strong markets with younger, urban football fans—Philadelphia, Montreal, Portland—the Exceptionalists may find themselves further entrenched.  Watch for the debate to intensify in the years to come…

Wordwide News

  • Mark Murphy writes a post on about the bizarre life and times of new Portsmouth owner, “property developer and tycoon, United Nations (UN) goodwill ambassador-at-large and reality TV star Doctor [Sulaiman] Al-Fahim,” and why he’s neither fit nor proper.
  • The San Jose Earthquakes reveal the design for the new stadium. Don’t tell the MLS Exceptionalists, but the photo captions reads “The new stadium will bring the feel of a European soccer facility to San Jose.”  Whether it gets built at all is another matter entirely.
  • Some People Are on the Pitch asks you to “imagine if someone decided to scrap the Premier League and start all over again, redistributing its top stars into regionalised zones based on their place of birth…which team would win?”  Turns out former West Ham fans would come out on top.
  • Marcel Desailly is an even nicer guy than you first imagined.
  • And, because it’s the weekend, here is a funny video.

Richard Whittall Sweeps up here on the weekend when he’s not doing whatever it is he does at A More Splendid Life.

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