MLS Needs To Come Clean On Allocation
The last week has seen TFC’s opponents in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarter Finals in less than a month, the Los Angeles Galaxy, strengthen themselves significantly with the return of excellent young midfielder Juninho from Brazil and former striker Edson Buddle from Germany. Juninho is on loan from Santos once again and Buddle is on what is reported to be a two year deal.
And if you are asking yourself how in the heck can LA afford three DP’s, Buddle, and a slew of other players on high wages under a strict salary cap then you are asking the same question I have been mulling over for days now. And the answer comes down to Allocation, the murky process whereby MLS clubs are allowed to accumulate somewhat transitory cap space over and above the hard cap that clubs can then use to spend on salaries they otherwise could not afford. If you believe what you read the Galaxy have been awarded cap space for succeeding in CONCACAF, and through trades like the one that saw high paid goal keeper Donovan Ricketts shipped off to Quebec to play for the Impact this season in return for a chunk of their allocation space. Word is that the Galaxy also earned allocation from the loan fees that Landon Donovan is earning from Everton and Robbie Kean is earning at Aston Villa. They also probably have allocation on the books from previous deals over previous seasons as well that they can use for 2012.
MLS rules state that there are four “official” ways to earn allocation:
- The “We Suck” Bonus – In an attempt to manage the parity the league apparently likes so much they give larger and larger amounts of allocation to clubs that miss the playoffs. The worse you are one year the more allocation you get in the off season to bolster your squad with.
- Expansion clubs get a large chunk of allocation that they can either spend or trade to other clubs to obtain players in return for said allocation. Donovan Ricketts to the Impact is a perfect example of this.
- Transfer/Loan Fees – Maurice Edu to Rangers in 2008 gave Mo Johnston a lot of allocation money to play with in the 2008-2009 time frame that saw a number of high priced players come to TFC (Robert, Guevara, etc.). LA gets allocation space for the Pounds Sterling Landycakes and the Irishman are bringing to Los Angeles right now I guess as well.
- Making it to the Champions League sees clubs get more allocation space to supposedly be able to compete with the high flying Mexican League and as a reward for taking the competition seriously.
Interestingly the League also state the following verbatim on their website :
To protect the interests of MLS and its clubs during discussions with prospective players or clubs in other leagues, amounts of allocation money held by each club will not be shared publicly. (Similarly, most clubs in other countries do not announce the amount of money they plan to spend during a given transfer window.)(mlssoccer.com)
So unlike the salary cap and the list of player salaries the MLSPA puts out there is next to no way to know exactly how much allocation space a Bruce Arena for example actually has to work with. And it is very possible indeed that individual clubs within MLS have no idea how much allocation space each individual club possesses and because the information is secret we really do not know if the actual amounts awarded are on the up and up.
And perhaps most importantly we have to take Don Garber at his word that he is not using the back door that is the allocation process to give certain clubs advantages over others in MLS when he feels that it is in the best interest of the League as a whole. And one could certainly argue that having the Galaxy advance to the World Club Championships as CONCACAF Champions might be the type of PR bonanza that he might think is worthy of giving them a leg up over a somewhat less internationally glamorous side in Toronto FC.
And Los Angeles has gotten some special treatment previously of course. The “grandfathering” in of Landon Donovan’s contract that essentially gave them two DP’s a few years back when all other clubs in MLS only were allowed one at the time comes to mind. So anyone who does not think that there is at least the possibility for the League to give their marquee club a leg up I think is frankly being naive.
Don Garber cannot have it both ways. He simply put cannot be given even the chance to use a process that is the allocation system that is supposedly designed to foster the parity between clubs he preaches about on hand to give one of his clubs an advantage over other teams he represents on the other hand. And with the changes to the DP rules recently allowing MLS to better compete internationally in signing top talent the argument that keeping allocation amounts secret simply holds no water anymore.
It is simply not fair to treat one club in a league built on the parity model differently than any other. And until the light of day is shone on the allocation process we will never truly know if this is or is not the case with the 2012 edition of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
I for one want to know.
What do you think? Your comments are always welcome and appreciated.