I have always tried to be tolerant of the MLS "Rules-A-Poppin" approach to player acquisitions. From the beginning it's been clear that the league had the authority to decide almost everything on a case-by-case basis, and that they intended to freely exercise that right when they felt it was in everyone's best interests.
When it involves some midfielder from Lithuania, finding a way to make it work is just part of the MLS equation.
But nothing raises more eyebrows than when some young kid who was in college the last anyone knew suddenly shows up on a roster and nobody has a good explanation as to how it happened.
Last Spring, for example, Kiki Willis, a sophomore at Elon College, showed up at a trial with DC United and was eventually signed to a Developmental contract. No one was able to explain how it was this kid with eligibility remaining left college without a GenA offer and didn't have to go through the Superdraft.
Eventually the league announced that Willis had been acquired "through the waiver process" which explained exactly nothing.
(Willis has since disappeared off the face of the Earth, but the case still applies)
TODAY SHAWN MITCHELL HAS A TALE OF ANOTHER OUTLIER Kevin Souter from Graceland University, who has magically materialized on the Wizards' roster.
According to the very reputable HILLCREST ROAD blog, Souter WAS PICKED UP OUT OF ONE OF THOSE CATTLE CALL TRYOUTS.
While it's somehow comforting that Sigi Schmid and Brian Bliss are as baffled by the rules as the rest of us, it has to be said that a league without clear unambiguous rules and personnel policies is asking, even begging, for serious credibility issues.
Sigi raises the obvious point, and it's one Ivan Gazidis ought to pay attention to: if they're going to do this stuff then they're throwing the doors open for all sorts of shenanigans, including most notably tampering with college players.
Sometimes, when a college kid shows up on a roster, people say that he flunked out, or was thrown off the team for the ever-popular "rules violations" or he signed with an agent and the NCAA voided his eligibility.
Fair enough, but we can't act like any of those circumstances are somehow akin to being struck by a bolt of lightning. It doesn't take much of a genius to figure out how to make any of those exceptions work for you: if all you have to do to skirt MLS rules and get onto a roster is break a few rules or get a few incompletes, well gosh, Beav, I wonder what's gonna happen?
Bottom line, if what they're looking for is wink-and-nudge agreements with undergraduate players and/or agents involving ducking the draft and signing with the team of choice, they're going about it the right way.