Player Development vs. Professional Profit

At first, you figured it was just you. Computers, like women, get odd, unexplainable attitudes about things sometimes. Then, after it kept happening day after day, you concluded that it was most likely not your computer, but rather a problem with the site that would doubtless get fixed by the professionals running the thing.

At this point though, one has to conclude that mlsnet.com, in addition to being poorly designed and largely uninformative, is nothing more than a giant bug, waiting out there for you and I to log in so it can grab our computers in it's icy tentacles and squeeze the life out of them while cackling hysterically.

So let me just say: Dear Commissioner Garber: Nothing says "bush league" quite like an official league website that crashes your computer whenever you're stupid enough to give it a try. Sure, stuff happens, everybody accepts that, but this has gone on way too long now.

There's an interesting disconnect lately between the general direction of soccer in Mexico and the Cavalcade of Crooks who run CONCACAF.

While many people are lamenting THAT WHILE THE MFL CLAIMS BRAGGING RIGHTS OVER THE REGION they're doing it largely with foreign players, at the expense of overall Mexican player development. They think Mexico is maintaining a false sense of security, even superiority, at a time they ought to be seriously examining the roots of their problems.

Meanwhile, Slickster-in-Chief Jack Warner FEELS OTHER REGIONAL CLUBS SHOULD FOLLOW PACHUCA'S EXAMPLE and particularly notes how great it is that they've been able to stock their team with players from Argentina.

Until very recently, CONCACAF didn't give a hoot about professional soccer; the leagues and clubs actually got to keep all their own money, and Jack and Chuck don't like competitions where they aren't in complete control of the cash.

Then some Mexican TV people decided to create the Superliga competition and made a bunch of money doing it. Warner and Chuck Blazer suddenly became aware that they'd been sadly neglecting an income stream and immediately responded with the new Champions League format.

So where once their sole concern was national team development, they now see that there's money to be made from professional competitions as well, and therein lies something of a conflict.

Meanwhile, the debate over the direction of Mexican soccer of course mirrors the same debate with regard to MLS, a league which was promoted as being the place where the US would develop it's World Cup stars of the future (heard anything about Project 2010 lately?) but which has been forced to conclude that the US isn't turning out many more top level soccer players than they were in 1995 and with 400 roster spots to fill they had a choice:

Either continue to try and peddle some pretty awful soccer played mostly by Americans or to change the rules and bring in a lot more foreign players to make the product watchable.

Moving even farther North, the CSA and the rest of Canada could barely shut up about how having TFC in MLS would "finally provide a place for Canadian professionals to develop", a plan which they quickly abandoned when they found they couldn't beat the Hartford Horned Toads fielding Proud Sons of the Maple Leaf. Last I heard there were all of three guys on TFC holding Canadian passports.

The bottom line is that there really isn't any decision to make here; the market has decided for itself, and, frankly, as pointed out on these pages yesterday, raising the salary "cap" not only isn't going to change that, it's only going to make it worse.

In order to enjoy a successful, profitable product, all of North America's soccer fans are going to have to accept that player development, rather than going hand-in-hand with top level professional teams, is taking a back seat - maybe even the trunk, or possibly being allowed to hang on to the bumper - to professional clubs being viable business entities.

And with MLS expanding by a team a year for at least five straight years, the basic equation isn't going to change any time soon. We just aren't producing the raw materials.