MLS: Expansion, Acquisition and Where's the Money Going?

Back when I was in a position which required interviewing and hiring new employees on a fairly regular basis (I want to make clear that I have never been a full time personnel geek - I would jump off a bridge before agreeing to become one of those soulless bastards) I quickly learned the unfortunate secret of the hiring business: while you begin any search looking for some mythical "Best Qualified Candidate" (or at least that's what you tell the boss) what you end up doing is sifting through the prospects and finding reasons to eliminate them one by one until only one guy is left standing, whereupon you shake his hand and say "Welcome aboard".

This process has been pretty closely duplicated by the Major League Soccer expansion process.

What was supposed to be a contest to find "The Best Cities for Expansion" (which is a bogus concept right up front, since any list of towns that met that particular description would necessarily include Detroit, Baltimore and Cleveland) has instead turned into a "Last Man Standing" derby. Sort of like a "They Shoot Cities Don't they?" kind of a deal where if an owner can hold up his partner metropolis until all the others fall to the floor then they'll win the big prize.

Only without Hanoi Jane.

So in the beginning Montreal eliminated themselves when they decided to believe all the press reports and blog posts claiming that their inclusion was "inevitable" and that MLS was desperate for their wonderful selves and as a result they figured the league would give them a hefty discount on a membership.

One down.

And so it's gone, from the sublime - St. Louis needs Daddy Warbucks worse than Franklin Roosevelt ever did - to the ridiculous - Portland's Mayor gets caught lying about diddling an intern - until we are left actually taking a serious second look at a place like Ottawa, a bid that was widely assumed to be way too long a longshot to even qualify as a Dark Horse. A Three-Legged horse, maybe.

Unfortunately, it looks like the old grey mare has broken down coming around the backstretch and they've sent for the vet with the big needle. (Hey, you think Dan's the only one with a license to abuse metaphors around here?)

Yesterday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission fined prospective Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk a million bucks for, well, for pulling an Enron: cooking the books so that the quaterly results kept investors and regulators off their backs. (They had previously fined his compnay US$ ten million.)

In street terms, this is known as "lying". Another street term they're now using in connection with Melnyk is "jail time". He's been forced to sell the pharmaceutical company he founded, Biovall and criminal charges are now pending.

To put it bluntly, Melnyk is in deep doo-doo. While these shenanigans have been well-known for some months now, this is the first time Melnyk himself has been penalized, and it now appears that federal prosecutors have him in their sights.

Of course MLS is an organization which gave out it's "Man of the year" award a couple years ago to Chuck Blazer, a man who a Federal Court judge in New York accused of blatantly lying on the stand during the FIFA/Mastercard trial, and who tried to use his influence as a FIFA Executive Board member to set up an offshore World Cup gambling website before even FIFA blanched and told him to knock it off.

So partnering up with a crook is really no big problem. Unless of course he's in jail, which may make those Board of Governors meetings a bit inconvenient since there's no airport in Allenwood PA, home of the Federal minimum security prison spa and tennis club.

The San Jose Earthquakes ARE REPORTEDLY CLOSE TO A DEAL WITH BOBBY CONVEY in a move which will further fortify a lineup which at the least should be able to make a solid playoff run.

Still, a lot of the guys Doyle and yallop are bringing in are gambles to say the least. Like everybody else, they're scouring the globe looking for striker prospects, with the likes of Davide Somma, the Italian/South African who spent some time with Perugia, Cam Weaver, the big, bruising ex-USL1 scoring terror who's been hiding out in Scandinavia someplace, and Peter Byers, the Antiguan they acquired from Montreal, among others.

If one or two of these guys can step up to MLS and start presenting a challenge to league defenses, San Jose has a legitimate shot at making some noise in 2009.

Bruce Arena continues to bring in veteran defenders to try and stop the bleeding in LA. The latest is the much traveled Todd Dunivant, who doesn't really deserve the "journeyman" tag that inevitable attaches to a guy who gets swapped around year after year.

The Gals gave Mo Johnston some allocation money, which TFC must be stashing in Swiss bank accounts by now. Who the hell is Mo saving up to buy, Steven Gerrard?