MLS: Black Wednesday

Dear Don: I know it's been a while since I've written, but what with me having to spend so much time following the madcap antics of those rascally scamps at CONCACAF and you sitting in your car gazing at brownfields in Queens, puffing on illegal cigars and fantasizing about the return of the Cosmos, neither of us has had a lot of spare time.

However that may be, I wanted to talk to you about the now-traditional Thanksgiving week leaguewide extravaganza of prison rape you euphemistically call "The MLS Expansion Draft".

Since this is a week devoted to giving thanks, I will tell you that one thing I'm most thankful for is that you have finally, at long last, stopped telling the media that one of the secrets of your league's success has been your policy of "slow, controlled growth".

The one thing - the ONLY thing - that has in any way slowed down the reckless, breakneck, pedal-to-the-metal speed of MLS expansion has been the difficulty you've had locating people willing to pay the expansion fee. Maybe if there was one - just one - case where someone with a reasonable stadium plan and $40 million in cash was told "Sorry, but we're slowly controlling our growth and it wouldn't be prudent to let you join the league" then that line of garbage would be something other than utterly ridiculous.

But we both know there is no such case. Don't we?

Not that there's anything terribly wrong with that. It's just the inherent dishonesty of the statement which is offensive.

However, because you're like a hooker on the first night after the fleet lands and can't say no to anyone with a fat wallet, today you are presiding over the ninth MLS expansion draft in eight years.

Now I'm not going to go back and point out the many and various ways that each of them was, in it's own unique fashion, grossly unfair in one way or another. This isn't a history seminar.

Rather, I'd like to look at how grossly unfair today's version is.

Consider:

Last year the league added two teams and, thus, 20 players were drafted from among 16 teams.

So while it was bad enough that for the sixth time in six years every team was forced to offer up the first guy off their bench, in this case the draft was designed so that some teams were going to have to cough up two of their first three.

This in a league where, by rule, nobody has enough depth or a large enough roster to begin with.

What made it even worse was that, as it turned out, three teams lost two players each before any of the other 13 teams lost even one.

When it was all over, seven teams (Philadelphia, Salt Lake, Dallas, Seattle, Columbus, Chicago and San Jose) lost two players each, while four teams lost exactly no one.

Two of those were the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo. Maybe they ring a bell with you. If not, check your daybook from last Sunday.

Now I'm not going to sit here and claim that the 2010 Expansion Draft set up the 2011 MLS Cup match.

On the other hand, please don't try and pretend that it had nothing to do with it.

You need look no further than the Columbus Crew, an organization which you may know is near and dear to my heart.

Two of the first five players chosen were off of their roster; the first, Eric Brunner, was an instant starter at center back for Portland. The other, more than a little ironically, ended up in Houston and went 90 minutes in the final: Adam Moffat.

Think maybe losing the two of them could have had anything to do with their previous teams' late season collapse?

As it turned out, you had an opportunity to ameliorate some of the carnage this year; since seven teams lost two players last time out, they could have been either excluded from this draft or at the least offered a couple extra protected spots.

Four teams lost no one last year. Seven teams lost only one player. And since Montreal will be taking only ten players, the teams who got royally reamed a year ago could have easily gotten a pass or at least a break.

(And need I remind you that back in 2008 when you announced that Portland and Vancouver would be joining the league, grinning fratboy trust fund baby Joey Saputo tried to get you to include the Impact at the same time, claiming that his outfit was so good that they didn't need an Expansion draft contingent; he said he had all the players he needed. But then we all are going to have to get used to the Saputo clan's idiot offspring.)

Basically then, Don, you had the opportunity to at least make a show of being fair and giving some teams that got screwed last year a break, and instead you set up a situation where it's entirely possible - even likely - that a few teams will have been forced to surrender three good players in two years while at least a couple have had to contribute exactly none.

The bottom line is that Major League Soccer's expansion policies have begun to have a demonstrably detrimental effect on the ability of some existing teams to compete, and you don't appear to be the least bit concerned about it. As you keep telling us, you'd gleefully sign up team #20 tomorrow if someone from New York could locate a building.

And since your primary role as Commissioner ought to be to preside over as fair and equitable a system as possible in order to convince the fans that you actually give a crap about things like that, I'll be anxious to hear your explanation.

Best regards

Bill