After watching MLS get their hats handed to them by the USL-2, and in some cases USL-1 squads again this week, I'd like to kindly offer some suggestions for Mr. Garber about improving our product on the field and the league in general. I've got three issues here: 1. Raise the level of pay for the Dev. Squad. We need to retain better depth of talent. 2. A sane solution to fixture congestion: No CCCL teams in Superliga. 3. Fixture Congestion Part II: Sane scheduling and 2 games per week used intelligently. Not that he'd listen, but you guys might. Tell me what you think. In more detail. 1. Raise the Level of Pay for the Developmental Players. Once again, when MLS teams go to the bench in the USOC, they get creamed by USL-2 and USL-1 sides at an alarming rate. Don't we all think 2 games of experience is better than getting your ass handed to you in one? Problem is, for guys in their position, USL can be more attractive. They can make as much or more than the 15k MLS is offering. And they get to play. Meanwhile, aside from the Generation Addidas (GA) players, or a recent college grad or two, MLS teams regularly burn through the entire DEV Roster every year or two. Players can't afford the non-salary. They don't get to play much. After a year or two it becomes obvious if they are going to get promoted to the senior squad or not. If they do, they do. If not, they go USL or get a real job. Either way, every two years of so, you get a new batch of 10 players with little experience. If we raised the MIN Salary for Dev. Players to a reasonable, livable wage, players could afford to hang around a bit longer, learn their craft, and become actual professional soccer players. You know, pros. That way, when injuries hit, or some starters need to be rested due to a 2 game week, the players that step in are competent and actually have played before with the other players on the pitch. There would actually be some development going on. Yes, I know all about the reserve league, and it is a step in the right direction, as are the youth academies. But the fact is, MLS teams have 18 pros (barely) and 10 kids. When injuries hit, or international duty, or someone needs a rest, the kids must play. Or at least round out the game day roster. When called on, they often can't produce. In fact, I'd like to get rid of the age limit altogether (though it still would be for primarily younger players) for the Dev. Squad. If a player can hang around and be a useful squad player and is willing to do so for that amount of money, let him. Heck, you may get some late bloomers and some coaches out of it. Regardless of if one wants to ditch the age limit or not, lets raise the salary, so MLS has some depth to these squads and not just 14-5 who can play, 3 guys we just took a flier on this year, and 10 fresh new faces on the developmental meat grinder. Our league, our fans, our level of play, our reputation, and our results will be better for it. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The whole USOC thing got me thinking about fixture congestion and such, so..... 2. Either dump Superliga or Don't Pick the Teams in CONCACAF Champions League Seems like a no brainer. One would think. Garber complains about fixture congestion (not as big a problem if you have some depth, Don). What does MLS do, the pick the same damn teams to play in SuperLiga that have earned the CCCL births. This is dumb. First off, these teams have to play of ton of games early (CONCACAF) and therefore play like shite in the early season, because they rightly value the CONCACAF trophy more, and want that World Club Championship birth. I mean, who wouldn't want the shot at Man U? Then, just when they start to hit their strides, along comes SuperLiga, and MLS goes a month withoug their best teams playing a league match (that's right MLS fans, if not for the rescheduled DC/HOU game, DC (Supporters Shield), Houston (Defending Champs), NE (USOC Champs) and Chivas wouldn't play an MLS game for three weeks, almost a month off. Then, after rejoining the league and re-entering the fray, the same 4 teams have to start playing the CCCL games in with the MLS games, causing a further meltdown. This diminishes the chance these teams can win the CCCL (which does more for our league than SuperLiga, folks). It also diminishes the chance the best teams will win MLS cup (due to the double extra grind and loss of playoff position). Throw in the fact that the best teams are also often losing the most players to international duty, and you are shooting yourself in the foot. And it also devalues the MLS games people are paying for, as Gallardo, Emilio, Moreno, Fred, DeRo, Ching, Clark, Robinson, Davis, Twellman, Ralston, Joseph, Parkhurst, Razov, Kljestan, Bornstein and company are all rest in preparation for the more meaningful CCCL or more lucrative Superliga match. Want some evidence? Look at how DC and Houston start every year. Crappy! Look, in Europe, the teams that get put through this grinder have more money, and bigger squads. While MLS has the cap and it isn't going away anytime soon, you can do something about the depth (see above). And the scheduling (see below). But first, you have to accept the idea that double dipping these teams is not a good idea. Look, there are plenty of good teams to go around. Who else could play Superliga? 1) LA is miraculously sitting around doing nothing. 2) Chicago and Blanco would be fantastic. 3) Schelotto, Rogers, Hejduk, and Chad Marshall could use some extra cash in C-Bus. 4) NYRB isn't bad (though JPA's injury and Jozy's departure don't make it look so know). 5) Dallas is on the border and has some nice players (Cooper, Toja, Roccha, etc). 6) Heck, even RSL wouldn't be a bad pick (Morales, Beckerman, etc) 7) KC tries to play attacking ball, they don't always succeed, but they try. Point is, share the wealth. Spread out the pain. Don't hammer the same four teams I'd like to see Superliga dumped altogether. Let the rivalry go on where it matters, in Champions League. But if it must continue, at least pick different teams. As a note, I must admit Mexico didn't take my advice (at least not fully). Of the four teams playing Superliga, two are in the CCCL (Atlante, Santos) while two are not (Pachuca, Guadalajara). Pumas and Cruz Azul are the other Mexcian CCCL clubs. Lastly., -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Get the Fricking Schedule Right, It would help! It's amazing to me how MLS still hasn't grasped the basic concept. Play two games a week when you need to. One round TUE/WED and then SUN (or even Thur/Sun if you must). It happens every week in Europe. In past years (and future ones), your insufferable desire to get your greedy little fingers in everybody's pies (expansion) puts the league with an odd number of teams, so the schedule is complete jibberish. Next year, you've done it again adding Seattle, so we won't have a shot at a sane schedule until 2010 when Philly comes on board. So I guess the first directive would be: A. Stop Expanding OR If you must, Ensure there are an EVEN Number of Teams That way, everyone can play every week. And you can make a schedule. Like the Superliga thing, I would hope this would be a no-brainer, but your actions prove it hasn't been. B. Secondly, Once you have an even number of teams: Every team plays every week*. * Or as near as possible. Again, I'd have thought this was a no brainer, but once again, not so much. Though I'll admit that this gets accomplished for the last seven weeks of the season. Bravo! Yes, I know stadium conditions are not ideal and can force your hand, but lets get real, the endless chorus of one team playing twice in one week while others don't play at all makes no sense. Yes, I know other factors will intervene: other tournaments, weather, and the USOC, so some adjustments will have to be made. The solution? The magical TUE/WED/THUR then the weekend (or Monday). Two games in one week. Yes, it is a grind, but see how it works on the continent. It can work here also. Yes, I know you just finally nailed Thursday night with ESPN, but actually, TUE/WED would be better. Why? When fall comes around there's always a football game on, and midweek (TUE/WED) gives the most rest time between games played on SAT/SUN. Let's see how it works. 1. USOC. Let every team participate in the tournament at the same stage (or do 1 qual. game if we have an odd number of teams, or put the last place/expansion team in a round early). You can have some fun. Let is be an actual draw for where the games are played. MLS home game = midweek. USL home game = weekend. You can compensate by having the thereby necessitated MLS week-day game be the TV one if you want. (Yes, I know it won't work for ALL of them). Or you could just play all the USOC early matches during the week, save the midweek TV game, and put one USOC on the week-end, preferably when the USL team is hosting (expand the MLS brand to other markets). When the tourney gets to the semi-final stage and on. Let the USOC game be on the week-end and the MLS game midweek. Or maybe for just the final. 2. CCCL and Superliga: same deal. I wouldn't mind giving an MLS team in the final of USOC or CCCL a full week off to prepare and then have a make-up game midweek later, that would be prudent and good for the league and the team involved. Also, I know a team could be in three competitions (MLS, USOC, and CCCL) (four if you don't get your head on straight and institute my Superliga rule) and it could cause some congestion, but once one starts using the TUE/WED thing more often, teams will get adjusted. Heck, you've already stared doing it this year (and past years) anyway to make up for Superliga time off and unbalanced schedules, time to use it in a more thoughtful and balanced manner for the league. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If we make these changes, I think MLS teams will have a better chance to win the tournaments they are entered in and fans will be more likely to see quality soccer when they go to an MLS or USOC match. Peace. End of rant.