Soccer Business Bits: American Transfer Season

milanThe transfer season is upon us and players are flying around the globe to and from MLS.  However, the most notable American transfer to date is the recently announced move of  Oguchi Onyewu to world power AC Milan.   While this is big news for American soccer fans, this may also be big business for AC Milan.  “Gooch” will be the first American in the highest level of Italian soccer since Alexi Lalas.  AC Milan will be touring the United States this summer, and will now feature a big American star.  All of the big European teams are very interested in tapping into the United States market, and featuring an American star signed for “free” could generate additional stateside interest in AC Milan.  Also, because AC Milan is regularly featured on television in the U.S., fans following Gooch will have multiple opportunities to follow AC Milan and (perhaps) become jersey buying fans.

The biggest outgoing MLS transfer of recent days involves the pre-contract signing of Yura Movsisyan.  The RSL forward is on his way to Danish club Randers.  Movsisyan made a name for himself in MLS last season by scoring some important goals on RSL’s run into the playoffs.  This is a disappointing transfer for MLS, because the Danish League is not typically considered a “big” League.  Players obviously want to move to bigger leagues to increase their income and their exposure.  In this case, MLS apparently cannot compete with the salary offered by a mid-sized team playing in a stadium smaller than those featured in MLS.  In order to increase its level of play, MLS must compete to keep its mid-level players, and losing players such as Movsisyan is a step backwards.

Also making news is the proposed incoming transfer (to Toronto) of Canadian International Julian de Guzman. de Guzman The signing of such a prominent internatinal caliber player as a “Designated Player” would be an intriguing business move for TFC.  One of the primary rationales  for the Designated Player rule was to bring additional fans to MLS  games, yet TFC sells out all of its games.  Moreover, de Guzman is not the type of player that would increase road attendance for TFC.

Nevertheless, the addition of de Guzman may be shrewd business move by MLSE.  After a number of disappointing seasons, a short term contract offer to de Guzman may placate suffering TFC fans.  Such a move would also likely increase TFC’s television popularity in Canada, while increasing the team’s international profile.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Ben and thanks for blogging on a very interesting topic to many soccer fans. As a lawyer and avid soccer fan, we have that in common.

    Another Website has reported on the recent transfer of Kenny Cooper from Dallas to 1860 Munich. Quoting sources, the Website reported that the deal got done but only after Cooper agreed to MLS’s demand that he “sign over” his FIFA mandated 10% of the transfer fee back to the League. It also reported that an earlier transfer deal with Rosenberg was “nixed” because Cooper did not agree to give his 10% fee back to the MLS as a condition of the deal.

    Are you familar with such a practice that has been attributed to the MLS? It seems quite unfair to MLS players with opportunities abroad and a restraint of trade. I have heard that MLS players work under a collective bargaining agreement and can’t believe this type of practice would be allowed under the union contract. Have you heard of this 10% of the transfer fee “sign back” practice by MLS? Can you confirm that FIFA mandates that 10% of the fee goes to the player? According to the Website, Cooper was going to be a free agent at the end of the season.

    Thanks for any information you can provide me on this.

  2. John:

    Thanks for the comment. My understanding is that the 10% is a standard fee, however, Cooper is under contract. If he is requesting the transfer (and thus to break his contract), I believe MLS can demand consideration from him (and the new club) in order to tear up the old contract.
    This 10% issue has been thrust to the fore, with the recent comments of Cooper’s Dad, so it would not be surprising if this issue becomes part of the ongoing CBA negotiations.

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